Have you ever come home from a vacation and wished you could have a do-over? Maybe you were exhausted from overbooking activities, or perhaps you felt like you were constantly fighting rather than connecting with your kids.
Regardless of whether you're touring the Grand Canyon, or visiting grandparents - the traveling, disruption of routine, and all that pent up excitement can easily reach a boiling point if you don't plan ahead.
Vacations are supposed to be fun for the whole family, so before you pack your bags, take a moment to read these creative tips from Aha! Parenting to maximize the joy and minimize the tears and tantrums on your next vacation.
BEFORE YOU GO
Manage Expectations - No different from you and I, kids experience stress in uncertain situations. You can help them feel better equipped to manage that stress if you adequately prepare them for what to expect on your vacation. One fun idea is to create a little picture book to preview what will happen each day. Nothing elaborate, even just taping a few printed out photos in a notebook could work. You could invite your kids to add their own drawings in the notebook of what they think they will see each day to help build positive anticipation and conquer fears of uncertainty. This trick might be especially helpful if you plan to visit family members they haven't seen as often during the pandemic.
Make Space in the Suitcase for Sleep Supplies - Getting good sleep is kind of a prerequisite to enjoy any day, but especially action-packed vacation days. You never know how loud or bright your sleeping quarters might be when you arrive at your lodging, so coming prepared with your own blackout curtains and a white noise machine can help everyone stay in bed a little longer and sleep a little sounder.
Plan for the Plane - If you are flying to your destination, plan to arrive early enough to the airport to allow time for everyone to stretch their legs and use the restroom/change diapers before cramming onto the plane. You could make the plane even more special by bringing along small wrapped "presents" - books, coloring supplies, puzzles - for each child that can be pulled out when their patience for sitting is wearing thin. Make sure to include some sugar-free lollipops to suck on during take-off and landing to help equalize the air pressure in their ear drums. It may be unusual, but you might even want to pack some blue painter's tape that you could use to tape up a small blanket fort over your child's seat.
WHILE YOU'RE AWAY
Stay on a Schedule - As much as you can, try to maintain a schedule and meal plan your kids will feel familiar with. Vacation is a time to indulge but beware of those potential sugar crashes that may come, and if necessary, talk with grandparents in advance about limiting treats. While it is nice to try to have family meals all together, don't be afraid to feed your kids early so there is less pressure to keep them sitting at the table while the adults want to linger and talk. You need a chance to unwind, too!
Limit Your Itinerary - It is tempting to try to pack every vacation day with as many fun activities as possible, but you'll likely get more enjoyment out of planning just one big event per day. Leaving your schedule more open can help you build in a sense of routine that allows for physical activity to burn off happy energy, and intentional times to rest and decompress.
Prioritize Connection - Getting away from the stressors of work and home life should hopefully leave parents feeling more relaxed, fun, and emotionally available for their family. Before you lay down under the umbrella to read that book, take 5 minutes to hop into your kid's water fight, or throw an impromptu poolside dance party. Start and finish every day snuggling your child and talking through what to expect for the day ahead or what their favorite part was of the day they just experienced.
“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.” - George R.R. Martin