Summer travel dreams: Five tips to have a successful vacation with young kids

The summer is when our routines change. There is no more school, class schedules shift, and more time is spent away than any other time of the year.

Whether you head to the Hamptons for the beach, Upstate for the woods, or on a plane to visit family, time out of the city is part of what we all love about summer.

As you may already know, kids thrive with routine and structure. Yet, summer and vacation is all about spontaneity and seeing where the wind blows.

No need to worry. Here are my top five tips for how to have a success vacation with your small ones:

Before you go on vacation, talk about it. As much as kids love a surprise, this is not the time to surprise them. Create a kid-friendly calendar to show your kids the days your family will be home and the days your family will be away. Don’t expect your kids to remember things better than you. Personally, I check my calendar multiple times a day. So give them visual structure so they can understand. It will also reduce the ongoing question, “Are we going to Disney tomorrow?”

Discuss what’s different about vacation days. Help kids understand the difference between days when there is work and school, days that are part of the weekends, and vacation days. These are three different categories, and your family may have others to add. Talk about what the rules are for work and schooldays as compared to weekends. Then compare weekends to vacation days. What’s different? Is bedtime is different? Are your morning routines are different? Do you have different meals? I eat more treats on vacation than any other time. Make the differences clear to your small one. This will make coming back home after vacation much easier for you as well!

Show your kids pictures of the new places you are going. This way, even if they have never been there before, it will feel familiar. Talk about what adventures you will have and what they can expect to see and do while away. Talk about what behavior is appropriate in this new place. Will they need to sit quietly on a plane? Will there be a park to be silly in?

Keep a schedule while you are on vacation. I know, it is the last thing you want to do. Keeping a schedule does not mean having every minute planned. It means checking in throughout the day and speaking with purpose about the activities to come. If you say lunch is in 30 minutes, make it happen. If you are staying at the water park for a while, plan the next three rides, and then go. Too often, adults on vacation are making decisions and not communicating them to the children involved. Once you know what your plan is, share it.

Play! Remember to have fun with your kids. Regardless of the type of day — school day, weekend, or vacation day — enjoy your time together. Dedicate 10 minutes to play Go Fish, even on your busiest days. It is these moments that they will remember, and so will you.

Have a wonderful summer. Enjoy all the adventures that you have as a family!

Dr. Marcie Beigel is an international speaker and trainer. She is the best-selling author of “Love Your Classroom Again” and “Love Your Family Again.” She is the founder of Behavior and Beyond, a company dedicated to behavior change. Visit

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