posted by Guest blogger - Paige Conner Totaro | 0 Comments
Paige Conner Totaro is a co-founder of All Over the Map, a website for families who travel. She is currently midway through a one-year trip around the world with her family. To keep up with her family’s adventures, you can follow her travel blog, Eating All Over the Map, and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook
Family vacations can be a great time for building memories, bonding with your kids and showing them the world, or they can be remembered for torturous days of such bickering and whining that work starts to sound more relaxing than vacation. To try to avoid the latter, I’ve compiled a few tips that have helped us on our year-long journey. And yes, most of them we learned the hard way.
1 - Give yourself plenty of time
You may be an experienced traveler, but your kids may not be. Young children may not understand the concept of timetables and short layovers. You know how it can take you 30 minutes to get out the door with your kids at home? Add to that the suitcases, carry-ons, and occasional meltdowns, and your leisurely hour to change trains may turn into a stressful 60 minutes of bribing and cajoling your kids to move across the station in time.
2 - Give everyone plenty of space
I’m not talking about physical space here. You may all be crammed into one hotel room, but you can still give each other space, even if it’s just letting mom head out for coffee on her own, or giving your 10-year-old time to play Minecraft on the hotel computer. 24 hours of togetherness can be a tougher adjustment than you think.
Remember that different personalities have different requirements for relaxation. For me, a day of shopping in open-air markets followed by a massage sounds heavenly. For my husband, this would be like pulling out his fingernails. So sometimes we split kid duty for a day so we can each get what we need out of our vacation.
3 - Give everyone plenty of food
This may seem obvious to some, but if you don’t normally see your entire family during the day, you may not realize just how much food they require to make it through the day happily. Growing children sometimes have growth spurts that make them much hungrier than normal, and much grouchier when they’re hungry. Adults may not have a problem skipping a meal, but kids don’t normally function well without adequate calories. Keep a package of nuts or crackers on hand for emergency meltdowns.
4 - Give everyone plenty of rest
Similarly, don’t try to do so much that everyone is too exhausted to enjoy themselves on your trip. If you’re on a short trip in a different time zone, you might consider keeping to your home time zone schedule with young kids. Maybe you can get up a few hours earlier than you would at home, or go to bed a few hours later, depending on which direction you’ve traveled. There’s lots of research telling us that teenagers require more sleep than adults and young children, so if you’re traveling with teens, consider letting them sleep in while the rest of you go to breakfast. And then watch in horror as they devour three lunches to feed their growing bodies.
5 - Make time for fun
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Remember that scene from The Shining? You don’t want things to end up that way.
Traveling is a wonderful educational experience on its own, and visiting museums and historical sites is a great way to bring history to life. But don’t overdo it or you’ll risk making your kids dread going to museums. I’ll never forget the looks of horror on my kids’ faces when they saw the size of the Louvre after we had visited several smaller museums in Paris. Rather than spend the afternoon dragging two reluctant preteens through the crowded museum, we headed for the nearest Vélib station to rent bikes instead. The Louvre will still be there when they’re old enough to appreciate it, and we got a view of Paris we’ll never forget.
If you are dead set on seeing a particular museum or site, check to see what kind of programs they have for children. Many museums have programs for kids these days, ranging from scavenger hunts in the galleries to drop-off hands-on arts-and-crafts classes. At the underground archaeological site of Coudenberg in Brussels, kids receive a backpack containing a costume, a map, a puzzle and a flashlight, and they are given a secret code to access the site.
Sometimes kids (and some adults) just get to a point where they need to run around, and if they don’t everyone in the family will pay the price in screaming, kicking fits. We like to call this a “Frolic Attack.” The easiest treatment is to go to a local playground so they can burn off some energy. Many traveling families I know insist on staying at hotels with swimming pools for the sole purpose of addressing the Frolic Attack. It has the added bonus of wearing out energetic children so they’ll sleep soundly. And few things are as refreshing at the end of a long touring day as jumping in for a swim.
I can’t promise that you won’t have some family squabbles along the way, but these tips should help you skip the avoidable ones.
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