Parents planning a kid-friendly vacation should mentally prepare for the whiplash of emotional ups and downs (and financial twists and turns).
Whether you’re trying to convince your little ones to venture out of their chicken-nuggets-and-fries comfort zone or power through jet lag notorious for putting a damper on family vacations, expect complaints from cranky toddlers and difficult-to-please preteens.
However, despite the curveballs and speed bumps that may put a damper on your vacation time, taking trips with your whole family comes with payoffs that are well worth the occasional temper tantrum.
Not only will you and your family return from your vacation with a collection of priceless memories, but touring an unfamiliar location with your kids can instill positive social skills and open your little ones’ eyes to the world around them.
For those inexperienced travelers, preparing for a fulfilling family-friendly vacation involves a lengthy to-do list of challenges before you even hit the road. That said, it’s essential to slip these tips and tricks into your back pocket before you arrive at your destination.
Preparing for a kid-friendly vacation 101
When planning out your family vacation, avoid dawdling, and work to maximize every second of your family vacation time. To do so, head over to peak tourist destinations during off-seasons when there are likely to be fewer crowds and shorter wait times.
After planning out your vacation, sit down with your kids, and provide an easy-to-follow overview of the travel itinerary. Knowing what to expect can help them feel more comfortable when experiencing new things and curb feelings of anxiety surrounding their first family vacation.
During this family meeting, make sure to discuss your expectations for their behavior. That way, your little one will know the repercussions of throwing a fit over a spilled milkshake or ketchup-less french fries.
One of the most stressful parts of taking a trip with kids is the journey to your destination. If you’re flying, make sure you budget extra time to go through security and make your way to your gate. However, if you’re looking for a more kid-friendly transportation option on an extended vacation, car transportation services might be the best way to go.
While eliminating the anxiety-inducing experience of supervising young children on an airplane or train is a huge benefit, having your car at ready access will anchor your anxiety-filled child by acting as a much-needed source of familiarity. Of course, picking the right vacation destination will also help provide your family with the best possible experience.
Winter Park, Colorado
Having the opportunity to teach your kids how to ski can be extremely rewarding. However, if you’re looking to skip the peak tourist season in favor of a more relaxing and slow-paced vacation, Winter Park is an excellent, kid-friendly destination to add to your bucket list.
With a plethora of outdoor activities like hiking, horseback riding, zip-lining, and Colorado’s longest alpine slide, vacationing here will keep your family on their feet and moving from sunrise to sunset.
Unlike trips spent beachside, visiting Winter Park, Colorado will ensure every second spent is an opportunity to make life-long memories.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly destination, Branson, Missouri, has so much to offer everyone in the family. Taking a visit to the National Tiger Sanctuary will gift your kids with an experience they’ll never forget.
As a bonus, you’ll rest assured knowing your money supports an ethically-minded non-profit organization dedicated to environmental preservation and loving animal care.
Branson Landing is a must-visit location if you’re on the hunt for shopping opportunities and dining options. Don’t forget to stop by for their stunning water, fire, and light show, which is sure to capture your easily-distracted children’s attention.
Pittsburgh, affectionately known as “Kidsburgh” by satisfied parents, has plenty to keep your kids and the whole family busy from the instant your plane lands. The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh will bring out the curious and imaginative side of your child while providing them with an educational experience that will leave them hungry to learn more.
The Duquesne Incline hosts stunning views of the “City of Bridges.” If you’re the parent to a rambunctious daredevil, these little ones with endless energy supplies will be excited to take the unique, 143-year-old Incline car to the top.
An excellent kid-friendly international destination is Lisbon, Portugal. Not only will vacationing here broaden your child’s horizons and force them to tiptoe out of their comfort zone, but you won’t have to debate between a city or a beach vacation.
Though metropolitan areas are very walkable, taxis are waiting around every corner, in the case that you need to call in reinforcements. In Lison, you and your family can sample new foods and experience a new culture by merely wandering the city. If you’re lucky, you may just find yourself walking down some of Lisbon's famous artistic stone pavements.
The bottom line
Traveling with kids can be a tricky endeavor. However, by planning carefully and choosing the perfect destination, you can pull off a vacation that your kids will remember for a lifetime.