Taking a family vacation and traveling with your kids is a rewarding experience that will create memories that will last a lifetime. However, you might also remember how your childhood vacations went; it’s very easy for parents to stress out as plans fall apart and travel complications arise. Besides remembering to take it easy (you are on vacation after all), it’s important to have some plans in place for when something inevitably doesn’t go your way and give your family options to make the best of every day of your adventure. With some of our key tips, you will have a family vacation everyone is sure to remember.
Planning Your Trip
Anytime you plan to take your kids on a trip where they won’t have their own bed and their creature comforts at the end of the day, make sure you get them involved in the planning stages. If they are able to have a part in deciding where they are going and what they are doing, they’ll be more excited and won’t feel like they were dragged along. This can be as involved as letting them pick out specific locations and attractions in the city you are visiting, or as simple as having them pick from a pre-approved list you’ve created.
When deciding on your vacation destination, choose somewhere that offers a variety of activities that the entire family will enjoy throughout your stay. See a magic show one day for your budding illusionist, then tour a natural history museum to wow your young archaeologist the next day! You don’t need to find the perfect attractions that check all the boxes for everyone, just make sure that no one is going to feel dragged along from “boring” place to place.
There are many options to choose from when you’re looking for a place to stay, so consider hotels or airbnbs that offer amenities meant specifically for families. A resort with a play area is great for parents of young kids, but teenagers aren’t going to find much fun in it, just like a hotel with a fine-dining restaurant isn’t going to suit the palette of chicken-nugget-craving toddlers. Think about how much time you intend to stay at the hotel vs out and about on the town, as you might only need a place to lie your head after a long day exploring, not somewhere to spend your entire day.
Packing for Your Trip
Just as you might plan your suitcase for a business trip, you need to do it several times over for each of your kids. Make a list and think through each necessity, beyond the basic T-shirts, toothbrushes, and flip flops. Is one kid old enough for contacts? Pack enough spares and their glasses just in case. One can’t fall asleep without their favorite stuffed animal? Make ABSOLUTELY sure that it doesn’t get left behind.
It's also a good idea to pack a few extra items in case of accidents and messy-eaters. Unless you plan to do laundry during your stay, pack an extra set or two of clothes for them to change into.
There are a couple items that, while not essential, will make the down times more manageable by always having something for them to do; never a dull moment on vacation!
Books, games, and toys: Encourage your kids to pick out activities they can bring along to keep them occupied. Avoid games and toys with pieces that could easily get lost along the way, or too large to stow when it’s time to pack up.
Snacks and drinks: If you’re driving then it’s easy to pack along everyone’s favorites (just be sure to have ample time for pit-stops), but if you’re flying you’re going to be a bit more limited with your options. Pack dry foods that won’t make a mess and be light on the tum, and leave behind the drink otherwise you’ll have to toss them once you reach the security line.
Comfort items: Grab a blanket, pillow, or favorite stuffed animals to give you kids something warm and comforting to support them on the journey. Planes can get quite chilly and even as an adult it’s nice to curl up and awake already at your destination.
Making the Trip Safe and Memorable
To ensure that your trip with kids is both safe and memorable, it's important to take a few steps to prepare. This includes:
Researching your destination: Is it somewhere foreign or out of your home state? Check with local laws and customs so you don’t run into any issues. Plan on using public transit? Make sure you’ve looked ahead for scheduling or route planning so you know exactly where and when you need to disembark.
Preparing for emergencies: It's always a good idea to travel with a first-aid kit with bandages and basic medication. Consider purchasing travel insurance to protect yourself and your family in case of illness, injury, or other unexpected events (you wouldn’t be the first to have appendicitis creep up an ocean away from home)
Traveling with kids can be a wonderful and rewarding experience, but it does require a little bit of extra preparation and effort over traveling on your own. By planning your trip carefully and keeping your kids’ comfort in mind, you can make your next family trip one to be remembered forever!