“Are we there yet” mixed with cries of “I’m hungry” can certainly add more stress to family vacations. But those rare moments when you see your children appreciate the wonder of travel make it all worth it. Here are some of our travel tips for parents planning family vacations.
Do your research. Have a tentative itinerary. Know where you’re heading and how you can make things easier. Research restaurant locations, parks and playgrounds, family-friendly areas, etc. For example, Disneyland can be overwhelming if you don’t learn what it has to offer beforehand. Things like admission prices, parking, and park hours would be useful to know before you leave.
Don’t over-plan. While it’s important to know certain details, travelling with kids is different than travelling with just adults. Go with the flow and be flexible. Things are always changing with children. Maybe they (or you) aren’t impressed with the restaurant you researched when you get there. Maybe you’ll find something better along the way. If you notice something interesting, explore it. Be spontaneous. Depending on your child’s age, an organized group tour may be difficult. Think realistically about how a strict schedule and fast pace could impact your vacation.
Give yourself extra time. If you’re flying, arrive at the airport early for customs and check-in. If you’re driving, allot extra time for eating, stretching, diaper changes, and bathroom breaks. Don’t try to fit too many things into one day. Spend a whole day at a beach, national park, or other excursion. For a museum that was suggested to take two hours, give yourself three. Kids are curious, and you don’t want to be rushed.
Bring entertainment. Carry books, puzzles, cards, and snacks (avoid sweets) to keep them occupied during less than exciting travel times. A DVD player in the car might be a good idea, or load up your phone or tablet with games and fun apps to make for a lighter suitcase.
Pack appropriately. Travelling with children usually means you will have more to pack. Anticipate spills and getting dirty, so pack extra clothes. Include comfortable clothes and shoes for the weather and activities you plan on doing. Don’t forget the baby wipes for wiping down surfaces, hand-sanitizer, medicine, sun screen, and a first-aid kit. Remember to cross-pack by spreading essential items between luggage in case one gets lost or delayed. If your baby is in diapers, pack twice as much as you would normally use.
Engage them. Family vacations are meant to be fun for everyone! Do special things for your children that will make them feel involved. Giving them a camera, taking public transportation, collecting postcards, and asking for their input on activities are just some ideas. They’ll appreciate the adventure and you’ll be surprised by their interest.
Do you have any tips to share? Tell us in the comments below.