Do you dread traveling with your family? Traveling with children is a challenge from planning the trip to packing to dealing with unexpected situations that come up. Many parents actually avoid traveling with their kids due to the difficulties involved.
Thankfully, there are still moms and dads who take their youngsters across the country or even across the ocean and then share their traveling advice with others.
Here are 6 tried-and-proven tips for making your family trip a success – a success that you will want to repeat:
1. Define the primary goals for your trip and don’t lose sight of them.
There are many good reasons to travel with your children. Here are a few examples:
- Just to have fun
- Get away and relax
- Strengthen family relationships
- Make lifelong memories
- Broaden horizons
- Cultivate curiosity
- Encourage hands-on learning
Setting clear goals is an important part of successful traveling. A well-defined purpose will encourage you to persevere when challenges arise, make it easier to choose your destination and activities, and help you know how to deal with interruptions.
2. Make the trip a family project.
Don’t plan your family’s trip and then force your kids to go along with it. Instead make the trip a family project. Talk about the different places that family members would like to go and then single out one or two destinations that everyone would enjoy.
Once you have a destination in mind, scour the internet for attractions, activities and tours in that area. Consider organizing all the activities that interest your family into the following categories:
- Just for fun activities
- Educational history and nature activities
- Cultural activities
Then choose a few activities to do from each category. This will give you and your kids a variety of experiences and a well-rounded trip.
3. Take steps to reduce the stress of packing.
Traveling moms agree that packing is one of the most stressful parts of traveling with children. Here are some practical tips for alleviating this stress:
- Simplify packing by making a detailed list of everything you need to take ahead of time.
- Consider packing by day, taking into account the activities that you have planned for each day, instead of packing by person.
- Don’t worry about formalities and instead pack clothes that can be mixed and matched to fit every occasion.
- Use packing squares, or something similar, to divide and organize the contents of each suitcase.
- Accept the fact that you are going to forget something and don’t blame yourself for it.
- Don’t try to pack everything you might possibly need. Instead plan to improvise.
4. Give each child a busy bag
Children often become bored and irritable after just a short time in a car or airplane, at a hotel room or waiting for a tour to begin. One great way to deal with this is to talk with your children before the trip about how they will need to sit or play quietly at certain times. Then help them pack a busy bag to entertain themselves.
A busy bag could contain:
5. Be flexible as you go
Ask any family who has traveled together and they will tell you stories of changing diapers in odd places, giving up a tour in favor of naps or cutting a hike short to find tums for kids. Traveling and sightseeing with children always includes interruptions such as these.
Instead of being surprised by these unexpected situations, be aware that they will come and plan to be flexible. If necessary, stop traveling early for the day, slow down for little legs to keep up and even exchange activities that you planned for more practical ones. Remember: The best part of traveling as a family is not visiting every historic spot or taking every available tour. The best part of a family trip is doing things together.
6. Remember your adventures together
Children grow up quickly and memories become more precious as time passes. After your family trip is over, it is easy to quickly slip back into the busyness of daily life, but before you do that, take a few minutes to organize memorabilia that your family collected during your trip together.
Sort out and save the best of all the pictures that were taken, put souvenirs in visible places as reminders of your adventures together, and make sure you immortalize all the memories by pinning your trip onto one of our Family Maps.