Family vacation is suppose to be a stress-free time of relaxation and making memories. But all too often the family vacation can quickly turn into the family nightmare. That’s why we’re sharing miracle strategies for a stress-free family vacation – developed and used by real moms who have been in the trenches of family vacation and made it out stress-free.
1. Plan ahead
Yes, planning can really be a time-suck but the truth is that good ol’ fashioned planning can make or break your family vacation. In fact, we’ll go so far as to say planning is a very important part of any vacation.
Take into account the individual needs of your kids and arm yourself with whatever is necessary to take care of them while on vacation. For example, if your four-year-old takes naps, bring along the stuffed animal they sleep with at home as their “comfort” item. For your teen, ensure they have their favorite hand-held electronic device (and charging cord) to pass the travel time.
2. Set up a flexible schedule
While you’re on a roll with planning go ahead and set up your day-to-day plan. That way the kids can look forward to things they want to do and know what to expect. When your kids know what to expect, that can make them less antsy and anxious. With smaller kids you may have to repeat the plans for the day several times.
Try to plan a special kid activity for each day but keep the schedule flexible to change if needed. Here are some examples:
* Work in an hour or so of swimming in the hotel’s pool each day or go play a sport like miniature golf. Exercise keeps stress levels low and expends excess energy, especially for kids. Think of play time as de-compression time for kids.
* To see some sights, consider taking a bus tour. That way everyone sits down, which relieves aching feet from walking, while still exploring the new surroundings.
* Have plenty of extra activities on a backup list in case of bad weather. That way, if it rains on a day you planned to go to the water park, you can simply switch to another day’s plans to see a movie or do another indoor activity from your list.
* Plan some low-stress days. This might include having an easy day where you sleep late, hang out at the hotel, or take short walks around the area.
3. Expect the unexpected
Sometimes the most stress on vacation comes from the things you didn’t expect — the car breaks down, you lose your wallet, the plane is delayed. A great lesson for traveling and for life is to expect the unexpected. What a great time to share this lesson with your kids.
Sometime before you set out on vacation talk with your kids about how every so often, even the best planning is affected by weather, mistakes made by the hotel, and other events out of your control.
Talking with your kids in advance about these unplanned possibilities will prepare them (and you) just in case.
4. Delegate responsibilities to each child
When each kid contributes something you’re boosting leadership skills and positive self-image, in addition to taking some of the load off of you. With your load lightened and the kids happen, you’re more likely to have a stress-free vacation.
Maybe your twelve-year-old can be assigned to keep the eight-year-old occupied while at the airport. Or your teen can be in charge of watching over Mom and Dad’s luggage when they go to the restroom or magazine shop before take-off.
Even the smallest of kiddos can have responsibilities. Have your 4-year-old keep track of her own water bottle. Your 7-year-old can help find restroom signs.
5. Solve problems before they happen
Ask ten-year-old Johnnie what he can do to ensure his fourteen-year-old sister, Corrina, gets along well with him. Talk to Corrina about what she might do to make Johnnie happy.
Tell your kids that you’re counting on them to make the vacation as enjoyable as possible and totally stress-free. You could even set up a rewards system. Our favorite system for elementary-aged children is the Pom-Pom reward system as mentioned in the article Real Mom Tips for Keeping Your House Company Ready.
6. Change seating arrangements during travel
Whether you’re flying, taking a train, or traveling by car, switch up the seating every so often. Sit in the back seat with your five-year-old daughter while your eleven-year-old son sits in the front with Dad until lunch. Then, change seats after lunch. Consistent seat-changing can freshen up conversations and ease tensions between the kids.
7. Take surprise items
For each child, pack new, unseen items to thrill and distract them from the monotony of travel. This is especially good for longer travel. Trinkets like sticker books for younger kids, word puzzles for eight- to twelve-year-olds and magazines for teens help time pass.
A book about a child’s favorite subject or even a new game for their hand-held device can be a blessing when stress starts to trickle in.
Here are some of our favorite kids books from Amazon.
Apply these strategies on your next family vacation. Everyone will be happier and your trip will be virtually stress-free.