Your idea of a great getaway may be lounging at the pool. One of your kids may want a super-active vacation that involves climbing mountains every day. But your other child quickly loses interest in that sort of thing. What to do?
Traveling with kids is always a challenge, and learning and attention issues don’t make that challenge any easier. But you can plan a vacation that works for everyone using a few general strategies.
Consider everyone’s needs and interests.
Your family may be used to accommodating your child’s learning and attention issues. But you can reduce sibling friction if you plan a trip that doesn’t seem like it’s built around one child’s needs and interests. Think about what your whole family will enjoy. Keep in mind that many kids who struggle in school actually do well on vacation because they get to do new and different things.
Planning a vacation that includes lots of variety can help everyone find something fun to do. For example, your spouse might want to stay in a lakeside cabin and teach the kids how to fish. This could get boring fast, so look for a location that also has hiking, water sports and an amusement park or other kid-friendly options nearby.
Let your kids help plan the trip.
Getting your kids’ input when you’re planning can help them stay engaged during the trip. Also, when children with learning and attention issues are encouraged to make choices, it can help them feel more independent. It might even make them more invested in the trip’s success.
Ask your children if there’s anything specific they’d like to do while they’re on vacation. For younger kids, it might be better to list a few of the available options and let them pick.
You may want to consider letting each of your children plan one whole day of the trip. For example, your son might decide to plan a visit to an amusement park and choose which rides to go on. Just make sure that all of your kids get to contribute equally to the planning.
Sometimes you may need to divide and conquer.
Your family doesn’t need to spend every minute of your vacation together. Sometimes it makes sense to split up and let different kids do different things.
For example, if your son has auditory processing issues, he may have a good time exploring a history museum for a little while, but his interest might fade after an hour or so. His older sister, however, may really want to take the full three-hour guided tour.
That doesn’t have to be a problem. If there are two adults on the trip, one of them can take your son to a playground while the other finishes the tour with your daughter. If you’re the only adult on the trip, ask in advance if the museum guides will agree to chaperone your older child for part of the tour.
Accept that your kids may still get tired, cranky or bored.
Even though you may do a great job of planning lots of fun activities, your kids may still get bored or grouchy during your trip. It can be tricky finding the sweet spot between too much excitement and not enough stimulation. Big changes to your family’s usual routine can make any kid cranky. And that can lead to comments like “This place is sooooo boring!”
This kind of remark is an inevitable part of any family vacation. Try to respond calmly: “Honey, we’re staying for 10 more minutes so your sister can finish what she’s doing. You and I can use that time to think about fun things we can do tomorrow.”
Bringing games, art projects and other activities can help keep everyone occupied during vacation downtime. Planning the trip together and doing some troubleshooting to help avoid travel challenges can go a long way toward ensuring that everyone has a good time.