I love arranging vacations almost as much as actually going on vacations. Months in advance, I haul out maps and guidebooks and start plotting a schedule of fun, and I know I’m not alone. Today’s travelers are savvy, discriminating, and incredibly detail-oriented, but even the sharpest planners cannot overcome occasional, unintended obstacles of family travel.
I queried AKontheGO Facebook followers about their family vacation mishaps, and between tales of exploding RV’s and equally-exploding children, we had ourselves quite a lively discussion. The gist, beyond an obvious need for parental catharsis, was to see how families adapted to sudden shifts in both internal and external factors. Stuff does indeed happen, and it happens with perhaps more regularity than we care to admit. From sickness to mechanical (or emotional) breakdowns, possessing a few tricks in the old Mom or Dad toolbox can make a world of difference. So, in the spirit of agreeable and flexible family travel, here are just a few tips. Read ‘em and weep. Or laugh. But do take notes.
What to do if….
Your flight is cancelled/delayed: Whether due to mechanical issues or weather, no-go flights are a pain in the patooty for parents. Here you are, all packed, kids fed and watered, successfully TSA’d, and now the plane isn’t coming. Solution? Get on the phone, now. Call your airline’s reservations agent while you’re standing in line to rebook (I have Alaska Airlines on speed dial). Often, you can rebook faster via phone than at the gate from whence you used to be departing. Our travel buddy Johnny Jet has an excellent post for just this sort of scenario, and he knows his stuff. In Alaska, occasional weather delays are not uncommon, so be ready with a kit of fun for the youngsters. Card games, movies, the iPad, snacks; whatever might smooth over a few hours of flightlessness.
Kids get sick on the road (or in the hotel, campground, or aboard the cruise ship): Break out the pain reliever or tummy medicine, moms and dads, and pray it’s just the latest virus brought home from school last week. We provided a nice synopsis of travel meds and first aid supplies in a previous post, so check out our list and add items specific to your own family. Also remember, if kids are throwing up violently, or filling diapers (yeah, sorry, but you gotta hear it), and you’re on a cruise ship or in a crowded resort, let management know; it might be the icky and rapidly-contagious Norovirus. Pack hand sanitizer, wipes with bleach or another cocktail of germ-busting ingredients, plastic bags, and water, if you are able. These suckers can come in so handy while on the road. Also ask your doctor for a prescription for anti-nausea meds for teens or grownups; it’s fabulous for queasies or pre-sickness stomach trouble.
Bugs make you crazy: Our family lived in South Carolina for two summers, and now I live in Alaska, both areas where bugs love to roam. I have experienced ticks falling from the sky like raindrops and impenetrable flocks of mosquitoes, and can safely say that insects can bug you like nothing else. What should you do? If kids are tiny, consider some non-chemical bug dope like Burt’s Bees or other natural products on the market. Invest in a bug net for strollers and/or backpacks, or even a suit of netting so kids won’t be restricted in their movements. If you do use bug spray, and we do, by the way, apply everywhere except near noses and mouths. It is surprising how insects find a way to locate the only untouched spot and munch on tender skin. Avoid going outdoors (if you can) during early morning or evening hours; bugs love this time of day and even the wild animals know to lay low at these times.
The attractions are closed (or not appropriate, or broken, or just plain boring to kids): Yes, this has happened to us. Many times. Which is why AKontheGO got started, as a matter of fact. Let’s all be honest and admit we took our kids to a museum whose exhibits kept them engaged for all of, say, 10 minutes. Now what? Take five, regroup, have coffee and snack, and put on your “we’ll make the best of it” face. Hop in the car, on the bike, or in a taxi, and find the visitor bureau. Ask about local parks, playgrounds, or thrift stores. My kids love thrift stores, and in Alaska you can bet there are fascinating items to discover over the course of a half-hour. Hit up the grocery store and buy goodies for an impromptu picnic, utilizing locally-grown foods. A rainy or snowy day? Try the local library, where lots of families congregate and where everyone can at least pick up a picture book and browse for a while. We also love local swimming pools, and never leave home without swimsuits.
The realities of travel just that, and no amount of planning or preparation can truly mitigate everything. But maybe, just maybe, you can stay one step ahead of some snafus. What’s your trick?