22 ways to enjoy vacation with small kids even more

Child eating a donut

Martha's Vineyard with small kidsLet’s face it, once you have children, vacation changes drastically. What was a time of couple fun and relaxation in years gone by, can become hectic and challenging with the addition of little people whose schedule has been thrown out the window.

We by no means have vacation with kids completely figured out (our oldest is 7 and we only have 2, after all), but there are some things that we have done over the last couple years that have made family vacations much more memorable and enjoyable. I thought I would share. Of course, every family is unique and what works for one may not work for the other. Feel free to pick and choose!

Leave plenty of wiggle-room in the schedule. 

We have found that allowing some room in the schedule with kids is a must. Trying to squeeze in too many activities or not having time to just rest makes for a less happy group. Let’s face it, things just take longer when you have kids. Embrace the slower schedule and it will be a blessing.

Plan a picnic at a memorable location. 

We did this for the first time during our recent trip to Martha’s Vineyard and it was so much fun. We packed a picnic lunch and took it to a lighthouse. It was refreshing to eat in the beautiful outdoors while taking in a scenic historic location. Afterwards Brance and I chatted while the girls ran around on the lawn. This simple picnic ended up being one of the highlights from our trip!

Martha's Vineyard CliffsScale back activities. 

Don’t omit activities like a hiking, museums, sight-seeing etc. all together. Just make them kid-friendly. You might not be able to hike for miles or spend hours exploring ancient ruins or wandering through a museum, but you can still enjoy those activities as a family in a different way. Since we aren’t likely to make it very far on a hike, we love to observe birds, plants, and animals, something we often missed before kids. There are advantages to slowing down.

Keep plenty of snacks and water on hand. 

It never fails that one of my kids is hungry between meals. Rather than spending your time looking for snacks or eating meals before the rest of the group is ready, having snacks on hand is a life-saver. We often think of snacks being just for kids, but we grownups benefit as well. Especially if we have healthy snack options that keep us from buying yet another ice-cream cone. Water goes without saying.

Include the kids in some of the decision-making. 

Our kids’ eyes light up any time we give them several options for the next activity or restaurant. Kids enjoy their vacation more and are more pleasant if they have a voice. Letting them choose some of the activities will make the vacation more fun for everyone. In fact, my daughter told me this was, by far, my best tip ;).

Spell each other. 

If hiring help is not an option for you or something you are interested in, giving each other time off is wonderful. For us it is a must. Brance usually takes his time early in the morning. He’ll get up before the rest of us, dress, and then spend time reading in the hotel lobby or restaurant or exploring something close to the hotel. I work mine in later in the day. If you have younger kids, nap times are a great time for one of you to get some much needed alone time.

Bring something for them to do. 

Bring coloring books, notebooks, matchbox cars, dolls, an Etch A Sketch, or whatever your kids are into. It’s so helpful. We always have something to occupy our kids while traveling – whether on a plane, in the car, or in a hotel room. We try and fit it into one small bag that we can easily keep up with. And I  oversee what goes in the bag. The few times they have been allowed to pack their own bag have resulted in us lugging randomness (bits of string, broken pencils, filled notebooks etc.)

Child eating a donutChoose kid-friendly activities and restaurants. 

While certain activities can be scaled back and enjoyed with children, others probably should be avoided all together. While Brance and I would love to take in the late-night music scenes in every city we visit, we know that we wouldn’t enjoy it one bit with tired kids and then the next day we would be one grumpy, sleep deprived family. So when family vacationing we omit. Also, we try and pick restaurants where we can relax and kids can be kids (within reason :). Continue reading