Traveling with children is always a challenge. But, it is important to remember that you can enjoy yourself on family vacations too. Creating fond memories and experiencing new things makes vacations an important time for you and your child. Here are a few tips to help you have a successful family vacation.
1. Know your child. Be realistic about what your child can and cannot handle. This does not necessarily mean you can’t do the activities you would like, but you may have to make modifications or special preparations to help your child cope. If she/he is sensitive to sound, an amusement park may be too loud. However, providing earplugs may be enough to help your child enjoy the experience.
2. Prepare, prepare, prepare! You cannot prepare too much when going on vacation. Do everything you can in advance to minimize stress for all of you. Read maps, understand procedures, and otherwise look for anything that could cause delays or frustration and try to mitigate it in advance. Also, prepare your child for what you will be doing. Show videos and maps of where you will be going and answer your child’s questions. If you want to go to the beach, let her/him walk barefoot in a sandbox at the park to see if they are okay with it. Surprising your child with a trip that will be outside of their realm of experience and a sensory overload waiting to happen is not a good idea! Make an agenda or schedule for what you plan to do and share it with your child. Make a plan B in case what you plan to do doesn’t work out, and talk to your kids about the importance of being flexible. Show your child pictures of the place you are going on the Internet to create some familiarity.
3. Make the travel part fun. Chances are, you will need to take a car, train, boat or plane trip to get to your destination. Bring activities for your child like LeapPads, MP3 players, video games, coloring books and interesting toys. Bring some old favorites along with something new to keep them occupied. In order to keep yourself calm, have your child wear headphones. You can also break the time up with car games, singing, and conversation.
4. Don’t over-schedule. No matter how much fun you’re having, we all need to take a time out now and then. This is especially important in order to avoid sensory overload for your child. Don’t schedule so many activities that you are constantly running from one thing to the next. Allow yourself time to just sit and relax together as a family and allow for those inevitable moments when it takes longer than it should to get ready or someone has a temper tantrum.
With careful planning, you can avoid disaster and have a great vacation.