Major conflict developed at the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. just before noon when a family of five navigated through spy gear exhibits and tales of international intrigue. Under the cover of family fun, a pre-teen meltdown occurred when vacation fatigue and hungry stomachs sabotaged an otherwise engaging museum tour. A lunch break solved the problem.
From toddlers to teens, meltdowns are often a package deal during family vacations. Lengthy car trips, airport delays or over-stimulation can make any parent reach for the antacid. Set up your next family excursion with this four-step plan:
Functional gear: Dress your 'tweens, teens and younger children in cargo pants, waist packs and fishing vests, which provide hands-free storage of items they might need throughout the day, including lip balm or a deck of cards. Use seat organizers to keep DVD players and miscellaneous art supplies within easy reach and your family automobile clutter-free during trips. For airplane trips, pack a small carryon or backpack filled with snacks and toys for younger children.
Kid-friendly options: Select hotels, resorts and other attractions that offer a variety of activities and amenities for your children. Family-friendly resorts provide entertainment, sports tournaments, crafts and even spa-services for younger children and teens. Some airports such as Pittsburgh International Airport provide free indoor playgrounds for younger travelers and teen-friendly stores.
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Time limits: Temper tantrums are a common sideshow at amusement parks, where emotions can rise and plummet like a roller coast. Time limits break the tension. In our home, cranky behavior — from adults and kids — kicks in after six hours of theme park fun. Before over-stimulation takes a toll on our vacation investment, we break for naps, meals or poolside lounge chairs at the hotel or resort. Most parks and many museums offer free same-day return passes or hand stamps for re-entry.
Multiple activities: Avoid boredom with a diverse lineup of in-car entertainment. Options include group activities (family singing and geography contests), or solo efforts (reading, music or craft projects.) Detour around stress with a game of family tag, a Frisbee toss or an impromptu Yoga session at public parks or rest stops. A monotonous diet of museums also leads to frustration and meltdowns. Zoos and waterparks help balance things out. Turn siblings loose with inexpensive cameras, take an on-location weaving class and make friends with young people from the area.