How not to go crazy on vacation.

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Wow, how do you it? I get that a lot. Mostly from people who don’t know me very well . I guess they must think I’m some organizing guru, or a saint, or possibly insane.
But there are definitely things we’ve done that worked. And things that had us considering crawling under a rock and never leaving the house again. I’ve given it some thought,and here are my top 5 ways to actually enjoy traveling with kids:

  • Make a “bucket list” in order of priority for the location you’ve picked. For example: See the Louvre, go up the Eifel Tower, eat little pastries with cups of coffee and try to pronounce the menu at a street side cafe. If you go to a place you’ve always wanted to go, and don’t do what *you* want, you’ll be resentful, and nobody likes that. Now, take your list, and completely disregard the bottom half. This is what is most important to you, and why you picked your location.
  • Make a loose day by day plan. This can help a lot by letting you get tickets to big tourist attractions in advance. Kids are much better behaved in stodgy museums if they don’t stand in line for two hours first. And to be honest, so am I. But try to plan just one big thing a day, or a couple smaller ones in the same area of town. Take a little time to find local parks. Especially in Europe, a lot of public parks are great green spaces for kids to run, and watch the local culture in action. Just a spontaneous break chasing pigeons can make a huge difference. But avoid the parks with paid entrances unless you know they’re kid friendly. They’re often formal and highly manicured. Climbing on topiaries is frowned upon in such places. Don’t underestimate down time. Simple things like a trip to the grocery store may be the most remembered part of the trip, especially for small kids.
  • Avoid the temptation to see the whole country in one trip, unless you make the investment in a tour service that does all of the driving, hotel finding, checking in etc. for you. What we’ve found works best is to pick a “center of operations”. A holiday apartment, or even a well equipped campground is a great place to come home to every night. Plan day trips. Being able to come back to the same bed and facilities reduced the stress on you, and little ones who have a hard time with transitions like knowing one thing is going to be consistent. Plus, if they’re going to the same local playground every night after dinner they will get a better sense of the place and the people. And maybe make a friend or two!
  • Be flexible. If everyone is tired of museums, it okay to just go to the beach. That’s why you trimmed your list down to the things you would be sad to miss. Your kids, and probably you, won’t really remember one more cathedral that really looks like every other cathedral you’ve already seen. But you will remember playing together. And it will mean a lot to your kids that you took their needs into account.
  • Enjoy yourself. Keep the things that you absolutely must be on time for at an absolute minimum. There will be enough stressors without giving yourself more. If you feel yourself boiling over an arbitrary schedule deadline, STOP! Repeat as necessary “I’m on vacation, I’m not in a hurry”.