Summer is the most popular time to escape the daily grind and enjoy vacation. For families traveling with little ones, however, a vacation may seem like more energy and work than the regular 9-to-5. Even the most well-planned trip can become stressful — for example, your toddler has a meltdown on the plane or the hotel turns out to be not so kid-friendly.

Whether you’re planning a long drive to Grandma’s house or a flight across time zones, don’t wait until you’re caught up in a stressful situation to find a fix. At South Loop Montessori School, we like to remind parents of the commonly overlooked basics before heading out on vacation:

  • Set Expectations: When planning and dreaming about being away, avoid the temptation to cram a lot of activities into a vacation itinerary. And set realistic expectations for the trip — for instance, there’s a chance you won’t get to the lengthy novel you’ve wanted to read. Instead, set goals that focus on simple, shared experiences that build lasting memories, such as playing together in a fun new place, and enjoying family-time away from your usual daily grind. Aim for more adventurous trips as your children get older.
  • Pack Smart: The days of packing light are on-hold when traveling with children — and while diaper bags, strollers and clothes may be obvious, don’t forget the small must-haves. Consider treasured stuffed animals or blankets, even a nightlight, along with a few books and toys to help with travel days or to play with on vacation. Remember to pack basic first aid items, including a fever and pain reliever, oral Benadryl and topical hydrocortisone cream for rashes or bug bites, and plenty of bandages. Don’t forget lots of sunscreen if your destination puts you in the sun.
  • Survive Air Travel: If possible, book the earliest flight available and avoid connections. Early flights are your best chance to avoid delays and are usually less crowded. Sit your child in the window seat, away from other passengers and the beverage cart, and use the scenery outside to keep them entertained. Bring a couple of small toys or download favorite movies or games on an iPad to keep kids occupied (and quiet) on the plane. Building playtime into travel can prevent meltdowns and give the kids a break. Also, a bottle of hand sanitizer or wipes, a change of clothes and healthy snacks can be a lifesaver.
  • Play it Safe: Anticipating potential needs and safety hazards of your destination will allow you to relax instead of worrying about vacation dangers. Consider if your accommodations will need a baby gate or outlet covers, for instance. When you arrive, give your destination a survey for potential hazards.
  • Stick to a Schedule & Diet: You may be on vacation, but everyone will be happiest if you can keep the kids’ normal daily routine, including bedtime and diet. Of course, you can stretch their diet a little bit, but it’s important to be realistic about what kids will eat, and that may mean packing your toddler’s favorite foods. Of course, parents should build in some relaxation and downtime for themselves during the trip, even if that means taking turns.

Whether you’re traveling during our Summer Break (from July 3 –7) or in later months, we hope your family enjoys a fun, safe and memorable vacation.