The best selling author and psychologist Oliver James once said that memories of family holidays are valued by children not just in the moment. It will continue to be cherished in their memories as they reach adulthood. This is one of the reasons why a lot of parents love to go on a family vacation with their kids. In fact, in the year 2017 alone 58 percent of millennials in the United States were found to love traveling with their children. Statistics also show that family travel is the most preferred type of vacation among the millennials. However, we cannot erase the fact that family vacations can also be stressful especially for parents who usually do most of the preparation.
To save you time looking for ways on how you can make family vacations fun, exciting and less stressful, we have the following helpful tips.
13 Tips for a Family Vacation
Look for a family friendly hotel
If you will be bringing younger children with you, see to it that the hotel offers children’s programs. If you have teenagers look for hotels where teen-oriented activities are in close proximity. Needless to say, the location of the hotel is an important consideration. Look for hotels that have fun activities for kids to enjoy nearby which is good especially during those days when you don’t feel like going farther from the hotel where your family is staying. If you’re planning for a luxurious vacation you don’t have to go outside the U.S. You can stay in Las Vegas where resorts, hotels and a wide range of kid-friendly activities abound. You can see it here and know that you will never run out of options that guarantee an exciting vacation for your family. Make an advance booking of all rooms so that the hotel staff will have an idea how much business your family is about to bring to them. This will also make it easier for you and your family to ask for special considerations and requests.
Choose the perfect destination
This may seem obvious, but with a plethora of options that you can find online, choosing the perfect destination may seem daunting. Just make sure to choose a family-friendly destination. The good news is that there are plenty of vacation and travel packages that provide varied activities geared towards children and for the whole family. Look for places that have kid-centric attractions such as the Oceanarium of Lisbon, Portugal. If your kids are into fairy tales and castles then considering going to Portugal’s Sintra where spectacular castles can be found which is among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. If you want to spend your vacation just within the United States then go and visit New Orleans where the Louisiana Children’s Museum is located. Its new building has edible gardens, life-sized interactive chessboard and a floating classroom. You can also find there a kid-friendly restaurant as well as the Mighty Mississippi exhibit.
Don’t forget to give your children some space
Just because they’re kids it does not mean that they don’t need space as much as adults do. Children and teenagers also need enough time to decompress especially after a long day. This also goes to say that you should avoid jam packing your day with plenty of activities otherwise you’ll find your kids feeling too exhausted to savor the moment. When planning for itinerary and activities, set aside a time for “black spots” where kids can just choose to be alone, to relax in their hotel room or engage in any solitary pursuits. If your teenager just wants to read a book under the shady trees or unwind beside the pool, let her be. In other words, incorporating balance between down time and fun time is also crucial to make family vacations more fun yet less stressful.
Include an element of surprise
Children can also get jaded. This is true especially if family vacations run for several days. Sometimes, children would feel as if they’ve had enough fun and would want to go home a day before the scheduled flight back home. To avoid this from happening, set aside an activity that children do not know in advance. For example, schedule a day where the whole family can take a surprise short detour to spend a few hours in a tourist attraction that’s not part of the itinerary. You may also surprise them with a visit to offbeat destinations that also promise great activities for children. If taking a detour or going somewhere farther is not an option, you can still surprise your kids with a visit to a family friendly restaurant where they can enjoy freshly baked pastries.
Do not underestimate the power of nature
The beauty of nature will never fail to impress just about every child at any age. If you’re done by going to restaurants, window shopping at signature boutiques or visiting famous parks, chances are your kids will surely look for other “more” interesting places. When this occurs, don’t fret. You don’t have to look for expensive places to make sure your kids will have fun. Just turn to nature and you will never fail to see that look of excitement in your children’s eyes. Look for the nearest kid-friendly parks where they could play outdoor games. You can also find a quiet place where it is safe to go for a picnic. Bring a picnic blanket and buy some cookies and sandwiches so that you and your kids can stay outdoors as you enjoy the beauty of nature. Having a picnic may no longer be a new activity for your kids. But, doing it somewhere else, far away from home is like taking their picnic experience to a whole new level. If the weather does not permit or if it’s winter, then find a place where making a snowman and throwing snowballs are so much possible.
If you choose to go boating on a lake or the ocean, be sure to know the weather conditions for the day. Remember that you should only take a boating trip if the waters are calm and there’s no danger of being hit or swept away by strong winds. It is best to take a sturdy boat for your family, especially if you have younger children. Go over the safety gear that you’ll need beyond life vests. Check the boat’s navigation lights too, especially if you are planning to go out at night. You might want to take along an extra pair of life preservers so that everyone can be afloat at the same time.
