Going on a vacation with more than one child, who are different ages, requires a little more planning to make sure that everyone has a good time than the average trip!
Giving kids experiences, rather than things, is a wonderful notion but travelling with young children comes with its own set of challenges. It’s better to be realistic about what you can accomplish with kids in tow, rather than have everyone be miserable throughout your vacation!
What kind of trip should you take?
Keep one thing in mind: smaller children, generally younger than 6, will not remember the experience, or at least not all of it. So taking your 1 year old on a fabulously expensive trip to the Bahamas is for you, not for them. That’s fine, but it’s important to keep that in mind when you make a choice of destination. And if you need some tips about air travel with a little one, check out this previous post!
With very small children, resort vacations make a lot of sense. Many things are included and very often, babysitting is available, which will allow you and your spouse to have a little ‘you time’ in the bargain! Older kids can benefit from Kids Club type activities so you don’t have to worry too much about keeping them entertained. Another advantage are the dining options, which are usually plentiful at a resort. No need to search out a restaurant
that will accommodate everyone’s tastes, including the ultra picky 2 year old!
A whirlwind tour of Europe is only going to provide some very sketchy memories for your 5 year old, but it might be very appropriate for your 11 year old. If that’s your first choice for a trip, finding a way to make days of sightseeing work for everyone is the challenge you need to meet.
Handling sightseeing with kids of different ages
The key is in the planning! Not a minute-to-minute itinerary with no flexibility built in for down time, nap time or melt down time, but rather a clear understanding of what you want to see, how busy your destination is likely to be and how you can approach each day.
A friend of mine recently went to Paris with her 8 year old daughter and her 75 year old mother. Talk about ages and stages! The goal became to do one big thing every day, rather
than trying to fit in nine things, leaving everyone cranky and exhausted by 4 p.m. In this way, they were able to research which days certain attractions and locations were open and some alternates in case the weather or one of the three wasn’t feeling up to that day’s itinerary. A gentle touring of some of the best sites in the city, through different transport methods, and each of them felt the trip had been a great success!
Some other sightseeing tips?
- Plan for some easy to carry snacks (or buy some at your destination) in case a low sugar meltdown while an appropriate restaurant is being decided on is imminent!
- Don’t ignore the power of incentives. If kiddo behaves during the day, they get to stop at the store they saw near the hotel and pick out something, or gets an hour in the hotel pool before dinner. Lean on the treat that will get you the best behavior!
- Plan your timing. With a young child in particular, stopping at yet another site half way through what would normally be their naptime, or 20 minutes before dinner time, is an invitation to disaster! Try to plan your travel time for nap time so that they can get a little rest, and so can you!
- Let the kids play a role. Older children can be the map holders or the picture takers, in charge of making sure that all the sites are documented for the family photo album. It’s a good way of keeping them focused and engaged for the trip!
- Breathe. Remember that it’s a vacation and it’s supposed to be fun. The world won’t end if you don’t see that last site. Just roll with it all a little and enjoy yourself too!
What about Grandma?
Multi-generational travel is becoming a trend that you’ll see more and more about! Families travelling not just as a unit but inviting grandparents along for the ride. It can be a great
time for kids and grandparents to bond, and it might even provide you with the chance to get a little time to yourself.
That said, a trip with grandparents has some special points to consider:
- Make sure your destination suits ALL the parties in your group. A hiking trip in the mountains may not be Grandpa’s best bet and he could end up spending a lot of time in the cabin you rented!
- Don’t make work for the older ones by leaving them in charge of the younger ones. While you might cajole your parents into watching the kids while you and your spouse escape for one dinner, the trip is their vacation too, so don’t dump all the work on your parents!
- Consider accessibility to health resources. This is true for younger and older generations! If you want to go to the middle of nowhere, you had better have a plan of action if someone gets hurt or sick.
- Spend some time apart. If you can, split up from the older generation for parts of the trip, to see things that the other group isn’t interested in. Example? My friend went shopping with her daughter on the Grands Boulevards, while her mother went
- went shopping with her daughter on the Grands Boulevards, while her mother went ups were happier for a little time apart.
- to a gallery she’d been wanting to see. They met up at a cafe afterwards, and both gro
Trips and experiences, not yet another doll or toy car, are the memories that we hold dearest as we get older. Create some with your family, whether it’s a weekend in the countryside near your home or a cruise to the Caribbean.