Do you watch National Lampoon’s Vacation movies before having kids? You probably had some good laughs. Unfortunately, most parents don’t think the movies are as funny, because they are a stark reminder of the nightmares a poorly planned trip can become.
If you are traveling with children, you need to plan your trip carefully. You also need to make sure they have all the comforts they need, so they don’t drive you nuts.
Here are some tips to plan a wonderful, relaxing getaway with your children.
Choose the Location Carefully
Single adults and a young couple in their 20s love taking trips to Las Vegas, Panama Beach, Miami, and other party cities. Your priorities will change after you have children, so these destinations won’t be ideal.
There are a number of great travel destinations for families with young children. Here are some great tips to consider:
- Atlantis Resorts in the Bahamas allows parents with strollers to skip lines.
- Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Florida is a great destination for parents that want reliable care for their children.
- Olympic National Park in Port Angeles, WA has plenty of trails that are designed for parents with strollers.
- Aulani is a Hawaiian resort that is owned by Disney. They provide a lot of activities with Disney characters.
You will need to think long and hard before choosing a destination. This is the most important decision you will make. The destination should be safe and plenty of activities for children of all ages to enjoy.
If you were ever in Scouts, you know the importance of being prepared. You are planning on going on an enjoyable vacation, but you never know what can go wrong. You need to be prepared for anything.
Here are some things that you should bring:
- A tire jack in case your car gets a flat. Don’t assume the rental agency will supply one.
- A list of emergency contacts, including each family member’s primary care provider (in case anyone is hurt and the local hospital needs your medical records).
- A first aid kit.
- Portable phone chargers so anyone can recharge their phone if they need to make an emergency call.
- Umbrellas and raincoats for each family member.
- Sunglasses and sunscreen (these things are usually a lot more expensive when you reach a major tourist destination, so buy them in advance).
- Appropriate clothing for the destination. Make sure you understand the climate before traveling, because you may be surprised by how warm, cold or wet it is. San Francisco sells a lot of sweatshirts every year because most tourists don’t realize that the average temperature is only 57.3 degrees.
- Plenty of things to keep everyone entertained while at home, such as a laptop, high-speed internet to keep you connected to your world, and a VPN to access geo-restricted content.
- An adequate supply of food. Don’t plan on eating out all the time, because that can get very expensive.
Things will go much more smoothly if you pack carefully before your trip. Make sure that you double-check everything before heading out.
Where to stay
Choosing a place to stay is almost as important as choosing a travel destination. Travel advisor Rick Steves wrote a great post on choosing a place to stay. Here are some options to consider.
Stay in a Chain Hotel
Most people stay in a chain hotel when traveling, such as the Marriot. There are several reasons to consider staying there:
- They offer great service. You don’t generally need to clean up after your trip, as you would if you were renting an apartment. Of course, you should still make sure your children don’t make a large mess, out of consideration for the cleaning staff.
- They have good security and liability insurance, so you are generally very safe.
- They tend to have plenty of activities and lots of amenities, such as pools and open bars.
Staying at a hotel can also be expensive, but you can find some great deals on Expedia.
Rent a House or Apartment
You can also choose to rent a small house or apartment during your trip. These will often have many of the home comforts you are used to, such as high-speed internet thanks to something like one of the great frontier internet plans out there, a fridge/freezer, comfy couch, etc. Since you will only be staying for a couple of days, you don’t need to worry about going through a credit check, employment, and all those other hassles. As long as you prepay for your stay, you shouldn’t have too many problems.
Renting a house or apartment is generally cheaper and the rules may be less strict than a hotel’s (such as smoking or making noise). However, you also need to be more respectful of the property and clean up afterwards.
Other General Tips
You need to find a good balance between having fun and keeping everyone safe and stress-free. Here are some other general tips to consider:
- You don’t want to plan a trip where one person is a dictator. You need to ask your spouse for input during the trip. You should also ask for feedback from each of your children.
- Find a reliable mode of transportation. In many communities, public transportation is the cheapest and easiest way to get around. However, it isn’t an option in more rural communities, so you may need to rent a car.
- Research the surrounding community as much as you can beforehand. Be aware of fun activities and any dangers to avoid.
- Don’t assume that your quieter children are fine with all the plans just because they aren’t speaking up. If the other kids are trying to dominate the discussion, feel free to pull them aside to ask what they would like to do.
- Set clear ground rules. You don’t want your younger children getting lost in a strange town. Older children can be allowed to go off on their own, but you must make sure they are going to be making wise decisions. You should also give them a reasonable curfew.
- Try not to be too stifling or over-plan. The purpose of your trip is to have fun.
Things will be much easier if you follow these tips.