Don’t Break These Rules for Your Family Summer Vacation

Spring break is over. Next up – the summer vacation! Are you ready?

Traveling is not easy on any of us, but don’t worry! The time together can be enjoyable and fun. Follow these tips and your next family summer vacation will be the best one yet.

Before You Leave

Pick out a family trip that’s right for everybody. The first thing to do is vote on it. Let everybody make suggestions then judge the pros and cons of each idea. If a spot is blackballed, explain why. Children need to know that while their ideas are appreciated, some vacation plans may not be workable right now.

Select the best time to travel. It’s vital to schedule a trip that works for everyone. If you kids look forward to summer camp each year, don’t go anywhere during that time. Get the whole gang together for a “travel planning meeting” and see what the best dates would be to shoot for.

Don't Break These Rules for Your Family Summer Vacation
Don’t Break These Rules for Your Family Summer Vacation

Once you’ve got a destination and date set, of course you’ll make the appropriate reservations. If you’re driving, contact the highway departments of the states you’ll be going through for any expected construction delays. Ask for route suggestions.

Don’t advertise your plans! Tell your kids to wait until after you’ve come back to spread the word on social media. Burglars troll these sites and make notes of when houses will be unprotected. Share with your trusted neighbors your plans so they can keep an eye on your place, too.

Get your funds arranged in advance. ATM charges are rising all the time, and once you’re out of town you don’t know banking hours or how easily you could cash a check. There’s some risk to carrying that much cash but it is outweighed by the convenience of having it readily available.

You’re On the Road!

If at all possible, start your trek early – I mean, like before dawn! That way you avoid the worst heat of the day. Traffic flow away from your home will be light. A light breakfast can be a “drive-thru” to save some time, and a little money. The next meal you’ll have to consider will be lunch, and there are more options for inexpensive dining during daylight than after dark.

Packing. There’s no reason to bring your entire closet with you on your trip, so pack lightly. Even if you’re not flying, you don’t want to have to contend with a lot of luggage. Remember – “when in doubt, leave it out.” Take items you can rinse out at night that will be dry by morning. Even cruises are relaxing the rules on formal dress, so unless you’re visiting royalty, you may not need a formal gown or suit.

Little children should select one or two stuffed animals or toys, and a favorite book they can read are always a good idea. Don’t pack those! Keep them where you can get to them on the road!

Leave the electronic gear at home! Older kids may want to bring their iPod, MP3, tablets, etc. Convince them to leave electronic gear at home. After all, it’s a “gettaway!” Everyone is supposed to be relaxing and putting aside the usual routine.

Don’t forget snacks! Keep children happy by packing their favorite goodies, but make sure you bring plenty with you. If you run out, you can always buy more. Try to avoid chocolate or anything that will get messy in the warm interior of a car. Chewing gum and mints help avoid thirst. Small packages of crackers can fill that gap until the next meal break. Have enough variety for choices.

Long stretches in the confines of a car are difficult on everybody; it can be even worse on a plane. If children start to fight, whine, or complain, turn those frowns upside down with a hug and smile. Remember to keep your sense of humor. Look for the funny side of everything! Laughter really is the best medicine! Try to invent simple word games or “I Spy”-type contests.

Make frequent stops. Whether you travel by RV, car, minivan, or SUV, stop at rest stops and parks. It’s good to get out and stretch your legs — the exercise will do everyone good, including and especially the driver. Plus, smaller kids could become cranky from the long drives. The fresh air will tire them out which means they’ll sleep for most of the road trip.

Hooray, You’re There!

As you get closer to your goal, remind the children it may take some time to get checked-in at the resort or hotel. Nothing is more discouraging than seeing the beach or pool or rides and not being able to get to them. Have some “landing tasks” prepared for them – gathering up trash in the car, making certain things are put away. Don’t let them wander far away; you’ll need their help in unloading the gear.

Unless there’s not a food store near where you are staying, don’t haul groceries with you. Wait until you’ve checked in, then make doing the shopping an adventure. Promise them that once the kitchen is stocked, they can head for the pool or the beach, but you need their help in getting the food they want to enjoy during the stay.

Bring a digital camera to capture fun family vacation moments. Isn’t it wonderful not to mess with film anymore! If you can’t record video, buy a cheap audio recorder to capture special times.

Weather considerations. It will rain and you will have bad weather. Have stuff for indoor activities squirreled away but ready to pull out as needed. Playing cards, coloring books, puzzles – things that store flat and don’t have a lot of pieces that can get lost work best.

Plan for Next Year!

Once you’re back home, wait about a week, then casually get feedback from everybody about the trip. See what they liked best, what they hated, and ask for suggestions on how to make things better the next time. You might even get suggestions for next year!

Every family needs a break, and the summer is a great time to take it. With a little organization that week can be the best 7 days you’ve ever spent away from home.

( Photo by Traveloscophy )

5 Responses to Don’t Break These Rules for Your Family Summer Vacation

  1. I like your idea about having landing plans for the kids. We normally don’t think of this and end up with frustrated kids and an annoyed Mom! I will definitely remember to keep this in mind for our next trip coming up. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Hi Derek – Our kids are older now, but we dropped the ball on that one ourselves. We’d arrive somewhere, like Disney World or the Beach and kids would disperse. Any attempt to round them up and get the focused just led to frustration. If we had a plan beforehand for better managing arrival I’m sure it would have gone more smoothly. Live and learn!

    Sometimes it did work out thought, but always by accident. Since most hotels don’t allow you to check in before 3 pm, if we arrived sooner, we could take in an activity or two, which would usually get the job done. But many times just arriving at the hotel was pretty exciting. The kids would spend the first hour or so scoping the place out. I’d also push them around on the luggage cart – with the luggage – which turned unloading the car into a game, and one they wanted to participate in.

  3. Something my dad did for years helps when you have smaller children who might want to nap on the road — put small suitcases or bags on the floor behind the front seats, then cover them and the back seat with a baby bed mattress. That way you can stretch out and/or crawl around.

  4. Back when your dad did it it may have been brilliant Bill. But today it’s illegal with seat belt laws. Those laws, however helpful, do put a crimp in travel plans. It usually means you need to make more stops if you’re driving, that way the kids can do some romping around in a park or rest stop.

  5. You are absolutely correct, Kevin. My bad for even thinking of suggesting it.

    Sometimes a 68-year old brain forgets the marvelous way our “nanny state” takes care of us.

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