We all have dreams of showing our kids the world and packing them up to visit far off places but the long car drive that a family must endure to get to their treasured destination is often fraught with empty threats of death by iPad cord, frequent pee stops, and ear melthing whines… and that’s just the mom we are talking about. Traveling with underdeveloped humans can be challenging to say the least. But we parents have been doing this a while and have come up with a few tricks up our sleeves to endure to the end. So here are eight parenting hacks you can implement to help make your next family vacation go a whole lot smoother.
Communicate Expectations Early With The Happy Vacation Rule
We started this little tradition when the boys where four and five where my husband and I would communicate ahead of time our expectation about the trip. Since our boys were little at the time when we started this we simply talked to them about how the number one rule on vacation is the Happy Vacation Rule. The rule was no matter what we had to have fun, be nice and be open to adventure and the unexpected. There is to be no fighting or complaining on this vacation. My husband and I also promised that we would try our very hardest to have a great attitude no matter what came our way and we would all help remind each other.
Make A Game Out Of The Stress
Before you even start your trip come up with some fun game or wagers to make a game out of stressful situations. Who ever loses their cool first has to sing all the verses of I’m a little Tea Pot in an Elmo Voice. This does so many things, first it breaks the tension. Second it’s a great practice to help control our anger and third it’s empowering. When you can keep your cool and actually choose to not be affected from chaos, nothing feels more empowering.
Have Grey Expectations
A vacation is not just about having the perfect experience and making things go just as you dreamed they would be. It’s about making organic memories together that include the good, the bad and the ok in between. Don’t judge each moment with a good or bad rating. Try evaluating the experience on a scale of one to ten instead. 10 being the best and one being hell on earth. You will see that most things land in the grey area between black and white and that’s okay. Plan for people to get cranky and things to not go as planned. Have goals where you choose how you would like to react when this all goes crazy instead of trying to set unrealistic goals of how the activity is to go or how your children should act. You cannot choose to make the trip go perfectly and everyone act perfectly during your trip but you can choose how you will react to it and how you will manage yourself during these very normal moments of chaos.
Know Before You Go
Make sure you have done your research on your destination. Whether you are moving somewhere or vacationing there for the first time. Search on the internet and find out what the locals like to do there. Find some hidden gems off the beaten path. Know the weather. Research how much time it takes to get from your hotel to your activities and plan accordingly. And if you are traveling really far make sure to do research on the local culture. Don’t forget to involve your family in the research so they can be more informed as well. Plus it can act as a bonus to help kids get excited about the trip as they learn more about their destination. Bumps happen during vacations but you are sure to expense more of them if you don’t put in the time to plan and be informed about your upcoming vacation.
Be A Good Example
How many times have we caught ourselves yelling “stop yelling at your brother!” If the parents are stressed out and losing control the kids will feel that ten fold. Your bad behavior will only amplify their own. It causes them to feel unsafe and also out of control. If you are losing your cool try breathing exercises, calm music and don’t be shy about calling for quiet time in the car. You may even need to take an extra long break at your next stop.
Have Chill Time Planned In
Going on vacation can be so exciting especially if you don’t get to go very often. We also want to get a lot of bang for our buck so we often jam pack our vacations with destinations and activities to get in as much as possible. But the downside of that is people are going to lose steam and be over stimulated which results in more melt downs. Plan for much needed down time. We like to plan beach days or pool days in between the crazy fun days. It is a huge help in keeping the meltdowns on the low end. If you can’t fit in full down days try and be back to your hotel early on most nights for extra chill time. You will find your family will be even more excited for the next day’s busy itinerary when they have had time to relax and yes even be bored or vacation.
Add More Hours To Your Drive Time Plan
If you are driving to your destination always add two hours onto your drive time and then add a few more. Don’t rush your day of travel. You will regret it if you do. You will have to stop for pee breaks and add in some play breaks as well. Make sure you scout out ahead of time for fun playgrounds along the way to let the kids out for half an hour just to run around. Don’t forget to run around yourself. The endorphins will help everyone deal with the stress and hopefully the kids will take a nap after all the running around. There are even apps out there that will show you fun points of interest along your travel route so you can plan a few mini destinations that will add to your vacation. On our way to San Diego there is a quick stop where you can see the wholly car that Bonnie and Clyde died in. Its pretty cool!
Load Up On Entertainment
Pack your car and bags full of fun activities, tech and toys to help keep those kids busy. A busy kid strapped in a carseat is a happy kid in a carseat. Have a couple of go-to road trip games like Two Truths and a Lie, Guess My Song, and the classic ABC Game. Download movies to your devices before you leave and don’t have internet service to watch anything. I also download two or three audio books the whole family will enjoy listening to so you are all getting to do something together. I recommend The Bloody Jack Series its completely amazing and the narrator is the best narrator I’ve ever heard. She does all the accents like a pro and it’s so funny and wonderfully written that the grown ups will fall in love with it as well.
Going on a family vacation every year is a priority to our family no matter the budget. Most years we plan a budget friendly vacation to stunning national parks or we only go on a half week vacation instead of a full week vacation to cut on cost. Other years we save up in advance for a bigger trip to take the kids on, like Disney World, Hawaii or Indonesia. (You can click here to find out more information about touring Indonesia with your kids.) But no matter the size of the destination or length of the trip we just go. Yearly family vacations was one of the things we wanted most for our family when my husband and I decided we would have kids. We promised long ago we would make a family vacation a priority every year. Those memories last forever and there is nothing more worth investing in than time away with your precious crazy kids. You will never look back on your life and wish you went on less vacations with your kids.
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