Helpful Hacks for an Unforgettable Summer Family Vacation

As vaccinations ramp up nationwide, many families are making their summer travel plans.

Whether you are headed over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house or another fun-filled destination, keeping your family entertained will help avoid the dreaded question: Are we there yet?

Also, a few extra precautions and planning will prepare your family for safe summer travel. For peace of mind, create a travel kit that includes masks for every family member plus a few extras, plenty of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, isopropyl alcohol wipes to clean cell phones, a travel-sized laundry detergent to wash fabric face masks, and a thermometer.

More than a year into the pandemic, life has been challenging for all of us. This summer, you and your family deserve a break! Enjoy a well-earned vacation to unwind and relax.

Toddlers: The Wheels Go Round and Round

The key to planning a vacation with a toddler is organization. If you travel by car, a good rule of thumb is to stop every two hours for a break. When planning your road trip, search for playgrounds, parks, or good spots for a picnic along your route. To get out their wiggles, bring a bottle of bubbles to chase during a restroom stop or car break.

Dress your littles in comfy clothing and surround them with blankets, pillows (or a seat belt pillow), and their favorite stuffie. Leave the seat next to them or the center seat between two car seats open, so you can easily slip into the back to comfort a fussy toddler. And a claw grabber can be invaluable to retrieve a dropped pacifier or snack that has fallen out of reach! For entertainment in the car or an airplane seat, consider a metal sheet pan with magnets, a whiteboard to scribble on, a busy board or a boredom-busting car seat travel tray packed full of activities.

Let’s face it; toddlers can be messy. Keep your car clean with these simple tips. Place a puppy pad under the car seat for easy clean-up and to absorb any sippy cup spills. Pack a hand-held, battery-operated vacuum for crumbs, cereal, or any other little messes. If you are at the beach, baby powder cleans sand off hands and feet easily. Organize a small storage bin for the car with extra trash bags, a roll of paper towels, a few rags, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, disposable gloves, and Ziploc bags in a variety of sizes. Roll up a clean change of clothing for your toddler and stash it behind their car seat in a plastic bag, so it’s easy to find during a messy emergency!

Elementary: Are We There Yet?

Your children have most likely been on their computer or iPad a lot this past school year. For entertainment, try a screen-free winner like Legos in a convenient carry case or Melissa and Doug’s Reusable Sticker Pads that won’t harm the windows on a car or plane. Both are lightweight and easy to pack. Make coloring or drawing easy with a colorful clipboard and a box of crayons, washable pens, or pencils. Purchase each child a journal to record every step of their trip with notes, doodles, or keepsakes. And pack a glue stick, washi tape, or scotch tape to attach postcards or small found treasures into their journals.

The entire family can enjoy audiobooks rented from the library or downloaded podcasts in the car. Maybe, it’s the perfect time to start the Harry Potter series? Also, turn up the tunes and encourage a dance party while safely strapped into their seats. Sing, wave your arms or try a dance-off one person at a time to shake off the boredom.

Consider wrapping inexpensive or dollar store items in gift wrap to reward good behavior. When your children need a distraction, have them unwrap a present. It can be as simple as an activity book, silly putty, a pack of gum, or a comic book. Also, bring along a jump rope, hula hoop, skateboard, or bubbles for a quick way to burn off some energy at a pit stop. Try a little friendly competition to see who can hula hoop the longest or pop the most bubbles in 30 seconds.

Teens: Memory-Making Time with Your Teen

Teenage girl listening to music in carA family vacation is an excellent opportunity to share quality time with your tweens and teens, who soon will be off to college or on their own. Use this time to connect and create memories as a family. Teens may be reluctant to be “trapped” in a car or on a trip with their parents and siblings, so include them in your planning. Ask them to help plan your itinerary with things they find interesting, like visiting a ballpark or learning to surf or let them choose the route to take. Stop at odd roadside attractions to create Instagram-worthy pics for your teens.

Don’t forget to give them a little downtime—an hour away from the parents to sit by the pool or let them sleep in. If you give them a little time to chill, the rest of the day will be more enjoyable for everyone. It’s also good to limit the time they can text, make phone calls, and post on social media while you are on vacation. You want them to be present to connect with the family. But don’t expect them to stop using their phones the entire trip. Establish a window of time for them to keep in touch with friends back home.

For teens in the process of getting their driver’s license, a road trip can also be a good time for them to practice their driving skills. If they have a permit, make sure you understand your state’s rules. Let them take a turn behind the wheel to build up some driving hours while you relax (or try to relax!)

Keep in mind; no vacation is as picture-perfect as the resort website will have you believe. Teens and tweens are struggling between being a kid and growing into young adults. They may get frustrated, annoyed, or embarrassed by their parents—roll with it! Enjoy the time you have together, be flexible, and let things go so that you can enjoy your vacation time too.

Adventure awaits your family this summer! With a bit of planning, flexibility, and a lot of snacks, the journey can be as much fun as the destination.

Share your family travel photos or hacks on Instagram. Tag @dreamdinners. We look forward to seeing your family photos, enjoying the sunshine and good times!