family vacation

Traveling with kids can be stress free by following these simple tips

Us parents are a brave bunch, aren’t we? With the prospect of meltdowns occurring while we hurtle along the highway at rapid speeds, we hope that this year, it will be different.

No drama, no stress, no screaming or crying kids in the backseat -  sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? For those of us who have braved the roads with multiple meltdowns happening just behind the passenger seat and beyond, we anxiously set upon each new family road trip with a silent prayer to the vacation gods that they will keep our kids not only safe but quiet as well.

As one who tempts fate yearly embarks on a road trip annually with the family on what has become a tradition, I’ve learned the hard way about what works - and what doesn’t. For the unprepared, a packed vehicle that includes three children and a lengthy jaunt to distant locales can easily turn into a recipe for disaster. Experience this scenario once and you’ll vow to never put yourself in that position again.

I was recently asked to provide my top tips and advice to the Toronto Star for an article in the newspaper’s Summer Driving Special Section. It was a (pleasant) surprise to see that it ran on the front page of the section as well as with a picture of the family packing up the car (see below).

For the full text of the article, you can read it here: The Toronto Star - Surviving a Family Road Trip

For more tips and advice about how to travel with kids, check out some of my other posts on the topic:

And for those who would rather not go too far afield:

Summer Driving section edited

And if you’re still looking for tips on how to travel with kids, check out my YouTube video on the topic here:

VIDEO: How to Travel With Kids - Top 5 Tips For Parents

So what do you to to keep the kids calm and quiet during your family road trips? Are there any additional tips that you’d add to my list? Tell me about them in the comments section below.

Want more of my parenting advice and tips? Click on the image below to get your copy of my eBook today!

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Spending vacation time in your home city can be both fun and economical

family on bikes

So here’s the scoop:

You’ve got kids, you’re tired and you want a family vacation. The problem is, you don’t have the funds to do it the way you’d like to. As a matter of fact, money’s pretty tight all around and you’re dreading having to tell the kids that their dreams of an unrestrained Disneyland vacation will have to wait until your finances are just a tad healthier.

Instead of feeling guilty followed by sheepishly telling your kids that their fantasies will have to wait, how about putting on your game face and let the family know that you’re going to tear up the town on your staycation?

That’s right - The family’s going to enjoy their respite from their daily routine by looking at their hometown, city, province or state through new eyes. The “staycation” - the vacation that’s just a few steps from home - is an increasingly popular alternative to the expensive and often stressful family vacations that we at once embrace and dread (for financial reasons and more). Surprisingly, there are a number of things that can be found close to home that are both interesting and entertaining.

Following is advice about How to Have a Great Staycation: Top 10 Tips For Parents

1) Do your research - Of course, start with our old standby, Google, but don’t stop there. Ask friends, read local write-ups, review online sites for your destinations and find out what’s on the go. Oftentimes, there are seasonally-focused programs or events occurring which may fit in perfectly with your family staycation. Gather your information together, enter your coupon codes and go!

2) Prime your Kids - It’s important to set the stage and let the kids know that this year’s family holiday is going to be a little different. Get them ready and let them know that this staycation is going to be just as exciting as any trip abroad. Rally the troops and get them primed for their time in their home city.

3) Have and Agenda - Don’t “let the chips fall where they may” and take for granted that you’re in familiar surroundings. Like any other vacation, have a plan of attack, map out your days and have focal points of interest where you’ll be visiting. Make every day of your staycation count by having a full schedule of things to do that will be of interest to both the older and younger members of the family.

4) Mix it up - To keep things interesting, mix up your staycation with days where you’re enjoying culture and other days where you’re having some good, old-fashioned fun. One day could be a day where the destinations are of an educational bent, another could be cultural. The key is to make it interesting by planning a diverse schedule that will keep everybody entertained.

5) Consider a Theme - If you have some extended time off, consider having themes that are followed as part of your staycation. For example, one week could be dedicated to leisure, e.g. a beach visit, the following week could be focused on culture, etc. If you have a shorter period of time, consider daily themes that will change things up and make the kids more engaged.

6) Check Your Finances - Have a budget allocated and stick to it. Most cities have day passes or weekly passes for transit; as well, there are a number of free festivals and events for families. Daily deal websites and group discounts or special offers are there for the taking - just do your research and you’ll find that there are savings to be had. You can also make the most of your budget by limiting your staycation to a finite number of days. For example, why not do a few two or three-day local excursions as part of your vacation? Consider getting a professional to help you plan a local staycation jaunt so that you can get the most “bang” for your buck.

7) Be One With Nature - The “family staycation” is a perfect opportunity to appreciate nature and to get the kids outside. Venture into the great outdoors by visiting parks, going for walks, and if you’re lucky enough to be close to water, enjoying the waterfront. Have a picnic with the family, go bike riding, plan a scenic hike with the kids. The key is to stop and smell the roses in your hometown - literally and figuratively.

