“Are we there yet?” “How much longer?” Family vacations often start with high hopes. Everyone imagines bubbly laughter, good food and happy connections. You are excited and so are your kids. Usually, things work out as you had hoped: people get along well and have a good time. Sometimes things don’t work out as much as you would have liked. Arguments, tantrums, logistical difficulties bring everyone down. What are the ingredients for a successful ADHD family vacation?
In the New York Times travel tips section on July 10, 2016, Kay Merrill, a family travel specialist, recently offered some ideas for making family getaways as good as you imagine them to be. Her article inspired me to create suggestions about traveling with ADHD kids.
- Include everyone in the planning: Family trips work better when everyone’s interests and needs are part of the equation. ADHD kids like information and respond well
when presented with it. Even children as young as 5 years old have ideas about what they like to do. Put together a file (digital or hard copy) with maps, places to see and interesting activities that you have pre-selected as possibilities. Then, sit down as a family, look these over and see what intrigues folks. Rule things in that appeal to your children but also to you too. This way the trip can be fun for everyone.
- Include everyone in the preparation: Everyone can play a role in getting the family ready for a trip. If your child can read and follow a list, then they are old enough to participate. Make a short packing list of things that they could put together: favorite toys, games, books or even clothing. Be specific. Instead of saying “Pick 3 toys,” try saying “Pick one doll, two of her outfits and 3 books.” Instead of writing, “pack your clothes,” ask them to lay out “2 swimsuits, 3 pairs of socks and 1 pajamas”–neutral items that don’t require checking in with you to select. When ADHD kids help out like this, they gain a sense of competence and autonomy from being responsible for themselves. Simultaneously, you gain some much needed assistance in the packing
- Create a break in the day: Packing too much into a vacation often has disastrous results. An itinerary of going, going, going all day is exhausting and overwhelming for everyone, especially ADHD kids. They often benefit from unstructured time to process their new experiences–whether that means reading, playing computer games or swimming in the hotel pool. You will likely benefit from a rest too. Talk with everyone in the family about what time of day would work best and use an alarm on your phone to make it happen.
- Be open to the unexpected: Spontaneity often leads to amusing surprises and hilarious memories. Be flexible and curious about opportunities. In those inevitable challenging moments, try to find a silver lining and some laughter. Remember, you are on VACATION. The goal is to have fun.
I wish you well on your family trip–whether you stay close to home or venture further afield. ENJOY!!