Everyone wants to plan the epic family vacation, but with children, things can be somewhat unpredictable. When you have places to go, and one or more of your children haven’t had their nap, things can get ugly.
Fortunately, there are ways to work around some of the most common stresses that come from when you travel with children.
Here are six strategies for stress-free travel with children:
1. Get the kids involved
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If you think it makes sense, get your kids involved in the planning process. This can backfire if you have younger kids who don’t completely understand things like waiting and patience just yet. So, it’ll be up to you to decide if your kids are ready to plan –and wait— for your vacation.
If you have younger kids or you’re planning a big vacation like Disney, you may want to surprise them with it at the last minute. Do what you feel works best for your family.
Getting the kids involved does have some benefits, though. If they can help with the research and idea parts of planning, they’ll feel more ownership over the trip. This is especially helpful for teens and pre-teens.
Here are a few ways you can get your kids involved in planning:
- Choosing a destination – You don’t have to let your children have full control over where you go, but you can make it more of a democratic process if that feels right. Of course, there will be times when destinations are set in stone, but try to allow some flexibility whenever possible.
- Selecting landmarks to visit – Consider letting each child choose one landmark to visit during your trip. You may be surprised at what they come up with. If your kids are younger, you can let them choose one from three or more possible choices.
- Navigating – If you have teenagers, consider letting them navigate throughout your destination. This should be a fun experience where you can help whenever necessary. Not only will your kids take a more active role in your vacation, but they’ll also get to practice important life skills.
2. Prepare your kids for what’s to come
Before you set out on your journey, prepare the kids for whatever they will encounter. If you’re taking a road trip, tell them how many hours you’ll be in the car and about how often you’ll stop for breaks. If you’re taking a flight, tell them about the airport experience and how important it is to follow the rules in a busy place. Tell them about what’s in store during the vacation and all the fun stuff they’ll experience. If your kids know in advance when it’s time to have fun and when it’s time to follow rules, they’ll be more likely to stay on their best behavior. Of course, this isn’t a foolproof plan, but it should help alleviate some stress.
3. Get and stay organized
Nothing will fluster a parent faster than struggling to find an important item that’s not where you thought it was. Fumbling for tickets, snacks, or toys that are nowhere to be found is an unnecessary stress.
To make sure things go smoothly, organize everything before you go. And then do your best to keep it organized.
It helps to have separate bags or compartments for your important items. If you always put them in the same easily-accessible spot, you’ll know where they are at all times. And if you have something valuable, make that a priority. Whenever you take it out of its compartment, immediately put it back.
4. Plan fun travel activities
Vacations are inherently fun, but there are always downtimes when you’re traveling or trying to get some rest. During these moments, be ready with some games to keep the kids occupied. Depending on the moment, you may want a family game or something to just keep the kids out of trouble. Here are some ideas for family travel games:
- Eye Spy
- License plate game
- Road trip bingo
- 20 questions
- Tic tac toe
And the following are some ideas to keep the kids occupied on their own:
- Electronic games
- Coloring books
- Silly putty
5. Prepare yourself
If you want your vacation to go off without a hitch, plan for everything. Here are a few ways you can prepare for the road:
- Get an oil change – It’s crucial to make sure your car is well-maintained before you embark on your family journey. Although it is possible to have a stress-free vacation with kids, that all goes out the window when you’re stuck on the side of the road. In addition to getting an oil change, check your tire pressure and have all your fluids topped off.
- Plan the fun in advance – Know how you’re going to keep your kids occupied before you even set foot in the car. This way, you can pack any items you’ll need and keep them handy.
- Organize your stuff – On a road trip, you may need a few outfit changes to get you through the ride. Keep these in a small carry-on-type bag that’s easily accessible. It doesn’t have to be in the car’s cabin, but it should be easy to access from the trunk. Include any toiletries you’ll need in this bag as well. Keep snacks and games organized within the car’s cabin, so you can grab them without having to make a pitstop. Make sure you have all your tickets and I.D. cards handy as well.
6. Choose kid-friendly accommodations
This one seems obvious, but many parents forget to check kid-friendliness off of their list of hotel requirements. Imagine you’re stuck inside on a rainy day at a beach destination. You’ll want something to keep the kids occupied. Make sure your accommodations include a kid-friendly pool, park or playscape. This way, the kids will have something to do on a drizzly day or while you’re upstairs getting ready.
The Best Tips to Let Go of Stress When You Travel With Children!
Traveling with the kids doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Just make sure you’re prepared, the kids know what’s coming, and you have plenty to keep them occupied. There may be a stressful moment here or there, but your overall trip should result in a great time for all.