Age Appropriate Vacations
I’ve witnessed many people spend time and money on a vacation that wasn’t entirely age appropriate for all participants. It’s like seeing the woman in the airport wearing 3-inch heels… it just doesn’t make sense. This happens most often with young families but applies to everyone.
Really consider what each traveler can actually take in. If you have very small children, reconsider that amusement park. Check to see how tall/ old they need to be to ride the rides and participate in the activities. An amusement park, for a small child that is still taking naps or is in diapers, will not be much fun. In general, it will cause more stress and discomfort than it’s worth. Just wait to spend all of that money when everyone can enjoy the rides, walk themselves the whole time and really remember the trip. If you’re looking at a trip like DisneyWorld, really consider the amount you’re spending and what your children will actually be able to do and remember. I would suggest looking up the height requirements for the rides for the various parks and go from there. If they are tall enough to ride all but a few of the biggest rides, they are probably old enough to handle the long days, the amount of walking required and still actually enjoy the experience. If you’re worried that they will miss out on the awe and wonder of it all, trust me they won’t. We waited until my youngest was 7 and tall enough to ride all but a couple of the biggest rides before we went. The older two were 10 and 12 at the time and EVERYONE was awed by the magic of DisneyWorld.
If you have small children, consider shorter getaways closer to home. Everyone knows that flying with small children is challenging, to put it mildly. As usual, I suggest road trips with plenty of stops and attractions along the way. Keep your road trip within a reasonable distance so as not to be overwhelming for you or the children. This should also be a consideration for older travelers or those with handicaps. Often, sitting in a seat for too long is just plain painful. The beauty of road trips is the flexibility to stop and stretch whenever you need it, however the total distance should be a consideration.
For families with small children, consider what they will remember and take away from the trip and choose you destination accordingly. Consider how long they can handle being away from home and their own beds, not to mention routines. Cranky kids do not make for a fun experience for anyone. For older travelers, consider how long medications will last before needing refilling when planning.
More senior travelers may not appreciate stops or destinations that require a lot of physical activity or physically demanding activities. For our young adult travelers, take time to make sure your destination fits your adventuring needs. You may want to skip over the destination that caters to the senior crowd where all of the restaurants tend to be buffets with 3 p.m. dinner specials. Look for places that have plenty of coffee shops, breweries and free WiFi. Make sure there is plenty to keep you busy and engaged.
Always take into consideration the possible danger or risk involved wherever you stop or stay. Many state and national parks aren’t built for safety but instead protect views and nature. Even the occasional fences aren’t going to keep an adventurous child away from danger. If you stop at Niagara Falls for instance, take proper precautions to keep your children close to you and out of harms way. The same goes for nearly all natural attractions.
For your younger and older spectrum adventurers, allow time and availability to rest. A day packed with activities may not be the best idea if you don’t want an attitude breakdown (and I don’t mean for the kids!). Also keep in mind how often meals/ snacks should be planned for. A hungry explorer is a cranky explorer. If possible, keep healthy snacks with you, along with plenty of water. ALWAYS be aware of the risk of dehydration! Always provide for restroom considerations. How far away from a bathroom should you go? Be safe and use the restroom wherever you have the opportunity. Even in the city, public restrooms can be hard to come by. Check for them before you begin exploring so you have no emergencies. I have a child who fights using the restroom when they are available so I understand if you do to, but it’s best for everyone to set the expectation that everyone is going to take advantage of the facilities while they are available, no saying “But I don’t have to go,” have them try anyway.
While taking your small child to a museum not specifically catering to children is probably not the best idea (did you want to put the purchase of that broken Ming vase on you Visa today?), there are a ton of children’s museums throughout the country and many public museums are child friendly. Just play it safe and check ahead if your aren’t sure. Also take into account small parks, short hikes and stops in town for a special treats. Hopping into the car for a day trip with your kids can be a ton of fun and make for some fantastic memories, AND you can be back in your own bed at bedtime! Often one overnight is the max for very small children, but you can make that overnight a memorable one with the right accommodations. Choose a hotel with a pool if that’s your thing, or one with a quirky kid- friendly theme, like maybe staying overnight in a train caboose, or find one with “extras” like fresh- baked cookies before bed. Come prepared with all of you child’s sleeping needs- their special blanket, pillow from home, a favorite stuffed toy, etc. Bring along something familiar to make bedtime less stressful. If they need it, bring along a pack and play or something they can sleep in if they’re too small for a regular bed, don’t count on anything like that being available at you hotel even if they advertise them. They are generally on a first come first served basis.
In the end, road trips are for everyone, you just need to fully consider your destination and whether the activities are going to be overwhelming for some, or if it will be a trip that everyone remembers fondly because it was such great fun for all of the voyagers.
I challenge you to choose your next adventure wisely. Make sure the amount you invest will leave you with and unforgettable return; great memories to last a lifetime.