According to an informal survey organized by the U.S. Tour Operator Association (USTOA), when planning family trips, the biggest challenge is creating an experience that appeals to everyone. As families look for more ways to spend quality time together, family travel is on the rise. Consequently, tour operators are capitalizing on this trend by increasingly developing special itineraries suited to kids and adults.
To help pave the path to a successful family trip, the experts at USTOA have created a “10 commandments” list for parents.
1. Keep expectations realistic
Knowing that traveling with your children won’t necessarily be the same romp you took during your single days, for example, will help keep everybody’s expectations in check.
2. Select the destination wisely
Try to interest children in the destination before leaving on vacation, advises Tauck World Discovery. Use interesting books, fun movies or stories about the destination to generate interest with young family members.
3. Keep kids involved
Get everyone to participate in selecting the destination and activities, advises Abercrombie & Kent, Inc. When children (especially teens) have a choice, they feel more invested in the trip.
4. Stay aware of your family’s needs
Uniworld says parents should know whether their children will respond well to specific kinds of travel, such as a river cruise, while Collette Vacations suggests parents remember that escorted tours are usually best for adults.
5. Pack lightly
The less you carry, the less likely you are to lose the items most important to your children. Plus all that extra room leaves more space for souvenir and gift shopping.
6. Understand children’s limitations
It is important to be flexible. Parents shouldn’t feel compelled to do everything on an itinerary if their kids need more leisure time than others. Parents need to make sure there is enough down time for kids to rest and recharge. Goway Travel suggests scheduling time so kids can laze on the beach or visit a park or zoo.
7. Keep children occupied
Take a DVD player with the kids’ favorite movies — great for plane rides or for relaxation after a day out. Give kids a daily allowance so they know what they can spend, and provide them with a journal and a camera so that they can record the vacation. Keep snacks and games on hand for motorcoach rides and for travel in foreign countries.
8. Do not leave children unattended
Always be sure that your children are attended by a trusted family member or by a childcare professional.
9. Let children know that behavior counts
Be sure children understand that it is important to be polite and respectful when traveling with other people.
10. Consider scheduling pre-nights
When traveling long distances, pre-nights are recommended — especially for families with younger kids. Additional nights will help acclimate kids to a new time zone and will get them into a more normal routine.
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The USTOA is a national organization of whole tour operators in the U.S.. Trekaroo – a reviews site dedicated to exploring and traveling with kids.