As parents, when we start planning a family vacation we always have the best intentions. We want to take the kids someplace fun, and we want everybody to have a good time. Unfortunately, we may not always have the same idea of fun as the kids do.
I remember my sister being disappointed a couple of times when, after a couple of hours at Disneyland, her kids were ready to head back to the hotel because all they really want to do is swim in the pool. It was shocking to her, and a little annoying, because the kids had been excited about Disneyland, and the tickets aren’t cheap.
Armed with this information, the first few times I took Offspring to Disneyland (at age 2) and Walt Disney World (at age 3), I anticipated calling it quits after about 4 hours. I nailed it. Even with a stroller to rest in, near the 4 hour mark she was looking tired and we headed for the gate. We had a great time, with no meltdowns, and she fell asleep as soon as we got in the car. It was a few years before we managed to stay long enough for the fireworks.
Lower Your Expectations
Don’t allow your over the top expectations ruin the trip for the rest of the family. It’s important to discuss family vacation plans and be really clear about options. My Dad always says, “The best plan is a flexible plan.”
If you want to avoid looking like the Griswold Family at the amusement park, you should be certain before you leave the hotel that everybody is on board for that kind of day.
You may be really excited about the Aviation Museum, but face it, you may be the only one. You have to let go of the romantic idea that you’re going to share your passion for biplanes with the rest of the family, and they are going to give the museum their rapt attention for 6 hours.
Choose an Age Appropriate Family Vacation
Because of differences in ages and interests, We aren’t all going to enjoy the same activities. So, it’s important to choose activities that the kids will love, and the adults can enjoy or at least tolerate. (I enjoy amusement parks, and I tolerate lines.) I’d love to do a Disney Cruise and I think everyone in my family, ranging in age from 8 – 70 would enjoy it.
If you’re at a resort that has kids camp type programs, you can use that time to do adult things like scuba diving if that’s your idea of fun. Or maybe you want nothing more than a few hours on the beach to read a book without the constant drone of, “Mom, mom, mom, mommy.”
Timing is Everything
When you travel with kids, always give yourself extra time to get anywhere. It is really important that you are calm so the kids stay calm. So, get out of the house early, get to the airport early, get in line for TSA early. If you can avoid screeching, “Come on. Hurry up!” over and over you’ll also avoid getting the rest of the family agitated.
Do your best to book travel so that you aren’t having to move through the airport at exactly the moment when the kids will be melting down because they need to nap or eat. Same goes for amusement parks or other outings. You know better than anyone what your kids can handle as far as how long they will be contained in a stroller or if they’ll be too impatient for long lines.
Some activities are too romanticized by other parents who post their perfect family vacation photos of smiling kids posing with Chip and Dale on Facebook. The caption never reads, “This was two minutes before an epic tantrum over a $35 hat in the gift shop.”
But we all know that’s what really happened!