Families love vacations. Vacations are quality time. Every family must take as many vacations as possible. No. Wait. Scratch that. Let's try it again. Vacations with kids are painful. They are tiring. They are expensive. They can test your patience to its limit. As parents you won't have any time off. So you might need a vacation to get over a vacation with the kids. Here's the thing: vacations are a lot of fun but they're also a lot of hard work when you are travelling with kids. It all depends on how you take it in your stride.
So first up, the question is, which type of parent are you? The indoor variety that is too lazy to plan, pack and unpack for vacation? Or the kind who is bitten by wanderlust and has to go to a new country at least once a year? Or just someone in between? You could be any type of person, but the fact of the matter is that when you have kids, you need to take them out. You need to spend time off as a family. Vacations are important. Even the school needs some time off from your kids; that's why they have long vacations at least twice a year. So like it or hate it, vacations are a part of growing up and a part of being together.
Now that you've accepted the fact that you need to go on vacations with your kids, here are a few things to get you started:
Choosing a destination:
This will depend on your child's age. It is highly unlikely a newborn will appreciate a world tour or traipsing across continents to see the wonders of the world (although no one's stopped you from trying it!) Then there's timing. Extreme weathers are avoidable unless you want to rough it out. Peak season might also be avoidable for the crowds, but then again everyone travels when the weather in a destination is good. Large cities might be short on natural beauty but make up for that with attractions like parks, rides, safaris, etc., as well as convenient infrastructure like taxis, trains and buses to ferry you about. Quiet beaches are great if you're looking for peace but a lot will depend on your kids' personalities. Are they the kind that can swim, cycle and read books in one place? If the distance between the airport and your destination is long, be prepared to answer that dreaded question: "Are we there yet?" So choose your destination carefully. It has to cater to your own requirements as a parent as well as what you want your child to remember the most of the experience.
The very first vacation you take with your kid will teach you a lot. You will remember essentials you've forgotten the minute you land at the airport. You think you haven't packed in enough while leaving. You regret packing too many things when you come back from the vacation. Personally, I've not cracked the secret of packing but I've seen parents handle it with ISO-certified levels of efficiency. So I'm sure you will learn your lessons and figure it out. The usual stuff applies: pack a lot of clothes for your kids, their capacity to get dirty is endless. Have eatables ready in case your kid is a fussy eater. Keep extras of essential items like medicines and avoid heavy stuff like towels and toiletries. Pack a lot of toys when you have long commutes so that your kid is occupied. Always, always carry pens and paper for (young) kids to write and draw – they're simple things that are useful.
Flying with kids:
This single experience can potentially scare you from taking your next vacation. Babies bawl. Like seriously, loudly. All of us have been in flights with babies bawling through the night. When you weren't a parent, all you could do was glare angrily and wonder-what kind of parent can't keep his own baby silent? As a parent, how does it feel when you can't do anything and your kid can't handle the air pressure? Yeah, it sucks. Talking of which, that's why they offer sweets at the start of the flight. So you can swallow and pop your ears and keep them open. Again, there are no tips here. Each baby is different. Some babies bawl. Some sleep like, well, babies. Handle it. You're a parent now. Pacify your child, talk softly to him, tell him it will be over soon. Do not at any cost get angry at your child. It's pointless.
This is the most important tip. Make your holiday memorable in every way possible. Remember, this is the time off from your daily routine. These could be some of the happiest memories your kid will have of you as a family. Keep the live updates on Facebook and Twitter for later. Spend some quality time with your kid instead. Get your kid to learn about the destination before you travel so he knows where he's going and what to expect. Don't be a control freak and plot every minute of every hour of every day in terms of where you have to go and which train you have to catch. Don't cram too many things to do in too little time. Your kid might end up tired and exhausted going from place to place. For example: don't plan a long evening of exploration right after a 12-hour flight. You're tired already. Of course, if you're a livewire family with endless energy and stamina, by all means, go for it.
Vacations take a lot of planning, can be expensive and require a lot of patience when your kids are young. As they grow, they become easier to handle. But vacations are also about emotions, memories and things you bring back to remember them by. Kids grow up. Soon they'll be going out with friends and discovering the world on their own. As with most things in parenting, enjoy it while you can, enjoy it while your kids are young.