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Parenting Tips: Lessons from Our Family Vacation

Parenting Tips: Lessons from Our Family Vacation

We are just back from our very first full-fledged family vacation. I mean first time flying with children and as a whole family: mom, dad, 6-year-old and 2-year-old. We went to Florida for a family wedding and then to Disney World for a few days afterward.

I’ve never been much of a vacationer. I’ve done far more traveling for work than for pleasure, and all our family trips to date have been a short drive away. So for all you fellow family-vacation novices out there, I thought I’d share lessons we learned and give you a few tips for family vacations.

What We Did Right and Wrong on Family Vacation

RIGHT: We borrowed a CARES system harness from Rookie Mom for our 2-year-old to use on the plane.  It essentially turns an airplane seat belt into a 5-point harness. My son didn’t love it, but there was no way the regular seat belt could prevent him from wiggling his 10-inch waist out of the seat.

WRONG: We did not leave enough time to get through the airport on the way home. We were at the airport with plenty of time for our return flight IF we had been leaving from any airport other than Orlando, where security is painfully slow and under-staffed. We missed our flight, and while we got on the next one and the kids survived the additional 3 1/2-hour wait ok, we had a lot of added stress to the end of our family vacation and didn’t get home until after midnight. UGH.

RIGHT: We invited one of my sisters-in-law to join us for the Disney portion of our vacation. An extra set of hands is worth more than gold, especially when you have two kids who won’t be doing a lot of the same rides – one who will be napping and one who won’t, etc. We also rented two single strollers – another smart move – and having three adults allowed us to have two people to carry strollers and one to carry the toddler when getting on and off buses and boats. And no matter where we were on vacation, having a “guest” kept us on better behavior with each other too.

WRONG: We didn’t get enough sleep during our family time in Florida, especially during the wedding portion of our trip. We arrived at Disney exhausted, and only added an exhausting regimen on top of it.

RIGHT: We eschewed the advice of everyone who said we had to get to the Disney parks as soon as they opened, and instead we went on our own insane, unanticipated schedule that grew out of necessity. When planning a trip to Disney World, setting a schedule ahead of time is helpful. But, when the whole family didn’t wake until 10:00 a.m. the first day, we went with the flow and ended up with days that started closer to noon, had our toddler napping around 5:00 p.m. and going to bed between 10:00 p.m. and midnight. It seems crazy, and we never would have planned it that way, but it worked for us. This particular plan may not work for everyone, but going with the flow is a must when traveling with kids and when on vacation with your family.

WRONG: Despite knowing in advance it would be an issue, we still didn’t plan well enough for the impact the sun and heat would have on us, and especially on our toddler. It was 30 degrees when we left home, so the 80 degree weather of Florida was a shocker to our systems, and it zaps way more energy out of the kids than adults. I knew it would, which is one of the reasons I rented a stroller for our 6-year-old. But even with advanced thinking, I didn’t do enough to protect my son. Here’s a big piece of advice for any family vacations outside: Put sunscreen on your kids’ entire body before getting them dressed. I didn’t put enough protection on the parts of his body that would be covered by his clothes, and as a result my son got sun rash all over his chest and back despite never being without a shirt.

RIGHT: We enrolled our daughter in the spring vacation camp run by her after-school program for this week. We were only back in town in time for her to have one day of school before Spring Break week. So, despite lots of choices, we enrolled her in the camp run by her after-school program at her elementary school just to get her back in the swing of her routine.

WRONG: We didn’t read the details closely enough and therefore showed up at the after-school program camp this morning to an empty parking lot and locked building. That’s because the camp runs Tuesday-Friday, and neither my husband nor I realized it. But, lucky for me, well over a decade ago I chose the right employer, and my daughter is sitting next to me, happily using the iPad while I work, and all is well.

Have you had similar experiences on your family trips? Share your family vacations lessons learned.


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