Family Vacation Travel Hacks - United Hub
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Family vacation travel hacks

By Bob Cooper, December 06, 2016

Family vacations can be a memorable and immensely rewarding bonding experience for everyone, although traveling with kids does present challenges along with joys. How do you maximize the laughter and smiles while minimizing the complaints and tears?

Parks & playgrounds

Experiencing nature and the outdoors is healthy at all ages, but especially for kids who could use a break from technology. So, while trip planning, don't just find kid-friendly hotels, restaurants and museums — find outdoor attractions and special parks and playgrounds at your destination, too. Besides getting outdoor time, your kids will need to burn off energy after sitting still in planes, trains and rental cars. You can hike with your baby in a front-pack, take toddlers to playgrounds, bring school-age kids to city parks to play their favorite sports, or join your teens on national park hikes or city bike-path rides on rental bikes. And kids of all ages love waterparks and zoos.

Hands-on attractions

Many museums, especially science “discovery" and nature museums, are packed with hands-on activities that are educational in a fun way. The adults in the group may even learn a few things, too. Before your next family trip, go online and find museums that sync up well with your child's age, temperament and interests. Hold off on art museums for other trips, such as when the kids stay home with grandparents or when you become empty nesters.

Dining with the darlings

Check restaurant websites in advance or ask at the hotel to see which menus have items your kids will eat — preferably on a lower-cost kids' menu. Don't bother with fine dining restaurants; save your money for local spots back home and a babysitter so that you can enjoy the experience and not be rushed.

Kid-friendly digs

Standard hotel rooms are adequate if you only have a baby (but check to see if your hotel offers cribs). Otherwise, vacations with kids are far more enjoyable if there's ample space for everyone. Consider a family-friendly all-suite hotel — there are several that can be booked using United MileagePlus award miles.

Multigenerational travel has a wealth of advantages. Your kids will get the opportunity to spend some quality time with your parents (and so can you), not just a few hours here and there during holiday and birthday meals. You can sneak away for some “adult" activities with your spouse, like dining at a nice waterfront restaurant, while the grandparents babysit. And few grandparents will say no to the opportunity to spend more time with the grandkids.

Give them ownership

Kids are more receptive to traveling — and not whining — when they feel invested in a trip. Get them involved in vacation planning by letting them choose places they want to visit, in addition to the places you choose, so that it feels like their “vote" counts. This could include attractions, hotel and restaurant choices, both before and during the trip. Another way to make the trip feel more important to them is to encourage them to take photos, post on social media and keep a journal while they're traveling.

Roll with it

Know going into the trip that traveling with kids can be a roller-coaster ride, even if you don't visit any theme parks. There will be exhaustion. There will be arguments. There may be tears or even a "scene" at a restaurant. But in the end, you'll all be back home, sharing photos and memories with friends and talking about where to go next. That's when you'll know it was all worth it.

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