The beautiful Many Glacier Hotel, Many Glacier, Glacier National Park with family, Montana
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7 Easy Tips for How to Enjoy Your Family Vacation with Young Kids!

Traveling has always been one of my favorite things to do. Since we’ve decided to have kids, I knew I needed to find a way to continue traveling and not put this passion of mine on hold for six or seven years. Plus, I wanted my kids to share in this with me and get to experience the world like I have. So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I can enjoy my family vacation when traveling with little kids. I wanted to share my thoughts on this topic because I know how overwhelming it can be to take your kids on vacation, especially if it’s your first time!

The beautiful Many Glacier Hotel, Many Glacier, Glacier National Park with family, Montana

It’s absolutely possible to explore the world with your kids without continuous stress or wasting your money. Of course, there are many moments of stress while traveling with kids. But there are moments of stress when we’re at home as well, raising little kids is not always easy. So I decided to continue pursuing something I love this much, and take the amazing moments with the stressful moments. Here are my biggest takeaways from our travels so far for how I enjoy myself with traveling with little kids.

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1. Set Appropriate Expectations

The number one thing you need to know when wondering how to enjoy your family vacation? Set appropriate expectations! If you’re expecting your travel to be the same as before you had kids, you’re going to end up disappointed. Is any activity the same as before you had kids? Not in my experience!

I decided to change the way I view the vacation I’m taking. I think of it less as “relax and recharge” because those two words are not in my kids vocabulary. Do you get to “relax and recharge” while hanging out with your kids at home? Probably not very often. The way I think about vacations at this stage in my life is more like “explore and make memories”. I still get to get outside and experience new things, with a whole new travel partner! Will it be relaxing? Absolutely not! Even if I’m at a beautiful beach resort, the baby could be crying because he got sand in his mouth or sunscreen in his eyes. However, I still get to experience my babies first swim in the ocean, and the look on their faces when they first feel the sand squish between their toes. Set your expectations appropriately for the type of trip you are taking, and you are much more likely to enjoy yourself while you travel.

Baby in Hammock in Sayulita, Mexico enjoying the sunshine

Here are a few checklists to get you started:

     

    TIP: As your kids get older, start to prepare them before vacation by helping them set expectations. Tell them where you’re going and what you’re doing ahead of time, so they aren’t totally surprised when their routine is disrupted.

    2. Be Prepared

    This can take some extra work, but the “fly by the seat of your pants” traveling becomes a lot harder when you have kids. After our first kid, I found that traveling was a lot smoother when I used packing lists and making trip itineraries before leaving. Which was one of my main reasons for starting this blog! Packing for yourself and another human is much harder when said human is running around crazy and you’re running on 5 hours of sleep. So in my experiences it helps if you can check things off of your list as you pack.

    Of course, you also don’t want your itinerary to be too rigid. It’s also important to leave some room for flexibility because as you know everything takes longer with kids. However, knowing the basics of what activities you want to do beforehand and how to get there can be a total lifesaver. Also, if you’re like me, you’re going to want to spend nap time during your vacation relaxing and enjoying yourself. The last thing you need is to be figuring out which hikes are kid friendly, or which restaurants have a kids menu. So plan ahead, make lists, and build at least a rough outline of your trip itinerary before you leave.

    Mother and baby relaxing at Baby Beach in Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii

    Check out some of our trip itineraries to get started with your planning. More available under Destinations on the main page!

       

      3. Prioritize Nap Time

      You’re a parent, I don’t need to tell you how important a solid nap is for your kid. But this goes for when you are on vacation as well. Maybe the second most important thing for how to enjoy your family vacation is to prioritize nap time. Maximize the activities you do during waking hours, and try not to cut things too close to nap time. This way you’ll be able to enjoy the things you do with a happy kid, not an overtired one. Instead, use nap time for time in the car if you’re on a road trip, relaxing back at your hotel, or doing whatever YOU want to do. You can take turns with your spouse in the hotel during naptime while you go get a beach massage! Also check out Taking Cara Babies Top 5 Sleep Tips for Traveling With a Baby and Traveling Between Time Zones With a Baby.

      Toddler looking small near epic view at Skogafoss waterfall in Iceland

      4. Plan the Vacation With Your Kids AND Yourself in Mind

      One way to make you feel exhausted and burnt out after a vacation is planning based around your kids alone. It’s important to keep in mind activities that your kids will enjoy, but try to think of things that you would also be interested in. Or keep the activities to a minimum that only one party enjoys. For example, don’t plan an entire day of shopping at the mall or eat at fancy restaurants every night. Vice versa, don’t spend an entire day in the kiddie pool or going down the slide 700 times at the park. Almost anywhere, you should be able to find activities that everyone enjoys. Spend a smaller amount of time in activities that only half of your crew likes. If you learn to plan activities with everyone (including yourself) in mind, you will be on the right track to learning how to enjoy your family vacation!

      mom and baby in fontana geothermal baths hot springs Iceland

      5. Don’t Do Too Many Child Centered Activities

      This is a tough one for a lot of parents, and kind of goes along with #4. Kid centered activities can be fun, but they also can be exhausting. In my experience, spending time where there are a million other kids running around yelling can be entertaining but usually my toddler and myself leave feeling overstimulated. I promise, if you take time to let your kids explore nature or participate in normal activities, they will still have fun. Especially if you start doing this young! They can be just as enthused about the ant they find on the sidewalk as they will about meeting Mickey Mouse (or at least close to as enthused). So if you’re going to spend the morning at the park or children’s museum, take the afternoon doing something less stimulating.

      dad with baby on shoulders hiking in sequoia national park

      6. The Travel is Worth the Destination!

      Whether you are doing a road trip or a long haul flight, you’re likely going to have some challenges during the transportation part of the trip. Travel can be exhausting for adults and kids are no different. Sometimes kids just aren’t as good at managing their emotions, especially when they are tired. In our travel experiences thus far, the destination has always been worth the hassle of getting there. When we arrived in Iceland after a 7 hour flight with our one year old, we learned our luggage didn’t make it with us. In that moment, I was thinking I had made a huge mistake by planning that trip. However, after we got to our hotel and took a solid nap, we had the best trip of our lives. So keep that in mind when you are exhausted and handling exhausted little humans that it will all be worth it once you get to your destination and settled in.

      7. Share in Your Kids Joy

      Kids can get so excited about the littlest and sometimes weirdest things. Have you ever taken your kids to a new park, and they are most excited about is the garbage can? I’ve been there too. It helps to accept that your kids might not be excited about the things you think they should be. They may not be in awe over the incredible beach sunset or the beautiful mountain view. Embrace the sweet mind of your little kids and share in their joy about the garbage can or ant on the sidewalk. Kids have a much smaller view of the world and can open our eyes to things that we wouldn’t have normally noticed.

      baby in crosswalk in iceland

      I truly believe that getting your kids out to see the world is an amazing way for kids to learn. Giving your kids the opportunity to spend time in outside and explore other cultures is such a gift and will help shape their view of the world. So take a chance and try your first family vacation! Use these tips to learn how to enjoy your family vacation. Happy travels!

      Check out some of our other family travel tips as well to help you learn how to enjoy family vacation!

         

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