My Tips for Planning a Trip with Kids

February 18, 2013

My Tips for Planning a Trip with Kids

To enjoy your vacation with your kids, make an itinerary that will not be hectic. There is always a tendency to want to see everything to maximize the opportunity of visiting a place. But with kids in tow, you need to pace them properly so they have enough rest,  to keep their energies high and temperament in check. When kids get too tired or start getting hungry, they tend to lose their patience and cause conflict among each other.

1.  On making an itinerary

These are what I usually do after we decide on our destination:

First. I gather all the information I can about the place to discover what I want to see and what the kids may be interested in seeing. 

Second. I show my kids the information I gathered and then ask them what activities they're interested in doing and what places they want to see.

I immediately tell them we may not see everything they want to see because of lack of time. So I request each of them to rank the most important ones they want to see so we can see those places first. 

If you have kids with you, you tend to go together to sightsee. In order to accommodate each one's desired place, we discuss the itinerary. By discussing the itinerary, the kids cooperate with the daily schedule even if it's their sibling who want to visit the place.   When you discuss the itinerary, they know when their turn will come to visit the place they want to visit or do the activity they want to do. There will be less conflict during the trip.

Third. When making your daily itinerary, I suggest you find out the opening and closing times of each venue and the distances from each other. That way, you plan to visit only what's possible in a given day. I even have times inputted in my itinerary to include travel time to the sites, which people usually take for granted. Walking time, public transportation schedule and public transportation travel time with and without traffic should also be taken into account.

Fourth. Walk through the itinerary using your imagination. At some point, I even used Google Earth to actually walk the streets in Kissimmee, Orlando from our Disneyworld hotel to the bus stop to find out if it's possible for the kids to walk that distance. Planning your itinerary and walking through your itinerary in your mind, saves a lot of energy. It's hard to just do a "hit and miss" while you have kids in tow with you. It's a very bad idea to risk even getting lost with tired and impatient kids in tow.

Fifth. Know that the purpose of making an itinerary is simply to inform yourselves of what is available for you to explore in any given day. It is not meant to be followed strictly. When the day of the trip comes, I play things by ear and let the kids set the pace. If they don't wake up early enough, I skip some of the sights we're visiting. This is a vacation. It's meant to be enjoyed and not cause stress among the parties involved.

2. Suggested number of days per major city or location
For any major city or location, I usually allot five (5) days to explore it. The pace will be less hectic for the kids. 

For a beach vacation with island hopping, I usually schedule island hopping every other day, while in between those days, we bum around the beach. When we sightsee in a major city, I usually allot a day off in the middle of the week where we can just have a free day to rest and stay in the hotel, watch tv or swim in the hotel pool. That way, the kids will have the opportunity to rest. Some would say that giving up a day to just rest is a  big loss in terms of opportunity to sightsee. I don't think so. The day you give up is worth it because this means your kids will be rested, more patient, and will less likely cause a tantrum.

3. Time of flights to book
I prefer flights that depart 10:00 AM onwards. For a 10:00 AM international flight, you need to be at the airport 7:00 AM. This means that the kids need to wake up at 5:00 A.M. It will be so difficult to wake up kids earlier than 5:00 A.M. and get them ready in time. So it's better to get a flight at 10:00 AM or later. 

For the return flight, I chose flights that depart 5:00 PM onwards, so we still have a another morning on the day of our departure to enjoy one last swim at the beach, or one last visit to a museum or a park, or even just to wake up late at the hotel until checkout time. Most hotels have checkout times at 12 noon.

My take on red eye flights:
Don't even consider bringing your kids on a red eye flight. These flights depart late at night and usually arrive at midnight at your destination. The return flight usually departs at midnight and arrives at dawn at your home airport. It will ruin the kids sleep schedule and make them prone to tantrums. 

The intention of red eye flights is for adults to avoid having to take leaves of absence from work to make a weekend trip. You arrive midnight on a Friday at your destination, so you don't miss work on a Friday. Then you return home at dawn on a Monday so you don't miss work on a Monday. With kids in tow, it will be difficult to wake them up on a Saturday morning because of your late arrival so you lose half of that day already. Hopefully the schedule has not disrupted their sleep patterns. But if it did, your weekend schedule may also be disrupted.

4. Schedule on the day of arrival
My kids requested me not to schedule any sightseeing on the day of our arrival at the place we visit. Since the flight and the transfers to and from the airport will be tiring already, they look forward to resting when they arrive. The same is true even if you're doing a road trip. Upon arrival at our destination, my kids prefer to rest or merely to have nothing scheduled upon arrival. 

5. Sightseeing schedule
  • I scheduled all sightseeing later than 8:00 AM. Kids do not want to wake up early since they do that all the time when they are in school. 
  • I scheduled the sightseeing every other day, meaning in between sightseeing days are free days when you don't have to leave the resort/hotel  and can just swim or do anything you want.
6. Age of kids to bring to a major trip
At the toddler age, we brought our kids to short trips to Baguio, and other provinces. We have yayas or nannies in tow so we don't have a hard time organizing the kids' things as well as taking care of their basic needs like eating and potty time.

But on trips that you cannot bring yayas to because of the expense, I suggest you travel to those places when your youngest child is at least 7 years old. At 7 years old, the child can already take some responsibility for taking care of himself. They will be potty trained and can take a bath by themselves and take care of their things already. 

My tip on packing: As I've mentioned above, it's best to take trips when your youngest child is at least 7 years old. This means they can pack their things by themselves. If your kids packed their things, they will know what's in their luggage and can get it themselves when they need it instead of asking you all the time where their things are. They need to know what's in their bag.

Packing by themselves does not mean I let them have full control of what to bring. What I do is give them a list with number of pieces indicated in each item. They have control only on the choice of clothes to bring. 

Since I have four kids and I want to make sure that they placed all the things indicated in my packing list, I ask them to gather the things first. Then we bring all the bags inside my room. We call out each item and then they simultaneously put them inside their bag while I watched them. That way, I get to check all four kids at the same time. I did that when my kids' age range was  7-12 years old. It saved us a lot of time.