Summer holidays and national holidays are wonderful times for families with young children to bond and offer learning experiences. But the best family friendly holiday ideas are just like the rest of your regular everyday schedule – they require some planning, patience and creativity! Family friendly holiday ideas don’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Everything is an adventure when you are 4 years old, even if it’s just staying at a hotel in a nearby city, or visiting relatives, or taking a day trip to a nature preserve, city park, or fair.
April is a good time to start thinking about the summer holidays. There are lots of exotic tours you can organize but if you have a couple of kids that can get very expensive. So it helps to plan ahead and think creatively about what your family really “needs” vs. what the travel industry wants you to think you need.
The first thing to do is to put together a holiday planner – with all the dates of Canadian public holidays, school holidays, local activities, work obligations, family weddings, doctors’ appointments, etc. If you are looking to depend on grandmothers and friends to help by hosting you on the road, house-sitting while you’re out of town, or babysitting so mom and dad can have a Date Night while on holiday, be sure to get that in the calendar. This is your holiday lifesaver.
Perhaps you can make a checklist with the kids and tick off the things you want to do together one at a time. These activities depend on the age of the children, and how many children you have, of course. If you have a bit of an age gap between your older children and your newest baby, you might want to plan some special outings for the older kids while the baby has some down time at the hotel with mom or dad.
There are some great websites can help you plan and find a perfect family friendly holiday. For example, Tots to Travel outlines what makes an ideal property for babies, toddlers and older children, and reminds you of the things a mom has to look out for when booking a holiday property. They also have a wonderful list of family friendly destinations around the world. Kidspot also offers some advice on how to plan and budget a trip and a very useful list of packing tips and how to survive a theme park! Another group called Ciao Bambino has a beautiful website that specializing in inspiring families to see the world and gives all kinds of advice on ideas for planning a memorable holiday with children of all ages.
Once you’ve decided where you want to go, be sure to pack a holiday “survival kit” with everything you might need to keep kids happy, clean, and dry during a holiday outing – such as a first aid kit, snacks, wipes, water, extra socks, a change of clothes (or two), diapers, sunscreen, sun hats, and more. This site has great ideas about how to pack a summer survival kit.
Another concern for many parents is ensuring the safety of their kids and preventing their kids from getting lost or separated during travel through crowded airports or busy public spaces. Especially if you’re traveling with toddlers or small children for the first time, it might give you peace of mind to invest in some ID cards or wristbands for kids. For example, the Vital ID Child Safety ID bracelet is a colorful and compact bracelet that enables each child to carry your contact information, in case they ever accidentally become separated from you. Make sure that your kids know the safety rules and be sure your children are aware of “stranger danger.”
Also be sure to set expectations so that there is not disappointment – as we said in a previous article, toddlers can be control freaks and want to know what to expect. Try not to do too much! Remember that the point of a family holiday is to relax and enjoy time together, not to be so busy that every minute of the day is overscheduled. Know what you are good at as a family (if your kids are early risers, try to go out for breakfast everyday, or go to morning activities) and stay in your comfort zone (don’t worry about trying to do a lot of highly active outdoor activities if you know that your family are more happy with quiet indoor activities). A family holiday is not often the best time to try new intense activities for the first time – don’t go snowboarding if you don’t know how to snowboard, and don’t go on scary rides if you are afraid of heights. But be sure to introduce your kids to things YOU like to do as well. Sharing our passions with our kids is one of the great joys of parenting.
Above all, remember not to put too much pressure on yourselves. Kids do not have to be entertained all the time, especially not when they’re on a family holiday. The moments of downtime and quiet times spent as a family are often some of the happiest, because these are the moments that remind us of the simple realities of our love for one another. And even if the kids complain that they’re “bored,” remember: boredom leads to creativity!
What are your favorite affordable family friendly holiday ideas in Canada? Leave a comment and let us know, or join the discussion on the Medela Singapore Facebook page.