Most of the time, taking vacations with kids feels less like a “vacation” and more like a “job.” It can be a lot of work, especially when you’re traveling with younger children or multiple kids. Parents might also feel pressure to make sure that everyone has a good time. You’re spending money and time away on this trip, so you have to make it count, right?
Sometimes, making a vacation count doesn’t necessarily mean artfully avoiding tantrums, going on every ride at a theme park, or letting your kids experience a ton of brand new things. Instead, we’re sharing some tips to help you (really) enjoy your vacation with your kids.
Embrace the unexpected
If you’ve ever gone on a vacation with kids, you already know: unexpected things will happen. You can plan and plan down to the last detail, but you can’t anticipate everything that will happen. And that’s okay! In fact, surprises can sometimes be the highlight of your trip. Imagine you take your family to a theme park and you meticulously plan all the rides to go on so you don’t miss any. To your surprise, your shy little girl wants to go on a roller coaster that wasn’t on your list.
And it turns out, she’s finally tall enough to do it. Why not put your schedule on hold and try one with her? Even if she ends up not liking it, you’ll have tried something new and unexpected. That can make your vacation pretty memorable.
Let the kids take the lead
Similarly, let your children take the lead on activities every so often. Put yourself in your kids’ shoes for a moment. They are usually told what to do and how to act all day long when they’re in school and clubs. Give them — and yourself — a break by letting them take the lead. Have your child choose where to go for lunch, what activity to do first, or which treat to end the day with. This goes without saying, but be fair if you have more than one child. Maybe one kid can make the decisions one day and another the next day. That way, no one’s feelings are hurt.
Of course, if you have a small infant, let their feeding and napping schedule guide your day a bit. This can prevent you from feeling frustrated when you need to change diapers, nurse in public, or find shade!
Know your (and your family’s) limits
Whether you’re planning the day or letting your child pick your activities, remember to know your limits. Know when your toddler is going to get tired and cranky, or how to work around your infant’s sleep schedule in a new location. Leave room to travel between activities and, of course, plan time for naps. Finally, leave some time to do absolutely nothing every once in awhile. Your vacation might be more adventurous than leisurely; for example, a sightseeing trip or Disney World vacation is very different from a relaxing stay on the beach. However, it’s important to give yourself plenty of time to enjoy your time. If you over-plan, you’ll only end up frustrating yourself and wearing your kids down — which, as we all know, is the quickest route to a meltdown.
Have one-on-one time
When the whole family goes on a vacation, do you automatically plan meals and activities for everyone to do together? That’s completely natural since you want to spend quality time with each other. But we also suggest allotting time for kids to spend with one parent at a time. An only child can spend one day with one parent, giving the other parent some time to truly relax and recharge. Or you can divide-and-conquer with multiple kids by splitting into separate groups. Not only does this prevent kids from fighting for attention or tired tantrums, but it gives your child a chance to bond with each parent individually.
It also makes the day’s activities more manageable, as parents have less to juggle and can offer undivided attention. You can devote more of your attention to each child, making the time you spend all together even more precious. You might plan one-on-one time for part of the day and have everyone meet back up again for dinner. You might schedule whole days of one-on-one time or even entire vacations. It’s up to you.
Remember: vacation is supposed to be fun!
Planning a vacation with kids is not always easy, but it’s certainly worth it. After all, spending money on meaningful experiences like a family vacation is better for your kids than toys. Family vacations can even advance brain development and build concentration skills in children, science says. By embracing the unexpected, knowing your limits, scheduling one-on-one time, and letting your kids make the decisions sometimes, you’ll truly enjoy your vacation and your child will, too — no matter their age.