Five Tips for the Perfect Family Vacation
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Meet the challenge head-on with advice for the planning stages
Summer is approaching, and with it comes breaks from school and gloriously warm weather. It’s also the time of year Solo Moms everywhere are both excited for and dreading; child-care prices seem to skyrocket the second school ends, and kids are perpetually bored whenever you ask them a question.
Pinterest activities and summer schedules can be fun to plan, but by week three, everyone wants a vacation. Although it’s not always possible to go away or plan an extravagant summer adventure, there are other options for Solo Moms and their families. Some go on road trips to see grandparents or family members, while others declare a one-week staycation to explore their hometown.
However you decide to spend your summer, here are a few things to consider when planning a vacation with children:
1. Plan ahead. If your children are anything like mine, they must know the plan right now, including when we are going to arrive somewhere, how long we’re staying, and what comes next. We’re working on this, but as we do so, I try to give them enough information to keep them happy without divulging everything. When we talk about vacation, we’ll talk about the things we want to do and the things we may do. Each person can pick something he or she wants to research and explore.
It’s not always feasible to do those things, but it gives the kids an opportunity to plan out an event or activity. It’s also never fun to be in a hotel room with children looking up things to do on an unreliable Internet connection.
Here are some of my favorite things to look for:
- Zoos (especially if you have a membership at home that has reciprocity in other places)
- Playgrounds and parks
- Children’s museums, or regular museums that have exhibits that interest children
- Splash parks and swimming pools
- Amusement parks that have deals on admission
2. Choose your hotel wisely. It’s hard to spend money on a hotel room that you’re just going to sleep in, but when it comes to a vacation with children, you are going to want a nice place. I like big rooms or suites—somewhere with enough room for everyone. A pullout couch is nice if you have more than two kids, and having room for a Pack ’n Play is a plus if you have littles. Free breakfast is one of those amenities I search for, specifically for family vacations. And, when you are traveling with kids, hotels with pools are the best thing ever. You can tire them out and use it for a few minutes of relaxation while they are entertained or for a change of scenery.
3. Not everything needs to be for kids. When our family went to Las Vegas for our last vacation, people thought I was crazy: “What is there for kids to do in Las Vegas?” But a vacation isn’t just for the kids, so not everything you plan needs to be tailored to children. I’m not going to make reservations at a five-star, fine-dining facility with my three kids, but it doesn’t have to be all cartoons and fast food, either. You can do things that may not directly appeal to children but that they can enjoy and learn to appreciate. It’s important for them to realize it’s not always about them, but try not to push them too hard toward things in which they aren’t at all interested. It’s a balancing act, but it’s also your vacation, so be sure to choose something you want to do!
4. Plan food choices in advance. Restaurant eating is not for the faint of heart, and children of all ages can make this exceptionally difficult and pricey. Family-friendly restaurants are the best places to start, especially if they have any “Kids eat free” deals. If eating out isn’t going to work because the kids are too tired, young, or hungry to wait, consider getting takeout and having a picnic at the hotel. The lobby may have some tables, or you might find a spot out by the pool. You could even have a picnic on the floor of the hotel room and watch a movie. Food is fuel and it’s important, but it shouldn’t be stressful or expensive. Packing some snacks and drinks will also be beneficial for those “I’m hungry” moments.
5. Vacation with the nanny. To really make the family vacation successful, consider bringing all family members, including your au pair or nanny. On the one hand, it gives you an opportunity to explore without taking the kids everywhere. On the other hand, it provides the children with the familiar structure of their day-to-day lives at home. It may not be feasible or affordable to bring along your au pair or nanny, but if you can or if you are able to secure some other child care while you are there, you may find you enjoy the vacation more.
Sticking with something simple and similar to your family’s regular routines will help make your next vacation unforgettable—in a good way.Did you know that we have local groups on Facebook? For example, search single moms in New York City, Atlanta, and many other cities to find Solo Moms nearby. Contact us to let us know if you can’t find a local group in your area.
Rebecca Alwine is a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. Her writing experience includes military-family topics, research pieces, guest blogging, and much more. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY magazine and a regular contributor to several online publications, including the Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, and ESME. She also has been published in Ms. magazine and the Atlantic. You can follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com and on Twitter and Instagram.