According to AAA, 35 percent of Americans will travel as a family in 2017. While these excursions can be a great way to unplug, relax, reconnect and make memories, they can also be stressful—especially when children are involved.
From diverse preferences regarding destinations, accommodations and activities, to backseat disputes over who gets a window and who is touching who, planning a family getaway that makes everyone happy can feel downright impossible.
Fortunately, Travel Mamas can help, whether you’re planning a long holiday weekend, spring break getaway or summer road trip. RewardExpert recently spoke with the popular website’s founder and editor-in-chief, Colleen Lanin, about her business inspiration and passion for travel, most memorable vacations and best tips for your next family vacation adventure.
The Story Behind Travel Mamas
“Travel has always been important to me,” Lanin says. I was a French major in college with a certificate in international business and a minor in economics. I lived in France for a year during college and thought I would always travel the world and spend time living in different countries.”
But she couldn’t figure out how to realize that particular dream at that time, Lanin went on to work in finance, retail management and human resources before pursing an MBA and going to work in marketing for a non-profit.
“When my first child was born, I happily quit my job to become a stay-at-home mom,” she recalls. “I loved that for a while, but I felt like I needed to do something else with my time. I felt kind of lost and like my entire identity had become ‘mom’ to the point where I did not know who I was outside of my child.”
“When I was embarking on my first trip with a baby,” she continues, “I looked for a book on traveling with babies and young children. I wanted something similar to The Girlfriend’s Guide series but for travel. When I couldn’t find the book I wanted to read, I decided to write it myself.”
Her literary agent for The Travel Mamas’ Guide suggested she start a blog about traveling with children as well. And thus, TravelMamas.com was born in 2009. Last year, she launched a lifestyle segment as well—called Travel Mamas at Home—that covers everything from parenting and pets to technology, fashion, health and beauty.
The website’s readership continues to expand, with women between the ages of 25 and 44 the most frequent guests hungry for posts about Cabo San Lucas tours, the best San Diego attractions for kids, and advice on forging connections as well as travel tips, product recommendations and suggestions for grown-up getaways.
“We get between 100,000 and 250,000 or more page views per month,” Lanin says. Year-over-year, the site received 51 percent more unique visitors in 2016 when compared to 2015. Page views went up 46 percent.
Memorable Can Mean Different Things
“The most memorable trip is probably our Las Vegas vacation when my kids were ages one and four,” she says. “It’s memorable because it was horrendous. Our asthmatic son got very sick and coughed all night long, which kept my husband and I up and worried for three nights straight with literally zero sleep. We then had to drive several hours home. Let’s just say there was a lot of caffeine involved in that road trip!”
Her most positive memory of a trip as a family was as recent as last summer when they vacationed in Oregon. “I fell head over heels with it almost immediately after landing,” she recalls. “In fact, I dream of moving to Portland someday. We spent a few incredible days at Cannon Beach along the coast. Then we did a farm stay at Leaping Lamb Farm. My kids loved being free to explore the farm grounds to visit the lambs, Paco the donkey, the chickens and feinting goats. Portland was the wonderfully weird cherry topper to our trip.”
According to AAA, old school road trips are the most popular for families with four out of five respondents voting for that kind of vacation. For half, a national park is on the agenda with theme parks right behind that. Here are the six most popular choices for families:
Five Tips for a Great Family Vacation
If you want to strengthen familial connections and create lasting, positive memories while you’re seeing the sights, Lanin suggests following these tips:
1. Plan, plan, plan and then be ready to adjust, adjust, adjust! While a set schedule and itinerary can certainly help your vacation go more smoothly, you should always be prepared to make last-minute changes due to unforeseen complications—such as lost luggage or an asthma attack—or exciting new opportunities.
2. Always plan a mellow day after a very busy day. Regardless of their age, kids get tired and cranky. Adults do too, if you expect them to constantly be on the go. And while riding Space Mountain or rafting a whitewater river are memorable activities, the best opportunities to strengthen your bonds as a family will come during the quiet moments between.
3. Seek out nature experiences. Fresh air always does a body good, whether you’re breathing it in the backcountry, on a farm, in a national or even city park. Plus, getting back to nature gives your family a great opportunity to get active and burn off some of that restless kid energy—especially important on long road trips.
4. Balance activities between what parents want and what kids want. Compromise is part of life, and the best family vacations have a little something for everyone. When you’re choosing a destination and setting your itinerary, consider each family member’s preferences. Kids who feel like they’ve been heard are less likely to complain about the parts of the trip they are least looking forward to.
5. Book a rental home or a hotel suite with separate bedroom for the kids whenever possible for better sleep and more privacy. You’ll find many exciting and affordable options these days if you think outside the traditional hotel/motel box. Consider services such as Homeaway, HomeExchange and Airbnb to find vacation rental homes in almost any national or international destination.