Imagine it…you’ve planned, packed and repacked for the magical family vacation that everyone will enjoy and this fabulous family experience is eternity captured in a photo of the whole family smiling while standing on the beach, with Mickey, around the campfire, or at Yankee stadium. Sure it’s possible, but it’s inevitable that you’re going to forget something, the kiddos will fight, someone will roll their eyes, and odds are even with all of today’s brilliant technology gadgets the defined navigator will have no idea where they are going at some point (while still acting like they know exactly the route). Ahhh the joys of vacation.

Here’s some advice so you (and the rest of the family) get there and back in one piece!

Wee ones [0-18 months]

According to AAA Travel, 44% of millennials are planning a family vacation this year.

You know wee ones are hard work but leave the comfort of home and it’s a whole new ball of wax. Not only do you have to worry about your travel necessities, but who knew this tiny little person’s bag would be bigger than yours.

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Pack it up

As soon as you bring your wee one home (or even before) they have lots of ‘stuff’. Swings and bouncers and pack-n-plays…oh my! Of course, you need diapers, bottles, clothes, formula and whatnot, but here are a few things you need to remember to bring with as you vacation with your wee one:

  • Bring a cap regardless of the time of year. That little melon needs to stay warm or be shaded from the sun’s rays.

  • Your wee one is a creature of habit, so don’t forget the things he finds comfort in. Also, as hard as it might be, try to keep wee ones' schedule as close to normal as possible especially when it comes to eating and sleeping.

  • Bring a first aid kit with some of the essentials like a thermometer, calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream, tweezers, scissors, nail clipper, nasal aspirator bulb, Q-tips, band-aids and Tylenol.

  • Store anything from food to stinky diapers with ease in Ziplock bags.

  • Like every stage in your wee one’s life to this point, prepare for everything including the unexpected. It’s a guarantee there will be challenging times, so bring an extra portion of patience.

Tots [18 months-3 years]

Americans will spend an average of $1,978 on summer vacations.

During long road trips, Stockmoe encourages parents to bring new toys, colors, movies and games to entertain toddlers. / Special to On The Minds of Moms
During long road trips, Stockmoe encourages parents to bring new toys, colors, movies and games to entertain toddlers. / Special to On The Minds of Moms

Could there be a more torturous activity than being a tot strapped in a car seat for hours at a time? Not from his point of view and odds are he’ll let you know about his displeasure…loudly.

On the road again

Have you ever had the shoulder belt of your seat belt lock when you are driving and I’m not talking about when you’re in an accident (better lock up then!)? It just locks up and you can’t move forward. How confining and annoying! So who could blame your tot for getting a little irritated as he sits in his five-point harnesses with barely any wiggle room! It’s our job to keep him safe, which means being in a car seat at all times as you travel, but it’s also our job to make the journey as painless as possible for everyone in the vehicle. Here are tips to tame the travel tantrums:

  • A sleeping tot is ideal as you travel, so try to time your travel around nap time and get a few hours of silence.

  • New toys, colors, movies and games can be a big hit. Be sure and consider the Fargo and Moorhead libraries where you can check out kits that include books, games and crafts or download e-books that are narrated. This is an awesome resource and great for the older kiddos too!

  • Before leaving the house or as you are on the road and get closer to the time your tot will nap, make sure everyone has gone to the bathroom. The best way to wake a content sleeping tot…make a pit stop for a potty break!

  • Bring along easy to eat [and store] snacks for your tot. Try to keep them as healthy as possible because a big sugar buzz is not going to help your cause. And be very conscious of the choking hazard snacks and food may pose.

Preschoolers [3-5 years]

Walt Disney World Resort covers 40 square miles; the size of San Francisco, California.

Stockmoe suggests visiting the Walt Disney World during the "offseason", late fall or spring. / Special to On The Minds of Moms
Stockmoe suggests visiting the Walt Disney World during the "offseason", late fall or spring. / Special to On The Minds of Moms

Cinderella, Prince Charming, Goofy and Mickey…it’s a preschoolers' utopia in southern Florida. The magic kingdom can provide memories of a lifetime, but hopefully, they don’t create flashbacks of Disney World gone amuck for you!

Going to Disney

Truly, a trip to any of the Disney theme parks can be magical for you and your preschooler. I mean how fun to watch your preschooler meet the real Snow White…priceless! Here are a few tips when you’re making magical plans:

  • Start by checking out the Disney World website. There is a ton of info that can help you plan your itinerary based on the age of your children.

  • Take into consideration when you will be going. Regardless, there will be a ton of people when you go, but the beauty of Disney World at Thanksgiving or Christmas might not be worth dealing with the whole world being there as you tote your preschooler along. Besides, going during the offseason, (late fall or spring) can save you some money!

  • Make sure you actually enjoy your vacation. Sure you want to take in as much of the park as you can, but you don’t want to come home and need a vacation from your vacation. Consider a day at the hotel pool with no agenda.

  • Some of the best advice for just about anything under the sun comes from the ones you trust that have been there before. So, ask your friends what they could have done without, what they would do again and what they wish they had done differently.

