Summer is just around the corner which means time for the family vacation. We all have pictures in our mind of our upcoming trip: the idyllic pictures, how we will travel and play together, how we will swim in the lake with the spectacular scenery, how we all will have fun and not stop laughing, how we’ll taste new and interesting dishes and more.
On the other hand, there may also be some worries: how will we manage with the children? What if they will not like the attractions we chose? And what will we do with the food? And what if the kids won’t stop fighting.
In the following list, we will try to give some tips to maximize everyone’s enjoyment of the family vacation and make it a positive experience for you and your kids.
This is everyone's trip
The family trip is both the children’s trip and yours. In planning the trip, try to balance between attractions and children, such as amusement parks and gardens, slides and water parks, and a combination of something of your interest – a museum, a visit to a beautiful cathedral or an interesting natural site. A trip filled only with children’s attractions will lead to frustrated parents.
On the other hand, a trip that takes into account only the needs of adults leads to boredom and annoying children and nervous parents who do not really enjoy the scenery. The key is a balance – between attractions for children, points of interest for parents, and best of all – places where everyone can enjoy themselves.
This message of “This is everyone’s trip” should also be communicated to the children – the trip is yours and ours, and the common goal is for everyone to have fun and for that, we all need a little compromise and consideration.
The child is the same child, at home and abroad
Whether we travel every year or a one-time event, traveling abroad with our children requires a lot of planning, in which we worked, invested, searched for routes, ordered accommodation, bought the tickets, took time off from work and much more. In many cases, parents are disappointed by the behavior of their children that do not match their expectations and investment in the trip and feel that in return for this investment, they get complaints and quarrels in the back of the car.
It is important to remember that your child does not change. The difficulties that accompanied the child at home are the same difficulties that will accompany the children on a trip abroad, and many siblings on a daily basis will not change their behavior only because they are now in another country. The difficulties will remain the same, and in some cases, getting out of the routine may also empower them.
So what can we do? The imaginary fantasy should be replaced by seeing the tremendous added value of a family vacation- the shared experiences, the opportunity to spend time together devoid of the advantages and disadvantages of the trip. And the opportunity to get to know our children in situations we do not see on a daily basis, even when it’s difficult.
Let the children help with the preparations
Children (almost) of any age can be partners in preparing the trip: Teenagers can take responsibility for collecting information about a particular site and being “in charge of the site” – collecting information, opening hours, points of interest and more.
For young children, we can show photos of the places we are going to visit. You can also ask the children whether to go to one site or another. You should also get them involved with some decisions through the trip itself, for example: what will we buy at the supermarket for breakfast? Do you want us to visit the rope park tomorrow or take a cable car?
As the children become more involved in the preparations (before and during the trip), there will be fewer conflicts about why they go to this site and not to another site and why they do not have the cookies they like for breakfast.
A child who feels that his or her opinion is counted feels necessary and meaningful and will cooperate much more than a child who feels that the trip, cool and invested as it is, is dictated only by the parents.
A trip abroad, by its very nature, embodies many changes – in the weather, in food, in language and in the routine of the day. The change in routine brings a lot of children, especially the younger ones, out of balance. It is important that the expectations that you define will relate mainly to these three issues: Security, health and safety.
Set rules for situations like getting lost in a crowded place, or not fighting in the car. Explain in advance about the country you’re going to visit so the children will be prepared for any differences.
Creating A Routine
With all the usual changes in routine, it is worthwhile to try and create a certain kind of routine within the trip. Children, especially young children, need a routine and enjoy it. It is worth trying to create a certain type of routine within the trip: a shared breakfast before going out for the day, a small evening out in the apartment/hotel room, showers before bedtime and more.
If you are at home reading a bedtime story to children, do it abroad. On the other hand, getting out of the routine is part of a family vacation, so this is not exactly the time to insist on healthy eating in restaurants or insist on sleep at a specific hour. The regular routines will come back when you return home.
Flexibility and adaptability
Although usually we plan our vacations to the details, the pace and expectations do not always match those of the children. The key to enjoyment, in this case, is to know that programs are just a general guideline. Sometimes, it is worth giving up on an obligatory site simply because the children are enjoying a small playground and it’s a shame to get them out of there. There will be days that the morning would take a little longer, and sometimes the children (and maybe you) want to go to the hotel and spend the afternoon leisurely.
This is the place to remind ourselves that the goal of the trip is not to mark on as many sites as possible, but it’s the family time we spent together. From the children’s point of view, feeding ducks by the lake is also an equally successful attraction (or perhaps much more) than a famous museum.
But as said earlier, the trip is for everyone. If you really do not want to give up on an attraction, you should also consider splitting up – taking the older kids to one place and the younger ones to another place.
It’s important to remember that the family vacation is not the sum of the sites we visited or whether the children remember the stunning science museum or the wonderful boat ride. It is a long, intensive experience, full of ups and downs, but it has great potential for family bonding, creating meaningful family experiences that are cherished in the hearts of all family members, and those that will remain with us and the children for many years to come.