His little body crumples to the floor in the middle of the store. I watch as he sucks air into his tiny lungs, seconds away from unleashing his siren wails on every customer’s ears. As my own face flushes and everyone’s eyes turn, my voices drops to a whispered yell where every word is it’s own sentence….Don’t. You. Dare. Ruin. This. Vacation!
Kids plus vacations can be a real disaster but after lots and lots of practice, I’ve come to realize that some of these meltdowns can be avoided. No trip is going to go perfectly, especially if it involves tiny humans with minds of their own, but you can put a few things in place to help avoid some of the biggest travel pitfalls for families.
5 Big Travel Mistakes Parents Make
1. Not Enough Sleep
Sleep is sacred in our house. I’ve seen how much a lack of sleep impacts my kids so even if we’re on vacation, getting enough rest is crucial to avoiding meltdowns, arguing, whining, and even sickness. Yes, we do relax our schedule and flex bedtime a bit on vacation, but only in moderation if we don’t want a week of grumpy children.
How to Avoid: Build in down-time to make up for missing sleep. That might mean a late night followed by a rest time the next day and no more than 1-2 nights of late bedtimes or early mornings without a recovery day. Here are my best tips for getting kids to sleep in a hotel.
2. No Play Time
I’ve got two active boys and if I don’t make some time for them to get their energy out appropriately, they’ll find their own creative (and by that I mean disruptive) ways. Kids need time and freedom to move, especially if they are working hard to practice self-control for long stretches (like airplanes, museums, or long car rides).
How to Avoid: Look for parks, playgrounds, or even a set of stairs where they can run, jump, climb, and let loose. Build in some playtime each day at places where it’s ok for kids to be active.
3. Assuming Kids Know What to Expect
When I assume my kids know how to behave or what to expect, and then they meltdown in a new situation, I’m caught off guard. My kids don’t have the life experience to always know what the expectations are or how to handle some many new stimuli.
How to Avoid: It’s my job to prepare them and talk through their feelings. Explicitly teach or model what behavior you’d like to see and praise them when you do see it. Be patient and readjust your expectations if they’re not developmentally appropriate.
4. Too Many Unfamiliar Foods
My kids are slowly becoming more adventurous eaters and love trying new things when we travel, but they have their limits, especially if they’re grumpy. Tummies also tend to get upset with all the new foods or treats and that can lead to a long night or a day stuck in the hotel.
How to Avoid: Pack or pick up familiar snacks so that kids have some comforting options. A pizza night (universal kids food) is always helpful and usually pretty easy to find no matter where you travel. Some yogurt can also settle little stomachs who are trying new foods or off their regular eating schedule.
5. Not Planning For Vacation Re-entry
Coming home from vacation is hard on everybody. I never look forward to getting back into the routine or tackling all the tasks that have piled up, and kids feel the same way. I tend to focus all my energy on planning the trip and forget to make a plan to return home. Don’t assume your kids can just jump back into the regular routine without some transition time.
How to Avoid: Make a simple plan for the day you arrive home. Have a meal plan and some downtime scheduled to let everyone adjust. Talk with your kids about your own challenges of getting back in the grove so they know it’s normal to feel a little off. And go to bed early! Everyone does better with a little more rest.
Will it Always Go Perfectly?
No, because kids are kids! And I’m never going to be a perfect parent but I can be intentional in making sure I’m aware of the triggers that might lead to meltdowns and doing my best to avoid them. Parenting is always a work in process, even when you’re on vacation.
So, with some good planning and thoughtful parenting, you should have a few less reasons to Raise. Your. Voice!
What’s been your biggest mistake on a family vacation? How to you avoid the meltdowns? Leave a comment with your best advice!
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