During this time of year, many of us start thinking about how nice it’d be to escape the wintery weather and head somewhere a bit more pleasant. But if you have little ones at home, you might feel like taking a trip could be more trouble than it’s worth. You might want to remember, however, that 37% of families say that vacations make them happy — so that opportunity may be worth exploring. You’ll just need some advice to ensure your getaway is enjoyable for both you and your kids. That’s not always an easy feat, but these tips are a great place to start.
One of the cardinal rules of traveling with kids? Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to rush. That means you’ll want to do plenty of research in advance, start your preparations early, and give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going. If you’ll be driving to your destination in one of the 11 million road vehicles worldwide that run on natural gas, err on the side of caution and aim to leave before it’s really necessary to avoid stress and speeding.
If you’ll be flying, get to the airport earlier than necessary and complete your check-in process online before you even get there, if possible. Don’t count on being able to rush to make your connecting flight, as your little ones might not be able to keep up. Creating a jam-packed itinerary isn’t a great idea, either. Give everyone some room to breathe and the freedom to actually enjoy the trip, rather than attempting to cram everything in.
When traveling with children, it’s important to keep them engaged and occupied. While that doesn’t mean that every activity needs to be geared towards kids under the age of 10, it does mean your schedule should include a fair amount of attractions that are good for families.
For instance, more than 49 million Americans participated in freshwater, saltwater, and fly fishing in 2017. If you’re traveling to a place that’s known for its natural wonders, an afternoon of fishing might be included in your trip — whether you’re traveling to the U.S. or staying on this side of the ocean. And speaking of oceans: swimming is the fourth most popular activity in the U.S., but it’s also immensely popular worldwide. A beach vacation can be enjoyable for people of all ages, so be sure to spend a good amount of time in the sand and surf. Other excellent attraction ideas include zoos, children’s museums, aquariums, amusement parks, and historical landmarks.
Many people book their stays in hotels (or even Airbnbs) that are known for being focused on families. There are several travel companies that have built their entire business model around this concept. But if you’re booking your stay without help, conduct some research first. Look for hotels and other options that are located in safe, centrally located areas. If the hotel provides perks like room service, babysitting, transportation, and other useful amenities, all the better. You might be better off overestimating your needs for the sake of comfort and stress relief. If there’s a spa, pool, or restaurant located within your hotel, this might allow for more downtime, too.
Whether you’ve reserved your tickets on a kid-friendly airline or you’re getting to your vacation spot by car, you won’t want to overpack. Having to lug around overstuffed luggage will only slow you down and cause frustration. For the most part, you should stick to the necessities. Don’t forget that, in the majority of cases, you’ll be able to purchase anything you’ve forgotten along the way or when you arrive.
The one exception here is the toys and other personal items that will keep your kids happy and their routine consistent. You might not love the idea of bringing electronics along, but they may do the trick in keeping everybody sane during the trip. A stuffed animal or small blanket can provide a sense of comfort, as well. Just make sure not to leave it behind! You might also consider buying a new, age-appropriate toy at a gift shop (like a plastic one made from reaction injection molding or another similar process) along the way to keep your kiddo distracted. And don’t forget the snacks and water. Not only can these ensure your child stays occupied, but they can stave off tantrums.
Parents should not expect that a family vacation will be perfect — or even close to it. Meltdowns will happen, arguments will ensue, and plans will go awry. That’s bound to happen on any trip, so adding kids into the equation will only make those events more likely. Remember to mentally prepare for the worst. That doesn’t mean you need to take a pessimistic view of your vacay, but it may help you to stay calm and adopt a problem-solving approach when the unexpected happens. The world won’t end if you’re a few minutes late to your dinner reservation. When there are elements that are out of your control, it always helps to have a back-up plan. Do make sure you plan for some setbacks, though. For example, traveling during hurricane season, which runs from June through November, may come with some bad weather. Make sure you plan for that with some indoor events and some talks about the weather beforehand.
Certainly, being a parent is rewarding — but it can also be a huge challenge. With these tips in mind, you can start planning your family vacation with confidence and truly enjoy the trip.