Planning a Vacation | A Choose Your Own Adventure

I have always loved to travel, and I can remember family vacations when I was young- road trips across the US, setting the camper up and taking it down the next morning (ALWAYS in the rain of course), flights to sunny beaches, and visiting family in other states. We have passed along this love of vacations to our three girls, who love the idea of going on another adventure. We are in the final stages of packing for our month long adventure to Costa Rica, and I realized that we have done just about every type of vacation there is, so I thought I would offer some general advice. But as I started it ended up taking the path of a choose your own adventure story. Happy traveling!

How are you getting there?

  • Plane:
    • Bring earbuds/headphones for everyone. Nothing is more annoying than sitting next to someone who thinks what they are listening to is what everyone should be enjoying. And not everyone is going to enjoy Trolls for the 100th time. 
    • Snacks. Food always entertains. Suckers are nice for take off and landing to help with ears popping.
    • Dress appropriately. Planes and airports can vary quite a bit with temperature.
  • Car:
    • Buy some little things ahead of time to wrap up as “surprises”. Kids can open them along the way and then they have something “new” to entertain themselves in the car. Pro tip – unwrap them from the packaging to limit garbage in the car. Something as simple as Postit Notes to put all over the window can keep them occupied for awhile.
    • Pack a cooler with some healthy snacks or meals. This also saves time on stopping to eat if you have a long drive ahead of you.
    • Try leaving at a time when your kids are going to sleep. You can get a few more hours of traveling in while everyone rests. 
    • Pack a small bag to take in to the hotel if you end up staying the night somewhere while on the road. Then you don’t have to unload everything for one night.
  • Boat:
    • Pack some toys, especially if you are traveling with kids who are too young for the “child care” part of the ship.
    • Magnetic hooks help give you more space in your cabin for bags, towels, purses, sweatshirts, etc.
    • A power strip gives you the ability to charge more things than one at a time! Cruise ships have limited outlets, so trying to charge all devices can be difficult.
    • Plastic sippy cups or cups with straws and lids. The boat moves people. Be prepared.

What type of vacation is it?

  • Hotel:
    • Hotel rooms can be very dark. Kids don’t like the dark. Pack a nightlight.
    • Sharing beds can be hard for kids who are not used to it, and as long as they are small enough we have used the comfy chairs and couches in the rooms as beds for our little ones.
  • House rental:
    • Pack minimally- most of the stuff is already there!
    • Buy some of the necessities when you are there- a small dish soap, and detergent, for example, OR pack a travel sized one for use when you get there.
  • Camping:
    • Pack everything. Seriously.

What are the ages of the kids?

  • Infant/baby:
    • You really feel the need to bring everything when traveling with infants and babies. And that is pretty accurate. But here are at least some tips. Pack an extra outfit in a zip lock bag. This way when the blow out happens (and it WILL happen) you have clean clothes and something to put the dirty ones into.
    • Bring a portable baby monitor with you- it helps if you are staying in a place where the room is farther away. My kids always had a hard time falling asleep if we were in the same room, so we either a) hid out in the bathroom or b) hung out in the hallway.
    • It is always helpful to bring your own kid friendly dishes as well.
  • Young kids:
    • Books are great but sometimes take up a lot of space. Try downloading books for your kids to read on a tablet. Lots of them are interactive as well, which makes them fun to read. Your local library might also have an app where you can listen to people reading children’s  stories.
    • Older kids might enjoy remembering what they have done on the trip by creating a scrapbook or journal of their daily adventures. For us it is a way to continue practicing writing skills over the summer!
  • Teenagers:
    • This is uncharted territory for us, as our children are 7 and under. But I can imagine… There are certain vacations that are better suited for older kids, and things you can do with them that they will enjoy too. Some historical sites, for example, or longer/more adventurous hikes.
    • All I would hope is that we don’t all stay plugged into our own separate devices during the whole vacation. Maybe we can find an audiobook that we would all enjoy listening to, or putting our current favorite musical on auto replay.


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