Vacations should be a time for fun and relaxation, but traveling with kids can quickly become stressful if you don’t plan ahead. Following some simple tricks—like picking the right cruise line, or being flexible with your itinerary—can make your family vacation easier and more enjoyable.
Pick the right cruise line
Every cruise line is different, and picking the right one for your family can make or break your cruise experience. First, think about the ages of your kids and their interests. Do you have little kids who need to be constantly entertained, or teenagers who can be more independent? It’s also important to think about what kind of a cruise experience you want. If your goal is to relax, then focus on finding an experience centered on spas and comfort. If you have a lot of high-energy kids, you will want to pick an option with a variety of activities to choose from. It’s also a good idea to establish a budget to prevent you from falling in love with a cruise outside of your price range. Knowing what you want out of a cruise will help you to narrow your choices.
After you make some decisions about what you want, start to explore your options. Look through various websites, and pay attention to what kinds of ships and destinations they offer. Do they have activities for the kids? Relaxation for the adults? Are the prices reasonable? Check reviews on third-party websites to see what others have to say about their experience. Search out some of the best kid friendly cruises.
Include your kids in the planning
Although you’ll want to keep certain factors—like pricing—in mind, feel free to include your kids in planning the cruise. Find out what destinations they most want to see. Ask about what activities they might enjoy, or what they are hoping to do while on the ship. You might not be able to please everyone, but making your kids a part of the experience will help them get excited (while giving you some ideas as well).
Packing for one person is very different from packing for a family, especially when you’ll spend several days away from land, without access to affordable appliances. With that in mind, there are a few things that you will definitely want to pack, the first being some portable lights, like flashlights and night lights. If you are staying in a cabin towards the middle of the boat, chances are, you will be getting no outside light. Night lights can make it easier to move around the cabin after bedtime, and a flashlight will come in handy more than once (especially if you experience a power outage while on board).
Another essential item to add to your packing list is a power strip. Regardless of what electronics you decide to bring, it’s almost certain that you will end up with more chords than outlets. Power strips are lightweight and can save you the stress of having to rotate through chargers while on the ship.
Additionally, lanyards and ziploc bags are always handy to have while cruising. You won’t have to worry about losing your room card, and you will always have a place to store small items.
Take advantage of the kids club
As a parent, you know how active kids can be. One of the beautiful things about cruising is that there are dozens of activities and programs for kids, which will keep them entertained and allow you to get some alone time. Many ships have a kids club, with areas and activities exclusively for kids. Check out the ship’s itinerary and help your kids pick activities that are fun for them.
With that said, piling on too many plans and activities will exhaust children, making it harder to get them excited for days at port. Balance group events with quiet time activities, like coloring, reading, or watching TV. Taking some time to relax will leave your kids feeling invigorated and ready for the next activity.
It’s easy to get stressed while traveling, but maintaining a degree of flexibility will make the cruise more enjoyable for both you and your kids. Family vacations—and cruises in particular—are the perfect time to allow your older children some independence. Consider hanging a small, magnetic white board in the cabin, where everyone can write down their plans and keep in contact while on the ship. Your kids will love being able to roam and explore, and you can still keep track of them and their comings and goings.
In addition to giving your kids some extra freedom, allow for flexibility in your schedule. Don’t be afraid to stray from your itinerary when exploring the various ports. Certain activities—like paid-for excursions—will require you to be punctual, but other things can be rearranged, especially if your family is really enjoying a particular activity.
Cruising with kids can be difficult, but planning ahead will prepare you for most situations. So just relax, and enjoy making memories with your family!