Warmer weather means taking the Slip-n-Slide out of storage, making generous use of the air conditioner, and (of course) family vacations. To make your next family getaway a lot more fun, here are five tips every parent should keep in mind.
Understand That Things Will Go Wrong
The idea of the “perfect vacation” is a fantasy invented by advertising executives to sell people timeshares. A real vacation, just like real life, involves missteps, obstacles, and wild unexpected events that make you curse the day Expedia.com was created. Expensive electronics will go missing. That cultural landmark you’ve been dying to see will have a line two hours long. And almost certainly, everything for sale will have a 100% markup.
While you can’t always help these little bumps in the road, you can approach your vacation with the right attitude. Treat your trip like an adventure, complete with unforeseeable obstacles that give your excursion a little more spice. When things go awry, roll with it and treat it like a neat story that you will be able to tell your friends when you get back home.
Always Have Age-Appropriate Entertainment On Hand
Waiting patiently is a purely adult skill. Even the best-behaved child will inevitably start fighting, whining, and possibly even start acting out if they are forced to sit in one space for too long without any stimulation. This fact can cause problems on vacations, which often involve spending a lot of time sitting in the backseat of the car, waiting in a lobby for the tour guide to show up, or even just waiting in your hotel room for the rest of the family to get ready for the day’s outing.
The simple solution is to just never be without something to keep the little ones occupied while they are waiting for the real fun to begin. Keep a backpack loaded with their favorite books, toys, and games that you can use to pacify younger travelers once you hit the doldrums of your family adventure.
Expect to Do Extra Planning
In your younger days, vacation planning probably meant shoving armfuls of clean clothes into a duffel bag and thinking that you will “get going sometime around 9 tomorrow.” Now that you have a family, a lot more forethought is required if you want to have a good time on your trip.
Make a checklist for every single person with whom you’ll be travelling. Does everyone have clothes to last them the entire trip? Does everyone have their medications? Did you pack enough toiletries? If you plan on doing some hiking, swimming, climbing, or other physically demanding activities, did you pack appropriate clothing items? Sitting down the make sure that you actually have all the necessities will save you from a lot of avoidable headaches.
Make Sure Your Kids Have the Right Expectations
If you are spending all of this time and energy into a vacation, it’s probably because you want something different. Experiencing a different culture, a different routine, different sights, and different food is a classic and proven way to get of your rut and feel refreshed and invigorated. But the parts of a vacation that adults find fulfilling can be odd and even unbalancing for young kids who are used to a familiar routine. The shock of transferring to such a radically different environment can be difficult to handle, so it helps to get them prepared.
Be sure to show them pictures of where you are travelling. If there is a movie that is set in your destination (that’s age appropriate) screen it for a family movie night. If there is a restaurant that features your destination’s regional cuisine, give it a try for dinner one night. When your kids have a good idea of what to expect, the transition to all the new experiences will be a lot easier.
Don’t Forget to Take Time Out for Yourself
Many people who plan a vacation with their family make the mistake of thinking that every single excursion or outing has to be family-oriented. In reality, a vacation should be for the parents as much as it is for the kids.
With that in mind, plan to spend at least one night alone with your significant other. That means checking daycare options in your destination, as well as more grown-up ways you can spend time together.