“Are we there yet?” That tired question from children anxious to land at a holiday destination is an expected cliché. What if they were surprised to arrive so soon?
When it comes to planning summer trips with the family, it’s important to prepare details in advance for a successful holiday.
A certain amount of research is required to find an entertaining itinerary that will make everyone happy. A hidden key to unlocking a special time for all is to involve your children in each step of the journey—ask for suggestions, incorporate their ideas and choices, and encourage their participation. This will keep them too busy to ask the estimated arrival time. After all, the idea is to treasure this expedition.
Whether flying or driving, camping or visiting grandma, there are plenty of recommendations available: how to pack, what sights are must-see attractions, and where and what to eat. Practical advice tells you to bring healthy snacks and a few toys, pack an easily accessible carryall with frequently used items, and keep valuables in a safe spot.
To navigate a family holiday that accommodates challenges, stay open and flexible, leave sufficient time to avoid hurrying, and welcome your kids' input as part of your strategy. They will feel a closer part of the process, from packing their suitcase together to asking for their opinions. Here are some ideas for a less stressful and more fun time together.
On the way:
- When researching places to go, have a family gathering to discuss possibilities. Let the kids help make choices in the itinerary. Wouldn’t you rather know ahead of time that they don’t really want to see the zoo? Provide options and guide them by offering suggestions, since you’re the expert on the location. Find kid-friendly places and activities, such as craft classes at a museum while you have alone time to appreciate the art. See if advance ticketing is possible online so you can plan your schedule. Is this something people do on their outbound journey or once there?
- While traveling, rather than have your children immersed in their own world for hours with a favorite video game or film, take some time to play with them, get them interested in the scenery, and sit next to them, taking an interest and arousing their imagination. Sing a song together as a family.
- Keep children active at rest stops, train stations, or airports. Bring a ball along and find a spot to practice.
During the holiday:
- There are plenty of hiccups on a vacation, last-minute decisions to make, and changes in plans due to weather or circumstances. If it’s raining the day you scheduled to go to the beach, have a museum or indoor event in mind as a back-up.
- Arrange activities around the same neighborhood to get around efficiently.
- Establish some behavior “road rules,” such as everyone gets their own day or favorite thing to do. Consider unexpected places. Children crave fantasy, which can be found in an aquarium or castle.
- Plan physical activities in the morning and schedule in some downtime to unwind after lunch in a park, at the beach, or for a nap. Then fit in another idea. Check in with your children to make sure they’re on board. There should be some favorite activity for each member of the family. Not everyone may agree but it presents a learning opportunity.
- If possible, have a little time without the children. Take in a spa treatment, relax in a hot tub, walk on the beach, stop in a shop, or splurge on a great meal.
After the trip:
- Make a slide show of the photos you all took and share favorite memories, remembering highlights, crazy moments, and good times.
- A family trip can be outside the comfort-zone but half the fun is exploring a new place together. Brainstorm new places to go next summer.