A family vacation can sound like a lot of fun, but it’s often more difficult in practice. Making sure everyone is happy, well-fed, and occupied can be enough of a challenge when you’re at home; adding stressful travel situations and a new environment into the mix can make it feel like you’ll need a vacation from your vacation. Still, a lot of families are determined to make it work. In fact, more Millennial parents are traveling with their kids than ever. But if you’re weary about bringing the kids along on your trip, we’ve put together some tips that can help.
Choose a Family-Friendly Trip
If you’re worried about all the work it takes to plan a family trip, take heart: around 44% of Millennial parents are now traveling with their kids in tow. That means that young families aren’t giving up the idea of taking a vacation together; they’re just finding ways to make it more feasible and enjoyable. Only 3% of U.S. households own a vacation timeshare, which means families are getting creative with the types of trips and destinations on their radar.
Sure, Disney vacations are still pretty popular for many families, but the hefty price tag (not to mention the coordination required) might be a deterrent. A family-friendly cruise, for example, can help parents save money on meals and make for a less stressful time — since everything is contained on one ship and the ports you’ll visit. All-inclusive resorts are becoming more favored by families too, since they’re often more budget-friendly and don’t require a lot of extra work. Camping trips can be great as well, as they’re definitely one of the cheapest options and can offer quality time that you might not otherwise find.
No matter what kind of trip or destination your family wants to experience, it’s best to consider ones that will provide plenty of activities for your little ones to enjoy while saving you money and ensuring everyone’s safety as a whole. You may even be able to find a package specifically catered to families with young kids.
Have a Flight Plan
If you’ve chosen a vacation that involves flying, you’ll want to be strategic. Although commercial airlines carried more than 3.8 billion passengers to their destinations in 2016, that doesn’t mean that it’s always a breeze to fly with kids.
First of all, try to keep your kids’ schedules in mind when booking travel accommodations. By keeping their sleep cycles, mealtimes, and active hours in mind, you may be able to beat the system, as it were. Avoid flying during their most active hours or when your child is likely to be most cranky. If they can sleep en route, both you and they will be a lot happier when you arrive.
You’ll also save yourself a lot of grief if you stock up on activities, snacks, and beverages before you board the plane. Toys and entertainment are a must, so be sure to include coloring books, games, cards, stickers, picture books, or other activities your child enjoys. A mix of healthy snacks and special treats will help stave off hunger, and milk and water are a must. In general, try to limit sugar intake to reduce the risk of hyperactivity and the inevitable crashes that follow.
Give Your Kids a Choice
Once you arrive at your destination, you may think the hardest part is over. But you could still run into problems if you’re over-scheduling or not providing enough opportunities for your kids to be engaged during your trip. For three- to five-year-olds, around 51% of whom attend full-day preschool programs, there are a couple of important points to keep in mind: give them a chance to release their energy, and allow them to make some choices during the trip.
Toddlers are bound to be naturally curious about the new environment and they’ll be keen to explore. When making your itinerary, resist the urge to squeeze too much in. Instead, make ample room for downtime — during which your kids can blow off some steam by getting active. Go to a nearby playground, visit the hotel’s pool, or find a local park for your kids to work off excess energy.
Slightly older children will want to be involved in some of the planning. You can help your kids feel more empowered by giving them a choice between a few different activities. By allowing them to pick the activities that appeal to them most, they’ll be much more engaged overall and will likely enjoy everything your family does together a lot more.
While family vacations may never be a walk in the park, your time off together will be a lot more relaxing and restorative if you follow these tips. It will require a lot of planning and some flexibility on your part, but chances are that you’ll feel it’s worth it when you can create these incredible memories without the meltdowns (at least, not ones from mom and dad).