5 Travel Tips to Make Your Next Family Vacation More Relaxing
Photo: Chovee / Creative Commons
Who hasn't arrived back home after a family vacation and thought, "Man, I need a vacation!" It happens to the best of us. We spend all this time and effort planning a family vacation that's supposed to be relaxing, but let's face it: traveling with kids can be stressful, no matter how prepared you are.
Here are the five things I learned on my last trip to practice the next time we hit the road with our little bambina.
1. Keep a Detailed Packing List
I recommend keeping a packing list of essential items to check off as you pack them. Each time I prepare for a trip, I search my computer for a very well-used Word document titled "packing list" that I can print out so that I don't forget things as basic as underpants and a toothbrush.
I have literally every single item we need on this list, down to my car keys and driver's license. I couldn't keep my head on straight otherwise. Without my list, we would embark on an ill-fated disaster of a trip where we arrive at our location half-starved in dirty clothes. I kid. Sort of.
2. Don't Sweat the Packing
Obsessive list-checking aside, remember that as long as your trip doesn't involve some outback wilderness, you can probably buy whatever you forget on the road or once you reach your destination.
While I do keep that detailed packing list, I don't drive myself crazy wondering whether we need an extra pack of diapers or another box of crackers. If we need more, we can buy some.
3. Keep a Flexible Schedule
On our last trip, the sun wanted to set right in our daughter's face as we were trying to get her to sleep. We had a night of an epic bedtime struggle, and we felt pretty bad about it since her room was lit up brighter than the Vegas strip.
I'm fanatical on preserving the bedtime schedule, but since it was impossible to change the sun's routine, I had to let it go and change our daughter's bedtime instead. She was happy to have an extra hour to socialize and we all got to sleep later in the morning.
I also needed to loosen my knickers when it came to daily plans. We had the experience where the meteorologists didn't get anything right. If we'd laid out our plans day-by-day based on the predictions, we would have been stymied. Instead, we looked out the window and acted on a whim each day.
Plan loosely and it's much easier to see rain as an opportunity to go out to lunch or visit the shops instead of viewing a storm as spoiling plans for a beach day.
4. Spend Some Time Apart
To really and truly enjoy the relaxation factor of a vacation, build a little bit of alone time into the trip.
It's a given that family vacations will present many opportunities for together time. You're usually staying in more cramped quarters than you're used to, for one thing, which can shorten the fuse of a saint. If you get to spend a little time by yourself to decompress, the temptation to bicker gets replaced with wanting to share what you saw while you were apart.
My husband and I each took some time to go out for a daily jog on our last trip. It was wonderful to have time to myself while I explored and reflected. I actually felt recharged and refreshed after this trip and have been inspired to keep up the jogging habit now that I'm back home again.
5. Let Your Child Experience Something New
This was an easy one for us, as our daughter is 14 months and hasn't experienced a whole lot. It was really fun to see her enjoying the beach and the ocean.
Of course, having our toddler on the beach wasn't terribly relaxing for me in the moment, between keeping sand out of her mouth and preventing her from crawling headfirst into the waves. However, she was having a fabulous time. It was worth the stress for me to see her experience so much joy, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
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