It could be a dream family holiday, a summer road trip, or a weekend getaway with the kids. But have you thought of everything? What are you forgetting? Here are 22 dos and don’ts to help you have a happier, more relaxing family vacation.
DO be flexible
There’s no such thing as a perfect vacation, so let that idea go now. You’ll be happier in the long-run. And don’t beat yourself up if something doesn’t go to plan. There’s sure to be some other event or attraction right around the corner that you didn’t know about, and that can be just as exciting.
DO create an “adventure kit” for each child
Fill this with activities and snacks for the travel portions of your trip. You can even theme this to your destination. Make it a rule that the kids can’t open their kits until you’re underway—it will add to the excitement and anticipation for the trip to begin!
DO bring a night light
A strange hotel room can be scary for kids—and hard to navigate in the dark for adults, too! Help prevent bad dreams and stubbed toes: pack a night light.
DO carry zip-top bags and changes of clothes
For every kid. Even for teenagers. Spills and accidents and pukes happen. Don’t get caught short.
DO pack more than one phone charger
Because if you’re all taking pictures all day you’re all going to need a charge at the same time. Make sure if you are overseas that you also bring travel plug converters with you.
DO plan a variety of fun activities
Depending on your destination some activities may require advanced planning. And keep in mind the need to have a bunch of different activities planned that require different lengths of time and that suit different kinds of weather. Can’t go on that historic walking tour because its pouring cats-and-dogs outside? Maybe a trip to a museum or art gallery is in order instead!
DO plan on a slower pace
Especially if you are used to traveling without children, plan for a slower-than-expected pace for your days. You won’t get out of the hotel when you plan to. You won’t get to see and do as many things as you plan to. That’s par for the course with kiddos, so just roll with it. You’ll still have a good time. See point #1 above!
DO make local culture and history enjoyable for the kids
Bear in mind the distance you plan to cover in a day, and how little legs and feet might cope with a lot of walking or hiking. Dragging irritable children around because you’re trying to do too much will suck the fun out of the most exotic locale. Plan shorter excursions each day, and include ones that don’t require as much walking. For example, site-seeing bus tours can be really engaging for the whole family and they let you sit down while you see the city.
DO try the local delicacies
Talk to some locals and get recommendations for where they eat. You’ll get an authentic experience and you’ll likely pay less than at restaurants catering mostly to tourists. Encourage your kids to savour new flavours when you’re on vacation—but have some more familiar back-ups handy for picky eaters.
DO make time for yourself
If you're traveling with another adult (or more) tag out once and a while. Split up and take the kids on your own for a bit to give your partner a break. They can return the favour later when you do some solo exploring of your own. Some holiday entertainment destinations offer a child-minding or babysitting service, so you might even have an opportunity for a real kid-free date night!
DO bring back some local toys or books
Local toys and books make wonderful souvenirs and will be one-of-a-kind keepsakes that you can’t just grab at some airport store.
DON’T pack everything you own
They will have stores where you’re going where you can pick up anything you forgot and can’t live without. I promise.
DON’T offend the locals
Whether you’re overseas or just in the next town over remember that you’re a guest where someone else lives. Don’t be that tourist. For more exotic locales know the important local customs you’ll be expected to follow. Try and learn a bit of the language if you can, and install a real-time translation app on your phone to help avoid misunderstandings.
DON’T expect the excitement levels to last all day
Everyone needs a little downtime, especially kids. Nap time is real. Take advantage of some downtime yourself while the kids sleep or chill out with a crafts project. Parents can get burnt out on travel, too!
DON’T force the kids to do everything with you
Many family-friendly resorts and hotels have kids’ clubs with age-appropriate activities to keep children entertained and occupied. Plan a day with some low-key activities and just let the kids be kids.
DON’T forget the sunscreen
Sunscreen. Wet wipes. Favourite toys. Passports. There are lots of little things to remember. Try writing out a list well in advance of your trip, or use one of the many online versions to help you remember all the odds-and-ends. Important: make sure you check with a local travel clinic whether your destination requires any travel vaccinations!
DON’T forget to keep a trip scrapbook
Encourage your kids to capture their memories of the day in a scrapbook. You can do this right before bed, with each child have a page or two of their own. They can write, draw, or paste in memories of the day (this is a great place to keep ticket stubs and all those event and attraction wristbands! See how many you can collect on the trip!) They can cut-and-paste in maps, postcards, stamps—you name it.
DON’T overdo it on social media
Live in the moment, not on your social media. Yes, you’ll be taking some incredible and adorable pics, and of course you want to share them. But limit your time on social to one or two times a day while you’re away. Or better yet: just post once before you go to bed and upload a mini-album of your day.
DON’T try to do too much
Pack too much into your agenda and you’ll spend your days rushing around and anxious about what you’re missing out on. Dial it back. Enjoy where you are and what you’re doing as you do it. Leave some room in your schedule to embrace the unexpected. And leave the #FOMO at home.
DON’T check in with work
Leave work at work. Enjoy your time away. Those emails will still be there waiting when you get home.
DON’T forget to drink enough water
Stay hydrated. You’ll feel better and will have more energy to explore if you’re drinking enough water. Depending on where you are in the world make sure you’re filling up from a trusted source of clean water.
DON’T forget frequent toilet breaks
And if you’re drinking enough water then don’t forget the need for restroom breaks whenever possible. Especially with young kids always insist they do a just-in-case pee before you head back out on the road, even if they went recently. Don’t trust that there’s a toilet at your next destination and get caught without one!