Have fun with your family and skip all the potential hassles. Read on and keep these guidelines handy before you book that flight or plan that getaway.
1. Over-Planning Or Not Planning At All Gone are the days when you and your hubby could simply book an impromptu flight, backpack in hand, for three days of white sand and azure waters. Now that you have kids, a lot of planning is needed. Consider when (month, season, day) to take the trip, where to go and where to stay (beach, hotel, province, relative’s place), what mode of transportation to take (land, air, private, public), what to bring (your bare necessities, things you can’t live without), and exactly what everyone plans to do during the vacation. This, however, doesn’t mean that you should plan your itinerary by the minute. Be flexible and leave a little room for spontaneity. A stiff, overloaded schedule or an inflexible one can wear out both parents and kids. You are out to relax and get some rest, so that should take up a big part of your plan.
2. Making It Your Vacation Some parents plan a family vacation considering only the places they want to visit and the things they want to do. If you try to make it a romantic vacation instead of a family one, you end up with bored kids glued to the hotel TV, constantly asking you: “When are we going home?” Make sure the whole family is involved in planning the trip. Consider the kids—or if they are old enough, ask them where they want to go and what they want to do. But don’t deviate too much from the kids’ routine, as young children have a hard time adjusting to sudden and too many changes. Schedule activities that the whole family can enjoy together as well as some alone time for each member.
3. Excess Baggage Packing for a trip with the kids is always a challenge: you end up bringing too much or too little, never “just right.” Here are some handy tips for packing: For your hand-carry travel bag, pack only the basic necessities for the duration of the travel: diapers, wipes, extra clothing, feeding bottles or baby food, snacks, juice, and water.Your luggage should contain everything else, including extra supplies of the things in your hand-carry bag in case you need to replenish during pit stops.Bring a few favorite toys for the trip to keep your kids entertained, and sneak one or two more in your luggage as back-up.Plot what you and your kids will wear each day on vacation and add two or three extra outfits in case of emergencies (spills, vomiting, etc.). Bag each outfit separately—it’s easier to just yank them out each day.Make sure you bring your own toiletries (toothpaste, shampoo, etc.)—you’ll never know if your destinations’ convenience stores will have the items you need.
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4. “Are We There Yeeeeeeeet?” Getting there is half the fun—or not, if you fail to plan activities during travel time. You’ll really want to get to your destination as fast as you can, lest you bear your kids’ incessant chant of “Are we there yet?” To survive the trip without blowing your top, provide fun activities for the kids, think of games for the whole family, and allow nap times for your kids and your designated driver (take a shift behind the wheel if you drive). Schedule frequent stops at regular intervals, and make sure you set ample time to stretch your muscles at every stop.
5. Turning Off House Rules A family vacation is a welcome break for everyone, but it can become chaotic if your house rules are ignored once you reach your destination. The next thing you know, you’re endlessly nagging, yelling, and calling out every misdeed your tots are doing. You’re stressed out and weary before the vacation has even begun. Before the trip, hold a family meeting to review the house rules: discuss which rules are going to change during the vacation and which ones will remain strictly enforced. Are you going to follow the same lights-out time, or are you going to allow the kids to sleep an hour later? Explain, too, that the same consequences for misbehavior will apply.
6. What First-Aid Kit? Who would want to go on vacation with a sick baby in tow? Worse is having an “out patient” on a trip without any first-aid meds to pull out. It’s not ideal to rush into scheduling an out-of-town vacation when a family member just recuperated from an illness. An appointment with your family doctor is a must before travel. If one family member suddenly falls ill during the vacation, it’s handy to have a first-aid kit around for access to your “usual” meds after a phone-patch consultation with your doctor. Asthma, allergy, and prescription maintenance medications must be in your hand-carry at all times.
7. Getting Lost Bringing the whole family to an entirely new environment requires extra caution. Getting lost is a common scenario, especially if you have very young kids. This can be avoided if you prep your kids by laying out clear rules (“We need to hold hands while walking” or “You need to tell me if you want/need to go somewhere else”), and telling them what to do if they get lost or get separated from the group. Teach your kids whom to approach, and what information to disclose if they get lost. Some families impose a “same colored-outfits/shirts” rule to spot each family member more easily in a crowd. If you have older kids, use the “buddy system” and pair up an older child with a younger one. Also insert an I.D. tag or card in each of your child’s pockets.
8. Tagging Pets Along You trained them and had them vaccinated, and you treat them like family. But pets on vacation may only spell more disaster than fun for your getaway. A lot of holiday establishments and travel hotspots enforce strict rules on animal quarantine, meaning “Bantay” may not even be allowed on the ship or plane. Before embarking on your trip, check if pets are allowed at the places you’re planning to visit and stay in, or if the environment poses risks to your pet. Surely, you don’t want them—or you—stuck on a ferry port or airport looking for a place for your pet to stay because you didn’t know better. Try asking a relative or a neighbor to look after your pet while you’re away.
9. Bringing Work Steer clear of any work-related correspondence and activity when you’re on a family vacation. You simply will not be able to enjoy quality time with your family if you’re constantly checking your mobile for business SMS, answering persistent calls from your office, and visiting the hotel’s business hub in between strolling and swimming. Inform your office beforehand that you will be out of touch while on vacation. Finish all your work deliverables before your trip, and have someone handle your work assignments while you’re away.
10. Playing The Blame Game Even if you feel you’ve drawn the perfect vacation master plan, there’s no full guarantee that everything will go as you intended. Something somewhere can go wrong: delayed flights, lost luggage, stuff left at home, or getting lost on the road with cranky, hungry kids. Your vacation can go from bad to worse once you begin pointing fingers at each other for any reason (“I told you to put it in the hand-carry,” “Why didn’t you download the map?”). Vacations are not the place and time for playing the “blame game” or throwing criticisms at family members. Even after things smoothen out, negative feelings from spats might linger throughout the rest of the trip. Instead, focus your energy on finding a solution. Family vacations won’t be perfect, but they can still be fun and spell precious bonding time with your spouse and kids.