When planning a family vacation, aside from the joy of getting away for a much-needed break, parents often get a little stressed thinking of all the extra things that need to be packed, whether or not the actual traveling itself will go smoothly and how to keep the kids occupied during the long trip. But parenting during a family trip doesn't have to be an overwhelming experience. In fact, everyone can enjoy him- or herself if your trip is well-planned -- and as long as you keep the right attitude, too.
On the next few pages, we've compiled a short list of travel tips to help you plan and manage your vacation with the family. So head on over to the next section to begin reading our five parenting tips for successfully traveling with your kids.
Plan Your Packing
In other words, bring only what you really need. If you've been on a similar trip with your kids in the past, think of what they needed, what you didn't use the last time and what you wished you had brought but didn't.
Don't forget to bring the essentials. Obviously, for each family this list might be a little different, but things like medicine, special clothes for each outing and any vacation-specific items should be well thought out. One thing some experts recommend every family bring along is baby wipes. They can be used to clean kids at any age, yourself and even the places you're staying if you happen to find (or make) a mess [source: Travelwithyourkids.com].
Tim and Jess Neiger, parents of five, recommend packing kids' clothes in a laundry basket instead of a suitcase if they're taking a driving vacation. That way, when they get to their destination, they can unload the clothes into the dresser and then throw them back into the laundry basket when they leave. Once they're home, they have all the dirty clothes ready to go straight into the laundry room.
Next, find out why leaving at the right time can make your family vacation more enjoyable for everyone.
Leave at the Right Time
Whether you're flying, driving or taking a train to your destination, leaving at the right time can make your trip a whole lot smoother. Obviously, you can't predict delays or cancellations with flights, but try to plan your trip around the family's schedule.
Leave a few hours before your kids' naptime and bring along their sleeping blankets or other snuggly items they use for comfort. Sure, they'll be excited about the trip at first, but as it gets closer to naptime, most kids fall into their usual schedule and rest for a while [source: Travelwithyourkids.com].
Tim Neiger recommends that parents plan around their own schedule as well. It's critical that the grown-ups get enough sleep prior to leaving the house. A few years ago, he and his family left early in the morning for a long trip to North Carolina. After a few hours in the car, the family had to pull over at a rest stop to sleep because they were simply too tired to continue the drive. Careful packing and getting the kids ready is important, but so is giving yourself enough time to rest.
Go on to the next page for tips on how to keep your kids occupied during the trip.
Keep the Kids Occupied
Of course, you'll need to bring along a few toys and packing some of their favorites is probably a good idea. You'll want to select toys that can occupy your kids for longer periods of time, especially if you're on a long trip. Try bringing a few toys along and then handing them out at different times along the trip [source: Mahoney]. This prevents the kids from getting bored too quickly and gives them something new to do at regular intervals.
A portable DVD player in the car can also go a long way to keep the kids from getting too bored and then expecting the parents to be in charge of entertaining them. Neiger said, "Without a DVD player, parents are most likely to go insane." The old school days of playing games with the kids in the car may seem like long ago, but even the most technologically savvy kids still enjoy some good old fashioned interactive car games, so try out a few until you find one that sticks. Entertaining the kids by playing games is a good way to keep them from getting irritated at the long car ride as well from fighting with each other.
On the next page, we'll take a look at some tips that will help everyone enjoy the ride a little more.
Leave Work at Home
With all the available mobile technology, some even provided to us by our jobs, the feeling of wanting to do work when you're on vacation can come naturally to some. Instead, fight that feeling and leave your job back at home when you go on your trip [source: Burns]. Do you really need to have your BlackBerry going off every 15 minutes while you're trying to sightsee with the kids? Experts say it's best to turn it off or simply leave it at home.
Laptops can come in handy when traveling, but if you think you'll end up doing work on it while you're away, then don't bring it. Most hotels have computers for guests to use if you really need to look up directions, local weather reports or sightseeing information. The very reason you're on vacation is to spend time with the people most important to you, so don't waste it by splitting your time between work and family.
Up next, the most important family traveling tip -- be flexible.
Relax and be Adaptable
Traveling can be stressful, so keeping a good attitude will help your kids keep a good attitude as well. If something doesn't go right, adapt. If the place you were headed to is closed, don't simply return to the hotel room. Take the opportunity to walk around and find something else to do that wasn't on your scheduled list of activities [source: Travelwithyourkids.com]. Who knows? You may discover something new you didn't expect to see, and you might even make a vacation memory while you're at it.
For example, when the Neigers took their family on vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains, it began to rain just as they reached the top of one of the lookouts. After hours of driving in the family minivan, they were determined to not give up that easily. Eventually, they returned to their vacation home drenched and tired, but along the way they had built a family vacation memory that they wouldn't soon forget. Instead of letting the rain ruin their trip, they kept a positive attitude. "Always try to make a memory of something" Neiger said.
For more information about traveling with children and other related topics, follow the links on the next page.
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- Burns, Jim. "Have a Stress-Free Family Vacation." The Christian Broadcasting Network. (Feb. 19, 2010)http://www.cbn.com/family/familyadvice/Burns_vacation.aspx
- Mahoney, Tatiana. "Traveling with Kids? Use Our Checklist!" Parents Magazine. Dec. 2007. (Feb. 19, 2010)http://www.parents.com/fun/vacation/planning/traveling-with-kids-checklist/?page=1
- Neiger, Tim and Jess. Parents of five. Personal Interview. Conducted on Feb. 18, 2010.
- Travelwithyourkids.com. "Top 5 Family Travel Tips." (Feb 18, 2010)http://www.travelwithyourkids.com/before-you-go/top-5-family-travel-tips