Schedule a time to disconnect from the internet
Another way to make family vacations more meaningful is to schedule a few hours, or a night where everybody is required to disconnect from the internet. Then, once all the mobile devices and gadgets are set to aside start the game or activity where everybody can participate. Can you still remember the last time when all of you are in the kitchen, preparing food together? When was the last time you played board games with your children? Now is the time to do it while you’re on a family vacation. Do this and you will be surprised with the outcome. It gives everybody the chance to just enjoy each other’s company.
Consider everybody’s temperaments
Never let a family vacation be ruined by a family member’s temperament. When planning the itinerary and activities, it is important to take into consideration every family member’s dislikes. What causes your kid’s to be cranky? What causes discomfort to your teenage daughter? Does someone tend to go “hungry”? Take these things into consideration to ensure that everybody enjoys the vacation. Avoid those things or activities that will only trigger a negative reaction from your children or spouse. If someone tends to go “hungry”, prepare snacks during long road trips. If someone despises noise coming from loud music, then keep this in mind when booking a hotel or vacation destination.
Squeeze in enough time for you and your spouse
Family vacations should be as meaningful for spouses as much as it is for children. It would seem unfair if the kids are the only ones that are enjoying the vacation. You and your spouse must also enjoy every moment of it. This is why it is also important that you plan for an activity where your kids can just enjoy on their own while you and your spouse can also have dinner together. You may also opt to pamper each other by going to the hotel’s spa, enjoy a relaxing massage or spend an evening of music at the hotel’s entertainment lounge. The best thing about it is that the kids will surely be delighted to know that the two of you will be leaving them in a hotel room with a pre ordered room service.
Be prepared to move on when things go wrong
Things can go wrong and not everything you planned before the trip will occur exactly the way you wanted. No matter how proactive you are at preparing and planning for this vacation, but when you have kids with you the likelihood is high that things could go wrong at some point. For example, your child may accidentally leave his iPhone in a taxi and you do not have an idea about the taxi’s company name. Your child may suddenly need to go to the toilet and you will miss the bus that will take you to your next itinerary. You may have planned to eat at a restaurant that everybody talked about in that YouTube video you watched only to find that it is closed for renovation. These incidents can be a true test of parenting, but it should not be reason enough to ruin the family vacation. Help your children to realize that it is a learning experience and that everybody has to move on.
Prepare lots of snacks
When you’re traveling with kids, snacks are a crucial part of the whole experience. Aside from the fact that it prevents them from going “hungry”, it also helps them avoid boredom when you’re stuck in traffic, a flight is delayed or during long road trips. However, choose your snacks wisely. It should be something that does not easily stale and will not trigger stomach issues. Don’t make it all sweets or their teeth will ache. Don’t make it all salty or they will suffer from urinary tract infections. You also need to avoid diuretic drinks such as those that contain too much caffeine and sugar or you’ll be bothered by several trips to the toilet. Opt for bottled water and tell your kids they can enjoy their sugary drinks once you arrive at your destination. When your kids enjoy the snacks, chances are low that they will easily get irritated during long travels.
Have two persons assigned to watch over your little one
This may sound obvious and unnecessary, but when you’re out taking a vacation abroad, it becomes so easy to forget about your little one when you’re struggling to explain in a foreign language, to a taxi driver where you will be heading. And before you know it your little one has already gone too far away from you. If you have more than one child, ask at least two of the family members to watch over your little one. This way, in case one of them gets distracted, the other one will be there to focus on your little one. If your child has high tendency to wander off, might as well invest in a wearable GPS device.
Make sure all of you have each other’s contact information
This should be among your priority lists during planning and preparation phase. As much as possible let all the kids wear devices such as a bracelet containing their parents’ contact information. The information must include an email address, phone number, local address and parents’ complete name. You may also opt to print this information in a sticker and then stick it inside their shoes, belt loop and inside their backpacks. See to it that your kids know where you left this information and explain how important it is. If possible, ask them to memorize your contact information.
Pack the essential medicines
Family vacations can never be fun if someone gets injured or sick all of a sudden. If your child is prone to asthma attacks, food allergies or allergic rhinitis, pack the necessary medications. If these medications are ready and kept handy at all times during vacation, you are less likely to be stressed when a health issue suddenly shows its ugly head. If somebody is maintaining prescription medications, do not forget to bring a copy of a doctor’s prescription to avoid any issues during security checks.
Whether you’re planning for a short family vacation or one that will last for a month, everybody has to be involved in the planning phase. This is to ensure that everybody likes and dislikes are taken into account.