If kids are a part of your life then you know summer is very much their time. Those who are school age have a nice long break and little ones not yet a part of academia have so many more activities available to them. The U.S. builds summer around keeping our children occupied — or what we may need in order to keep our sanity — and resorts, hotels, campsites, and kid-centric event organizations ramp up the youth-friendly options this time of year. Traveling with our progeny, however, comes with its own unique set of needs, ones that frequently leave us and those around us barely verbal. Honestly? It doesn’t have to be that way and we have a few ideas on how to make your summer trip with your children a time you’ll look forward to every year.
Children are not little adults — Plan around and work with them
You probably already know this, but reminders are always good: children are not little adults. These compact humans are, yep, children. Their bodies need different things, their hearts, minds, and souls require unique stimulus — basically, consideration on trips makes them feel like they aren’t just along for the ride. As you put together your vacation, let them be a part of the planning. They don’t have to pick the destination but sharing intel on some of the activities at your location, what you may come across along the way, and even letting them know you’re open to any ideas they may have makes them feel not only like this is as much their vacation as yours but their opinion matters. You will also discover that what they want to do will frequently overlap with what would also be fun for you, however, there’s a nice compromise/deal element here. By providing plenty of kid/tween/teen friendly fodder for your children you’re then able to insert more adult/parent-focused experiences as part of a “today, we’ll do this and tomorrow we’ll do that” agreement.
With tweens and teens, let them research some things you can do during your trip and even what activities or sightseeing they could do without you. Of course, you’ll want to be sure everything is legit and they are safe, but offering your older ones the opportunity to explore on their own makes them feel you truly are thinking of them beyond yourself as you travel so all of you truly enjoy it.
Stop! In the name of nature!
If you’re road-tripping it, plan for a lot of pit stops — for food and bathroom breaks, stretching legs, a bunch of “ooh, what’s over there?” side trips, whatever. Even if you’re not cooped up in a car but you’re exploring, take a cue from their pace. This goes back to the “not little adults” idea. No matter how active your child is — and this goes for older kids as well — you don’t want to push them so hard they become irritable and exhausted. You’ve seen that crash and burn when a kid reaches their limit. It’s like a switch is turned off. It helps if you consider that as you’re planning your trip. Think about making things more “go with the flow” than activity prompted. Which leads us to —
Just as we discussed in Road Trip, take your time and be open to pretty much anything. Go at a pace that is comfortable to both you and your kids so you all can enjoy the experience rather than feeling like you have to fit as much in as possible. Be loose with your schedule. If you are planning to do four things in a day but only get to two, no big deal. You can either pick it up where you left off tomorrow or if you’re returning home, you can have a reason to go back someday. This allows your child, tween, teen to embrace whatever activity or experience they are having and give themselves over to it fully. Conversely, if you notice they’re not really enjoying something you meticulously planned out, let it go and move on to the next even if it was your child’s idea. Create plenty of time to take plenty of time.
Bring provisions — tasty and fun
Anyone who’s ever gone anywhere with their child knows to bring along snacks, drinks, toys, anything to take care of their instant needs at the moment they need it. Also, it helps you get in front of what they want before they want it. You know your kids better than anyone and anticipating what they want or at least being prepared makes your and their lives easier, especially on vacation. It also buys you time when your next stop is further than your children can wait. These aren’t nice to haves but essential supplies along the way, no matter the age.
Smartphone camera, ACTION!
Taking photos of the memories you’re creating is kind of required during your vacation. You not only want to have actual physical reminiscences but you want to show the people in your life where you went, what you did, how much fun you had — proof, ya know? What you see, however, and what your kids see can be very different and surprising. Let them take some of the pictures and even edit something together to share. There’s a certain delight in seeing your vacation through those fresh eyes.
Let your kid flag fly
Although traveling with children can be stressful, it’s a total blast when you let go and look at it from their side. Kids live so much in the present, every moment can feel new and exciting. Embrace your inner child and let loose with your kids, indulge that little one inside of yourself and jump in with both feet to your family vacation.
There are tons of discounts and deals for summer family travel and anywhere you choose to go will have something for all of you. Even those moments that don’t go to plan, the reservation that’s missing, the bad food on the road, the wrong turn that gets you lost — even that becomes a bright spot and memory worth recapping with delight if you look at this adventure as just that, an adventure.
Your kids are with you, you’re spending time together, and that is magical.