Family Trip Tips
In my family, we joke that my mom always managed to make our family vacations “educational,” despite the moans and groans of us kids. For example, my siblings and I still cringe at the mention of Williamsburg, Va., and Sturbridge, Mass.
Today as a mother, I plan vacation trips for my own family of four. There’s no denying that traveling with children is a challenge, whether to Disney World, Sturbridge Village, the Creation Museum or Jerusalem.
Do you remember in the Bible (Luke, chapter 2) when Jesus and his parents, Mary and Joseph, traveled together to the Festival of the Passover in Jerusalem? Following the festival, they left without Jesus. For more than a day as they traveled home, they were unaware that He was somewhere else!
Sounds like enough anxiety and stress for one vacation! Of course, they soon reunited with Jesus in the temple. I’m guessing that, before their next trip with this pre–teen, Mary and Joseph did some extra planning.
Parents, we’re not alone and we’re definitely not the only ones who know how hard traveling as a family can often be. But it is possible to have a fun, enjoyable trip with your whole family and even incorporate some learning too, (right, Mom?).
No doubt about it, traveling as a family can be challenging. However, family vacations are also a beautiful part of family life that will create memories for everyone. Yes, these trips will require parents to do some extra work and planning, but your children will receive the priceless gifts of new experiences and time spent together.
by Nicole Love
A few tips to make your family trips a success:
Do your research and plan ahead—There are many details and logistics that can be researched ahead of time. Some ideas include planning your rest stops for a road trip. Find those stops that also have a play area or a park. Call ahead to your hotel and make sure you know what facilities are included and are actually available (crib, refrigerator, coffee maker). Check if you can bring a stroller into the amusement park or museum. A few phone calls or Google searches may end up saving you much stress and money.
Timing is everything—Remember that children need to rest. Go to the museum when it opens at 9:00 am and leave around lunch—just in time for naps! I love to arrive at museums and amusement parks right as they open; the crowds are smaller, lines are shorter, and the kids and parents are happier.
Make the trip kid–friendly—Many children’s museums will have hands–on activities and exhibits. Encourage your kids to participate in these and be ready to participate yourself. If the location is less than kid–friendly, find creative ways to engage them. For instance, bring a small polaroid or disposable camera or give them your smartphone and have them do a scavenger hunt, taking pictures of things they find throughout the trip.
Be flexible—Without fail, traveling with your family will require flexibility. Weather changes, traffic incidents happen, and kids get bored. Keep a positive attitude and make adjustments. When you respond with a positive attitude, chances are your children will follow.
Let your children know what to expect—Children tend to function better when they know what’s coming. At the beginning of the day, tell them what you plan to do. This understanding can help avoid meltdowns and give kids things to look forward to. If it’s helpful for your child, make a short checklist or a schedule for them to follow.
Safety first—When you and your children arrive at your destination, review safety expectations with them. Make sure they know what to do should they get separated from you. Remind them that staying close by is important. For example, our family has a whistle tune that we can use if we are separated. It’s familiar enough that our young children recognize it and know to look for us when they hear it.