Stress-Free Family Vacations for All Ages
What was your first vacation memory? Visiting grandparents in a distant city? Building sand castles on the beach with siblings and parents? How did the family vacation memories change as you aged and now as you're an adult - perhaps with kids and/or nieces and nephews of your own?
Infants, toddlers, teens all have different needs and interests. Below are some quick tips for making family getaways less stressful.
In general, less is more. Jam-packing too much into a travel schedule can ruin an otherwise lovely trip. Build in plenty of free time between activities, meals, and group gatherings to walk around, soak in the scenery, relax, nap, read, and so forth.
Traveling with kids up to 5 years old
- Pack baby-proofing supplies: Think about socket plugs, padded corner tabs, plastic glasses, nightlights and other typical portable protection devices.
- Rent baby equipment: A handful of companies make it easy to rent baby supplies like cribs, high chairs and strollers at your destination. This is a practical and stress-reducing way for parents to travel with young children.
- Keep familiar scents: Resist the temptation to wash everything just before leaving home. Babies and toddlers are particularly comfortable with the smell of their things. They can be sensitive, even cranky, when their things, complete with odors, seem to be missing.
Traveling with kids ages 6 to 12
- Pack a surprise: In case the plane is delayed or a child becomes ill along the way, pack a couple of vacation surprises well suited to alleviating boredom. Audiobooks is great option to meet the boredom challenge for this age group.
- Plan fun activities: Nothing fancy or expensive, just good old-fashioned games and activities.
- Do less: One of the biggest challenges for vacationing families is learning to do less and enjoy it more. Often parents return to work feeling like they need a vacation. They intended to relax and catch up on sleep. They intended to enjoy free time with the kids. Instead they found themselves over scheduled and in a self-created time crunch. Anyone in charge?
Traveling with teens
- Pack less: This is a reality check. Teens want to be seen as cool by their peer group, yet not look obvious as they do so. The result is over packing. Why take one pair when six will do? Over packing comes from a lack of information about what is needed. Every family with teens should invoke the rule of all seasoned globetrotters: “Ye shall carry what you pack…all of what you pack.”
- Pick your restaurants wisely: Choosing restaurants with menus that make everyone happy will go a long way to a fun and relaxing dining experience.
- Determine who is in charge: Power struggles result when guidelines are not clear. Communicate expectations before buying tickets or making deposits. If sleeping until noon is not option say so early. If every one gets to choose a favorite activity say so early. If in reality grandpa is in charge then do not keep it a secret.
What do you think? Is there an ideal age to travel with kids? Was there an ideal age of travel for you? My favorite childhood vacations were spent at a lake with white sandy shores and tons of relatives for our family reunions. Lots of cousins to play with and plenty of munchies and scrumptious food to boot.