8) Have a “Plan B” - Mother Nature can be a real drag sometimes. Because of this, make sure to have a contingency plan. Inclement weather, illness or otherwise could put a damper on your staycation.  For these reasons, make sure that you have a backup plan regarding your itinerary. So, for example, what will you do if it’s pouring rain when you have a walking tour of the city planned? What if one of your kids comes down with a fever or cold? In the first instance, you may want to consider some of your options that are indoor, e.g. museums, galleries, etc. In the latter case, consider splitting up if you can: one parent could take one or two of the kids out for the day while the other is on nursing duty at home. Whatever the case, make sure to be prepared.

9) Act Like a Tourist - You are on vacation after all, so do the things you don’t normally do at home. These include eating at that new popular restaurant in your city, taking a guided tour of some of your town’s landmarks and buying souvenirs. Take pictures of those historical buildings and look at your city through the eyes of a tourist. You’ll be surprised at what you see.

10) Unplug - You’re on vacation, remember? For this reason alone, give technology a break, and other than taking pictures of your good times, forget about email, texting and the computer for a while. Turn off the tech, tell everyone that you’re on holidays and relax.

As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home!”

Are you going on a staycation with your family? Have you gone on one with the kids? What additional advice and tips would you offer? Answer in the comments section below!

Want more of my parenting advice and tips? Click on the image below to get your copy of my eBook today!

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Travel With Kids: What to Pack

by Samantha on February 1, 2012


If you’re an intrepid sort like myself, you won’t let having many little ones stop you from traveling! No sir - you look at that family vacation as an adventure, and it’s going to be a good one!

In my last post, I mentioned that I’ll be heading south to Orlando, Florida with the family. I know that it’s going to be a good time because I won’t have it any other way 😉

One thing that I’ve found helpful in traveling with children is getting them prepared for the big day. When children are old enough to understand and conceptualize to some degree, it’s a perfect opportunity to discuss your trip with them in advance, and to get them ready for every leg of your excursion. Remember - you will be going through security, on an airplane and sleeping in a different bed - all of the benchmarks of intrigue, mystery and fun for the young ones. To this end, add to the excitement by preparing your children well in advance of your trip, so that when the big day comes, you’ll all be keener than keen 😉 

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There are some general tips that I would recommend for parents who want to start the planning early. After all, getting the kids excited about the trip will go a long way in also getting them to behave as well.

To this end, here are the items and techniques that parents can consider including in a Vacation Starter Kit For the Kids:

1) Read All About It - Books are a great starting point for getting your children excited about your trip. Make it a family affair, and visit your local library or your favorite bookstore with the kids on a quest to take out books on your target destination. Make it fun: read about the customs, foods and landmarks that make your vacation locale unique. The more the kids see and learn about the trip, the more excited they will be.

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2) The Big Screen - Nothing gets the little ones going like a bowl of popcorn and a great movie. Whether it’s on the big screen, or curled up on the couch at home with mom and dad, the opportunity to watch a flick that features your vacation locale is one that shouldn’t be passed on. Parents can get the kids in the mood by watching selected films that include the vacation destination locale, or that are based in a particular location. The kids will get an opportunity for a “sneak peek” of the location, adding to their excitement and anticipation.

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3) A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words - Providing your child with their own camera will allow them to not only feel a sense of ownership and control over their environment, but will get them extra-jazzed about the images that they will be able to capture. With digital technology what it is today, you can get a reasonably inexpensive and practical camera for your child in advance of the big trip. Alternatively, consider a disposable camera for your child to take along on your travels.

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4) Creative Writing - What better way to encourage engagement, than to write about it? A journal documenting your child’s travel experiences will provide a precious keepsake of your trip in years to come. In the present, it can serve as an organizational tool for your child (e.g. creating a list of what to pack, etc.), as well as a go-to location for your budding author to write about his or her great adventure abroad. Watch your budding writer blossom as they document their memorable travel experiences.

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5) Up Close and Personal - Help your child to really experience your trip by providing them with their own binoculars. Kids are often fascinated by the visual aspect of our world, so what better way to foster this interest by giving them a tool that will allow them to really engage during your vacation? Allow your son or daughter to see the world through new eyes by offering them a way of viewing the most interesting and exciting parts of your trip as closely and clearly as possible.

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6) Carry On - The simple act of providing ownership to your child can do wonders for their feelings of both engagement and responsibility. Give your little one their own knapsack or travel bag, packed with other staples of the Vacation Starter Kit. As well, allow them to choose a few cherished items to bring along with them on your jaunt. These could include a special stuffed toy or blanket, a portable game and/or a few books that they really enjoy. Packed and ready to go, the kids will be all set to experience all that your trip has to offer.

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What other items would you recommend for your child’s Vacation Starter Kit? Answer in the comments below!

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