Peace and Quiet
Everything is so new and interesting to little kids, it can quickly become overwhelming. Plus, if they’re like mine, they easily become too excited to sleep properly, which only takes a few days to blow up into a situation unless you’re careful. On the other hand, they also have a relatively limited capacity to entertain themselves, so they do need enough to chew on to keep them ticking over. For these reasons, the key to a good family holiday with young kids is hitting the right rest/activity ratio with the utmost precision and accuracy. Even minor miscalculations in favour of either monotony or hullabaloo are dangerous to anything worthy you might want to get out of your trip – assuming, of course, you’re not travelling for the specific purpose of making yourself tired, depressed, frustrated and/or angry.
But so far so obvious, yes? The problem is, you have to keep up with – and then manage – the vastly different and rapidly developing requirements of subtly different agegroups (especially when taking more than one child) and deal with the usual (fairly broad) fluctuations in appetite for either rest or play. Here are some tricks, gleaned from experience and anecdotes, to help keep within that narrow, optimum range at all stages of the holiday.
First of all, try to get the rest/activity balance right in the lead-up to the holiday. If they are overtired from too much excitement or a long term at school, things will not go well. Less obviously, if they have become bored stiff in the weeks prior to packing (from a long term at school, for instance), they will easily become over-excited the moment you start loading the car for the airport, and… things will not go well. I would go so far as to say that the start of the school holidays might not be a great time to set off, if you can help it. Even delaying by a few days (but preferably a week) can make a lot of difference. If you don’t have school to contend with you have more flexibility to get this right.
Secondly, consider using flexible itineraries with plenty of days where your activities are not set in stone. It’s handy to have a range of options for these days, with the final decision to be discussed over breakfast. Alternatively, if your child needs structure and to know what’s going to happen well in advance, you might find it handy to use “vague” itineraries which can be augmented or diminished easily. For example, on Monday you plan to go on a trip to the museum and a walking tour around town, but you can take the short route or the long route, do the quick visit or the extended tour, add lunch or come straight home, etc etc. Or you might follow a strict plan of organising something quiet every second or third day (depending on how much your kids can take) or set a repetitive itinerary (exploring the same area with slight variations more than one day in a row) to allow everyone to keep up with the program. Remember – rest doesn’t exclusively refer to sleep, it also means a lull between one shiny new experience and the next, so everyone can process what they’ve just seen and done before they move on to the next new thing.
Splitting up can also allow for different requirements when it comes to rest and reflection: mum plans to go here, and dad plans to go there, and the kids can make up their own minds. And of course it helps cater to variations between children, allowing the younger one to catch up on naps or repeat the previous day’s activity whilst the older one explores onward, or the introvert to retreat to the poolside whilst the extravert goes out to the central market to find an audience to talk the ears off.