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How to Survive a Family Vacation

Mock-1_small.jpgBy Dr. Lou Ann Todd Mock

An old Harry Chapin song says "Its got to be the going not the getting there that's good."With preparation and thoughtful travel survival strategies, the journey can be as much fun as the destination.

Whether you're traveling by car, plane or train, here are a few tips to ensure a smooth trip during your next vacation:

  • Keep it FUN! Car games can make the time fly by for both children and adults. If you're driving, games like car bingo and the license plate game are fun ways to help your child connect with their surroundings. Have a pack with non-messy art supplies for doodling and bring music that everyone in the family can enjoy. Its also a great time to talk to your kids. Find out whats going on in their lives and be an open resource for them too!
  • Make it easy to get some shut-eye. If you have a longer trip planned, bringing smaller travel pillows and blankets or their special blankie to help your children rest when they get sleepy can help keep everyone happy If you're taking a long flight, try to book a flight that will run at night so your children can sleep on the plane.
  • Plan quiet time. Sometimes less is more. When on a vacation it’s easy to get wrapped up in the see everything/do everything excitement. Kids can suffer from stimulation overload, so make sure you plan for down time so that the entire family will have the opportunity to recharge.
  • Take breaks. If you're traveling by car, plan and take plenty of pit stops. Let kids get out and stretch their legs and burn off excess energy. If you're on a train or plane, encourage stretching while seated and walking with you when it is appropriate.
  • Prepare kids first. Parents may want to prepare kids for travel by describing what it's like to fly. You can use dolls or puppets in a make-believe game for young children. For older kids, talk about how long the trip will take and when they expect arrival times. Have a clear plan for what you'll be doing on your trip set the expectation before you leave the house.
  • Have food, will travel. Hunger can turn even the most pleasant people into unpleasant people. Pack food for your trip and remember to keep it easy to eat and healthy. Snacks overloaded with sugar won't help them feel satisfied for long - and sugary snacks can also leave kids with lots of energy and nowhere to burn it off.
  • Keep it clean. When you have a group especially one with children things get messy quickly. Combat the mess by being prepared. Bring a kit of hand sanitizer, napkins and hand wipes can help keep everyone - including your car - clean during your trip.

Finally, parents shouldn't feel guilty if their kids aren't perfect. Travel can be stressful for all family members, so stay positive and incorporate fun into your trip!