The family vacation: At its best, it's a wonderful bonding experience and a fond memory for years to come. At its worst, well, they made a movie about that ... (cue "Holiday Road")
Whether it's a spring break getaway or a big summer road trip that you're already looking forward to, you can take steps now to get your kids excited, perfect your plans, and keep the drama to a minimum.
The first step is to figure out how "family" is defined for this vacation. Who's coming? Grandparents? The extended family? Just you and the kids? That affects where you stay, what you do, and more.
You also need to consider your family's capacity for fun. Having appropriate expectations for how much each person can do in a day and in a week goes a long way to keeping everyone sane.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Kelly Olson shares these tips for your next family vacation.
- Watch videos or look at pictures with your kids to get them excited about where you're going.
- Involve older children. Have them research the culture or food of your destination. Allow them to plan some of the trip activities.
- Choose family-friendly activities, such as child-centered cruises, zoos, museums, etc. Expecting younger children to behave at fancy restaurants or "hands-off" exhibits sets your family up for failure.
- Also plan activities for all ages on the trip. Make sure Grandpa and Grandma get to do some things they enjoy.
- Do some activities together, but also allow for some time alone. Consider a babysitting service for parents' night out.
- Remember to pack special items from home, such as blankets or stuffed animals. Calming items are especially important for children with special needs.
- Remind your kids of safety rules (stay by your side, don’t go with anyone).
- Plan on different sleeping areas. A smaller hotel room may save money, but a suite will help give everyone space to decompress.
- Keep your kids informed. Count down the days until the trip. Depending on reading level, create a written or visual calendar of events for your kids and refer them to it when they ask questions (This way you can avoid repeating the schedule over and over).
- Come prepared. Bring lots of activities and snacks for layovers and other waiting times. Pack warm clothes in case of cold weather in tropical areas. Think of things you can do if weather disrupts your plans.
- Incentivize good behavior. Use special stops as a reward. Have a stash of prizes you can give out if the kids behave exceptionally, or let them pick their own treat at the next rest stop (if they can behave all the way there!). Think about special games or activities with Mom or Dad that can be used as an incentive.
- Plan wisely. Have fun, but don’t over book. Plan some down time. Consider scheduling an extra catch-up day before going back to work or school.
The experts at The Village can help with many of your family concerns. Call 1-800-627-8220 or request an appointment online.