By: Susan Finch
You’ve been planning your Florida family vacation for months and are ready to hit the road. But then the reality sits in during a long day battling the airport, sitting in a car, or fighting through bumper to bumper traffic. You also realize after the tenth squabble in the back seat that your kids are unlikely to magically appreciate the time together and start singing each other’s praises. You wonder if you made a huge mistake.
But all hope is not lost. Before you give up on travel with kids, there are ways to enjoy it.
A family vacation may conjure up images of late mornings and carefree days but requires some planning to make it work. Leaving travel open to kids means leaving it wide open to stress and disappointment. Plan ahead for activities that your children enjoy, and then make room for adult-sized fun. That may mean hitting the playground or kids’ museum before the art museum you’ve had your eye on.
The same thing goes for the logistics surrounding travel. Plan for plenty of stops on a road trip to let the kids stretch and make extra allowances for extra screen time, a coveted treat, or small toys to keep kids busy while traveling. And make sure your lodging leaves room for relaxation from a pool to beach access and a spot for the kids to crash after a long day.
Find Common Ground
Traveling with your kids and actually enjoying it requires finding common ground from the start. A long road trip with stops at historical markers and museums likely isn’t your kids’ idea of fun. Meanwhile, cramming in a few days of fun at a theme park while battling hot crowds and overpriced snacks isn’t Mom and Dad’s dream vacation either.
Instead, book a trip that everyone is likely to enjoy with room for flexibility. Go kayaking in the Ten Thousand Islands, on Sanibel Island or Sarasota’s Lido Key, hop on one of the areas many wildlife or sightseeing boat tours, or play in Southwest Florida’s Gulf waters–from Longboat Key to Marco Island. Pepper in time for festivals, shopping, and just relaxing poolside to craft a vacation your entire family enjoys.
Divide and Conquer
Traveling with kids doesn’t mean forcing togetherness at every opportunity. If you’re traveling with a partner or spouse, divide and conquer to make room for “You” time. Send the kids to search for seashells on the beach with one grown-up while you go on that historical tour you had your eye on. Meet up later and switch off to ensure everyone finds the balance they’re looking for.
Adjust Your Expectations
Kids are far from perfect, and neither are their parents. Start by setting some expectations with your kids from the start including bickering in the car to cooperating when it’s time to board a plane and lending a hand when checking into the hotel. But you also need to stay realistic. Kids usually look back on family vacations warmly and that time of togetherness; but there’s still going to be tense moments, squabbles, and doubts that you should have ever taken the vacation in the first place.
Remember that traveling with kids is a transformative experience for everyone in the family. Focus on the lessons experienced together whether learning about wildlife during a tour of the Everglades or realizing resilience of your kids’ when someone gets sick on the road. Embrace your time together as a chance to bond and leave the rest of your worries behind.
Explore all the family fun things to do in Southwest Florida here!