Every mom knows that the more kids you have (and the younger that they are) the more difficult it can be to plan out a trip that is going to be truly enjoyable for the whole family. You’re going to have to get a lot more creative than you did when it was just you and your spouse before any kids were in the picture. Back then you could have probably got a trip planned and made your way out the door in an hour or two. Nowadays, things might take a little bit more concentrated thought. If you have young children, there are a few things that you will need to consider when you’re getting ideas, not only for where you’re going to go, but for what you’re going to do when you get there!
Determine the “Where”
One of the best ways to get started is to decide the method of transportation. Will you be driving to your destination or flying? Flying can be a bit of a pain with little ones, but the ability to fly obviously extends your range 100 fold! After you have set a theoretical range that your trip is limited to – start thinking of fun and exciting locations within that range. The time of year will obviously have a big impact on what type of area that you’re looking for. (Beach trips tend to be a bit less popular when there’s snow on the ground :])
While many people are seeking out unique locations that are off of the beaten path, sometimes it can be good to decide on more tourist heavy destinations. Areas with a lot of tourists are usually much busier, thus difficult to navigate. However, areas that attract a lot of tourists usually have better amenities when it comes to keeping your kids happy and healthy. The types of amenities that I’m referring to are: baby changing stations inside of restrooms, ample seating, child daycare facilities, stores that provide speciality items that either babies or small children may need, better access to medical care in the case of an emergency, and more family friendly activities in general.
When you make your final decision on a destination make sure to consider: weather, amenities, activities, safety, and uniqueness. In addition to those aspects, you also shouldn’t miss out of any opportunity to turn your trip into a teachable lesson or series of small teachable moments for your kids. This is a great element to work into any trip in your own way. Historical locations provide a framework for learning and make it easier to ensure that your kids end their trip a little more knowledgable than they started. Our trip to the city of Boston earlier this year was a great example of this.
Plan Your Activities
You’ll want to plan out a rough schedule of your trip before you even leave the house. This will prevent any large stretches of down time where little children can start to get very antsy. By no means do I advocate scheduling things out to the exact minute, this is sure to drive everyone on the trip crazy (especially your significant other).
Doing research online ahead of time can be a good way to discover some of the most popular (and appropriate) activity options at your destination. Don’t forget to try the cities official webpage that often has a useful list of local attractions. I’ve found that it’s usually even more helpful to look on the website of a local newspaper. They often do a better job of informing readers about upcoming events and are possibly more in touch with what’s currently going on in the surrounding areas.
There’s only so much that can a should be planned in advance. You should always leave room for suggestion and the ability to react to the vibe that you’re feeling once you’re there and you’ve got your feet wet. Once you’re at your destination and are doing a bit of exploring, don’t be afraid to talk to the locals! This is one of the best ways to find out about lesser known activities or places to check out. The locals are usually a great source of information if you’re looking for areas that aren’t overcrowded (especially during peak tourist season)!
Not only do you have to think about what your family is going to be doing on their vacation – but you have to think about what they’re going to be eating as well. There’s only so much that you can prepare in advance, which is especially true if you’re going to be flying. It’s also hard to prepare real food when you’re there in many instances. Hotel rooms are exactly an easy place to whip up a nutritions meal for your kids. You can often find local restaurants that have higher standards and nutrient rich meal options. If you do some searching for restaurants online ahead of time, it will save you time on your trip and a lot of frustration!
Last year we travelled to see my husbands family that lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Trust me when I say that it was an extremely long drive for us! Hopefully it’s the longest drive that we even have a make. Next time we will be flying to get closer before we pack into the car, that is for sure. During our drive I found a local website that I used to search for a local restaurant with good meal options. I just search for restaurants in clare mi (the little town the we were driving by). I already knew exactly where to go before my husband even got off the exit!
Hope for the Best – Plan for the Worst
While vacations and trips are usually a lot of fun, they can also contain a lot of high stress periods. There will be a lot of brand new experiences for your kids that they may have never seen before. While this is exciting, it can definitely take a toll on the little ones. Be prepared to take a lot of breaks for rest. It may be necessary to schedule in a couple of trips back to your home base for a nap and a snack to get everyone back in the right mind-state.
Before you leave home, you also need to take a mental inventory of all of the essential items that you need for your families’ health. Do your kids have any special medications or medical devices that they shouldn’t be going without on the trip? Something like an epi pen is easy to forget, but can be extremely dangerous in a situation where you need it all of a sudden and there isn’t one to be found.
One of the most overlooked aspects of a vacation is remaining positive and upbeat the whole time, even when things don’t go as planned. It seems as though this should go without saying, but it can often be difficult not to get upset when something that you have planned for weeks (or months) totally falls apart. Bad weather happens, events get cancelled, kids get sick, things get forgotten. The only thing that you really have control of is your reaction to what happens – so stay positive and be a good example for your kids!