Yes, planning a vacation to meet the needs of all family members can be tricky. At the same time, the “family vacation” is an annual tradition for many, so let’s look at how to make it work!
- When planning a trip, carefully consider the types and balance of activities that will work for your particular family members. Many families enjoy theme parks, for example, but the crowds, noise, and general over-stimulation in these environments would have made two of my children miserable.
- Involve your child(ren) in some aspects of planning or choosing vacation activities. One of my friends allowed each child to pick a special activity for each vacation trip. Each child had an investment in the family plans.
- While maintaining structure, be flexible. Assure some down-time for your child(ren), and be ready to change plans if things just aren’t working.
- Consider the benefits of natural settings for all or part of a vacation. Many kids with ADHD are more relaxed and focused in the out-of-doors.
- Anticipate trouble-spots and plan ahead. When my children were younger, waiting for meals in a restaurant was tough. So,when traveling, we made our own meals when possible, chose casual dining when eating out, and provided distracting activities when sitting at a table for a time was necessary.
- Mentally prepare your child. Explain where you’ll be, what activities you’ll take part in, and any changes in routine that can be expected. Talk about your expectations for behavior on the trip. Help your child pack activities to use during a long car ride, on a plane, or any other time in which these distractions might be useful.
- Bring along familiar objects. A little bit of home can boost comfort in new circumstances.
- Stick to parts of your routine. In particular, assuring time for exercise, getting regular meals, and sticking with a familiar bedtime-routine can be helpful.
- Adjust medications as needed. If you’ll be up later with evening activities while traveling, consider giving your child’s ADHD meds a bit later in morning to assure evening coverage. Check with your doctor if you have any questions.
- Avoid exhaustion. ADD/ADHD symptoms often intensify when sleep is inadequate. Stick as closely as possible to your child’s regular sleep schedule, and add in naps if needed.
- Apply the same behavioral rules as at home You will all be calmer this way, and the adjustment will be easier.
- Reinforce social etiquette. New situations, like a vacation, are a perfect time to learn and practice new skills.
- Vacationing in a location offering some kids-only activities
- Using a babysitter for a dinner or evening out
- Getting two adjoining hotel rooms, and letting the kids have pizza and watch a movie in one while the adults order room service or Chinese food and watch a “grown up” movie in the other
- Taking turns as parents at having some alone-time (spa anyone?) or, if necessary…
- … Planning an adult weekend away at another time!
For more tips on vacations and ADHD, see my prior post here: Vacations and ADHD.