By Nancy Hayssen
1. Ask the Hotel About Child Facilities
Some resorts are built for couples, with lots of spas and romantic nooks. Kids will hate this. You need a resort with plenty of indoor recreational facilities, where they can play safely, and happily. Some hotels will even offer babysitting or child care services, so you can do some shopping or sight seeing on your own, without someone tugging at your knee and saying, “Mommy, can we go now?”
2. Don’t Overload the Itinerary
Kids get tired more easily, or can rapidly become overstimulated and cranky. Make sure that the itinerary leaves lots of room for resting, snacks, or (if you’re taking toddlers) even naps. Ideally you should only cover two major destinations in one day (one in the morning, another in the afternoon). If you want to see more sights, make arrangements to leave your child to rest in the hotel (see tip number one) and do it on your own.
3. Bring a “Child Care Pack”
This includes lots of water (kids get dehydrated more easily), an extra change of clothes, and small toys to amuse them at restaurants.
If you are going to a warm place (like a beach or a tropical country) remember that kids are more vulnerable to sunstroke and sunburn. Bring sunblock, a handheld battery-operated fan, and sports drinks (which will help them retain water). Avoid bringing them out in the hottest times of the day.
4. Choose a Kid-Friendly Itinerary
Consider your child’s age. A toddler will not be able to appreciate a historical tour of the country’s Medieval churches, and even a seven year old may not be able to stay still in a museum.
Look at the places you plan to visit and think, “Will he be able to understand this?” Compare the length of the tour with the average amount of time he can concentrate on one activity. Do this even before you choose a destination-if he won’t enjoy 50% of the key attractions, find another vacation place.
5. Be Prepared to Pay Extra for Comfort
You can save a lot of money by roughing it out in 3-star hotels or taking long bus rides, but it’s just not worth it when you’re traveling with kids. Pay extra for comforts that will keep them in a good mood: soft beds, big pools, 3-minute access to restaurants or tour buses. Because if they’re happy, you can relax, and actually have fun too.
6. Get Older Kids Involved in the Planning
Kids are more likely to have fun if you get them “psyched” way ahead of the trip. They can help pick the destination (narrow it down to two places you love and let them have the final say). You can also help them make a vacation scrapbook, where they can put “fast facts” on the place you will visit, as well as photos, postcards and other mementos.
7. Pack Your Patience
No matter how well you plan, remember, these are kids. Unfamiliar places and changes in schedule will always be a little upsetting for them, so try to be understanding. When they have tantrums, check if they’re overstimulated and bring them to a quiet place where they can calm down. Bring a small comfort toy (which can help them settle down if they are tired, scared or cranky).
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