By Diane Gottsman
Traveling with cranky toddlers, grumpy teens and impatient dads is challenging, at best. Throw a family pet into the mix and you have a recipe for disaster. Unless, of course, there is a little planning by a vacation-savvy mom beforehand.
- Consider the entire family when choosing the destination. Relaxing next to a quiet river on the bank of an isolated campsite may be your idea of heaven but the kids will be bored after a few hours (if they last that long). Children and teens like action, so perhaps the river can be located close to a theme park, a movie theater and a golf course for dad. Involve your kids in the planning process.
- Discuss finances and stick to a budget. Younger children will not understand, nor care, about how much slushies and water rides cost, but older children will understand that "each child is allowed one souvenir" while the rest of the money will be spent on food and activities. Make a budget with your children and stick to it as closely as possible.
- Don't over schedule the day. If you are an early riser and want to get a jump on the day, consider a restful breakfast, solo, while dad sleeps in with the kids. Plan around naptime and potential "melt down" hours.
- Have snacks ready. Whether you are traveling by plane, bus or car, having an energy booster ready and available may be the difference between a happy child and a tantrum in front of fellow passengers.
- Give kids plenty of space. When traveling with a teenager, or multiple teens, giving them a separate room, attached to your room, is often a good call. Teens enjoy their privacy and will appreciate their own space. Younger children are better travelers when they are rested and have their own bed to sleep on. Sleeping on the floor should be a last resort.
- Consider traveling with another couple. Although this idea has potential for conflict, it can also turn out to be a positive experience when planned with care. Adults can enjoy "adult time" while the kids entertain each other. Just make sure each family has the same idea of fun in mind.
- Be flexible. If your child has met his candy quota for the week but a yummy dessert is being offered on the menu, this may be an appropriate time to "lighten up" on the rules.
And speaking of eating, remember to discuss restaurant manners with your children in advance. Try several test runs at home (and keep it up after the vacation is over).
- Place your napkin on your lap.
- Keep your hands in your lap while waiting to order (this keeps busy hands away from sugar packets, salt and pepper shakers and utensils).
- Don't run around the restaurant or wander to other tables while waiting for your food.
- If you drop a utensil, leave it on the floor and ask the server for another one.
- Take one piece of bread at a time from the community breadbasket, and touch only the piece you are going to eat.
- Don't interrupt adult conversation.
- Thank your mom and dad, or host, after the meal is over.
See also: Travel and Vacations