Kid-Friendly Summer Vacation Tips & Tricks

Planning great vacations with your kids can be totally exciting. Whether you're taking your kiddos to some place completely new or some place familiar, the journey can be magical. When you've got a hoard of children, however, it can turn out to be a total pain (ie. disaster of extreme proportions) if you don't have a plan and maybe even some coping strategies for when things don't go as expected.

That's why we've compiled this list, based on our own vacation experiences with our lovely and sometimes not so lovely lil' monsters, to help you survive this year's summer vacation. These tips are coming to you from our family vacation in Bar Harbor, ME.

Let Time Be On Your Side.

Kids love to explore, linger and get sidetracked. Don't over-schedule your daily summer vacation activities so that you're running from one thing to another. Pick one or two things to get to per day so there's no rush if the family gets slowed down. Be willing to change things up if needed. Always include some down time, every day.

Today, our must-do activities included two things. Five kids and their frazzled parents can only put up with so much without biting each other's heads off, after all. First, we scheduled a visit to Birdsacre Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary. We were already running late so we didn't get to hike the trails as planned but we did get to meet some gorgeous raptors at the facility. Hubby and I are birders so this was right up our alley. After some scenic driving, we stopped off for put-put golf at Pirate's Cove of Bar Harbor.

Summer Vacation Spontaneity Isn't Always Best.

It's best to have a plan, even if you don't stick to it exactly. Winging a summer vacation with young kids has never worked for us. If it were just us adults this would probably be fine. However, we've got a nine year old autistic kiddo and a super hyper seven year old in our midst that both rely heavily on routine and predictability. We came to Bar Harbor with a schedule, though we realize it may not stay the same. It's like having a "map", really. 

Pull the Electronics, Hand Out Sketchbooks & Journals to Kiddos On Vacation.

Kids don't learn to look around and observe if they're stuck on electronics. If you do bring electronics, which is understandable and sometimes required to stay sane some moments, lay out the rules clearly. I get how hard this is — as I write this, our Aspy is having a big ol' hour long meltdown because we managed to misplace his tablet the first day we got here. When we find it, we'll be limiting it to one hour a day. Set a timer if needed. When you're out adventuring, pass out journals, pencils and maybe even kid-friendly cameras (wait… that's an electronic). This was my mother's go-to adventuring tool when I was a kid. I always had a journal in hand, ready to sketch and take notes. It's a great way to teach kids how to observe, how to be in the moment and take in the details of a place.

Dress Kiddos for the Right Climate & Terrain.

Back home in Delaware, it was 94 degrees today. Here in Bar Harbor, Maine, however, it only reached 72. When traveling, you have to plan ahead for new climates, unfamiliar weather patterns, different terrains and all that jazz.

In our home state of Delaware, we like to joke that our state has no hills. It's not really a joke, though, because we really have no hills. We're hardcore about hiking but our younger kids don't have much familiarity with mountains just yet. Now that we're exploring Maine, we've got real deal mountains, rock scrambles, cliffs and tide pools to trek. That calls for specific gear and clothing.

Try Something New & Exciting But Do Familiar, Calm Things, Too. Be Together No Matter What You Do. 

While we could get away with hiking, whale watching, museum-visiting and restaurant hopping all week, the kids probably won't stand for it. It's also fun to get a little touristy and play some mini-golf. The kids certainly appreciate that stuff. Like I said earlier, down time is important, too. Plan for some movie nights, game nights, yoga at home, etc. where you can just be together, without having to wow them every minute. It's a great way to re-center yourself, especially if vacation has you and the kids overstimulated.

Learn About Your Destination. Quiz the Kids. Make Learning Fun and Memorable.

We don't just go to a place and then leave it. We like to do the whole educational thing with our kids. What's the history of the destination? Has anything exciting, amazing or spooky happened there? Does anyone famous or influential live there? There's all kinds of ways to get the kids interested in learning about the place where you are spending your summer vacation.

I spent some time in Bar Harbor with my mother when I was a child, so I have my own stories to help draw the kids in. I've regaled them with my memories of the famous sandbar of Bar Harbor and my childhood quests to save all the starfish, my first Northern Lights experience, meet-and-greets with humpback whales, the magical tide pools of Acadia National Park and of course, Thunder Hole.

On the list for learning in Bar Harbor, Maine this week are the following:

  1. How did Bar Harbor get it's name?
  2. What people made up the Wabanaki Nations and what was Pesamkuk?
  3. What wildlife and sea life inhabits Mount Desert Island and Frenchman Bay? 
  4. What is the National Park System and why is it important? What National Park are we visiting right now?Stock the Car with Juice Boxes, Water & Snacks

Stock the Car with Juice Boxes, Water & Snacks.

Sure, a first-aid kit is important, too. But you know those monsters are going to say they're thirsty every five minutes. Need I say more?

EJ Curran is a Delaware mom. This post was adapted from her blog, FourLittleMonsters.

Categories: MomSpeak