There are a million and one ways to have fun with your kids, but the best way to have fun with them is often to PLAN — especially when it comes to making sure you have as much of it as possible together on your family vacation.

So from finding cute and comfortable kids’ vacation clothes that will keep them happy and safe (and make your photos look great) to leaving time in the schedule for spontaneous stops that will impact their experience, take our tips to plan a summer vacation with kids and make it as fun as possible.

1. Start Planning Now

Are you aiming for a trip that’s educational, or intended as a break? Do you want to experience flying on a plane, or take in the scenery from a train? Will you all decide as a family, or will you be surprising the kids? There’s SO much to think about when it comes to planning a vacation for the whole family (let alone the amount there is to pack and prepare) so it’s crucial to start your initial planning as early as possible.

Waiting to book flights, rooms or activities until the last minute will only mean less time to pack, less time to plan the itinerary and even more money (especially in peak seasons like summer). So start early, and be sure to clear your browser cache each time you search for flights as airlines have been known to raise their prices based on your search habits!

2. If You Intend to Take a Long Vacation, Anticipate Homesickness

Even if both parents are present on vacation, there’s always a chance that children miss their pets, miss their friends or miss something in their everyday life that makes them experience homesickness. It’s for this reason that you probably don’t want to plan a super long vacation, but if you do, you may want to involve the child in the decision. Refrain from expressing too much personal anxiety or too many ambivalent feelings, learn about the environment you’re in together and even educate them about homesickness if needed.

3. Allow Time for Extra Stops

Whether you’re doing a long-distance drive and they want to stop at a cool point of interest or you’ve made an itinerary and they need another break to refuel — these extra stops only add to the impact of the experience, so make sure you’ve allowed yourselves a little extra time here and there to indulge in them.

You should also note that a lot of extra stops will come from bathroom breaks for the kids. Packing a roll of toilet paper, lots of extra diapers and dressing babies and younger kids in clothes that are designed for easy changes and bathroom breaks is highly recommended.

4. Plan on Snacks Being Essential

Whether you’re driving cross-country to your destination or driving across town to the airport, snacks are sure to be requested by any kids in the backseat. Be sure to pack plenty of your family’s usual snacks like crackers, veggie chips and granola bars for longer drives, and be prepared to stop for more exciting snacks (and some chances to stretch) along the way.

Drinks are equally essential and will be the key to keeping your little travel buddies energized and beating the irritation that comes with the summer heat. Ensure that you have lots of water available, and like your snacks, be prepared to stop for more exciting options occasionally.

5. Prepare Some Sort of Entertainment

When it comes to traveling with kids, some sort of entertainment is essential whether they’re in for a long car ride, plane ride or otherwise. After all, the journey is a big part of the adventure and a good time to make new memories. So even if you don’t have physical toys or games to bring along, classic games that require nothing but company (like I Spy, Twenty Questions and Would You Rather) are always crowd favorites.

6. Reduce the Risk of Sickness

When it comes to traveling with children in particular, the risk of both foreign germs and common sicknesses becomes a bit more serious, so carrying hand sanitizers and antibacterial wipes is suggested as an easy way to keep them safe. Along with taking these preventative measures, being prepared with age-appropriate pain and fever relievers (as well as some sort of nausea relief) is always a good idea.

7. Don’t Ignore the Struggles of Summer

Sun, bugs and sweat exist almost everywhere in the world when summer rolls around, and that means that you’ll want to be proactive against and reactive to:

  • Heat rash, which is very common among children, but doesn’t have to be an issue if you avoid extended periods in the sun by seeking shade whenever possible.
  • The effects of chlorine, which call for at least a fresh water rinse, but will likely benefit from skin and hair moisturizers to keep these areas from drying out.
  • Bug bites, which can become severely uncomfortable and even painful if left for a child to scratch. If bug bites have occurred and are irritating, consider applying a cool cloth, ice cube, aloe vera gel or even Hydrocortisone 1% cream to bites.
  • Sunburn, which can be avoided pretty effectively through the use of sensitive skin or mineral sunscreens, UPF fabrics that block harmful UVA and UVB rays, soft and breathable fabrics that dry quickly when damp, and seeking shade. If burns do occur, then staying hydrated, taking a cool bath, applying cool cloths, applying aloe vera gel and applying Hydrocortisone 1% cream are all effective ways to reduce the pain.

8. Plan on Sleep Not Coming Easily to Anyone

A lack of sleep will quickly impact our overall health and happiness — but it doesn’t normally come easy to us when we’re away from home. Unfortunately, all of this tends to hit even harder in children, so you’ll want to be prepared to help them sleep.

Some simple items that may do this are eye masks to block out light and adjust to jet lag, earplugs to block out unexpected or unfamiliar noises, a lotion with a calming scent to create a soothing environment and bamboo baby clothes and rompers to keep them cool, comfortable and ready to nap whenever.

Plan for a Fun and Stress-Free Vacation

Planning is a surefire way to fit as much fun as possible into your family vacation, and the key to keeping it stress-free. And while there are sure to be some little snags here and there that are out of your control, there are also going to be lots of spontaneous and exciting moments that are created by your family. You can feel happy knowing you took the control to make that happen!

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