You know the drill. You spend months planning the perfect family vacation and hit the road, only to hear your little ones start whining about missing everything from their bed to a corner of the garage that has a cool toy they left behind. Suddenly everything on your trip is all about their angst and homesickness instead of the actual trip.
There’s really no cure for homesickness, and it’s been a documented phenomenon in everything from the Bible to the Odyssey. The bad news is you can’t necessarily escape it, but you can ease the symptoms with a few simple tricks.
Bring Creature Comforts
Packing some familiar reminders from home can make your kids feel more secure on the road. Depending on your kids ages, blankets, stuffed animals, a few favorite toys and even special books can give them an anchor to home and remind them your trip is temporary.
If you’re low on space to pack, think about creature comforts as their favorite restaurants or activities. Making sure your kids get to hit the local library in your vacation destination followed by the playground can also give them some sense of stability while showing them how kids like to play in other parts of the country and world.
Pack a Goody Bag
A little bribe never hurts when it comes to kids and homesickness. A bag stuffed with treats and contraband can get them excited about their vacation and give them something special to focus on instead of their pangs of missing home.
Sweets, treats and special food items are always a popular idea, but it doesn’t have to be focused around food. Instead, your goody bag can be filled with fun items like stickers, bouncy balls, cars, princess figurines or anything else you can find from the Dollar Store. Think about bringing a special goody bag for each leg of your trip to rejuvenate the kids after hours on the road.
Plan a Favorite Activity
There’s nothing wrong with hitting the museums and finer cultural attractions while on vacation, but make sure to mix in some over-the-top kid fun to ease your kids’ homesickness and ignite their sense of excitement on the road.
If your kids like surprises, chart out an activity or two in your destination that they’ll go crazy over. A visit to the theme park, special indoor play venue or indoor waterpark can turn their vacation blues into the highlight of their trip.
Stick to a Schedule
Some kids thrive when they’re just rolling with whatever comes their way and feeling the freedom to unwind. But others feel anxious and out of sync without the familiarity of routine. Make an effort to keep kids on the same general routine from waking up to meal time to establish a sense of familiarity on your trip. Your routine can also extend to bringing along their favorite tub toys, books for bedtime and popcorn snack.
Extend Some Empathy
Your kids may be short in stature, but still have big feelings they don’t always know how to process or control. Show them some empathy and talk about a time you were homesick and what you did to feel better. Explain that feeling homesick is totally normal, and even the grown-ups feel that way now and again. Remind them the trip is temporary and will be full of adventures they can take home and share with their friends.
Go ahead and bend over backwards to make your kids feel a little better on your next trip, but remember not to bring your expectations and anxiety with you. Stressing out over their feelings or going into great detail about your own homesickness as a kid can trigger even bigger feelings of anxiety that are harder to calm. Just take their feelings at face value, show them you understand and work to offer some comfort while making the real focus about enjoying your vacation.
And if nothing else works? Take comfort knowing they will wildly complain how much they miss their vacation time within days of returning home.