travel passports mindmap at etsy.comFamily vacations are wonderful and essential…but if you want to still love each other by the end of the trip, there are a few things we have to set straight about them.

Number One is a biggie. Stop thinking of a family vacation as a getaway where you’re going to relax and unwind.

SERIOUSLY? If you are still thinking like that, you’re doomed for major disappointment!

Family vacations can be immensely bonding and wonderful when you’re mentally prepared. This is a trip with your children that makes your home life go up in value and appreciation a whole lot! In other words, when you get home, you will be so grateful to return to your cave and some privacy that anything formerly stale looks new all over again!

my first travel book Anna Othitis on etsy.comNumber Two: If your kids are old enough, get them to participate in packing and snack preparations.

I’m a big believer in empowering and enabling my kids whenever possible. This is great for everyone involved.

One thing that has worked for us is writing out a list of things for them to pack (i.e. 2 bathing suits, 4 pairs of pants, 2 dress shirts, flip flops, 1 or 2 favorite books/toys, several videos for the car/plane,  etc. You get the idea.)  This takes minor effort on my part that leads to great return. The kids follow the list and pack the clothes that they like for themselves.

One big upside is that they can’t complain to me if they forgot something or if I packed the wrong shorts or baseball caps (“NO, Mom, not THAT one, the OTHER one!”).

Things you don’t want to forget either:

  • Any medications or pain relievers (while I don’t resort to these often, they can be indispensable when away from home and doctors);
  • You may remember sunscreen, but you may forget sunburn soothing lotions. You’ll want one if you forgot to apply the sunscreen, didn’t reapply, or missed a few spots.
  • Portable entertainment (depending on ages: Magnatiles, Legos, a standard deck of playing cards, books, a pad of paper and pen for tic tac toe or hangman, can make a HUGE difference, especially during public dining);
  • Baby wipes and portable tissues (even if everyone is out of diapers—dripping ice cream gets sticky, you know). I like Seventh Generation Free & Clear unscented wipes or the Honest Company biodegradable wipes.
  • Easy access to an extra change of travel clothes for the kids (and you!) in case of a variety of fluids and other niceties.
  • And of course, ear plugs (self-explanatory).
Wash your hands, love mom luxeloft on etsy.comNumber Three: Make planning the trip a group experience.

Getting everyone’s agreement on places to go and see while we are traveling helps, though this can also backfire. Too many opinions and tastes often don’t work. So tread carefully on this one. The main thing is to stay flexible and open to changes in itinerary as needed. Factor in hunger, total exhaustion, and mental health times—for the parents! Of course, for the kids too.

A brief discussion on behavior you expect to see can be helpful too. I call this “contracting.” Some basics would be:

  • No fighting in public (save it for the room, please, or we jeopardize that “perfect family” image!);
  • Safety practices (don’t stand so close to your brother when he’s chewing and laughing!)*;
  • And basic hygiene (MUST you look into the public toilet while you’re flushing?)
Number Four: Don’t forget to self-nurture.

Happiness is a long hot bubble bath luxeloft at Etsy.comIndulge in a Clearing Bath (recipe here) BEFORE you go to recharge!

Then take along your favorites for unwinding. Whether you need exercise, yoga, meditation, beauty regimens, a warm bath, a good book, or feel-good rhythms, make sure these are available to you, and that your husband knows that you’ll need some time for yourself too. At least, I know that’s a requirement for me!

Bring multi-tasking beauty products that don’t take up a lot of space. This last trip I grabbed Indigo Wild’s Zum Rub with frankincense and myrrh. I used it as my balm to protect my feet while walking, AND I cleansed and moisturized my face with it. It’s a Kimberlyloc FAVORITE product, and I thank her profusely for introducing it to her groupies—er, I mean devoted readers.

Also, it’s a great time to whip out those sample sets that are designed for travel. I’ve got a wonderful Intelligent Nutrients kit with travel-size shampoo, conditioner, hair volumizing spray, and spray-on detangler in its own nifty sealed bag. Adding to the “scentual” experience, I also brought along the Om to Go Organic Skincare Intro Kit. You never know what toiletries the hotel provides. They won’t be organic, that’s almost a certainty!

Number Five: Bring healthy snacks to keep in your room.

Eat Drink Be Merry luxeloft at Etsy.comIf you think you won’t need them, you’re wrong. And then you’ll be faced with the lofty prices listed in the gift shop or in the tourist traps located near your hotel. Those choices won’t be nearly as healthy as the ones you could pack from home. It is totally worth it! Hungry kids get cranky. Cranky kids lead to hair falling out, wrinkles, and migraines (proven universally, no studies required).

Nuts and seeds travel well, as do organic pre-sliced apples (so easy while on the road), baby carrots, cucumbers, celery, non-hydrogenated, no MSG chips, and gluten-free pretzels.

Number Six: Speaking of gift shops, here’s my husband’s policy.

ashtray machismo on Etsy.comThese shops are a set-up. They are strategically situated as you leave a tourist site and kids think they look like gift-wrapped boxes addressed to them with ribbons on top. If you think they’re salivating when they see them, you’re probably right. Bring extra tissues to wipe up the drool.

My husband allows ONE GIFT per trip per child. That way that pile of souvenirs that looked like a really good idea when you bought them, don’t wind up collecting dust when you get home (At Left: Mt. Rushmore ashtray selling on Etsy, a case in point).

(Full disclosure: Sometimes this step works, and sometimes we—or rather I—cave. This is not advisable.)

Seventh and final tip: Maintain a sense of humor and fun.

Take time to enjoy these moments with your kids, while they still want to travel with you. Have a sense of humor when the going gets rough.  And keeping a talisman with you that reads “This too shall pass” never hurts either! Before you know it, you’re home and planning the next dream vacation.

happy family cse.org.uk

* Safety policies that ARE important to discuss are: how to deal with getting lost; caution when talking to strangers; safe ways to cross the street; and WAAAY more if you have independent teens who will go off on their own. That’s a whole other discussion.

Photo Credits

  1. MindMap on Etsy.com
  2. Anna Othitis on Etsy.com
  3. LuxeLife on Etsy.com
  4. LuxeLife on Etsy.com
  5. LuxeLife on Etsy.com
  6. Machismo on Etsy.com
  7. cse.org.uk
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