Preventing Travel Meltdowns: Golden Rules for Family Travel

Your three-year-old whines throughout your picnic at the park waterfall, your seven year-old refuses to look at any exhibits at the science museum, and your 10 and 14 year olds battle like toddlers in the backseat of the car.

Has your family experienced travel meltdowns? My family has. The art of family travel requires careful planning. Yes-we pack travel toys, iPods and iPads loaded with favorite books. These certainly help; however, over the years, I’ve discovered some golden rules for eliminating the tears (my kids and mine) from the family vacation.

Golden Rules for Family Travel

1. Meet the needs of the youngest family member.
That woodsy picnic won’t be fun if your active pre-schooler can’t romp because the narrow trail is near a steep drop off. Don’t plan a family tennis lesson at 3 p.m. when your six year-old would rather be cooling off in the pool at the resort.

2. Underplan.
Forget about doing it all. It’s not how much of a destination you see, but how much you and your kids enjoy yourselves. That special museum won’t engage your grade schooler if it’s the fourth facility you toured that day. Allow time for the serendipitous-If your kids like the robots, let them spend extra time building one instead of dragging them off to see the history museum.

3. Go for the green spaces.
Look for city parks, rails-to-trails paths and playgrounds. Throw a Frisbee, play catch or do a little people watching.

4. Understand your family’s unique road rhythms.
Some families prefer traveling at night when kids can sleep in the car while other families prefer early morning departures so that by the late afternoon “cranky hour” they have already arrived at their destination.

5. Plan to spend some time alone with each of your children.
It can be as simple as taking your early-rising five year-old with you to get breakfast to bring back to your sleeping-in teen or sharing an afternoon ice cream with one child. Make the most of hours in planes, trains and automobiles by sitting next to one child for awhile so that the two of you can talk.

6. Pack healthy snacks.
Airplane food (when you can find it) is usually awful. What toddler likes beef jerky? A day of munching mini-pretzels is no way to eat. Turnpike and Rest Stop eateries often serve up overpriced fast food that’s short on nutrition. Hunger generates a giant case of the crankies for kids and adults alike. You know what your family likes to eat… so take it along. Consider fruit, granola bars and other yummy munchables.

7. Have a sense of humor.
Attractions get crowded, cars break down and kids throw up. Remember why you came on vacation in the first place: to have fun with your kids.

Originally posted at Our Mom Spot, June 13, 2011