Family Vacation Tips
It’s summertime, the traditional season for family vacations. But often these trips are recipes for disaster instead of the happy bonding experience you’d like to give your family. One reason family vacations often become the stuff of catastrophe is that parents insist on viewing the experience through rose-colored glasses, choosing to believe that their own childhood trips were idyllic.
Nowadays, many people buy their SUVs and minivans equipped with VCRs, DVD players and headphones. While this can provide the kids with a diversion and the parents with a break from the backseat fighting, it has its drawbacks. For one thing, a road trip is a chance to see this spectacular country of ours. Scenery, landmarks and history are lost to Disney cartoons and video games. Also, each family member is isolated from the others. Isn’t one of the reasons you go on family vacations to spending time with each other?
Those without the extra cash for the built-in entertainment should not worry, and in fact should view it as an opportunity. With some planning, flexibility and a sense of humor, you can turn the family vacation into memories that your children will treasure forever. Here are some tips to make your trip successful.
l Bring healthful snacks (dried fruit, nuts, whole-grain crackers, water, fruit juice) for the kids to munch on.
l Keep a list of “car games” handy, such as I Spy, Twenty Questions, the alphabet game (finding letters road signs in alphabetical order) and the Doctor’s Cat (each person’s turn uses the next letter of the alphabet to describe the doctor’s cat, i.e., “The doctor’s cat is an alabaster cat,” and the next players says “The doctor’s cat is a brainy cat,” and so on.
l Build in plenty of rest/play stops. Take advantage of parks for picnics and running around to burn off all that extra energy. Be sure to pack balls, Frisbees and hacky-sacks. If the weather’s bad, stop at one of the fast-food restaurants with indoor playlands.
l Give maps to older kids, and let them mark off your route and navigate. Use the time to teach them all the state capitals and the presidents in chronological order.
l Put together travel kits for each child, such as ones with desks suspended from the front seats for drawing and coloring.
l Many popular board games are available in travel size with magnetic pieces.
l If your kids don’t have a problem with motion sickness, have them practice their oral reading skills. Some favorite books for the whole family include the Chronicles of Narnia, the Boxcar Children series, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
l If motion sickness is a problem, books on tape are a wonderful way for the whole family to enjoy literature without having to miss the scenery outside the car windows.
l Give your children a roll of quarters. Every time they ask, “How much longer?” or “Are we there yet?” they have to give you a quarter.
l Be prepared for emergencies. Bring a tool kit, basic first aid supplies, water and a cell phone. Pack a bottle jack and a few wide, flat pieces of wood. These items will be helpful in the event of a flat tire in sand or mud
l Before starting on any road trip, have your vehicle serviced, checking fluid levels, tire condition and alignment.
Plane trips are about the destination, not the journey, so keeping kids occupied is also about not bothering other passengers and minimizing whining, complaining and tantrums.
l Frontier Airlines now has Direct TV on some of their flights, which means that each seatback has a TV screen in it, and for $5, you can get your child a set of earphones to watch any of 20 or so channels, including Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Boomerang.
l For kids with inner ear problems due to pressure and altitude, one solution is to have them chew gum or suck on candy. If your child is too young for these solutions, let him nurse or drink a bottle on take-off and landing. Two more solutions: a product called Earplanes are available at most airports for less than $10. They’re earplugs with pressure-easing valves. If you can’t find these, give your child some child decongestant right before take-off.
l Arrive early enough at the airport so that the long security procedures won’t stress you out more than is necessary. You’ll also want to use the time pre-flight to let your children run around to get rid of excess energy. Many airports now have play areas with playhouses and other equipment. If your airport doesn’t have one, let your kids walk the moving walkways. Most kids never get tired of this activity. Just be sure that they don’t block people in a hurry or run into other travelers.
l Take children to the bathroom before boarding and landing. Once the “fasten seat belt” sign goes on, nobody leaves their seats, so be aware of how close to landing your are and time their final trip to the necessary room.