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Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Kids: Making the Most of Your Family Vacation

making the most of your family vacation

Traveling with kids can feel daunting at times, and each age comes with unique needs. For infants, you may have questions about the best kind of carrier when you reach your destination. For older kids, you’ll want unique ways to keep them interested and engaged in order to avoid sibling bickering and complaining. For all ages (including yourself!), tips to minimize jet lag are welcome. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered.

Making the most of your family vacation starts with planning for both the expected and unexpected toils of travel as well as making space for the delightful moments you’ll cherish for a lifetime. These tips will help you make that happen.

Conquering Jet Lag

Flying across time zones can throw your internal clock into chaos. Add to this kids who can’t get to sleep when they need to, and you’ve got a recipe for grumpy travels. Jet lag can also lead to insomnia, upset stomachs, and even headaches.

Our best tips for conquering jet lag? Start adjusting your family’s sleep schedule to that of your destination at least two to three days before departure. This also means getting plenty of sleep before your departure. Once you’re on the plane headed toward your destination, switch your watch to the time zone of your destination so that you can start thinking and acting appropriately before you even touchdown.

Other factors, such as dehydration, can contribute to jet lag. Make a point of pushing healthy, non-sugary fluids, especially during airplane flights. (Airplane cabins are notorious for drying out passengers.) And avoid beverages that leave you feeling dehydrated or wide awake at the wrong time such as tea, coffee, and alcohol.

Once you arrive at your destination, don’t give in to the temptation to go straight to bed. Instead, get outside and soak up some sunshine. Or, if you’re feeling antsy, and it’s nighttime when you arrive, soak up some moonlight (if possible) and use minimal lights in your hotel room to encourage sleepiness. Natural lighting will help you embrace the schedule of your new location. Although it will prove a challenge, keep your kids awake until their usual bedtime (in the new destination).

making the most of your family vacation
© Famveldman | Dreamstime.com

Managing Baby Gear

While traveling with infants sometimes gets a bad rap, it can prove surprisingly easy. Why? Because infants tend to do a lot of napping. But travel with babies also means preparing for the unexpected. Bring plenty of extra wipes, diapers, and sealable bags to contain unforeseen messes and smells. Carry changes of clothes for your baby and you. (From spit up to a leaking diaper, you’ll also feel relieved to have a fresh wardrobe on hand.)

As for the ongoing debate between strollers and baby slings, a lot will depend on the destination. In a cold-weather destination, you and your baby will enjoy keeping one another warm with a sling. But in a warm-weather destination, a sling could prove an uncomfortable, sweaty mess.

Ground surfaces represent another element to consider. Some will prove limiting or prohibitive for strollers. In general, strollers work well for large cities and places with easily accessible walking paths and public transit. They also prove a blessing for large institutions such as museums. For uneven surfaces such as archaeological ruins or historical cities with cobbled streets, leave the stroller home (or in the hotel room). The same goes for historic buildings without elevators.

making the most of your family vacation
© Kyryl Gorlov | Dreamstime.com

Ways to Enhance Your Vacation

If you’ve decided to go with a family-friendly tour company for your next vacation, print out a copy of the itinerary for each of your kids. Then, read through it with them. As questions or ideas arise, underline, circle, or help your kids jot down notes. Little kids might wish to draw pictures based on your summary of a vacation’s highlights to help them “decode” the itinerary and better understand the impending journey.

Go over this together as a family so that you can share your approaching excitement as well as brainstorm ways to better enjoy each activity and place. Then, revisit the itinerary during your journey to savor the day’s adventures as well as prepare for what’s yet to come.

making the most of your family vacation
© Our Whole Village

Travel Journaling

Encourage each of your children to journal during your trip. That way, they can record their observations and insights. Invite younger kids to draw pictures about their hopes and experiences. These can go into a scrapbook later.

While most travelers purchase travel journals in advance, you might want to start your kids out with cheap mini notebooks. Then, as you travel, keep your eyes open for local handcrafted journals. These represent a wonderful way to preserve the spirit of your trip while capturing the authentic flavor of the area. Your kids will relish the chance to pick one out for themselves in a local market or shop, and you’ll support local businesses while you’re at it.

A Photo Scavenger Hunt

Have older kids document their journey through photos using their copy of the itinerary as the basis for a “scavenger hunt.” Encourage your tweens and teens to snap photos of pre-designated spots or activities from the itinerary. The photos they capture represent the basis for a personalized travel album when they get home. Or, tech-savvy kids may prefer to do a slideshow with music.

Disposable cameras are a cheap and durable way to get younger kids involved in the photo-snapping fun, too. You can buy them in advance (and even in bulk) through sites like Amazon, and they come in waterproof versions to document events like snorkeling. Little kids will feel excited and empowered by their chance to get in on the photo scavenger hunt action, but you won’t have to worry about an accident with a more expensive camera. Here are some more tips for preserving your trip through journaling and family photos.

making the most of your family vacation
© Spotmatik | Dreamstime.com

Making the Most of Your Family Vacation

When on vacation with kids, preparing for the unexpected can alleviate disaster and ensure a successful trip. Whether you’re dealing with jet lag, an unexpected baby-related mess, or bickering siblings, the tips above will help you overcome these travel hiccups so that you can get back to making the most of your family vacation.

Ready for more surefire tips to guarantee your next family adventure is a success? Check out our ultimate guides to traveling with kids that cover family travel planning and kid-friendly transportation.

At Our Whole Village, we create transformational trips for curious families who want to create lasting memories while making a difference. We’re here to help you and your family experience the world, its peoples, and its cultures. Contact us today to learn more about the unforgettable experiences that we handcraft for adventure-seeking families just like yours.

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