But spending multiple hours together on an airplane or in a car can easily turn a dream getaway into a vacation nightmare if some simple plans are not set up ahead of time. Of course these steps cannot guarantee the unhappy, tired-kid meltdowns that still may occur. But every little bit of preparation helps to prevent a fun trip from turning into a disaster.
1. Plan Ahead – The idea of simply jumping in the car and seeing where the road leads you may sound fun and exciting for a single person or a couple without kids, but it does not lead to a great vacation if kids are involved.
Children need structure even when they are away from home, especially for younger elementary age kids. Try to set up a daily schedule that mirrors the home schedule as much as possible. Driving through the night may not work if your kids cannot sleep in the car, it will only lead to unhappy crankiness the next day.
2. Pack Some Surprises – If you are gone from home for several days, pack a small inexpensive treat for each day away. Something as simple as a package of stickers can entertain and delight a little one who is stuck in the car and unable to run and play, or even at a campsite with all of nature around him.
3. Bring A Calendar – As the adult you have a picture in your mind of the days ahead and how long you will be away from home. Children do not think as abstractly and may need a clear visual to help them understand. If your trip is especially long it would be wise to give her a small calendar that will allow her to mark off the days till she is back home in her own bed.
4. Buy Cameras – A fun treat for any age is a new disposable camera just for the holiday. The photo shots that your child chooses will give you a whole new view of the vacation through their eyes. Plus it will give each child a purpose when they otherwise might be feeling bored.
5. Treasure Boxes – Most of the items in tourist souvenir shops are horrible, ugly and not even worth the little they cost. But they are great inexpensive treasures for your kids. Provide each child with a small box or cloth bag to store the fun remembrance items they choose at the vacation spot. Some day they will look at the goofy paperweight with a map on it and smile at the memories it brings.