Let's face it: as parents of little ones, a vacation sounds completely magical. An opportunity to get away from the normal routine and escape the responsibilities of home for a few days would be delightful. The thought of it is enough to carry us through those sleepless nights or toddler tantrum episodes. That is, the THEORY of family travel sounds wonderful. Reality, however, may seem a bit daunting. After all, there's so much gear. And unpredictable schedules. And eating habits. And mood swings. Need I go on?
Today, I'd like to encourage you that enjoyable vacations ARE possible for parents with little ones. All it takes is some good decision making and adequate planning. To help set you in the right direction, I have a few helpful hints and tips to share.
Without further ado...how to travel with little ones and LIKE it:
Location, Location, Location
Yes, I recommend you choose one, and only one. (Two at the most, if you are feeling ambitious!) With so much gear to haul, and settling in to occur, you don't want to spend multiple days packing and unpacking. That's more time spent working and less time enjoying your destination.
Destination is Everything
Okay, not everything, but it makes a HUGE impact on your trip. With little ones, it's best to choose a laid back destination without a lot of scheduling required. If you're trying to always be somewhere at a particular time, that is going to cause stress and be a kill joy. Instead, enjoy the Aloha spirit of Hawaii, explore San Diego, soak up the sun at an all-inclusive resort or relax on a cruise. Full day adventures aren't required at these locations, so you can flex as needed. Here are some suggestions from Today on great vacations with babies and toddlers.
Speaking of Flexibility
...have that be your mantra. Clearly, you have chosen your destination because there are things you'd like to see and do there. And, if all goes as planned, you will. But remember that you will ALL have a much better travel experience if you don't set a rigid schedule that needs to be kept. Travel throws EVERYONE off, especially little ones.
Pick 1 or 2 Must-dos...
and allow everything else to be a bonus. If you must see the volcano in Hawaii, then plan on doing so early in your stay. If it works on the first attempt, fabulous, you've met your vacation goal. Add in another adventure later in your stay. If not, and a hiccup keeps you from getting there on the first try, then you still have time to make it happen during your vacation.
Know Your Child's Routines
Vacation won't magically change your child, so it's important to keep in mind his patterns when planning your days. If he absolutely cannot function without a nap in a quiet place, plan to be in your hotel room at nap time every day. Or, if the time before dinner is the bewitching hour, don't plan the activity you're most looking forward to during that time.
Pack Extras of the Favorites
Most little ones have favorites, whether it be a certain blankie to snuggle with or a particular type of pacifier to help soothe. If your baby or toddler has a special comfort item, be sure to pack extras for your trip. You might not be able to run to the store and pick up a replacement item, and missing that one special thing can wreak havoc on your vacation. It's better to plan for the worst, and come home with the item unused, than to pay the price if it gets lost or damaged.
Practice at Home
If you plan on using a new piece of gear during your trip, practice using it at home. That new baby carrier may take some adjusting to, as may the port-a-crib. If your little one is already familiar with it before travel, there will be fewer adjustments (and tears) on the road!
Food is Life...and Happiness
ALWAYS have easy access to food. Whether you buy them when you arrive at your destination, or pack a bunch of snacks, keep them handy for maximum happiness. No one is happy when they are hungry, parents or children alike, so the difference between a great outing and a flop can be found in your snack bag. The folks at Kids are a Trip have many great suggestions for you.
Think about the Bedtime Plan
We tend to think about the days when planning a trip, but what about the evenings? What will you do when it is time for the little ones to go to bed? If there are different expectations on the part of the parents, there may be some disappointment when the time comes. Do you bring books to read? A puzzle to do? Movies to watch?
Travel with Others
If you plan to travel with another family, you may take turns hanging out with the children while the grown ups get some time to recharge and refresh. This works especially well in the evening, once the kids are in bed. Of course, grandparents would love to join your adventures, too, and probably wouldn't mind a bit of alone time with the little ones.
Put Down the Camera
Our little travelers are adorable. And after all of the planning, it can be tempting to try and capture every detail on camera. By all means, get those great shots, but also remember to put the camera away and soak up the moments. The days pass too quickly, so make the most of them by joining in the adventure with your family.
Can you think of other tips I've missed? If so, please comment and share your thoughts below. I'd love to hear your feedback!
Lisa is the travel loving, animal adoring, Mickey Mouse hugging owner of Dreams Delivered Travel.