Air travel days are busy travel days often beginning with a frenzied blur of activity. Last minute packing, excitement for the upcoming trip, and a general “wrapping things up,” combined with early morning flights may mean sleep deprivation is the foundation and first impression of the family journey.
With our limited holiday travel time, it may be tempting to “hit the ground running” and plan a full itinerary beginning the moment we arrive at the destination. With kids, this may quickly backfire. Reality is, some well-planned quiet family time upon arrival may set the tone for a more relaxing and enjoyable vacation for all.
Children, even as young as infants, quickly sense a change in routine; being woken up earlier than normal, less cuddle time, and more rushing around with a quick breakfast or breakfast on the road. Mum or dad may be talking about tickets and house keys and flight status along with last minute packing inquiries. Tired parents combined with excited or overwhelmed kids and airport hassles of security, long lines, and waiting for everything can be exhausting and stressful.
Think about how we feel when those around us are stressed.
Kids are more sensitive than we realize, especially when in an unfamiliar, overstimulating environment. Try to lighten the mood throughout the day with deep breathing, smiles, and extra time in the itinerary to interact as a family.
Recognize travel day is busy – and can be stressful just because of the lack of routine. A full day of travel deserves some down time upon arrival to recuperate and avoid burnout.
Southwest aircraft were lined up to “rest” and undergo maintenance for the next day. Similarily, a quiet evening in the hotel room may be exactly what young children need to regain equilibrium in time for busy days ahead.
7 Tips to plan and enjoy simple arrival evenings
- Plan the first evening to set the mood for vacation. A family-friendly easy dinner, showers or baths to wash away travel day grime, followed by reading some favorite books before an early bedtime is a great way to set the vacation mode to fun.
- Take a deep breath, comfort kids, and savor some family love time. Laugh with your kids. Talk about the travel day, helping them to process what they saw, felt, heard, and observed. Hold little ones close in a carrier or wrap when possible so they feel comfort and security amidst unfamiliar people and settings. Even arriving at the hotel (whose bed is this, where is my home, who are these people?) can be confusing and is more comforting when held close to the heart!
- Plan time to enjoy each other and relax. Part of vacation is to spend quality time with each other. Busy daily lives don’t always allow this- use hotel time to connect with family and observe how each family member reacts to travel.
- Restrict arrival evening to immediate family only. If possible, limit outside obligations until all have rested and recuperated from travel day. Family and friends living at destination may not understand travel exhaustion. Having time to regroup can make all the difference. (Others may be so excited for your arrival they plan too much excitement into an already busy day!) It’s better to meet when the family is well-rested rather than overtired.
- Appreciate hotel stays through a child’s eyes. Enjoy excitement and fascination kids have with hotels, room service, and hotel amenities such as pools or activity rooms.
- Crabby kids (or adults) are usually out of balance. Treat them kindly, help them regain balance, and love them!
- Enjoy your holiday (vacation)! A fun family trip is determined by the mood of the parents. Are you having a good time?