We’ve hardly made a dent in 2014 and our kids have been out of school more times than we care to count. It seems that every other week is another national holiday (or snow day!) leaving parents with the task of figuring out how to entertain the kids for an extra 24-48 hours. Rather than listening to them complain and mope around the house, many opt to head out of town for a quick ski vacation, an exotic sun-filled escape or a road trip to a nearby resort.
While these destinations all sound alluring, it is often a challenge just to get from point A to point B, let alone enjoy each other’s company, especially with unpredictable little ones or moody teenagers in tow. A successful trip requires a delicate balance of organization, preparation, flexibility and endurance. After spending all that time, effort and money, no parent wants to return home and scream, “I need a vacation from my vacation!”
With that in mind, we’ve compiled seven tips to ensure your excursion is pleasurable all around. Bon Voyage!
1. Preparation is paramount. Traveling gracefully takes planning. Prior to travel date, discuss where you will be going, the mode of transportation and how long it will take to get there. If traveling by car, familiarize yourself with rest areas, be prepared for road closures and be informed about construction that may cause detours. If traveling by plane, arrive in advance to allow for delayed check-in and be sure personal identification is current and handy. Bonus Tip: The night before, go to bed at a reasonable hour. Tempers are much more likely to be flared if nerves are on edge from lack of sleep.
2. Pack entertainment to pass time. Each child should pack a carry-on bag with entertainment essentials–toys, books and travel-size games. Have your favorite devices on hand for watching movies, listening to music and playing games. Go old-school style and bring a deck of cards, some scratch paper and a pencil for hangman or tic-tac-toe. Bonus Tip: Remember you are sharing space with others. Keep noise at a minimum. Plug in headphones if listening to music or watching a movie.
3. Bring fuel for energy and discomfort. You never know what types of delays are in store when traveling, so be sure to arm yourself with plenty of nutritious snacks, fruit and water. Protein packed jerky, energy bars and trail mix satisfy hunger. For younger ones, Cheerios do double-duty as both a fun activity and nourishment. Bonus Tip: Refrain from eating anything pungent, messy or terribly loud as it is an incredible nuisance to those seated around you. If flying, pack gum or candy for takeoff and landing. This will prevent painful earaches due to a cold or change in altitude.
4. Safety is supreme. Go over the ground rules for acceptable behavior during the trip. Stress the importance of these rules for safety. Small children need to know that they must not wander away from the family at any time. Create a buddy system or counting system so children feel a sense of responsibility for themselves and other family members. Teens should understand curfews will be enforced. Bonus Tip: Kids thrive on boundaries. Empower them with confidence by telling them in advance what is expected. Inform of the consequences they will encounter if they refuse to listen.
5. Act like a gracious guest. Whether staying in a hotel, motel, resort or vacation rental, the cardinal rule to being a gracious guest is to be considerate and mindful of your environment. Keep surroundings clean and safe and noise level at a minimum. Avoid running down the hall or putting feet on the furniture. Children should pick up after themselves and keep belongings neat and tidy. Bonus Tip: If staying in a vacation rental, make beds, take out the garbage and help with the cooking and cleaning.
6. Define and refine dining. It is likely that one or two meals will be shared as a family each day of your vacation. Use this as an opportunity to add a bit of refinement to your dining experience regardless if you are eating poolside, in a ski lodge or formal dining room. Encourage everyone to sit up straight, put napkins in laps, use utensils and engage in meaningful conversation. Help set and clear the table if applicable. Bonus Tip: Lose the tech! As easy as it is to rely on electronics at the table to babysit the kids, this is prime time for family members to reconnect and take a sincere interest in one another.
7. Family attitude and participation. The trip will be a thousand times more fun if everyone employs a positive attitude, helps pitch in, is mindful of personal space and participates fully. Try to act as a cohesive unit, yet stay flexible and refrain from unnecessary button-pushing or ruffling of feathers. Bonus Tip: Pick your battles and go with the flow. Routines may change, food may not be prepared to your liking, sleeping quarters may be less than be ideal. Embrace it and enjoy the adventure together .