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Growing up, air travel wasn’t on my radar. A family vacation meant camping trips close to home. We took the occasional longer trip across our state during the summer but ever would I have thought that traveling far and wide would be a possibility for my own family. I’m not sure I ever thought that international trips, road trips that crossed several state lines or even travel by plane would ever become within reach!
Which led me to think…family travel might not be a natural/in-the-comfort zone experience for others. The idea of exploring somewhere new with unknown roads, unfamiliar terrain, and unfamiliar experiences might cause too many stomach flips to even consider.
I’m here to say if you longingly scroll through Instagram and feel conflicted between wanting to see and experience the epic places in our world and the fear of leaving your comfort zone there’s a path for you. We have the family vacation tips you need.
Take a deep breath and get ready to let go of expectations. Ready? Repeat after me: planning a family vacation does not need to be a stressful activity.
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First Family Vacation Tips
1. Start close to home
The idea that all amazing experiences must happen far from home is a fallacy. Pick somewhere near home. A place, for example, that you like to visit for the day. Maybe it’s a town a little closer to the beach, a favorite amusement park, or the neighborhood where your favorite bakery is located. Pick a spot that’s not close enough that you won’t be worried about how your kids will do on the car ride. Pick a spot that makes your life sound a bit easier. Think how nice it would be to not fight traffic after a long day at the baseball stadium!
We’ve had lots of incredible getaways and made irreplaceable family memories within an hour of the towns we’ve called home. There’s a reason why the word “staycation” came to be. Close trips tend to be stress-free, do-able options for families.
2. Start with one or two nights
Remember, this trip is all about testing the waters. Packing for one night is much simpler than a week. For a one-night stay, you can pack pajamas, one day of clothes, toothbrushes, and for the most part, leave the extras behind. Showering when you get home is an option on this kind of a short trip and could be a blessing in disguise for those who encounter bath-time battles.
One consideration when deciding on one night or two – many people find the first night of sleep in a new place to be an adjustment, while the second night goes much more smoothly. If this sounds like your family, two nights might be the perfect first trip.
The only other exception to choosing one night would be if you are tent camping. I’ve found tent camping for one night to be a lot of work. So, if camping is the best first step for your family, two nights will be much less stressful, even if it’s more of a time commitment.
First night in a hotel? Check out these proven ways to get a better night’s sleep in hotel rooms.
3. Start with a minimal financial risk
Photo by: Flickr/glenbledsoe
Here’s the rub. You are more likely to put pressure on yourself and your kids to have “the perfect vacation” if you spend a lot of money crafting a trip. Why add that kind of stress to an experience that’s already out-of-the-ordinary? This is all about baby steps. Start well within your budget. You can still have a clean, comfortable experience without booking the most expensive luxury resort. (Unless, of course, a luxury resort would actually make this trip easier for you. In which case, enjoy!) Maybe your BFF has a guest room and has been begging you to come visit. Or there’s camping gear piling up under a mound of dust in the garage. Perhaps you’ve heard about discount booking sites, but haven’t given them a whirl. Just like you’d search Groupon or Costco for cheaper tickets for day trips, there are ways to save money on overnights.
4. Start with familiar food
This is a two-fer. Starting with food kids (and you) find typical will make the kids more likely to eat, which means no one will get hangry. Also, starting with typical foods can be cheaper. Bring along an ice chest with favorite snack items, things that are healthy, but also are sure-fire winners for your family. If you are staying somewhere with access to a microwave, bring along a few favorite easy-to-prepare items as well. While I’m usually a fan of seeking out local cuisine, if the unfamiliarity makes you or your kids’ nervous, then stick to restaurants you know and love* or search Trekaroo for options in the area that have been voted by parents to be kid-friendly winners. Set yourself up for success.
*The only exception to this would be local ice cream. Always stop for local ice cream. 😉
5. Start with familiar comforts
Bring what will make you comfortable and happy. For your kiddo, that might mean a favorite lovey and blanket. It might mean a serving of your favorite coffee in your favorite mug for you. This next tip is going to sound super cheesy, but I don’t care. Wear the clothes that you all feel good and confident in. If your kiddo’s face lights up when she puts on her favorite character shirt, let her wear it proudly. If you have one outfit that makes you feel like you are Beyoncé or Lin-Manuel Miranda, that’s the outfit to bring. When we feel comfortable and confident, we are more likely to take on challenges in other areas of our lives…like traveling and experiencing new things with our kids.
Start by remembering that everyone else at the hotel, everyone else at the theme park, everyone else at the lake, and everyone else in the big city was once a first-timer too. Once you say yes to that first trip, who knows what amazing Instagram-able experiences you’ll reach for next.
If you are looking for more family vacation tips, look no further than Trekaroo. We have the guides and tips for every trip you could dream up.