The words “a family vacation” fill some of us with happy anticipation and others of us with dread. The reality is that on any given trip there will be great and not so great moments (think of them as something to laugh over later). There are a few things, however, that you can do that might make things easier.
THINK ABOUT THEIR AGES Travelling with 7-11 year olds is great. They are somewhat independent but not too snarky. If you have younger kids, remember their nap and bedtime routines and stick to it on vacation. This is not the time to wean them from the special blanket (which you need to guard with your life on the trip). Let somewhat older kids help plan the trip and tell you what they want to see. Remember, however, that families are not democracies and you get to make the final call. Just as younger kids need familiar objects, if a teen can bring a friend to share eye rolls with it might make things easier.
This includes adults. The point of a trip is to see things so turn off the in-car videos and watch the road. Play the alphabet game with license plates, have a wildlife check-off list, put in music where you can all sing along. Add in stops along the way to see things or just run around. Have snacks available. Let them get bored occasionally.
Ignore the above. Plug in, have food for them, bring small toys that work on airplane trays (and not ones that make noise) and do anything that makes them happy as there is nothing natural for a child to have to sit still for whatever the duration of the flight. Have an accessible change of clothes for each kid. While they can drive you crazy in a car, you have a plane load of people whom you do not want to antagonize.
THIS IS A FAMILY VACATION
This is not the time for you and your spouse to travel to a city that the two of you have always been anxious to see with a long list of anticipated dining and museums. It is the time to see national parks or return to a favorite city and see it through your kids’ eyes. Other continents do not impress kids but there are things there that can.We ended up in London with a 5 and 8 year old. We had lived in England but until we had the kids with us had never been to the Guinness World Record Museum or the zoo. Amsterdam had pedal boating and in Paris you can really push little boats with poles outside the Louvre. The trip to Europe when they were that young was a family obligation and we still remember the 5-year-old screaming that this was boring when we did try to work in the Van Gogh Museum. On the other hand, sitting in the open square watching the World Cup games on the giant TV was great fun for everyone. Showing them Paris for the first time when they were 10 and 13 was magical, but even then there were more science museums than art.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
You may need some adult time so one of you stay with the kids while the other gets to explore, have down time, take the hike that is too long for the kids , or whatever. I mentioned bringing a friend for the teen, try bringing a whole other family and the adults can trade off evenings after the kids are asleep. There are great places to picnic wherever you are, so get take-out from different places if you can’t face “family friendly” meals for one more dinner.
Family vacations really do make great memories and traveling together is a great way to reconnect as a family. With a little advance planning it will be a great time together. _
Judy Callahan is director of B’nai Simcha Jewish Community Preschool and a member of PJTC.