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My Top 5 Family Vacay Planning Tips!

Updated: May 19, 2019

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So you've got some vacation days and the hotel and/or flights are (woohoo!), but as the date approaches, you need to do a little pre-planning to make the most of your trip. Before kids, things were easy: You and your spouse might look up a couple of attractions or interests, maybe look for a few restaurant recommendations, and then leisurely stroll along, taking it day by day.

<<Reality Check!>> Traveling with kids requires some strategic planning to make the most of the destination (and to, quite simply, just make it through the trip!)

Here are 5 ways you can have a successful and fun family vacation that you AND the kids will enjoy:

1. Put the kids to work!

From the very beginning, involve your kids in the planning process! Just like the concept of having your kids help prepare dinner so they eat it and enjoy it better, letting your kids help plan your trip will increase their interest and enjoyment.

This may look different according to your kid's individual age, but here are some things kids can help with as early as age 4:

  • Researching the destination online (with parental supervision) ---> YouTube often has travel videos and clips which are easier for kids to glean info from rather than reading articles!

  • Mapping out a route for the day on a good ole' fashioned map ---> Bonus! This helps them learn important orientation and navigation skills, especially if you give them the map on the trip to use!

Book, sanitizing wipes, stuffed animal- ready for take-off!
  • Packing a backpack or carry-on ---> Whether traveling by car or plane, your kid will need some various forms of entertainment (and not just screen time!) Let them be responsible for packing a couple of books, small stuffed animal, and a few small toys in their own backpack. Most kids LOVE to pack things up so this will be a fun job for them- just make sure to do a quick check before you leave to make sure the family pet or other oddity isn't packed!! <<Trip Tip>> Pack your own real headphones for younger children if you are flying. You'll save money and also any trouble with keeping earbuds in their tiny ears! We LOVE the Cozy Phones brand which can also double as a sleep mask! Order yours on Amazon HERE.

2. Vary your itinerary.

We all know kid's attention spans are limited, so while we adults can stroll through a museum or listen to an audio-guided tour for 3 hours straight, kids will not be so acquiescent.

Keep their interest piqued and their energy in check by carefully planning your itinerary and activities with what I call the "hi-low" approach. If you spend the morning exploring a museum (low), balance it with lunch at a park (hi). Even if a museum is interesting and you may have walked a couple of miles around it, kids still need the nonrestrictive outlet that playgrounds and parks provide. ---> download an app like Playground Buddy (free) that will help you locate playgrounds in your current area.

Even if a museum is interesting and you may have walked a couple of miles around it, kids still need the nonrestrictive outlet that playgrounds and parks provide.

3. Build excitement BEFORE you go!

Studies show that simply planning and looking forward to a trip increases happiness ( but for kids, we want to translate that into excitement! My daughter loves when we start getting close to a trip because she knows we will start watching videos or even cooking certain dishes to begin learning more about our upcoming destination.

Wherever you are going, begin the education and experience early by learning about the history, food, culture, art, or music of that place and incorporate it sporadically into your routine the weeks before. Trust me, if you watch a movie or video that features your destination in it, once your kids are there themselves, it totally ups the cool factor!

4. Plan your packing.

We all know we need to pack an assortment of clothes based on the destination's forecast but the packing I am talking about is the kind that will help save your sanity during a trip with kids! Here are the three essentials I recommend packing in your travel backpack:

  1. Snacks and water bottles. Kids are needy creatures. They get hungry and then they get cranky and the quickest way to burn through money while traveling is to spend it all on outrageously priced snacks. Always bring a light weight water bottle to refill at available water fountains and pack plenty of healthy, energy-packed snacks from home. I literally stuff granola bars and fruit pouches in every available pocket when traveling and we rarely go home with any leftovers. Sometimes even mom and dad have to steal something from the snack stash to make it to dinner!

  2. Medicine & first aid kit. Another must for traveling with kids is a small first aid kit. You can purchase premade ones but I suggest just raiding your own medicine cabinet and stocking it with a few sizes of bandaids, small tube of antibiotic ointment and kid's Benedryl and Tylenol chewable tablets. You may also want to consider packing some Pepto-Bismol or allergy medicine if you know your child may be prone certain illnesses. Having these few medicines and first aid supplies on you (at all times) is much more convenient than having to frantically search a public place while your child is crying and dripping blood down their knee from a fall.

  3. Antibacterial wipes and handi-wipes. I also never go anywhere without hand sanitizing wipes (the antibacterial ones) PLUS baby wipes (to use on faces for sticky messes). I am, admittedly, a germophobe and meticulously wipe down airplane trays and bathe my daughter in hand sanitizer. There is nothing worse than spending your vacation time in the hotel room, sick, and unable to enjoy it! I know most parents have learned the endless uses for baby wipes in everyday life, but don't neglect to pack them and anti-bacterial wipes on your trips as well. Order travel friendly Wet-Ones HERE.

5. Relax and enjoy!

You're probably wondering why this is even on the list. I mean, what else are vacations for? Everyone relaxes on vacations, right? But if you're a parent you know that relaxing by the pool really means that you are simultaneously making sure one child doesn't drown and one doesn't bust their head open as they run around the pool.

While you can never neglect safety, I do want to simply remind you that on vacation, we can let a few things go. Bedtimes can be pushed a {little} later and dessert can be eaten even if they didn't finish all their broccoli. While we can't completely throw out the rules, vacations are a chance to escape the everyday life and enjoy some small indulgences.

So go ahead and take a deep breathe once you arrive. Prepare to embrace any mishaps with grace. Loosen up on the schedules. Remove any expectations except that this will be a great chance to make memories. Because the more you enjoy the trip, the more your kids will too!


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