So you need a vacation, but leaving the kids behind isn’t an option.
Or maybe you’re looking forward to an exciting family vacation, but you’re dreading the inevitable meltdowns and difficulty that comes with traveling with children.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to make both preparing for travel and the vacation itself more relaxed and enjoyable for everyone.
If you’ve got a family vacation coming up, consider these tips.
1. Leave the Planning To Someone Else
Planning a family vacation can feel like a second job.
You don’t want to miss anything important, but scheduling is difficult when you consider transportation schedules and adding in everyone’s personal interests.
If you consult an expert like a travel agency, tour company or a Hawaii cruise company, you can have someone else plan the activities for you.
This way, all you have to do is show up to the activities in the itinerary, and there’s no pressure if you want to skip something.
2. Pad Your Schedule
When traveling with kids, it can be hard to predict when you’re going to forget something, when someone will refuse their nap or when bickering will keep everyone from getting buckled up for the ride.
Even if you plan everything perfectly, your travel schedule probably won’t go according to plan.
To avoid missing flights, give yourself more time than you think you will need.
Don't plan too many activities, either.
You may be excited to spend all day at a theme park, but chances are your kids will get tired and cranky before it's time for dinner.
Don't hesitate to schedule times for naps, or even a whole “lazy” day.
3. Bring Entertainment
If you’ve got a long drive or flight ahead of you, make sure you don’t forget the entertainment.
Even if your travel times are short, entertainment options can come in handy when you’re waiting to be seated at a restaurant, when you are waiting to go to your next activity or when you simply need a break.
Tablets are great for loading up on movies, and new books or toys can keep kids occupied for hours.
However, don’t forget old familiar toys as a source of comfort.
New experiences in new places can be scary, and both you and your child will be grateful that you brought a trusty stuffed animal.
4. Explain Your Trip
Depending on the age of your kids, the concept of going on vacation can be strange and confusing.
Make sure you take the time to explain what’s happening, where you’re going and what you will be doing.
This is especially important if your kids have never been on a plane before.
Airports are big, crowded and full of lines that don’t make sense to young kids.You can even get your kids involved in the planning stages.
If your kids aren't excited about the location you picked, allowing them to choose an activity or tourist spot can help wary kids get excited about an upcoming trip.
5. Avoid Lines
Lines are prime spots for meltdowns and arguments between siblings, so avoid them whenever possible.
You can do this by making reservations ahead of time and purchasing tickets to attractions online.
This gives kids less time to complain about heat, boredom or to bug you about all the overpriced souvenirs in the gift shop.
6. Comfort Is King
When you’re packing for travel, don’t underestimate the importance of comfort.
Now is not the time to break in new shoes, and that adorable new outfit may turn out to be scratchy, which won’t be fun when you’ve got a long day ahead.
Don’t overpack, but make sure you and the kids have everything you need to travel comfortably.
This may mean neck pillows and blankets, but it can also mean comfortable headphones and familiar snacks.
Traveling with kids can be overwhelming and exhausting, but it doesn’t always have to be.
You may not be able to predict every tantrum, but you can be prepared for when they happen.
By involving your kids in the planning process, turning over your planning to the professionals, and accepting that mishaps will happen, you and your family can go on an exciting and memorable family vacation.