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By: Ellen Geller Kamaras

Are you all set for winter vacation?

Travel, especially with small children, can get a little tricky and trigger some stress and anxiety. That is why it is so important to carve out time in advance to plan and review your travel details and ensure that all the i's are dotted and all the t's are crossed.

Preparing your children for what will be happening on the trip, and managing your expectations regarding your vacation and your children can also play a big part in making your travels successful and enjoyable. Following the recommendations below canreduce your worries while traveling and help you stay calm in your daily life, both personally and professionally.

Psychologists explain that apprehension or unease about traveling often stems from the feeling that we are not in control. That’s where managing our expectations and making a plan comes in. The more we plan and know what to expect, the less anxiety we will feel.

At this stage of the game, I know your trip most likely has been scheduled. The destination and hotels and maybe some excursions may have even been arranged. For those of you who have not booked a vacation, the guidelines below will be helpful once you do choose a vacation, or if you are planning a staycation.

So let’s get started and plan a safe, fun, and realistic trip for you and your family.

Get the Entire Family Involved

Get your children involved in planning (to the extent there are still details to be worked out) and packing. Allowing them to take ownership and be part of the decision-making gives them skin in the game and will help make the travel and vacation a success. It also builds our children’s self-esteem and teaches them how to collaborate, compromise, resolve conflicts, and take responsibility. Manage Expectations

Studies show that when parents' expectations for their kids are set at the right level, not too high and not too low, their children are more successful in life. Expectations that are too high may set up a child for failure or put too much stress on them. Conversely, expectations that are too low may hinder a child’s growth and potential. When Mom and Dad manage their expectations of their children and find the right balance, both the children and their parents benefit.

I always remember a frumsocial worker pointing this out to me when we were talking about taking young children to synagogue. Her premise was that it is unrealistic for parents to expect very young children (five and under) to be quiet during prayers. If your synagogue has a children’s library, giving them some books to peruse will keep them busyfor a while, but not for hours.

Know that your children have expectations too. That brings us back to engaging them before you travel, and finding out what they would like to do on the trip. And let’s not forget it’s your vacation too!

I recommend writingdown a list of things you all want to do at your vacation destination (brainstorm) and figure out or take a vote on what you have the time and the funds for. It will help you as parents stay in control and ensure Mom, Dad, and the kids get to do some of the activities that are on their wish list.

Prepare a Travel and Packing Checklist

Review and tick off completed items before you head out on your trip (see sidebar). How many times have you been in a cab on the way to the airport and realized you forgot to take your children’s antibiotics or overnight retainer? It’s happened to me.


Give your children an overview of what will be happening while you travel. For example, on Monday morning at 8am, we will take an Uber to the airport, then go through security, the flight will take ‘x’ number of hours, etc. The more information and better prepared your kids are, the less anxiety they will have, and the smoother the trip. Especially for younger children, keep it short and simple.

Individualized Carry-ons

Give each child their own carry-on or small backpack, and pack their favorite snacks, if permitted, their special comfort objects, and a few games and activities to keep them occupied on the plane, train, or in the car. Mom, please put some extra smalltoys, paper, pens, crayons, snacks, Band-Aids, and Tylenol into your carry-on.

Your older children may also enjoy a travel journal. It will keep them busy (younger children can draw in them) during travel and will give them material for their “What I didon winter vacation” essay when they return to school.


Give your children a chance to learn about history and culture while on vacation if you are visiting new cities, states, or countries. There are lots of occasions for teachable moments including financial ones. When you are in the early phase of planning your trip, kids need to know that they can’t get everything they want. The same holds true for when you are on vacation. Consider setting limits on souvenirs and gifts.

Relax and Unplug

Make sure you have some time to relax and unplug on vacation. The best perks of winter break include sleeping in, not running out of the house to catch the school bus or carpool, and having pure leisure time. As adults, we value the benefits of relaxing and unplugging. Our children also need to relax, take a break, and sometimes totally unplug from technology. It allows their minds and bodies to refuel, recharge, and get back into a positive mode.

And please don’t forget to breathe! Taking a deep breath or counting to ten before you lose your cool will make your travels so much better. Remember, vacation is a good thing and a blessing. Keep that positive outlook – it’s contagious!

Wishing you a wonderful vacation and safe travels!

Suggested Checklist Items

Review trip details and baggage restrictions – if you are flying, check size and weight limits for checked luggage and carry-ons. Check out other significant trip details, such as when to arrive at the airport, bus or train, seating on the plane or train, transfer arrangements once you land/arrive at your destination, check-in times for hotels, etc.


Did you buy an overseas cell phone plan or SIM card if you are traveling abroad?


Do you need foreign currency in advance and have
you notified your credit card service that you will be traveling overseas?


Will you be washing clothes or sending out laundry while you are away? If you plan to send out laundry, you can pack less and have an easier time at the airport, during hotel transfers, and throughout the trip.


Consider printing and taking along hard copies of all your travel documents (including passport numbers, flights, hotels and tour reservations) in the event your phone, iPad, or laptop crashes, gets lost, or you don’t have Wi-Fi access.


Check in foryour flights online the day before your trip to avoid long waits at the airport, and decide how you are getting to the airport or train or bus. You may want to apply for TSA pre-check and speed through security (shorter lines, no removal of shoes, belts, laptops, and more).


Check the weather forecast for your travel day and your entire trip. Buying sweatshirts, hats, and jackets at your vacation spot can be costly. It can also be chilly on the plane.


Are all of your children’s and your own medications packed in your respective carry-ons? What happens if your luggage doesn’t make it to your destination when you land? I would advise packing in your carry-on luggage anything you might need soon after you land.


Keep a picture of your children in your wallet in case anyone gets separated. You can also give your children pictures of the family for their wallets or to slip into their carry-ons.

Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach. Her coaching specialties include life, career, and dating coaching.
Ellen can be contacted at ellen@lifecoachellen.com (www.lifecoachellen.com)