From a father and educator’s perspective, Leonard Stanley is here to give you some advice – whether it’s questions about school, your teenager, family life, expat life or if you just need a dad’s point of view. In Advice from Dad, he answers your tough questions and gets a parent’s perspective.
It makes little difference whether you are a parental rookie or an experienced vet, the family vacation game is a difficult one to master! Lucky for you, Coach Stanley is here to offer pointers. The strategy is simple and will be broken down into three steps: plan, execute and document.
The first page in the traveling playbook is all about planning, and there is no substitute for a meticulous approach which covers every aspect of your vacation. It is in the family's best interest to have all the details locked in and ready to go well before you travel. Research your destination and collect as much information as possible including accommodation and entertainment options.
I've found that selecting family-friendly hotels is an excellent idea, especially if you have young children to entertain. Remember, just because you visited a destination before you had kids, it doesn’t mean it is a great place to travel with a family.
Planning covers more than just travel arrangements. It also includes how and what you pack. I can tell you from personal experience, that a must-have for every trip is your trusty 'Bag-o-Tricks.' It's more than your favorite device or tablet; it's everything from small toys and board games to playing cards, stickers, magnets and coloring books. Include things which can be used from home to hotel, or during downtime at the end of a long sightseeing day.
I am self-aware enough to recognize my strengths and weaknesses, and I have gladly forfeited the responsibility of planning to my better half, while I focus on execution. On travel day, make sure every family member is aware of their role. Engagement is key. In the past, a few jobs I have delegated include refreshment manager – making sure the snacks are replenished, and director of entertainment – deciding which family game will be played and when. Execution involves making sure the plan runs smoothly, with little or no miscues. Airports can have delays and layovers can be long. Knowing how to execute a downtime activity in the case of an unforeseen pause is an invaluable skill.
Finally, you must document this wonderful experience for future reference. The memories you create will last a lifetime, this much is true. However, I have a personal reason for documenting our family vacations. A few years ago, after our third trip to Sanya, my boys said, “wow, this place is great, how come we have never been here before?” My wife and I looked at each other in surprise. And, from that moment, the decision was made to include our children in the documentation process. Having your child record their experiences will vary depending on age, but I highly recommend it. While older children can keep a journal, younger kids can draw pictures of their daily experiences. You can also provide an image, which they can write a caption for, to help them remember how you spent your money! The most popular option is a video, where the kids play a part in editing or narrating the content. It is a fun, family project that will enhance the experience and ensure those memories last.
Traveling is a team sport, and everyone has a role to play, even the kids. So, when the time comes to take that family trip, remember that planning, execution and documentation are the three keys to victory.
[Cover image via Pexels]
Leonard Stanley was born and raised in Washington D.C., and has lived in Shanghai since 2009 with his wife and two young children Kyle (12) and Christopher (8). Leonard teaches Theory of Knowledge as well as Language & Literature at the Western International School of Shanghai.
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