Family holidays are among my favourite childhood memories. Whether it was at the beach house during a family reunion or staying in a holiday home in the mountains, I really enjoyed that precious bonding time with family and I gained so much from the experiences we shared together. It felt like such a carefree time, focused only on enjoying each other’s company and exploring our new surroundings.
When I became an adult with a family of my own, however, I gained a whole new perspective about family vacations: they were not always easy. In fact, sometimes I wondered if all the effort of going on holiday was worth it!
As a kid I used to think being in the back seat of the car for a few hours was a pain… but I realised that choosing a place to go, navigating, divvying out pre-packed snacks, taking emergency bathroom breaks en route, and putting kids to sleep in new beds was much, much harder.
After going on more mini and longer holidays though (we have family abroad so often spend a few weeks away at a time), I have learned a lot from our experiences traveling together and there are several strategies that have helped me have more enjoyable family holidays. With an open mind, a bit of preparation, and a little tweaking of perspective, I have found that family holidays are definitely worth the effort. We have made beautiful memories and the kids get so much out of our time together.
Here are my five tips to have more enjoyable family holidays with young children:
Find the right accommodation.
Over the past couple years – besides international travel to see family members where we generally stay with family members or in hotels – our family has done a bit of camping because it is cheap and the kids were at an age when we felt it was do-able. However with a new baby on the way, we have been thinking that we should probably look for more traditional accommodation when we travel, like a holiday home.
I was excited to learn about Stayz which provides a home-away-from-home experience in some of Australia’s best destination points. Stayz is Australia’s #1 holiday rental website with over 40,000 properties nationwide, and offers a huge range of options for different sizes of groups and a variety of budgets. I’m looking forward to utilising this site as we plan our holidays as a family of five! You can search by location, date, number of guests, and price to make finding a property super easy.
One awesome thing about Stayz is the number of photos they offer on each property so you can really get an idea of where you will be staying. Here’s one gorgeous complex I would love to stay in – wouldn’t a holiday here be amazing?!
Take things to help you “feel at home.”
According to a Stayz survey you may have participated in via my Facebook page last week, there are many different types of items that people bring to “feel at home” while on vacation. Popular items for Australians include: a toilet seat, vegemite, and even salt and pepper shakers. Other unusual home comfort items include a food processor, a bread maker and a coffee machine.
Personally we take our own snacks and water bottles (because I cannot always be sure the kids will eat the food available at new destinations), plus I always make sure to pack our kids’ sleeping toys as well. I will also bring the boys’ flashlights as they usually keep them at their bedside and this helps them feel more secure going to sleep in the dark.
Prepare your children for the trip.
Explain the schedule for your holiday: how long it will take to get there, how you will get there, how many nights you will sleep there, and what you will do during the daytime. Show pictures of where you will stay and other places you will go, if possible. Ask the kids if they have any questions, and what they are looking forward to on the trip.
Young children especially benefit from previewing new experiences before they happen, and I am often surprised what is most exciting for my kids about upcoming vacations. Taking the time to prepare them mentally makes a big difference for our family trips going more smoothly, because the kids feel like they are a part of the whole thing and not just being dragged along.
Plan a daily schedule that everyone can enjoy.
You may not be able to do everything you want to do, nor will your kids. So try to find a happy compromise where everyone feels satisfied and also respects other peoples’ preferences.
On our vacation days we usually have a family discussion over breakfast where everyone shares one thing they want to do that day and then we try to put it in the schedule. Usually it works out so we can all do what we want to do. Here’s a typical example: daddy wants to take a walk to the waterfall, my older son wants to have a certain book read to him, my younger son wants to go out for ice-cream, and I want to take a half-hour family photo-shoot in that gorgeous field nearby. Setting out the “hopes” at the beginning of the day generally allows us to fit everything in, or at least make a plan to do those things in the upcoming days. Respecting the kids’ desires for their holiday is a big part of why our days usually go smoothly… when we allow them to be part of the decision making, they are usually much more accommodating for participating in the activities that the adults want to do, as well.
Relax and let go of expectation.
There may be tears. There may be hiccups. There may be skipped naps or unexpected injuries. But isn’t that a part of life? Just because you go away doesn’t mean you and the kids can leave all the regular parts of family life behind. Kids will still push your buttons whether you are home or in a mansion far, far away.
So let go of any expectations of what the “perfect holiday” might look like in your imagination, and embrace the reality of what your family holiday turns out to be. Often the kids will only remember their favourite parts, so don’t worry about the parts that don’t go as well as you would have liked! Take more time than usual to watch the kids enjoy the pool or play in the sand. They will not be this little forever. Enjoy the moment, forget about cleaning the house for a while, and let yourself and your family have an enjoyable time making memories together.
What are your tips for making family holidays with young children more enjoyable?
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