Like any trip, the best way to make sure you enjoy yourself it to not get so hung up on your itinerary and be flexible. Good to have a plan, but don’t get consumed in fulfilling the itinerary and forget about having fun.

Big kids [6-9 years]

Kiddos ages 5-12, women (especially pregnant women), and migraine sufferers seem to be more susceptible to motion sickness

As you venture down the road on your vacation you can expect the common request from the backseat for a bathroom, freedom from the car, or the need for another snack. But pray you don’t hear, ‘Mom, I don’t feel good…my stomach hurts!”

Not so much motion

Motion sickness occurs when the brain is getting conflicting messages from the body’s inner ears, eyes or nerves of the extremities (the motion-sensing parts of the body). For example, if your big kid is riding in the car reading a book, their body and inner ears are sensing the motion of the car, but their eyes are locked on the stationary book and aren’t seeing the motion. The brain is getting conflicting signals, so it sends out a response that can make your big kid feel sick. Obviously, no fun…I mean I’ll take a poopy whatever or snot-filled container of anything before I have to clean up puke! Here are some ways to keep the yak monster at bay:

  • When your big kid starts to complain or show signs of motion sickness (upset stomach, cold sweat, restless, fatigued, pale, loss of appetite, vomiting), pullover for goodness sakes! Get out, walk around a bit, and get some fresh air.

  • Stay away from greasy meals before traveling and instead try a light snack. If motion sickness continues to be a problem, try not eating before other trips. A little experimenting may be needed to see what works for your big kid.

  • No reading or video games. Look out the front window a good distance ahead. Even consider placing your big kid in the center of the back seat so they can easily see out.

  • Consider purchasing Sea bands, which are elastic wristbands containing a plastic stud that applies pressure on the inside wrist at the Nei-Kuan acupressure point. Sea bands can also provide nausea relief for those that are pregnant or having side effects due to anesthesia or chemotherapy.

  • Don’t be caught without water, wipes, Febreze and extra clothes just in case there is some yakking!

If your big kid shows signs of motion sickness when they are not involved in a motion activity, consider seeing your doctor.

Tweeners (10-12 years)

In a 2018 alamo rent a car family vacation survey 23% of respondents said they have seen social media ruin a family vacation experience.

Yep, vacations are changing for your family. Your tweener is growing and the things that have been enjoyable might be “boring” now. Well, too bad! A family vacation is a great time to leave the other stuff at home and just be together.

Get involved

This sounds like a broken record, but your tweener is always looking for independence and wants to make decisions and have his opinion heard. So, when it comes to your family vacation make sure he has some say. Here are some tips for tweener travels:

  • Get your tweener involved in the planning of your vacation. Let him have some say in where you go and the activities you will do. This will help your tweener take some ownership of the vacation.

  • Have him pack his own suitcase and the bag he will have with him at all times.

  • You have your tweener all to yourself in the car or airplane so, put away the phones and get talking.

  • Your tweener’s social life is becoming more important and being away might put a crimp in keeping in touch. Make sure you go over the technology rules. Just because you’re not at home doesn’t mean the home rules fly out the window. Make it clear that vacation doesn’t mean they are allowed to make unlimited calls and text messages. Last thing you need is to return home to a cell bill that costs more than your entire vacation!

  • Remember the old games your tweener has always enjoyed on previous road trips. He’s growing up fast, but who can turn down a good old fashion game of car bingo?

Teens (13-18 years)

A 2019 survey found the happiest memory of 49% of those surveyed was on vacation with family.

Your teen is spreading his wings and venturing a little further from the nest each year. Soon the school or church or other group associated with your teen will be knocking with a tempting trip that doesn’t include you.

In the know

Each new example of your teen’s growing independence can be met with a sense of anxiety, relief, and pride, or a combination of all three! As your teen embarks on their first trip without you, make sure you talk about…

  • Know exactly where your teen will be staying and discuss any concerns you might have. Get contact numbers for hotels and chaperones.

  • Find out exactly what is included in the price of the trip and what extras aren’t included so you know how much money to send with your teen.

  • Make sure your teen knows his basic health history such as any allergies, past surgeries, illnesses and make sure he has a copy of his health insurance card.

  • Discuss how often you will talk while he is away. Make it clear you don’t need to talk about every detail of his trip [that can wait until he gets home], but it is completely reasonable for your teen to touch base on a regular basis to ease your mind.

  • Discuss with your teen how to handle normal travel issues such as flight delays or lost luggage. In his cell phone, program an ICE [In Case of Emergency] number. Emergency personal are trained to look for such an entry. Talk about the importance of being aware of their surroundings. Be cautious of strangers, don’t give out personal information and lock the hotel door. And whether you are in Paris or downtown Fargo, running alone or walking while talking on your cell or wearing earbuds are not safe habits and should be avoided.

  • Make it clear that even without you, there are still commonsense rules to follow. Remind him that regardless of where he is, he needs to be polite and respectful. Sure, kids with be kids, but they are still representing themselves, your family, and the group they are traveling with.



Editor’s note: Story was written by Sheri Kleinsasser Stockmoe and originally published in the April/May 2019 issue of the On The Minds of Moms magazine. Forum Communications Company is re-publishing these stories as On the Minds of Moms staff members develop a new online community.