Childhood vacations create so many memories. I can remember getting woken up at 3 a.m. to be packed in the back seat for the annual family summer road trip. From the good (learning how to do a back dive in the hotel pool) to the bad (getting grounded for wandering off the trail in Yellowstone), I look back at my family vacations with fondness.
Vacationing with children is a challenge, but it’s one with so many rewards for parent and child. We asked peak performance coach and licensed marriage and family therapist Kristy De Leon how to travel smarter with children. She gave us three of her biggest tips.
1. Have realistic expectations of your children.
Your child is not a mini-adult and as a parent, you are the expert of our children: if they struggle sitting still, talking in a low tone, or tire easily for example, you know the cues. Do not expect your child to be any different on your trip. If anything, brace for slightly more challenging behaviors since they are out of their comfort zone and their typical routine will most likely be thrown off. This is especially true if you are traveling to a different time zone.
We all know that if children don’t get enough sleep, the whole family pays for it the next day. They are more easily agitated and have a hard time coping with being tired. As adults, we can drink coffee or an energy drink to help us get through the day. For children, a nap is the best thing we can offer. But beware if the nap is too close to bedtime because then it will continue the pattern of less nighttime sleep.
2. Keep a preventative mindset.
Prevention is better than intervention and this is especially true with children. They do not have the coping or language skills like adults to forewarn you of their needs. It’s not until they can’t hold it anymore that your child will cry and scream at you to meet their needs.
Traveling is already overwhelming with so many people confined to a small space and everyone’s daily routine being thrown off. The way you can be sure to increase the odds of a more peaceful trip is by making a schedule that will accommodate everyone’s needs– in particular your child’s.
If you are driving, block out time to pull over and let them run around. Look ahead on maps to find parks and other open areas. If you are up to it, plan to leave very early in the morning, like 3 or 4 a.m. (that’s what my parents did!), so that your child can fall back asleep.
3. Be generous in your packing.
Long gone are the days that playing “I spy” or singing in the car will keep kids content for hours. Children need to be entertained so pack accordingly. I cannot emphasize enough for parents to be well stocked with snacks, drinks and toys. Take their favorites or buy new toys to commemorate the trip including books and new movies.
If you are on a budget, there are all kinds of hidden toy gems at dollar stores or even the dollar bins at stores like Target®. Do not limit your search to in-store, but also look online. The more thought and effort that you put into planning and packing for the trip, the smoother and more enjoyable your trip will be.
Expect. Prevent. Pack. Three great tips to keep in mind when you’re planning your next Global Discovery Vacations trip.
Do you have more ideas to share? Tell us in the comments!