RULE 1: YES, YOU CAN
No, really, you can take small humans on a trip without it being equal parts stress and fun. Traveling with young kids is becoming the norm, not the exception. It’s harder to raise eyebrows on planes, in restaurants, and at the hotel pool. Why? Because in recent years, the travel industry has been catering to young families like never before, and so you’d have to try really hard to wind up in a place where yours were the only kiddos in sight. Rather than treating children as an “add-on,” resorts today are all about the kids. Airlines offer families with young children priority boarding and stroller checking; rental car companies issue car seats.
RULE 2: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TECHNOLOGY
Most of us remember dreading those long rides to get to our family’s vacation destination. But back then, options to make the hours pass were limited to counting license plates and putting gum in your sister’s hair. No more. Tech that keeps kids entertained on the road abounds, such as the next-generation scavenger hunt: geocaching. This trending hobby can be tried out at a rest stop along your driving route. Use your phone and a geocache app to find hidden treasures nearby. You can geocache virtually anywhere these days. Young children love to follow the app to find a surprise. The rule is that if you take something, you leave something. So make sure to bring along a few trinkets for the next family to find.
RULE 3: THE MORE, THE MERRIER
We don’t mean vacationing with your in-laws (though you could; see Rule 4). A growing trend is vacationing with your friends and their kids. With families spread out over larger distances than in previous generations, friends with kids the same age have taken over as a support system. More young parents are deciding to travel as a group. It’s more fun for the kids, who have built-in playmates they already know, and for you as well, especially if you have a baby or toddler. Think about it: You and your bambino will have company at the kiddie pool for once, while your spouse takes the older kids to the diving board.
RULE 4: RETHINK WHAT IT MEANS TO “GO HOME”
Visiting grandparents is a top reason for taking a family trip, and now it no longer means piling into your old bedroom with your own kids and feeling obliged to eat your favorite childhood pancakes—Every. Single. Morning. If you believe that home is the people you love, not necessarily a physical place, then this is the year to suggest going somewhere awesome as the annual family visit. Grandparents who don’t see their grandchildren that often may be only too happy to share a special experience with them. Private homes and resort rental services, such as Airbnb, HomeAway, and Vacatia, now make it possible to find comfy accommodations for a large group that, well, feel like a home.
RULE 5: BE SPONTANEOUS
Online booking has changed the travel game. Vacations no longer have to be planned months out. Now it’s simple to jump on a great hotel deal or a rock-bottom fare, grab the kids, and go. The ease of comparing prices instantaneously can make it possible for those with a tight budget to take a trip that they thought was out of their reach. It also makes it much easier to take advantage of low-season travel dates. Many schools are closed on random days that apply only in that district, such as teacher-development days. If you have school-age kids, you don’t need to be restricted to the pricey (and crowded) summer and spring break time frames. Unexpected day off from school a week from Friday? Grab your phone and make it an impromptu long weekend.
RULE 6: MIX BUSINESS WITH PLEASURE
Work-family balance is a priority for most working parents. If you travel frequently for business, it can sometimes be hard not to feel guilty, or at least a little sad, about spending precious time away from your family. But like so much else in 2017, it’s time to rethink the business trip. It doesn’t have to be an either-or proposition. Why not bring your partner and kids along? If you all fit in one room, there’s no additional cost to your employer. While you’re out during the day, they can enjoy the local attractions. No, it’s not a dream family vacation, but it’s a great way to grab quality time with your kids in a way that fits your life now.