Life and Work
10 ways to simplify family travel
Travelling as a family can pose all kinds of challenges that may make your trip feel more like work than a vacation. Try these 10 simple strategies to make family travel a breeze
Take the stress out of family travel
Family vacations: we love ’em, we need ’em, we crave ’em-but at the same time, they fill us with dread. From never-ending flights (and security lineups) to mid-trip illness or activity angst, traveling en famille has its challenges. The good news? A little advance planning can make your next family vacation a lot easier.
So don’t trade that vacation for a staycation just yet. Instead, try these 10 parent-approved tips for savvier travelling.
1. Visit a travel medicine clinic
Book an appointment at a travel-medicine clinic well before your planned vacation date. Doctors at travel medicine clinics specialize in travel- and destination-specific health precautions. They’ll get you up to date on vaccinations, as well as possible pre-trip treatments like anti-malarials.
Visit at least six weeks before your trip and be aware that travel clinics may not be covered under your provincial health plan.
2. See your family doctor
If you don’t want to pay extra for a travel medicine clinic, check the Public Health Agency of Canada’s travel health website for illness-outbreak updates and health warnings specific to your destination. Then book an appointment with your usual healthcare provider, noting any concerns that you might have.
3. Pack a mini medicine cabinet
Don’t waste valuable vacation time chasing down your regular meds-stock up before you travel. And if anyone in your family has recurring concerns (e.g., ear or urinary tract infections), consider travelling with the appropriate antibiotics “just in case.” If you’re visiting remote and/or less-developed locales where doctors and pharmacies are in short supply, it could save the day.
Before you head to the pharmacy, however, be sure to consult your doctor first; don’t self-diagnose or buy prescription drugs online.
4. Book somewhat on the beaten path
Let’s be honest: it’s a rare family that merrily travels truly off the beaten path. Even adventurous families will enjoy amenities like pools, kids’ clubs, restaurants, convenience marts and on-call physicians.
“I personally hate all-inclusives, but for a trip to Cuba when my son was 16, it meant I could go to bed at nine o’clock while he was on his own, touring the acres and acres of facilities and restaurants with other teens from around the world,” says Toronto mom Susan Hearst. Hearst was reassured by Cuba’s safe reputation-as well as the gated resort’s high security and lifeguard presence.
5. Trust older kids to do their own packing
Don’t knock yourself out micromanaging your teen or tween’s suitcase contents. Just brief junior travellers on the specifics of your trip: “Kids, it’s going to be sunny and warm-we’re talking shorts, tees, sun hats. Mosquitoes are bad around dinnertime, so pack lightweight pants and long-sleeve shirts to wear to dinner. Pack multiple swimsuits. If you want to go horseback riding, cave tubing or hiking, remember to pack adventure shoes. And don’t forget to bring enough underwear.”
6. Pack a full carry-on diaper bag
If you’re flying with an infant or toddler, carry on a full (not minimalist) diaper bag. That means a change of clothes, plus more diapers than you think you need. Keep in mind that delays can literally add hours to your travel time.
“I had about eight or nine cans of formula,” says Sigrun Wister, mom of an eight-month-old. “I half expected to be delayed and imagined running out of food even though I could also breastfeed.” Another mom we know spent five hours waiting for her short-haul flight to depart, after already clearing ticketing, customs and security: three hours trapped in the plane on the runway, followed by two hours waiting in the departure lounge after the plane taxied back and disembarked, before finally re-loading and completing the one-hour flight. The upshot? Pack with delays in mind.
7. Don’t over-schedule
This is particularly important if you’re visiting a sun-and-sand (or ski-and-snow) destination. Relax and do what comes naturally, whether that’s snorkelling, spending all afternoon zipping down the slopes, or sipping piña coladas under an umbrella while your kids make new friends in the swimming pool. Enjoy the downtime: it’s the reason for your getaway, right?
8. Let kids choose some activities and excursions
Surprisingly, not all kids want to see the planetarium or historic home of a city’s founding father, so invite yours to research a few cool sights and activities via the web and/or a guidebook. This will get them invested in the trip and cut back on whining (not to mention help build their research skills). You may even discover something new yourself.
9. Check the cruise ship schedules
If you’re not a cruise ship tourist, check Cruise TT’s essential cruise ship schedule for global ports of call. Avoid popular local attractions while cruisers are in town, as you’ll experience stress-inducing crowds, lineups and possibly even inflated prices. Customer service tends to suffer, too. Instead, chill out at your resort, or book private tours on the water or into the wilderness on busy cruise-ship days.
10. Spend some time apart
Yes, vacation is bonding time, but guess what: you can get too much of a good thing. Adults need adult interaction, and kids benefit from quality time with other small fry. Sign them up for a couple of afternoons at your resort’s kids’ club or adventure camp. Or, if you hire a babysitter, invite her to bring her own same-age child to hang out on-resort as your kid’s guest.
Mature teens enjoy exploring resort amenities together, but review safety rules beforehand. And let them have fun-Hearst notes her son is still Facebook friends with some of the teens he met at a resort four years ago.