Vacationing is both fun and a bonding experience for many families. You’re taking a break from stressful, everyday life at work and rewarding you and your family with an overseas trip to Rome, Venice, or Paris, or maybe just packing up and hitting the hills for a family camping trip during the summer. Experiences like these are so much more valuable than buying more toys or other material goods. A trip is something that becomes ingrained within each family member’s mind, and becomes something they will likely remember for a lifetime. For the kids, it may not always seem very meaningful at the time, but as they grow older, they will begin to realize what a privilege it is to travel with the family. With kids between the years of 5 and 17, traveling (abroad or simply to the nearest campsite) isn’t all fun and games, and in fact it can be a real hassle at times. Here are 7 tips to survive traveling with children, especially the problematic ones.
- Neutralize Downtime – Planning ahead is of utmost importance for a long distance trip. Make sure you don’t spend too much time just sitting in a hotel waiting for a scheduled event. So have a basic guideline of pertinent events/sites you want to see and then an additional list of optional things to do in case you and your family have extra time available. If you’re in an area where you can explore, bring along a scavenger hunt list, and encourage your kids to work through it during down times.
- Don’t eat right before a tour – Eating just before a tour can only cause problems. I’ve probably heard the statement, “I don’t feel good” far more times than, “Thanks, Dad” or “I love you,” and the worst time to hear this is right in the thick of a tour. A moderately hungry kid is better than a sick kid. To hold the tiny humans over, promise that everyone will eat after the tour is over.
- Be prepared – There might be nothing worse than getting a severe sunburn on the first day of a 7 day beach trip, or getting rained out of a once-in-a-lifetime tour. Do your adult-homework and monitor game-changers like weather, remodels/construction that could impact your ability to visit a particular place during a specific time, or specific travel restrictions that may impede your plans. Being proactive here (especially when the outcome affects your entire family) is far better than being reactive.
- Grownup fun vs. Non-grownup fun – Basically the vacation version of the adult menu vs. the kid’s menu. Activities should be researched prior to actually doing them, but pick an exciting tour not just for you, but your kids as well. While you may be interested in learning more about ancient Roman diplomacy and government, that same tour will bore the kids and cause attention fatigue. Try to find a tour with more hands-on activities and child interaction. Also, the short and sweet rule should be applied here: the shorter the tour the sweeter the experience.
- Relax – It’s easy to forget to enjoy the tour yourself while spending so much attention micromanaging the children. Take a deep breath and make sure to drink it all in; the sights, sounds, tour guide’s information, and all else. Enjoy these crazy moments, because I hear tell you’ll miss them someday…
- Incentives – Prior to the tour, give you child an incentive for good behavior. This can be anything from promising to see something that they want to see after the tour, or stipulating that if the child behaves properly throughout the tour, they will receive a treat afterwards.
- “It’ll all be over soon.” – If things go south for whatever reason, remember the tour will be over shortly (given you select the ‘correct’ tour). As a fellow parent, you know all too well that sometimes the best you can do is keep things together and remind yourself that this moment won’t last forever. Whether you have a screaming toddler, or a board teen, just know that this is only a small moment in time, and it too shall pass.
You should expect to have difficulty controlling children while on a vacation, it simply comes with the territory of being away from home with all of the distractions of a new area present. It’s all about finding a happy medium between keeping a watchful eye on your kids, not forgetting to enjoy the time yourself, and balancing scheduling enough events/sites to see and ensuring kids don’t get burnt out. Follow these guidelines and you should come home feeling refreshed and providing a memorable experience for everyone.