Every family loves the idea of taking a bonding vacation together. But the logistics, a sour experience from the past, or witnessing meltdowns of kids around you may inhibit you from planning that dream vacation. Plan your trip with these simple tips and inspire others with your great fun!
Maybe a trip to a theme park would be a lot of fun, but you've never even had your kids out in public for more than a few hours at a time. Start with a trip to the park for a couple of hours. Once they can tolerate that well, plan a half day at the zoo. Move up to a full day of adventuring at 2 locations, and so forth. This will give you a threshold to know how much your kids can take at once. Maybe they need frequent breaks so they don't become overstimulated. Maybe crowds make them (or you) cranky. Once you have tested the waters a few times, you will know how deep the pool is and can dive in.
What would they enjoy? What will the whole family enjoy together - even if you have to split the time up between bigger kids and smaller kids. Who is able to ride thrill rides and who needs a lap to sit in? What are your child's fears? Do they run from people in costumes? Do they not like the dark or loud noises? Consider these factors to avoid consoling a crying or screaming child. After all, you want wonderful memories for all of you, including the parents feeling awake, alert, and happy! If you have children with a significant age gap, to where the older ones are more independent, consider allowing a friend to come along.
Children are frequently creatures of habit. Try to maintain their usual sleep and waking schedules. Plan around naps, even if it means you go back to the hotel for a couple of hours mid-day. Try to keep their foods similar to what they are used to (not too much sugar), and around the same times they normally eat. A hungry child may not tell you they need food, but will show you with tears or agitation. Consider the stamina of your child. Consider also what entertainment is available at your hotel. Is there a pool or a playground? Maybe your kids would like to enjoy the park for the first half of the day, have a nap and lunch at the hotel (kinder on the budget), and run around at the playground or wading pool in the later part of the day, and watch a movie by the pool at dark. Trying to pack everything in will run you all ragged and no one will enjoy that.
Bring help, if you need it.
There is no shame in asking for help. If you think that taking 3 children to Universal Studios will be too much for you and spouse alone, bring an adult friend to act as an extra set of eyes and hands. Do consider this a paid favor, and offer to pay for park entrance, if not the whole trip. (See answers to this kind of question and submit your own at Clear Etiquette.)
There are theme park maps available online and you can see what you might find fun or what you might skip. You can ask each child to pick 1 or 2 things they absolutely want to do and make sure to include those so they are part of the planning process and can look forward to their special featured item. Caution: do not use the removal of these items as punishment! This kind of bait-and-switch destroys trust. If you said you would go see a show, go and see it, no matter the child's behavior. After all, they've been planning this trip, too.