Buckle Up


// by Allison Jones

Do you break into a panic attack when you think of a family vacation? Taking a family trip can be stressful—whether you have Chevy Chase along for the ride or not. The secret to a successful vacay, say experts, is preparedness. That, and maybe a little patience.

Safety is rule #1

Talking to kids about safety is important regardless of their age. Two major points of discussion regarding safety are what to do in the event that a child gets lost and how to follow the destination rules.

In regards to getting lost, the best advice that parents can follow is to always pick a meeting spot. Experts advise choosing a unique location that isn’t too busy and telling children to go directly to the meeting location if separated from mom or dad.

Safety is also an important consideration when planning excursions and activities. Travel expert Angela Spurgeon of Destinations in Florida Travel advises selecting activities that are age-appropriate and doing research to ensure a company is reputable.

“When you have kids, your thoughts on safe travel changes,” says Spurgeon. “What you would never think twice about before kids now brings on a whole new set of questions, such as: Is this age appropriate, will my child enjoy it, and do I want to make them a daredevil?”

If kids suggest doing something that seems out of their comfort zone, trust them. “We recently went to Tennessee with my five-year-old year old and he wanted to do the kid zip line,” says Spurgeon. “The course director assured me that my child would be OK, but I was a nervous wreck. I went online and checked reviews, spoke with other parents and watched many other kids take their turns. I finally felt this was safe for my child after the proper research. But not all places are as safe and you have to do your part.”

Plan, Plan & Plan Some More

Travel expert Carrie Hurst of Destinations in Florida Travel suggests involving the entire family in vacation planning. “[Ask your family members questions like], ‘Do you need some beach time? Would you like to do some hiking or outdoor exploring? Perhaps visit a theme park?’ Have your kids list one or two activities that they would like to enjoy and build your vacation around that.”

Like Spurgeon, Hurst suggests doing research before committing to a location. When selecting a hotel, for example, check reviews and seek recommendations from local travel agents that live in that destination. Booking a hotel located in the middle of a unsafe neighborhood, or a room next to an ice machine, can spoil any vacation—even if it is only $35 per night. Hurst advises asking for help from the experts, like the local Convention & Visitors Bureau. When booking your transportation, attraction tickets, recreation and even excursions, check reviews on popular sites like Trip Advisor.

Go With the Flow

Unexpected events will happen on your vacation—especially when kids are involved. Behavior analyst Luanne Luby says that a parent’s behavior is critical to a child because they will likely mimic it. “Children need to learn how to handle a change of plans and be able to go with the flow. The best way for them to learn that is by watching their own parent’s behavior.” Luby says that not only will a good attitude make your vacation more enjoyable, but that challenges that unexpectedly popped up (getting sick on a rollercoaster, falling into a cactus while on a hike) may turn into a family joke that everyone laughs about 10 years from now. ] Jacksonville Magazine has partnered with Jacksonville Mom’s Blog to produce our monthly parents department. Read more local parenting-inspired articles at jaxmomsblog.com.