Family Vacation Tips
Family fun or family bummed? “I’m dreading our drive out to Orlando this year,” said Jane, mother of 14-year-old Katie Ann, 8-year-old Kayla and 5-year-old Kevin, at our monthly parenting coaching group. “We haven’t even left yet and I can already hear the cacophony of ‘Are we there yet?’ ringing in my head. The last time we did this, Kayla threw her shoes out the window and Kevin told me I was the worst mommy ever because he was so bored. I don’t know why we do this to ourselves!”
Many families will be making the trek somewhere fun for summer vacation this year. Perhaps it’ll just be you and the kids– perhaps you’ll be bringing the grandparents along as well. While the trip can be exciting, it can also be potentially stressful. After all, you’re leaving the comforts of home and throwing your typical routine out the window. That, coupled with the cramped quarters of the long car ride or the hustle and bustle of a chaotic airport can be a source of uneasiness. While you may not be able to forecast every need in advance or ensure everyone’s happy mood at all times, you can take steps to reduce the hassles. However, you must be prepared:
(1) Pack for what may go awry: Nobody wants their children getting sunburned, bruised or sick while on vacation. A little forethought and smart packing can go a long way. What does your child need when he or she feels tired or sick? What does your daughter need if she gets her period? Ensuring that you have aloe for burns, Band-Aids® for cuts and a special pillow for someone who may get carsick is essential for everyone’s sanity and comfort.
(2) Brainstorm travel games before leaving: There are infinite travel games for planes or long car ride, but we can’t always think of them on the spot. Brainstorm and research them before you leave. Games like I Spy, Padiddle (spotting a car with one headlight) and Alphabet can eat up time and don’t require props. Activities like crosswords, MadLibs™ and “Where’s Waldo” take more preparation and a trip to the bookstore before you leave. Making sure you have what you need to entertain the troops is vital for a relaxing trip.
(3) Plan stops along the way: While you may just want to get to your destination as quickly as possible, planning scheduled stops during a long drive can reduce stress and provide excitement. It doesn’t have to break the budget— just give everyone a break! Are you passing an old friend’s town? A national monument? A well-reviewed children’s restaurant? These are great places to get out, stretch your legs, and break up the trip. Some parents who don’t want to take too much time for lunch program a phone number for a kid-friendly deli into their phone and call from the road. When they reach the restaurant, their food is waiting. Now that’s fast food.
(4) Create a bonding experience: Many kids have trouble opening up to their parents during face-to-face talks. In the car, sitting side by side, conversation comes more easily. Communication games can get things started. Games like “Share One Thing,” in which someone picks a topic and everyone shares a response to it, can lead to wonderful stories. For example, “share one thing that made you laugh this week” can kick things off. You can also use Sentence Stems like “if I won the lottery I would…”.When conversation is a “side bar” rather than a main event, it feels easier and breezier for everyone.
(5) Get innovative but remember the classics: Classic toys and activities like cards and crayons can provide great entertainment on a long trip. Try Legos® or dolls to dress up. Handheld games work wonders as well. You can also think outside the box. Wrap small presents before leaving and let your children open one per hour. Give your children dry erase markers (which wipe off easily) to decorate the windows. If all else fails, a portable DVD player will go a long way. Just remember to provide earphones so you can get some peace and quiet during the movie!
(6) Bring snacks: Hungry family members make any trip unpleasant. Be sure to bring orange segments, carrot sticks, granola bars, and raisins. And yes, you should probably have some “fun snacks” as well such as a few of your children’s favorite cookies or miniature chocolate bars. Juice boxes and small bottles of water are easy to pack and carry in small bags. To keep the sugar factor down, bring a sippy cup or thermos and mix water and juice together to dilute the potency.
(7) Think Clean and Comfortable: We want our children to be clean and comfortable, but things like food, juice, markers and crayons can lead to big messes. Bring an extra change of clothes for those who are bound to get dirty, and don’t forget wipes and tissues. Make sure your children wear comfortable shoes and take an extra pair in case the ones they are wearing are giving them blisters. Ask everyone to bring an extra light jacket or sweater in case they get chilly in the car or on the plane.
We all know what they say about “an ounce of prevention.” When we ensure that our family is organized and prepared, we can focus on the best parts of the trip—having a great time, enjoying each other’s company and making wonderful memories! Whether you’re going away or staying close to home, we hope your next family vacation is filled with family fun.