I remember a time when vacations were simple. I could flit off to somewhere warm in the winter or go skiing in the summer on a whim. I packed a bag or two, bought a ticket and went on my way. Not so, now that I have kids. Vacations are so much more meaningful than they ever were before but they also require an incredible amount of preparation. Here are some great tips and tricks to ensure a fun and hassle-free vacation:
Prepare for life's little messes
Children are messy! Come prepared for motion sickness, potty accidents, colds, boo-boos and sticky fingers. Keep extra first aid supplies, wipes, zipper bags, and tissues accessible for quick clean-ups. For easy access, you may want to invest in a trendy backpack or travel sack. If you are traveling with younger children, you may encounter a mess that is beyond wipes. An extra set of clothes in an easy-to-reach or carry-on bag may prove to be a lifesaver.
Don't skimp on the entertainment
Long trips plus bored kids equals DRAMA! You don't want to haul a dozen different electronics on a plane, but let's face it, packing a few will undoubtedly make for a smoother ride. iPads can be loaded with educational games and material that can be used with headphones. Download fun games to a tablet to help pass the time. Handheld games take up very little room. Of course, don't forget to bring a few non-electronic essentials such as crayons, coloring books, playing cards and travel games. I am always amazed at how long a new box of crayons can keep my kids occupied during a long trip – and at 99 cents a box it is most definitely worth the investment!
Try to keep nap times on schedule
It may be hard to force a child to sleep on a plane, train or in a car, but do try to encourage them to close their eyes during normal naptimes. Bring naptime blankets and toys and do what you can to darken the space. Close window shades if you are traveling by air or train. If you’re planning a long car trip, think about investing in a portable shade for your car. Older children may have fun using eye masks to help them sleep.
Research makes perfect
It is easy to get caught up in the planning process and forget that vacations are supposed to be fun. Between all of the required reservations and number crunching in your head, it can become overwhelming. A solution many of us choose is to book the cheapest flight and least expensive hotel possible in order to spend that money elsewhere. Instead of downgrading your transportation and accommodations, try using the Internet to find the best deals without sacrificing comfort. Flying earlier in the day will make your waiting time much shorter and is often cheaper. Also try using hotel review sites or social networking to find your family’s perfect hotel. When my family traveled to Hawaii, we utilized our friends online to vet all of Honolulu’s top hotels and ultimately found the one best suited for our vacation plans. If you are traveling for a weekend trip, look into booking a hotel in the business district. Many of these hotels rely on their Monday through Friday traffic and have decreased rates during the weekend.
Don't wait until the last minute to pack! Begin making a list as far in advance as possible. I use my smartphone for my initial list – that way I never forget to add something or worse, misplace my list! Start packing a week before the trip and finish no later than the day before you leave. The calmer you are on departure day, the calmer the kids will be.
Following a few simple steps will help you accomplish the much larger goal: to have fun, relax and create wonderful family memories.