A great family vacation can be an important rite of passage, and not just for the kids. Traveling with children creates numerous challenges, whether it’s trying to avoid the scorn of everyone else on the plane when your toddler throws a tantrum or just attempting to get a teenager to engage with something other than their smartphone. Luckily, these kinds of vacation nightmares are by no means a certainty; with a bit of planning, a fun-filled family trip will provide treasured memories for both kids and parents.
As with any good vacation, preparation is the key to success. Involve the entire family in planning the trip; older kids will especially appreciate the chance to have input on the itinerary, and allowing them to select activities or day trips in the area is a great way to keep teens and tweens on board. This inclusionary policy should not extend to allowing young kids to pack their own luggage, however, since they’re likely to bring way more than necessary. During the planning process, remember to factor in the added time of shepherding kids, and be sure to double-check everything; while spontaneity can be fun for grown-ups, having most activities planned out ahead of time will prevent all kinds of problems.
The actual travel process can be daunting, especially for a vacation that includes flying. Familiarize yourself with individual airline policies, and call ahead if you need to reserve space for an infant in a car seat. Extra clothes, diapers, and snacks are necessary to include in your carry-on, and to help kids peacefully snooze through the flight, encourage movement while waiting to board the plane, or book a flight at a time when your child normally naps. If you must resort to sedatives, be sure to consult your doctor and to test the medicine out before the flight, to prevent any adverse reactions in mid-air. On longer flights, consider bringing a pack of earplugs in case of a meltdown, and choose seats at the back of the plane, where you’re likely to have more room for strollers and other items, and where you’ll be close to the bathrooms in case any emergencies arise.