First there’s the panic of getting everything ready for vacation. There just isn’t enough time in the day to get it all done and still do everything else. So, we rush to pack and inevitably a favorite something doesn’t make it in the suitcase. Or, you’re super-organized and are packed and ready to go a few days ahead. And still, something gets forgotten.
Vacationing with the kids is something we look forward to, on many different levels. I know people who are excited to go on a family vacation, but send their kids to day camp while on vacation. I have friends whose idea of a vacation is packing up the car and just heading out, with no particular destination in mind. Both of these would not make for a good vacation for me.
As a kid, I didn’t go on family vacations. It just wasn’t something we were able to do. So when I became a parent it was a completely new experience for me. Sure, I went on a few trips with my family. But nothing that would make me claim to be “in the know” about traveling and vacationing with kids. I have to say, though, that CycleGuy and I have been extraordinarily lucky with out vacations with BabyGirl. She’s a great traveler!
And while there isn’t much time left for summer travel, I offer these 6 Tips to Enjoy Vacationing With Your Kids because they work no matter the time of year.
1. Involve the kids in packing – In my case, it’s just one child. Even if you’re trying to surprise them, most kids are able to contribute something so they feel invested in trip. Younger kids can help gather up some of their clothes or specific toys, maybe even talk about some of the things they might see along the way. Older kids can create a packing list before packing so mom or dad can check to make sure the right things are taken. The kids are less likely to complain constantly if they had a hand in choosing what they wear. And anything to keep the complaining to a minimum leads to enjoying the time together.
2. Prep the unfamiliar – I don’t know about you, but when I am in unfamiliar territory I don’t function the same. Kids are no different. When the kids are uneasy, it makes for challenging times for the parents. Recently we were at Disneyland and a family from New Zealand was sitting next to us while we were eating lunch. From the sound of the conversation they’d been in the US for at least a week, yet the two young boys were having problems with the food. It was unfamiliar to them and they just didn’t like it. I could tell the parents were frustrated, as they pleaded with the boys to just eat something.
3. Let the kids decide sometimes – If they’re old enough, even 2 or 3 year olds can make simple decisions, let the kids have some control over what happens on vacation. It could be something as simple as rotating who gets to choose what kind of food you have for lunch or what activity is first when you get to the beach. As parents we make a lot of decisions for our kids. Giving them some control over decisions helps them to feel invested and part of the vacation. They’re also less likely to complain about everything if they get to make decisions.
4. Establish a norm or routine – One of the challenges of vacation is the lack of routine. I know this sounds counter-intuitive to what a vacation is supposed to be. But, when we have our kids in a routine at home it’s hard for them to adjust to a 180 turn. When we travel with BabyGirl, we try to keep her bedtime routine similar to what she’s used to at home. The time is flexible to some degree, but even if it’s late we always make sure there is something familiar and comforting to help her get to sleep. Agitated and anxious kids do not make for cooperative and pleasant travelers.
5. Plan ahead to avoid tummy troubles – Even if we’re not too far from home, the different food, desserts that aren’t normally part of every evening at home, extra treats, restaurant meals and different levels of activity can cause digestion or intestinal changes in kids. Sometimes it’s just the excitement or anxiety of vacationing that causes the trouble. Having a product like Culturelle Kids! to keep the digestive tract in balance is often all that’s needed to ward off these troubles. When we travel we usually get BabyGirl started on the chewables about a week before we go. This way we’re less likely to encounter digestive problems when we’re on vacation. A sick kid while on vacation is definitely nothing to write home about. And having had friends spend their vacations in the ER with a child with gastro-intestinal problems, I know it not only is expensive in terms of money but it’s also costly in terms of making great family memories.
6. Let the kids take pictures – I know this doesn’t seem to go with the other tips, but one of the best ways to make sure kids are engaged is to give them a camera. With digital cameras so inexpensive these days, the investment is often very manageable. Even little kids have safe and durable cameras available to them. And while the photos may end up being deleted, there will almost always be one or two that can go in the vacation photo album giving the kids a sense of pride knowing they contributed to the memories made on vacation.
Family vacations can create memories that last a lifetime. Many of my friends, and I’m sure your friends too, have amazing stories of trips from their youth. But there’s always one person whose story is more like a tale of woe, often involving a trip to the ER or some equivalent in the middle of nowhere. Those are the types of experiences we’re trying to avoid now that we’re parents!
How do you get your kids involved when you travel so it’s an enjoyable experience for everyone?
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I was provided compensation for my time to write about my vacation tips. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”