Get everyone involved
Plan your trip together as a family. Have everyone make suggestions on the type of vacation and the destination. As the parent, you’ll get to make the final call based on your budget and schedule but involving everyone in the planning can generate excitement that lasts right up to departure day. Your kids might suggest some crazy destinations and outings, but you can always incorporate elements of the craziness into a realistic vacation that keeps everyone happy. Once the destination is decided, you can then start doing research together to learn things about where you’ll be going and what you’ll be doing, eating, etc. Planning together keeps the excitement going and keeps everyone involved.
Plan like a professional
Okay, let’s start with an itinerary then explain the trip and schedule to the family so everyone knows what’s planned each day and can start getting excited. If you’re planning activities or excursions, pre-book ahead of time so you can go stress-free. You can also call ahead to see if they offer child or family discounts. Here’s some examples of places you might bag some discounts
- Bus / train / travel tickets
- Park entry (waterpark, theme park, amusements, zoos etc)
- Restaurants & diners
- Equipment hire / rentals
Plan for extra time each day, just in case things don’t go to plan. Here’s a few examples of where you might want to consider allowing for extra time
- 5-10 minutes ahead of departure for everyone to get seated comfortably
- Applying sunscreen
- Pit-stops / rest breaks
- Creating a route
- Security / boarding the plane
Make a list. Make it again. Then make it shorter.
This might sound crazy but trust us, it works. Write out everything that everyone will need for the entire trip. Put it to one side, then write it again a day later. Check over each list and cross reference for anything you added or forgot on each. Your travel essentials for the trip will include everything, so it’s likely to be a long list, so a great idea is to write a list for each day. For example, heading to the waterpark? You’ll need sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, towels, inflatables… Heading to a nature park? You’ll need the stroller / baby carrier, changing mat, camera, snacks… Makes sense, right?
Bumps and bruises can happen any time, even when you’re traveling. To help keep everyone happy and healthy make sure and bring a travel-sized first aid kit with you. Print out extra insurance cards for everyone and keep them in the kit and keep the kit within easy reach so it’s there should you ever need it. Some of the things you may want to include would be bandages and antiseptic ointment, burn ointment, pain and fever reducer, bug bite relief, cough syrup or drops, something for motion sickness, a small thermometer, allergy medication, epi pens, and any prescriptions you’ll need while traveling. These are just suggestions and your family’s medical needs will determine what you’ll need in your kit.
Car seat / stroller rentals
Car seat safety standards don’t take a vacation, so we recommend hiring a car seat / booster for your journey). Some car seats are suitable for travel such as Radian® (FAA approved with folding frame and carry straps available) or Monterey® 5iST FixSafe (compact to full size in simple steps, lightweight with three ways to carry) but if your current model isn’t suitable, don’t let safety take a break when on holiday and rent a seat! Most car seat rentals are happy to provide a child car seat, but it’s worth confirming this ahead of arrival, so you know for certain. If you’re heading out on foot, you’ll want to arrange a stroller rental for when little feet get tired. Alternatively, baby carrying is a great way to give little explorers a break.
Capture the memories
Let your children be the photographers. Digital cameras are readily available, very affordable and will give your kids the opportunity to document their travels in a way that adults might not. Kids love to take pictures, especially when experiencing new activities and surroundings. If this isn’t within your budget, you can pick up a point and shoot disposable camera from the supermarket or online. Taking pictures will keep them engaged in the current activity and provide memories that they can always look back on. You can even have their photos made into a photo book to enjoy later.
Pack everything you need (and extra)
Not just for the trip, but for each day too. Extra diapers, formula, underwear and tops for yourself (feeding accidents) should definitely be considered. You don’t want your holiday budget being used on things you could have easily packed! If your little one is taking big steps, they might enjoy some independence carrying their own backpack of essentials. However, don’t overpack this one as it’s more than likely you’ll end up carrying it at some point…
Given the current pandemic situation, the best thing you can do is be flexible, not only in your travel plans, but in your attitude as well. Some destinations may still have mask and social distance requirements in place so be prepared to follow local guidelines. Do as much research in advance as you can on destinations, activities, meal options, lodging, etc. The situation is constantly changing so be prepared in case things have changed once you reach your destination. Remember that the person behind the counter is probably not the one making the rules so please be kind to those who are assisting you.
Be prepared for accidents and stuff just… “going wrong”!
All the planning in the world can’t prepare a family for what could happen on vacation. Some things are out of our control and simply cannot be helped so it’s best to just let it go, be prepared that things might not go your way or the weather might not hold up. Travelling with kids is unpredictable and we learnt very quickly that things go wrong, but it is not worth stressing over or ruining your holiday! The best you can do is be as thoroughly prepared for each day and take it easy if things go off track.
Remember to relax!
Traveling is stressful enough so make sure and schedule at least one “day off” during your vacation to just relax. You may need more days off depending on the length of your stay. This can be a day where you just lounge by the pool, take a leisurely walk through a park, play games with the family, explore the local downtown area, watch the grass grow, go fishing…you get the idea. It’s also worth agreeing screen time for these days so you don’t become distracted or forget to enjoy your surroundings!