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Family Vacations

Making the Most of Family Vacations

by Jen Klein
Book Cover Image. Title: The Everything Kids' Travel Activity Book:  Games to Play, Songs to Sing, Fun Stuff to Do - Guaranteed to Keep You Busy the Whole Ride!, Author: by Erik A. Hanson, Erik A. Hanson, Jeanne Hanson, Jeanne K. Hanson

The Everything Kids' Travel Activity Bookby Erik A. HansonErik A. HansonJeanne HansonJeanne K. Hanson

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Some new parents think that once Junior arrives, their life of adventure is over. Gone are the days of long mountain hikes and foreign adventures; in are the days of overstimulating amusement parks and chain restaurants chosen for the extent of the children's menu. If even that. It doesn't have to be that way, however. Just because you have children doesn't mean you can't vacation, and vacation well. Adventure still awaits, though slightly adjusted.

Travel and vacationing with your kids can be a challenge, it's true. It takes a little…extra. However, the effort can be worth it -- not only for family bonding and memory-making, but also as a way to communicate your values and interests to your kids. And, if you start traveling with your kids at an early age, they will become better and better travelers as the years go by; you'll be back to your old adventures before you know it, this time with the kids on those mountain hikes and foreign adventures and having more fun than ever.


Before you set off on your journey by car, train, or plane, you must set realistic expectations for your trip. If your idea of a perfect vacation is free diving in the morning and napping on the beach in the afternoon, it's likely not realistic to take you 18-month-old along on those activities and expect a seamless integration. (Unless Grandma is along, too, and on childcare duty at the hotel!) But does that mean you have to give up vacationing altogether? Nope.

Kids can tag along on hiking and biking trips, or museum-hopping trips, or lounging-in-the-sun trips -- provided you are realistic about what your family can manage. You might not get in 15 to 20 miles on your hiking boots, or 75 to 100 miles on your bicycle, or three complete museums in a day, or a whole day in the sun, but you can get in at least a portion of that, and you'll be introducing your child to some of your favorite activities in the process. Think about how you can adapt your ideal vacation to your include your child and how to include your child in your ideal vacation.


When planning a vacation with the kids, pay extra attention to the details. Just checking in to a random hotel when you feel like it on a road trip after a convenience store dinner might not work so well with tired and cranky toddlers in the back seat. Neither will trying to lug your entire nursery on a multi-stop trip.

Consider your child's general routine and temperament as you plan your vacation days. Kids, even older kids, often feel stress when their routine gets out of whack; and while that is unavoidable to a certain extent on vacation, you don't need to -- and probably shouldn't -- throw routine completely out the window just because it's vacation. Plans don't need to be rigid, but respect for and consideration of routine can reduce your stress, help maintain some semblance of expectation for your kids, and help everyone stay focused on enjoying the vacation.

And about all that stuff? Do you really need all of it? Yes, some gear and comfort pieces are absolutely necessary, but you can also improvise to a certain extent, or pick up some basic supplies at your destination. Borrow specialized travel gear from friends, or even rent it at some destinations. You may not be packing as light as you once did, but neither do you need to hire a moving company.


One key in planning successful vacations with kids is not trying to do too much -- or too little. You don't want the family to be overwhelmed by activity, but neither do you want to risk boredom. Constantly rushing through activities to get to the next scheduled event of the vacation is not exactly restful -- for you or your kids. You and your family likely will be just as happy, or maybe even happier, if you do less but enjoy it more. Give yourselves plenty of time to enjoy your vacation activities. And then add in some extra time for good measure.

At the same time, consider the interests of everyone in the family, and try to choose some activities for everyone. You might not like amusement parks, but you daughter does -- so why not spend the afternoon at such a park even while you are mostly hitting historic sites? And your son and his love of food and cooking? Seeking out local gourmet stores and regional specialties sure would put a smile on his face -- and you'd probably enjoy it, too. Why not make it happen?


If your child is still in the napping stage, make sure you don't skip naptime on vacation, or expect it to happen only in strollers or car seats. Rest makes a significant difference in your child's (and your) ability to manage the vacation variations in schedule and routine.

Even if your child isn't of napping age any more, some downtime amid all the activity will be beneficial to the whole family. Whether you are staying in a hotel or a tent, make a few hours each afternoon available for resting and recharging. With all the stimulus and change, some time to doze or read a book, or just veg out will be welcome -- and put the whole family in better stead for any subsequent activity in the day.


Even the best-planned vacation -- with or without kids -- will have it's less than stellar moments. Luggage will get lost, an attraction will be closed, or one of you will catch cold. It's disappointing -- but it has to ruin your vacation only if you let it. It's still family time with or without the luggage, so take some cold medicine, go with the flow and make the best of whatever the trip throws your way. Remember that even in the stressful moments, you are making memories for you and your kids. One day you'll want to look back and laugh.

Vacations don't end the moment you have kids. Make the most of vacations with your kids by planning well, setting realistic expectations -- and having a blast making memories your kids will hold onto for their whole lives.  
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Meet Our Expert
Jen Klein
Writer, "The Mommy Files" and
Jen Klein is a mother of two sons, ages 14 and 10, and a daughter, 6. She is a contributor to, the author of Presents The Mommy Files: Secrets Every New Mom Should Know (that no one else will tell you), and a technical writer. In addition to writing and hanging out with her family, Ms. Klein, a graduate of Wellesley College with a degree in art history and studio art, enjoys printmaking, cooking, gardening, sitting on the beach in the sun, and volunteering in her community. She currenly lives near Boston.
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