There are things in life that were designed specifically with the intent to ruin your day. In our travels, we have come across a few “vacation spoilers”. So, below we’ve done our best to help you outsmart the travel blues. Here’s a list of 7 things that can ruin your vacation and how to prevent them wrecking all the fun.
Catholic Holidays or any religious or government shutdown for that matter. When you have time off you likely want to travel. The problem is, when you have a day off from work chances are that so does everyone else. In Europe, where the religious climate is a bit more rigorous than in the U.S., everything seems to shut down on holidays: shops, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. This doesn’t mean that you can’t travel on holidays. It just means that you will need to do a little more planning. When we were traveling in Paris for the Christmas we did some research and found what things would be open Christmas Day. Most of the museums and Christmas markets were closed. However, the Opera House was open along with The Eiffel Tower, The Moulin Rouge, and – of course – all the shops in the Jewish district. Likewise, the Pompidou Center is closed on Christmas but it is one of the few places open on New Years Day.
Remember that it’s not just big holiday’s like Christmas but little ones like 3 Kings Day in January and The Assumption of Mary in August. Just check a country specific calendar before you go so that you can plan for it. Also, it’s good to be aware of the holy day of the country you are visiting and know that there is a good chance things will be closed.
Sickness. Whether you get a cold or a sunburn, a sickness can turn a fun family vacation into a tough situation. When you are traveling, you often don’t know where to find a pharmacy and if you are in a foreign country you probably don’t know what to look for even if you find one. So, we like to take a little medicine kit with us when we travel: sunscreen, aloe-vera, children’s Tylenol, cough drops, essential oils, etc. You don’t have to pack the whole medicine cabinet just bring a few emergency essentials. If you are traveling by plane, remember to check the carry on size requirements for liquids and gels. Security WILL make you throw things away if they are too big.
It’s always a good idea to prevent where you can. Put on sunscreen, wash your hands, don’t eat “questionable” food. There are some ailments that can be avoided.
With sickness, you may have to change your plans a little bit. When we were in Hawaii a few years ago we had a family member throw out her back. We had planned to go for a scenic drive but that was out of the question. So, we set up camp on some blankets and had an extra beach day instead. In Copenhagen this winter, our 3-year-old came down with a temperature and we had to forgo our planned day trip to Malmö, Sweden. A bit sad but not the end of the world. Sickness isn’t any fun, especially on vacation, but be prepared and try to roll with it as best you can.
Weather. Rain, snow, wind… we don’t want them but they come anyway. This is another thing that can ruin your fun if you aren’t ready for it. So, be ready. The snow is colder in t-shirts, I promise. But it’s really not that bad in a winter coats with hats and gloves and all the fixings. The biggest thing to make sure the weather doesn’t hurt your travel is to embrace it. Check before you go and pack for it. I know it sounds like such a simple thing but a poncho can save your vacation. This is another place where will also benefit from some planning. If the weather says rain on Tuesday, consider making that your museum day.
Lost Luggage is more likely than you might think. The Huffington Post has some tips on how to prevent lost bags but just in case it does happen you will want to have a backup plan. We like to use our carry on space as a kind of emergency bag. We pack the essentials for at least 24 hours after we land. Toothbrushes, extra changes of clothes, electronics, diapers, medicines, and other essentials ride with us and not under the plain.
We also take extra care to protect our wallets and passports when we travel. I cannot even imagine losing these items in a foreign country. Keep them close to you and watch for pickpockets. Keep your wallet in your front pocket and your passport close. You might even consider wearing them on your person. Just in case you do lose something as important as a passport make sure you know where the embassy of your home country is located. The United States Bureau of Consular Affairs recommends that you make a copy of your important documents to leave with a friend back home in case of emergency.
Overspending can also put a damper on your excitement. Try your best to budget ahead of time but plan for things to cost more than you anticipated. Have a talk with your travel partner(s) before hand about their views on overspending. It can be a contention point so it’s good to discuss these things before you are standing in the ice cream line.
Getting Lost can be a big pain. Make sure you have a good map of the city and always write down the address of your hotel. Make note of landmarks and street signs. Make a special effort to pay attention to how you got somewhere and don’t be afraid to ask for directions. Even if you don’t speak the language, charades can get you pretty far.
On the flip side, sometimes getting lost can be the best thing that ever happened you. You might wander into some fantastic sights and memories. Go with the flow and enjoy the experience.
Melt Downs. If you can make it through a normal week at home without your 2-year-old throwing a tantrum, please come teach me how. If you can make it through a week-long vacation, you must be the child whisperer. The point is, your kids will not suddenly be immune to being kids just because you are inside the Taj Mahal.
That being said, there are some things that you can do to help. 1). make sure that your trip has things for both child and parent fun. You have your list of things to see but don’t forget theirs. Traveling with kids, you will see things that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. They want to visit the park and the zoo and the toy store. Sometimes these stops are more fun than you might have originally thought. You’ll get a real feel for the people and the culture by experiencing some of these more normal, day-to-day activities. It will also help your children feel like this trip is for them. We’ve found that an hour at the park or an hour-long nap can work wonders for their mood and their willingness to be dragged along to the next destination on the bucket list. 2). Never underestimate the power of a bribe. The promise of ice cream once bought us an extra two hours in the Louvre. SO worth it! 3). We’ve found it helpful to plan some extra time in your days. Everything just takes a little longer with kids. Good time management when you travel is a great stress fighter.
Parent your little heart out and just do your best. If your kid does have the melt down to end all melt downs in the middle of time square, just chalk it up to a win that you don’t know any of these people and you will never see them again.
If you have other thoughts or ways to help avoid classic travel pitfalls please share with the peanut gallery by leaving a comment below.