A family vacation can be one of the most memorable trips you will ever take. Watching the wonder in your children’s eyes as they experience the world is priceless. The giggles and excitement when they first meet Mickey Mouse or see Cinderella’s castle or the wide eyed “wow” whispered the first time they see the ocean are forever memories.
But getting there can be challenging. Okay, challenging may be a bit of an understatement. Try hair-pulling-out, animalistc-screaming, dagger-throwing-stares-from-airplane-passengers, nervous-breakdown-initiating difficult.
Oh and how can we forget the ever popular car trip song “Are we there yet?” Never fear, we are here with some quick tips to take the agony out of your travel so you can enjoy the journey AND the destination. Follow these simple tips for the trip of a lifetime with your kids.
1. Be Prepared: Plan ahead for everything. Book flights and hotels early, don’t try to wait until you reach your destination to find accommodations . Also, research the restaurants in the area. How close are you to food when the kids get hungry? Does your hotel have a small refrigerator for snacks and juice? Search out a supermarket nearby or bring things with you that you can keep in the room. If you are potty-training your child, bring pull-ups for the flight or road trips. No one wants to have to deal with a wet toddler while trying to get through security and board a plane. Also, two words: airplane bathroom.
2. Take Your Time: Children love to explore and don’t understand deadlines or agendas. Don’t over plan your activities once you have arrived. Allow them to experience the sights and make their own memories. Equally, take your time at the airport or on the road. This will mean arriving at the airport early to avoid having to rush. You and your children will be much less stressed. Be realistic about what you can accomplish with children.
3. Plan Activities: Remember #2 when we said don’t over plan activities? That only applies once you have reached your destination. There is no such thing as having too many activities available for your kids to do during the journey. For a flight, plan a new activity for every 15 minutes. You might get lucky and one of your activities will keep their attention longer or even better, they might fall asleep. It’s better to have too many things to do than not enough. And snacks…don’t forget snacks!\
4. Surprises:: Everyone loves surprises – especially kids! Buy a few new toys or games, coloring books and sticker books for the trip. Wrap them like presents and hand them out every 30 minutes to an hour depending on the length of your trip. This also works well with downloads to your electronic devices. Download new apps, games, books, or movies so they are seeing them for the first time on the trip. It is guaranteed to keep their attention longer.
5. Create a Map: If you are traveling by car, create a map of your journey or buy an atlas. Put an older child in charge of it and have them update the family on where they are and how far until the next stop. This will not only teach valuable map reading skills but also help reduce the number of times “are we there yet?” is asked. Even better, make it a treasure map and give out rewards of snacks or those surprise toys each time you reach a checkpoint on the map.
6. Enjoy the Journey: While you are making that map for your road trip, research some fun places to stop along the way. Maybe you could find a park for a picnic, an historic site or maybe a museum to visit. Remember it’s not fair to ask a small child to sit still in one place for long periods of time. Plan places to stop and get out to burn off some energy. If you have room, pack some outdoors toys like a ball or jump ropes and stop at a rest stop to give them time to run. It might also encourage a nap when back on the road.
7. Camera and Journal: Give each child a disposable or child-friendly camera and a journal. Have them document their trip with pictures and stories. Encourage them to find out interesting facts about the places you are visiting. Have them take pictures of the places you stop along the way or the airport if you are flying. When you get home have each child create a scrapbook of their memories. This not only helps them pass the time on the trip, but creates a lasting memory of your time together as a family. Not to mention the fun pictures you will find on your toddler’s camera from their perspective.
8. Narrate the Journey:: Flying for the first time can be scary for an adult, not to mention what it might feel like for a child. Prepare them ahead of time for what to expect. Show them airplanes in the sky and talk to them about how safe it is to fly. Maybe give them a small toy plane to bring with them on the trip. Once at the airport, narrate the journey for them. Explain what is happening at check-in and security. In simple words, help them understand the process of take-off, landing and the flight attendant’s instructions. It will ease their anxiety and help your flight go much smoother.
9. Plan Timing:: If possible, plan your trip during naptime or at night when your child would normally be sleeping. A sleeping child makes for happier passengers all around. If you are traveling by car and are not able to travel during your child’s normal sleep schedule, consider having an adult or older child sit in the back seat with the younger children to keep them engaged and happy.
10. Keep Bedtime Routine as Normal as Possible: Once you have arrived, try to keep the sleep routine as normal as possible. Plan activities around naptime. No one wants a tired child having a meltdown when they meet the Disney princesses. At bedtime, try to keep your normal schedule and bring familiar items for them like a blanket, stuffed animal or night light. If you are sleeping in another room, be sure they know you are close by and can hear them. Consider bringing a baby monitor even for an older child. This can bring them comfort to know all they have to do is call for you.
Following these simple tips can make your vacation smoother and much more memorable. For more tips and help in planning your vacation contact us as The Tropical Travelers. We have been there and can help you navigate the ins and outs of the journey as well as the destination. Contact us at 1-800-479-0949 or visit our website to start planning your vacation of a lifetime.