It takes a special person to travel with kids – a parent. Children have their own needs. Their idea of a vacation is more "adventurous" than a parent's. They need constant stimulation and they can get as tired as they are tiring.
There are many top ten type lists of tips for traveling with children: how to ensure they eat well and drink enough, how to dress them for weather variances, how to provide the stimulation they need, how to make sure they don't drive off with the family car and leave you stranded in the Mojave Desert, etc.
This list is how to travel in comfort – without tying the children to the roof rack -- which hopefully will reduce your stress.
Make sure you have plenty of room while traveling.
This is easier said than done. On a plane, everybody is cramped. On a train, everybody is cramped, although a little less so. On a bicycle... don't even try it.
If you are driving, get a mini-van. Sure, you might be more of a "car" type, and you might have resisted buying a mini-van so far. But pick up a rental van for the vacation just to give the kids a little more room for fighting. (Make sure it has a roof rack, just in case.)
Reality check: Cram enough people into a tiny space and watch everybody get stressed and enraged. See my humorous but true article on hippo rage: http://www.thehappyguy.com/hippo-rage.html .
Accommodations along the way can be tricky. Usually it involves a cramped motel for just long enough to sleep, then back in the cramped car (or somewhat cramped mini-van). This is not anybody's idea of a home away from home.
An accommodation alternative is to camp. When not sleeping, you have all the space in the world (unless you have to huddle under the tarp while the storm passes through). I love camping, but not everyone enjoys a good early morning wake-up wrestle with a grizzly as much as I do, so a motel might be required.
Make sure you have plenty of room when you "get there".
My childhood vacations, often involved wandering around lost. Assuming you are actually heading for a destination, make sure to have lots of room when you get there. This part is easy. But it requires thinking outside the box. Forget hotels, motels, and inns. Look for private rental homes.
Probably the biggest destination for families is Walt Disney World in Florida. Good news – Orlando, Kissimmee and the surrounding area is just teeming with private vacation homes for rent. In Florida they call them vacation villas, and they offer all the space of home (without having to fix a leaky sink or oil the door hinges or mow the lawn.) Here are some examples of vacation home rentals in the Disney area: http://www.lastminutevillas.net/Disney-vacation.html.
Sharon Baillie is a private villa owner in the Kissimmee area outside Orlando, just a few miles from Disney World. "Our guests enjoy the spaciousness of our 6-bedroom home ( http://www.lastminutevillas.net/new5beda1pg1.html ). They love the private pool and the private yard in which they can relax," she says. "Parents love the space for children to run around outside, and we leave a box of toys in the garage. So while the parents rest, the children play – and let their parents rest!"
Be prepared for "children being children" events.
Sometimes, stress hits you from behind when the unexpected happens. Like a cut or a scrape ... or a child getting sick. Sharon Baillie told me that is why she tells all her villa rental guests where the first aid kit can be found, and exactly where to go for medical attention. This is particularly helpful for her many guests from abroad who are unfamiliar with the US healthcare system.
She also makes sure her guests are informed about local pollen and viruses in Florida, so that parents can be prepared. Stress is so much more enjoyable when you are prepared for it, don't you think?
Booking tickets to theme parks and making reservations for just about everything in advance, makes the trip less stressful. There is little more difficult than managing young children while trying to get into a theme park or show that requires prior booking.
And to prevent wandering around lost, pick up a AAA Triptik in advance – not that it ever helped us.
Try having your children baby-sat. This might mean bringing along a nanny, such as a grand parent (It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.). The car might be more crowded, but if you've rented a spacious home for the week, it could just be doable. The other option is to hire a local baby-sitter once or twice. Vacation Home owners can set this up for you, and some hotels might be willing to, too.
When you are single, you can go on adventure vacations. When you are a parent, you get vacation adventures. Here are three of mine: http://www.thehappyguy.com/family-vacation-adventure.html
So there you have it. Three ways to reduce the stress of traveling with kids, so you can actually relax on vacation. After all, isn't that what vacations are supposed to be about?
David Leonhardt is a freelance writer, and an online and offline publicity specialist. Contact him at:
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