Ten Tips for Travelling with Kids.
From my friend, Sheila.
Here is what she has to say….it’s awesome…
I learned from a master. My mom drove my two sisters and I all the way across the country most summers when I was a kid. Take a minute to process that. Twelve hours a day, in the hot summer, in a car with three little kids. A week there. A week back. Year after year.
She managed it quite simply by not trying to do much. And making sure that fun, food, sleep, and physical exercise were delivered in regular doses. She woke up at 4am, showered, packed and dragged us out to the car with our blankets and pillows. On the road by 4:30am. She drove for 5 hours while we all slept peacefully. We stopped for breakfast at local small town diner around 9:30 every morning. Then back in the car til around noon. A picnic lunch in a park with lots of running around and playing. Then back on the road til three. Three was quitting time. We’d find a hotel, explore the town, look for cool things to do; then hit the hotel’s pool (always a hotel with a pool), dinner and then an early bedtime.
I never managed to attempt anything that ambitious with my own kids, but we did manage a few vacations and almost all of them involved road trips of some sort. So here are my ideas on how to make trips with kids fantastic!
- Visit places you – the parent– will enjoy. Nothing will kill a vacation faster than an adult in a crappy mood. Sadly, this meant, for my kids, absolutely, positively NO DISNEYLAND. Sorry. I know, I know — my kids are poor deprived souls. Such a bad mom I am. They have told me so often enough. But a happy, relaxed parent is absolutely essential for a good vacation. So go someplace you want to go.
- Remember that everything is new to kids. I grew up on a beach with rocks and barnacles and purple starfish and seaweed that popped beneath our feet. Going to a beach with smooth, white sand and sand dollars and long, rolling waves and sting rays and jellyfish washed up on the shore was like an alien landscape to me. So cool. It doesn’t have to be all about roller coasters and theme parks and toys. (Are we sensing a theme here?).
- Don’t try to do too much. Have a plan for about half of each day and leave the rest up to chance and mood. Kids tired and want some quiet time by the tv or with a good book? Or so full of pent up energy they are having food fights at breakfast and need to run around outdoors for like, an hour? No problem. Did the hotel desk clerk happen to mention an out of the way ice cream parlour or neighborhood park where all the local kids hang out? Excellent. Kids want to shop in the zoo gift store for way longer than you planned? Just fine. Did you stumble upon a strange museum in a hole in the wall that doesn’t show up in the travel guides? Awesome. If you save time for doing spontaneous things – you will have more chances to say “yes, we can!” to your kids, instead of, “sorry, we don’t have time.”
- Ask the kids what they want to do. They might surprise you. Ask them what their idea of a vacation is. Is it learning something new? Doing something thrilling? Relaxing on a beach or some other outdoor location with not much to do? Is it shopping? Is it meeting new people? Is it trying something different? Ask yourself that too.
- Crowds, line-ups and places where grumpy, impatient people and their kids gather are poison. They turn everybody into grump machines. If you must be in a crowded place or wait in long lines – do it when everybody is rested, fed and comfortable. But so far the only “must” I’ve found is airports.
- Become a master of distraction. Have a few little toys or snacks or entertaining discussion topics hanging around in your pocket for whenever things get too boring or too excited.
- Don’t be afraid to split the group up. If you love art and want to visit an art museum and everyone else rolls their eyes and screams, “boring!” – go by yourself. Let them do something else while you do what you want to do. It’s okay to have different interests.
- Expose, but don’t push. That art museum? Ask the kids to give it a try. Tell them that if they don’t like it, they only have to stay for half an hour. Then time it and stick to your promise. If you can’t stand to miss it yourself, see #6.
- Don’t just ask for help – ask for ideas. Talk to the locals. Ask them where they take their kids for fun things to do. Ask where the nearest play park is. Or the best trashy diner for breakfast.
- Food, sleep, physical activity, quiet time at regular intervals. No exceptions. Your entire day is structured by this basic concept. Most parents have mastered this at home but for some reason it goes out the window when we go on vacation. Boredom and overexcitement are the twin evils of anything new you throw at your kids. But those can be managed with a little effort and some distractions. Hunger, fatigue, lack of exercise, being physically uncomfortable (sunburnt, cold, sweaty) is just a nasty downward spiral for the whole family. Just make the commitment not to go there. And always cater to the person in the family who is least tolerant. Have a child that simply must eat every three hours or will have an absolute meltdown? The whole family stops and eats every three hours. Have a parent who absolutely must get nine hours of sleep every night? The whole family is in quiet mode for nine hours each night (even if they don’t sleep themselves).
Remember what a family vacation is for – to spend time together, enjoying each other’s company. Everything else must serve that purpose.