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Summer has arrived and brings with it the time of year that families set off on summer vacation. It’s the time to step away from work 008deadlines, school and sporting events and the bustle of normal life. Vacation allows families the opportunity to spend quality time together. Traveling to exciting new places and seeing new things is something to look forward to. It sounds ideal, but anyone who has travelled with children knows just how quickly the experience can turn from an opportunity to reconnect with your family to a fight with your own sanity as you try to manage children that are tired, out of their routine, and bored. Quite simply, parents can find themselves coming home from vacation in need of a vacation to themselves regroup.

There are some simple steps that you can take to help lessen the stress of family vacations and make the trip more enjoyable for all involved.

  1. Plan your vacation destination and activities as if you were the child. – Thinking about not only what your child likes to do, but what they are capable of doing. For example, planning on a long day at a busy amusement park with a toddler could be a recipe for disaster. It is most likely that they will not want to be confined to a stroller all day, and walking long distances is too difficult for a little one just mastering the skill. This frustration can result in a tantrum.
  2. Involve the family in the planning.-This is especially true if you are travelling with teens. Allowing them to research activities and plan an entire day or days will keep them invested in the vacation and doing things they like to do.
  3. Prepare your children with what they can expect at your destination. -Sharing photos with them, looking up your destination on the internet, and allowing the children to take a virtual tour will help them get an idea of where you are going and what to expect. This will allow you to enjoy their anticipation and will help alleviate any anxiety or fear of the unknown.
  4. Schedule breaks, play time, nap time, and flex time. -Vacation is a time to take a break from our hectic schedules, but young children still need the security of familiar events. They can get stressed by unfamiliar events and places. When you are in a strange place, do what you can to keep them on schedule.-It is also important to not overbook your vacation full with activities. Hectic travel plans can also stress children and lead to irritability. Allow for some down time to enjoy the scenery, spend some quite time and reflect on your experiences or just snuggling as a family. If you do less, you will enjoy it more.
  5. Watch what your kids eat. -Many feel that vacation is a time to indulge, but too many sugary treats can lead to a child bouncing off the walls and then crashing into tears. In addition, many temper tantrums are a result of hunger and a child’s inability to communicate their feelings to you.

Family vacations are a chance to reconnect with your family and build lasting positive memories, and should not have to result in stress and frustration. Taking small steps to help children regulate themselves while on vacation will offer positive results.

Sources:

Parent Further; A Search Institutes Resource for Families.  Better Family Vacations.  Retrieved from http://www.parentfurther.com/resources/enewsletter/archive/better-vacations, June 2014

Walsh, D. (2013). Stress and Your Child’s Brain: Too Much, Too Little and the Resilience Sweet Spot, Retrieved from http://drdavewalsh.com/posts/165.

 

Written by: Kathy Green, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University, Butler County, Miami Valley EERA, green.1405@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA, treber.1@osu.edu

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Many of us take a family vacation or have family members who travel over Spring Break. Do you have plans this year? I usually just go to visit family members, but since I have sisters in three different states – even that can involve air travel and doesn’t usually happen just over a weekend. Let’s make this year’s trip memorable by planning ahead so that everyone is safe.

Travel Tips:

• Before you go let a trusted family member or neighbor know how long you plan to be gone so they can pick up mail or packages and make sure your house looks lived in by carrying in trash cans, etc.
• Plan for a successful trip – refill your prescriptions and take a few extra days of medication with you – you never know if a storm or overbooking may delay flights. Take a few basic over-the-counter medications with you; something for a headache, stomach problems, and some anti-biotic cream with bandages are good basics to start with. Be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes too, not just sandals or flip-flops.
• If you are traveling over-seas, check the State Department web site for potential travel warnings or dangers. They update this list regularly. http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.html
• Include some active time on your trip, but don’t over-due it. Plan days with walking, swimming, boating, dancing, and more – but if you haven’t exercised lately – start out slow and in little blocks of time. Nothing is worse than spending half of your trip on your back in the hotel room because you pulled a muscle playing beach volleyball.
• Protect yourself from the sun! Be sure to pack your 30 SPF sunscreen, 100% UV ray protection sun glasses, and a wide brimmed hat. I know many people who have spent part of their trip at the emergency room because of sun poisoning and I don’t ever plan to be in their shoes. When you go out grab a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated too.
• If you are swimming or boating – listen during any safety drills. Wear life jackets on boats and check for other safety equipment.
• While part of the fun on vacation is trying new foods – you need to be cautious about over-doing it on fats, sodium, alcohol, and sugars. Be sure to also include healthy foods; fruits, veggies, and low-fat dairy each day. Many vacation rooms include small kitchens now which can be stocked with fresh fruit, bottled water, fresh veggies, and milk that you pick up at the local store. Not only will you include these healthier foods in your diet – you will also probably save money by having snacks foods ahead and not buying from vending machines. Don’t forget to pack a small insulated cooler/bag in your suitcase – you can use it to take bottles of water or bags of grapes on day trips.
• Limit the amount of cash you carry and only bring credit cards you plan to use. Leave store cards at home – you can carry a smaller purse and limit your risk of identity theft. Leave expensive jewelry at home; take the costume stuff or just a few basic accessories on your trip.
• Always park your car in well lit areas and limit the amount of suitcases, maps, and other travel related items that are in plain view in the car. Even though GPS can work great – a map for back up is a good idea – no technology works all of the time.
• Don’t post your vacation pictures on social media sites until you are safely home. No reason to let everyone know that your home is uninhabited.

By planning ahead and doing a little research you can have a safe, fun trip with plenty of adventure – but no injuries.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/family/springbreak/

Author: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences.

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