Family Vacations: Top 5 Tips for Surviving Family Travel
If getting prepared to go on a vacation wasn’t stressful enough trying to get the house in order, workload to a minimum and arranging for house and pet sitters, you now have to deal with rounding up all the kids and getting to where you need to be…and ensure that the task stress free. My son is only two, but I have been on enough trips with him to know what has worked and what hasn’t worked to make our family vacations a success. Here I will share my top 5 tips to make for smooth, hassle-free family vacations…and the first one is a biggie:
1) GIVE YOURSELF LOTS OF TIME!
You can’t just leave on a dime like you used to. Gone are the days of spontaneity…and this goes for all ages of kids: Babies, toddlers, preteens and full-blown teenagers. Packing for a family vacation requires a lot of planning out and extra luggage. Got a baby? Don’t forget diapers, baby wipes, extra clothes for guaranteed “spillage”, baby food and formula and medicine, a stroller…the list is endless. Toddlers? I made the mistake once of forgetting the pack and play. Unless you plan on running after your child 24/7 with no break whatsoever, this one is huge! Of course if you are taking a flight you won’t be bringing this so it helps to book with a hotel that has cribs readily available. Definitely use this as a selling feature when booking ahead. If a crib is provided to you, remember to inspect it first. Many are old and structurally unsafe, and others come with bedding– such as folded full-sized sheets– that could present a hazard to your sleeping child.
Packing aside, just getting children dressed, fed and ready to go — without temper tantrums is a feat. Make your family vacation the smoothest transition as possible. Allow time for washroom breaks and don’t forget if your child has a tendency to get motion sickness to bring the Gravol!
2) Book Ahead and Look Into Family Vacation Packages
Finances can get really tight when budgeting for a family vacation, and if you have babies or toddlers chances are you are in your late 20′s to mid-30′s…the time where finances are the most strenuous. I’ve learned that you should never book your vacation more than 4 months out or you will be paying an arm and a leg. Ideally, aim for 8-12 weeks in advance and be flexible on departure and arrival times. Also, I find it helps what days of the week you choose as well. For instance, Monday – Thursday will be cheaper then Friday – Monday…weekend rates will definitely be higher in cost. Sites such as www.Hotwire.com and www.CheapTicket.com are great for getting terrific deals and wholesale rates.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to sign up for newsletters on hotel chains that you already like, so that you are well informed of any upcoming room deals. Hotels that I have stayed at such as the Comfort Inn Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls have great mid-week room deals and package savings such as their Build-A-Package option which is a fantastic family vacation deal. You can customize your own package this way…there are options on there like 50% attractions with the Clifton Hill Fun Pass and vouchers for $10 off Kelsey’s Clifton Hill restaurant. Stay in the know by signing up for their newsletters, blogs and generally just doing research ahead of time.
3) Be Prepared for the Climate and Kid Boredom
Children dressed comfortably for the weather and terrain will be happier. Pretty simple right? But this one tends to get overlooked. Check the Weather Network before you leave and make sure you are all dressed for the environment. Don’t forget hats, gloves, umbrellas and comfortable shoes! It’s these little things that make all the difference between a happy child and a complete meltdown. Little Johnny’s hands are cold and little Sarah’s got blisters on her feet? Get ready for an unhappy afternoon! Hopefully, if you DO forget to bring these items, your hotel with have a nearby shopping outlet to purchase what you need.
A great bonus to staying at the Comfort Inn Clifton Hill was that literally just steps away from exiting the lobby was the Canada Trading Company. I found some great kid essentials in there, such as comfortable “Crocs” footwear, umbrellas, hats, gloves, etc….not to mention interactive games to keep them occupied. Children have wild imaginations…I took my son to the Dinosaur Adventure Golf miniature golf course and he was so excited over the dinosaurs that when I found related items such as the “Dinosaur Paint Set” in this store, he was content enough to play with that for hours! The point is, pack for the weather and keep the kids amused. The old adage “Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst” is so true.
4) Think Ipad and Apps
There are many toddler friendly apps nowadays and thanks to technology you don’t need to necessarily cram your luggage with toys to make the family vacation enjoyable for everyone. Download movies and games to go and remember the Game Boy. Also, while we are on the subject, there are apps for your Iphone and Smartphones that are very helpful for traveling with babies. For example, apps like “KIDzOUT” (www.kidzout.com) are free apps that are a must-have tool for families on the go. Diaper changing stations, kid-friendly restaurants, parks and medical facilities are listed here for the places that you wish to travel. You can add and rate locations…making it a useful parent-to-parent tool!
5) Prepack Your Own Snacks
Inevitably the best part about being on vacation is not having to worry about doing any cooking and you’ll want to dine at different restaurants anyhow as part of the whole family vacation experience. However, for snacks on the go and to save a little money, pre-pack some healthy, good-for-you foods ahead of time to slash costs and avoid any road trip pit-stops on the way because of hunger pains. Fruits, veggies, granola bars and trail mix are great options. Also, don’t forget about plenty of juice and water that the kids can fill up on between meals — keep them feeling hydrated and fed to reduce the chance of mood swings!
I hope these were helpful travel tips in keeping your family vacations stress free. Whether you are planning a family vacation road trip, or via air, these are all helpful tools I found to keeping the peace within the family dynamic, while keeping the cost low and staying prepared.
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