Planning a family vacation can be a fun time, imagining all the things the family will do together, planning to see special sights and events, and perhaps even combining the trip with a visit to see relatives. Everyone needs to get away now and then, and a family vacation can be the perfect way to do just that; yet when planning a vacation with children, sometimes the chaos and unpredictability of life with kids can leave us wondering if we might just be better of staying home. Long waits in the airport, long flights, and long car rides can be excruciating for parents if the little ones begin to act up. But do not despair. A little extra planning and investment can make your family vacation a special one for the entire family – even if you will be traveling a very long way. Consider the following survival kit when traveling with children, and your vacation will be much more pleasant.
1. Food. Regardless of where you are going, when you will be eating meals, and how long or short you have to travel, always bring along healthy snacks and bottled water for the children and the parents. Planes, trains and cars can be dehydrating with the heating and air conditioning systems running, and children will become thirsty and hungry. Avoid sugary juices and sodas, as these will only give the children a quick pick-me-up, but then leave them with a sugar low and feeling worse than before. Try to bring cheese and crackers, carrot sticks, apples, beef jerky, and only a few sweets. Encourage them to drink before they snack so they will not try to satisfy their thirst with food. Not only will the food help the children to feel better, it will help pass the time.
2. Games. There are so many travel games on the market today, this should not be a problem. Parents can visit any discount store, drug store, variety store, or dollar store and find an abundance of travel games for children. From playing cards to guessing games to miniature versions of popular board games, the children will have plenty to keep them entertained in the car. And when those games have lost their appeal, parents should remember back to their childhood and all the games we used to play that did not require anything to buy: I Spy, Twenty Questions, Find the Flag, etc. Challenge your kids to find things along the way on a road trip, and on a plane, look at maps together.
3. Books. Older children often find they can read on a plane or in a car, but little ones who cannot read will still enjoy looking at pictures, or the parents can read the books to the children. If reading in the car makes you feel ill, consider getting books on tape from your local library and let everyone listen to them in the car. You can also purchase headphones and tape or CD players for your children so they can all listen to different books of their own. This will be especially helpful if the children have summer reading they need to finish, or if they have been taken out of school for the vacation.
4. Portable DVD Player. This is getting a big more pricey, but if you are flying coast to coast or to another country, or driving for days on end, this item will help pass the time for the entire family. A portable DVD player will plug right into the cigarette lighter in your car, or give you more than a two hour battery life on a plane. This is not only great for small children, who can watch Disney videos and cartoons to pass the time, it can be great for teens who would rather be anywhere than stuck in a car with the family. If the DVD player is set up in the back seat of the car or van, parents can still listen to the movie and enjoy it as well.
5. Pillow and Blanket. Regardless of age, every child likes to have his own pillow or blanket on a long trip.
The next time you are planning a family vacation, consider these ideas and plan ahead. With a little planning, patience and ingenuity, you will have a family vacation you will never forget!