Ah, summer! Vacation time! Sounds wonderful, right? But add a baby or toddler to the equation, and you’ll find yourself needing a vacation from your vacation! How can you minimize the vacation stress? Is it even possible to navigate a family vacation minus meltdowns? Try these tested strategies for keeping the fun in your vacation while keeping the drama out.
- Plan Extra Time. Remember it’s not a race to get to your destination as quickly as possible. Make the car trip as enjoyable as possible by planning extra stops and lots of buffer room into your schedule. Stop and let baby stretch when he’s getting cranky. Make sure she has her blankie Being strapped in a car seat for hours on end isn’t fun for anyone!
- Pack Snacks and Surprises. When my daughter was younger, I made a special trip to the dollar store just to purchase surprise toys for the trip. Magnet dolls, army men, new coloring books, and new games can go a long way to keeping the element of fun in your trip! For babies and toddlers, extra snacks and drinks help them stay occupied and keep away the crankiness, too.
- Focus on Family. Don’t try to fit in adult activities and entertainment with a baby or young children in tow. You’ll be frustrated and so will baby. Find zoos, waterparks, kiddie rides or beaches that allow you to hang out or move at your own pace. Bring along extra baby supplies you will need, like burp cloths, bibs and security blankets. Long lines and rushing from one show to the next will only create frazzled kids and parents all around. Save those for an outing without baby or for when the kids are older.
- Create Adult Time. When we went on vacation with my family recently, we made sure that each parent got a night out by rotating who would stay at the beach house with the kids. This way we adults got time to ourselves and time together without the kids, too. And the kids were not kept out late or made to sit at restaurants beyond their capacity to be still. Everyone wins!
- Stick to Schedules. Everyone knows that vacations are the time to go with the flow and throw out bedtimes and naptimes, right? Wrong! While flexibility is great, kids who stay up late every night after being on the go and in the water all day turn into meltdown monsters! Young children and babies especially need a certain amount of sleep to maintain emotional equilibrium and to stay healthy. Have you ever wondered why we all tend to get sick on or right after vacation? Lack of sleep may be a big factor! So plan fun-filled activities during the day and come back early enough at night to allow the kids to wind down, cuddle with you and their baby blanket and get to bed at a decent time each night. If you have a sitter or are vacationing with another family, you can always rotate nights out as adults (see #4). Also, plan a down-time in the afternoon for at least one nap for the littlest ones. Snuggling with their favorite blanket will also give them a sense of security in a strange place. Everybody will benefit from the opportunity to recharge before going out to play again.
Vacations can be fun, not frenzied. They can bring pleasant memories, not meltdowns. All it takes is a little planning and preparation. Remember that these years with babies and young children will soon be past. We adults will have time to ourselves once again. Until then, let’s maximize the fun for our kids and minimize the frustration on vacations!