Taking kids along with you on vacation makes the whole thing a completely different ‘animal’ than traveling solo, or as a couple. So here’s some essential tips for family vacations you ought to seriously consider.
1 Pack Uber Light
We all tend to pack way more than we need. Multiply that by how many of you are traveling, and imagine lugging all that gear thru airports, on/off trains & busses, and consider scaling waaaaay down. You can create your own Packing Lists.
2 Avoid Hotels
Big families usually require renting several rooms so the price of staying at hotels quickly sky-rockets. Choose to rent an apartment or condo, or even an entire house. We rented a 6 bedroom house (with swimming pool) in vacation-land Ontario early summer for 2 weeks for less than a week would have cost us in a hotel. We had way more space, privacy, a full kitchen, washer/dryer and so much more.
3 Stay in Central Locations
This is ideal for close proximity to most of what you want to explore, and keeps you close to your accommodations if you forget something. Or to accommodate nap times in a quiet, relaxing place rather than in back-carriers and strollers.
4 Buy Groceries
We always travel with food, and have foodstuffs particularly for starting the day (i.e. fruits, nuts & seeds). Family members wake up at all different times and don’t have to wait for everybody else to get-at-em before they find some nourishment. It’s cheaper than eating out for breakfast, and healthier than what you find with most hotel’s Continental Breakfasts.
5 Walk Everywhere
Walking gives you the best street view of the city you’ve come to explore. Sure you’ll cover less ground but you’ll see things more intimately. You’ll find a whole lot more nooks and crannies to explore when you’re out walking than when driving. When a storefront entices you, go on in!
You’ll be close to mass transit too, so take advantage of that also. It just wouldn’t be the same exploring the city without using the London Underground at least at some point!
Second best to walking everywhere is renting bicycles. Of course that isn’t easily manageable for a large family, but could be an option for smaller families.
6 Take a Break
One of the simple but most important essential tips for family vacations is to build breaks into the day. Its hard work walking around visiting historical sites, waiting in lineups, and looking at art. Kids get tired and bored, and just imagine the workout those little legs have had!!
Give them a much earned break…with a treat!! Whatever a “treat” looks like to your family, go get one! It’ll return some energy and smiles to your kids faces (and their little hearts).
Its also helpful to take a longer break in the afternoons. Maybe take a nap! (Remember, that’s why you want central accommodations!) Its a good time to be out of the heat of the sun, recoup and refresh before heading out in the coolness of the evening for some more sightseeing and eats.
7 Learn Some Basic Phrases
If you’re traveling to a country with a different spoken language, prepare before you go. Have all the (speaking) kids and yourselves learn at least some basic phrases in the language. It’s handy to have, yes, but it also impresses the host country that at least you’re attempting to connect with them.
8 Avoid Tourist Traps
For the most part, stay out of the touristy parts with their expensive, bad quality merchandise. There are exceptions though, when you want to see historical sights, like the Grand Canyon or want to experience High Tea at the Empress Hotel. Our daughter just returned from her honeymoon in New York City and absolutely hated Times Square with all the hustle-bustle-body-crammed crowd. But yet, to experience it just once!!
9 Inquire of Locals
We always travel with guidebooks and usually do research before hand on the internet. But there’s nothing quite like asking the locals for recommendations. They can tell you where to find the best micro-brews, the largest selection of ice cream, the largest waterslides. They’ll tell you the little gems where the locals go. That’s the real heart of the city!
10 Don’t Cram the Itinerary
Just like the temptation to cram more stuff into your luggage, resist the temptation to cram too many things in your days, and too many cities in your week. Devoting 1 or 2 days to a city is like giving 5 minutes to your lover! DON’T.
At least 4 to 5 days, if not a whole week, is a great pace. You won’t have to rush through the major attractions, and you’ll be able to enjoy a good sampling of what the city has to offer without running around like a mad person. Take things slow and steady, and enjoy the intimacy.
11 Wars, Explosions, Murders, Ghost Stories
If you’re at all a storytelling kind of person, this essential tips for family vacations might be one of your favourites!!
Traveling is a great way to make history, cultures & sociology come to life…a perk of world schooling. But as interesting as it might be to us, it isn’t necessarily mind-grabbing to our kids. So do some of your own research before the trip to find fascinating tidbits of information to share with your kids to help keep them engaged. Maybe its time to tap into your imagination and take liberties to exaggerate events!
12 Life Happens
One of the biggest lessons in our years of traveling with our family is…life happens. It doesn’t always go as we planned. We’ve found, though, that we enjoy our life more the less attached we are to the outcome. So when we leave a suitcase in a hotel, or we find the day’s attraction Closed, or we misunderstood the directions and got lost…its all okay. Smile at the situation, accept how things are, and move on. What’s the next adventure?now, I know. Its a heck of a lot easier to vacation without your bambinos. But there’s nothing like it, either. To see the world through a youngsters eyes is so much more…innocent, pure, unadulterated.
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We've traveled 250,000kms+ in 10 years with our 9 kids... and lived to tell about it!
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