Ways to keep your travels happy
Once you arrive at your destination, shift your focus to enjoying your time together as a family. Chung offers a few tips to help you truly relax and avoid any travel-related meltdowns.
Ease the jet lag transition
So you’ve just traveled a few time zones away and now your kid is suddenly waking up at 2 a.m. Great.
To ward off — or at least minimize — jet lag, try to avoid daytime napping and encourage your family to go to bed at the appropriate local time. Don’t let your teens have caffeine either, Chung says, as this can interfere with their sleep.
For younger kids, try to mirror their bedtime routine at home to give them familiar sleep time cues. It can help to bring favorite stuffed animals and blankets, too.
Bring strollers or carriers
It might seem like a lot of gear to haul around, but a lightweight stroller or backpack carrier is a safety essential for families with young children, Chung says.
“Young children and toddlers might dart out into a busy street,” she explains. “And when parents are traveling around, they’re often distracted or looking up and not down at their children to see if they wander off.”
Keeping little ones secure in a stroller or backpack carrier is also helpful when you plan on walking a lot. Your kids can rest their tired feet, and you won’t have to worry about them being able to keep up.
Build downtime into your schedule
Speaking of rest, it’s crucial to schedule naps and relaxation time into your vacation itinerary every day, Chung says.
“Youth need a little private time,” she notes. “Teens, especially, need time to go back to their room and catch up on social media or have some alone time.”
This can be an hour or two for your littlest ones to nap or simply a short break in your hotel room after lunch. Either way, use it as an opportunity for your entire family to recharge before the second part of the day.
Keep healthy snacks and water on hand
Ice cream as a special treat is awesome. Ice cream all day, every day? Not so much.
“It’s really important to bring snacks,” Chung says. “And just like you and I wouldn’t be very happy if we were having a lot of junk food, you want to offer healthy snacks that your kids will actually enjoy.”
Think popcorn, pretzels or portable fruit like grapes or blueberries. On a similar note, be sure to keep a water bottle on hand that you can refill throughout your day so your kids can stay hydrated.
Pack an emergency kit
Kid or adult, an unexpected illness or allergic reaction can put a damper on anyone’s vacation.
Plan for the worst-case scenario, Chung says, and stock common medications and gear in an emergency kit. She suggests including items like hand wipes, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, first aid supplies and over-the-counter medicine for pain, allergies and upset stomachs.
“For parents of toddlers, the other thing to keep in mind is that they’re constantly touching things,” Chung adds. “It’s just a good idea to have wipes and hand sanitizer available in your kit so you can clean their hands periodically.”
Try to minimize stress
Chung’s final tip might seem easier said than done, but it’s important to keep stress levels — both yours and your kids’ — in mind when traveling.
“When they’re outside of their routine, kids — like adults — are going to feel more stressed,” Chung says. “They’re going to need support from you.”
Keep your travel goal all about enjoying time with your family and exploring your destination together. Don’t worry so much about ticking things off an itinerary. Instead, embrace the quiet moments together and the experience.
After all, isn’t that what a family vacation is all about?