It is not uncommon to hear parents lamenting after a family holiday that they need another holiday immediately after – but this time, a break that is just for themselves, sans children.
However, the hope of happier travels with the little ones need not be lost. The challenges of travelling with young kids can be better managed with greater intentionality in planning and anticipating.
Contrary to popular belief, family holidays with young children need not be synonymous with meltdowns and showdowns.
Here are a few tips on how to not only survive a family holiday but have one that is successful and truly enjoyable.
Adjust personal expectations
When we become parents, it becomes absolutely necessary to let go of old holiday styles and preferences which we once held dear as swinging singles or newly marrieds.
Lazing by the beach with a cocktail in hand and a book in the other, hoping that the kids will miraculously occupy themselves will not happen. We can also hope against hope that our hyperactive 5-year-old might be able to hike that hill in an exotic nature reserve we have been dying to explore, but things get unpredictable with the younger ones – we have to be prepared for some plans to not come to fruition.
Mentally prepare kids
From as young as when the children are two, start describing to them what they can expect to experience when on holiday, especially when moving from place to place.
For example, if you are going to enter a crowded area, let them know that there will be lots of sounds and people, they will need to hold on to you and not run off or they might get lost. Tell them what you expect of them in terms of behaviour for safety purposes and help them cope with fears you anticipate they might have in unknown environments.
Additionally, prior to visiting a tourist attraction or before embarking on a fun holiday activity, get the children excited by telling them about some of the things they can look forward to seeing and experiencing. Hype things up a little so they don’t think they are mindlessly following you from one place to another. Help them to look forward to each segment of your holiday with eager anticipation.
Decide on quality vs quantity
Given how time-strapped we are, it is tempting to want to cover as many tourist sites as possible on each trip. But when it comes to travelling with young children, it will be challenging to visit every top attraction.
Instead, it might be best to decide on one or at most two sightseeing activities per day – especially if the kids are very young – to truly soak in the atmosphere of the place, have ample time to take necessary loo breaks, and allow kids to take naps in strollers as parents enjoy a cuppa. Keep it at a leisurely pace – both parents and kids will benefit from it.
Involve the kids
If you have older kids, get them involved in the planning of the holiday so they have a personal stake in it. Get them to research online about places they would like to visit so they can double up as tour guides when the whole family finally visits their tourist attraction of choice.
Additionally, encourage them to come up with fact sheets or fun quizzes about the places they plan for the family to visit which can be answered while on holiday and affirm them for their efforts. Letting children plan a holiday will often introduce parents to novel experiences and enrich memories for the entire family.
Travel as a pack
Family holidays are also a great opportunity to have a leisurely break with the grandparents, aunts or uncles in tow. Having more adults around also means more willing hands to help with the kids – which is a welcome relief for many parents.
Family holidays can be budget-friendly and low-frills – what is of greater importance are the memories made and priceless bonding time.
© 2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Written by Elvira Tan