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Positive Behavior on Vacation: 11 Tips to Increase the Odds of Your Kids Doing Well

Positive behavior helps vacations go better.  Unfortunately, child behavior can be an area of concern for parents.  Will she throw a tantrum at the restaurant?  Will he sleep ok?  Will any of us survive the car or plane ride?

As a child therapist and a parent, I get it!  I have worked with many families that travel frequently.  I have taken my kids on vacations and even work trips successfully. Here are some tips to help your family vacation be fun and successful!

Positive Behavior on Vacation Tip 1: Stick To Routine As Much As Possible

Young children are very dependent on their routines.  Children do much better when they eat and sleep at approximately the same time each day. Try to keep bedtimes and wake up times the same, even if it means that you skip some evening activities or move a typical evening activity up in the day.  For example, taking a few hours each afternoon to go back to your hotel for a nap or quiet time will make a big difference in how your child does at dinner and other evening activities.

Positive Behavior on Vacation Tip 2: Avoid The Hangries

Even adults and older children get grumpy when they are hungry!  Remember, to be your best self, you need to be well-nourished.  Pack snacks to munch on if you unexpectedly end up with a long restaurant wait, stuck in traffic, or everyone wants to see just one more museum exhibit before lunch.
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Positive Behavior on Vacation Tip 3: Schedule Down Time

Children need breaks from the stimulation of a vacation or family gathering.  Make sure that there are times not just for naps, for those that need a siesta, but also for coloring, blowing bubbles, watching cartoons, and reading.  Kids need time to slow it down a little before getting back into exciting activities.

Positive Behavior on Vacation Tip 4: Limit The Number of Activities

Prioritize the activities that you plan for your children.  Determine what activities are most meaningful to you and your child.  A good idea might be to plan one activity that is important to each child and adult for the trip.

Positive Behavior on Vacation Tip 5: Remember The Attention Span of Your Children

Your child might be totally over an activity before you are done.  Pack small toys, books, or even an electronic device to pull out in case your child doesn’t enjoy the current activity or needs a new distraction during travel or while waiting for dinner.

Positive Behavior on Vacation Tip 6: Make It Meaningful

Pick activities that mean something to you or your child.  Maybe you want to get ice cream at the place you went as a child.  Your child might want to go to the zoo to see a favorite animal.

Positive Behavior on Vacation Tip 7: Pack Smart

It might be very difficult to find things you need in a different city.   Sometimes parents find themselves desperately trying to find a store that has a beloved pacifier or granola bar.  If you or your child rely on specific items make sure to pack an extra.
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Positive Behavior on Vacation Tip 8: Roll With Changes

If you try to take your toddler to a museum and she is far more interested in the construction site next to it, spend time looking at the bulldozer and crane.  Modify plans as you need.  Sometimes what we think our kids will like is way different from what they really enjoy. Kids often throw surprises at parents. Roll with it.  Remember it as a funny story for when you get back home.

Positive Behavior on Vacation Tip 9: Always Have A Backup Plan

Try to be prepared for changes.  If you are going to go swimming, look up what movie is playing that your kids might enjoy. Or find out if there is a children’s museum near your hotel.  That way if it rains or the pool closes unexpectedly, you can move on to the next activity easily so your family isn’t as upset.

Positive Behavior on Vacation Tip 10: Don’t Forget – Even Awkward Family Photos Still Count

You line your family up for a great picture that you can post on Facebook and use for your holiday card. However, your children are fighting. Or crying.  Or look sooooo bored.  Even awkward family photos still have your family in them.  Stressing about taking good pictures will just take away from the fun you could be having at your destination.

Positive Behavior on Vacation Tip 11: Remember, It’s Who You Are With That Matters

Having a meaningful time and fun is really about the people you are with, not the location.  Try to enjoy the unexpected silly, sweet, and amazing moments that happen during your trip.

Happy Trails!

  • Note*  If you start to feel that you are getting angry a lot because your child doesn’t listen or is engaging in dangerous behaviors, you may want to consider Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT).  PCIT is a type of therapy that coaches parents on how to teach their children how to listen quickly, make good choices, and improves parent-child relationships.  Often, if a parent feels that they are constantly trying to manage their child, it is common to feel that the relationship with the child is negative.  PCIT helps parents and children have warm, caring relationships.
Jennifer Luria

Author: Jennifer Luria

Jennifer Luria is a highly skilled child and adolescent psychotherapist. Ms. Luria holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Iowa. She was employed by the Center for Disabilities and Development at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for 8 years, and recently has joined the staff at Hope Springs. Ms. Luria has a very warm and compassionate style, which she balances with the ability to effectively set goals and bring about results with her patients. She is also certified in Parent Child Interaction Therapy, as well as Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Certified Therapist). She is currently accepting new patients.

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