Planning for your Ontario Winter Vacation, from One Mom to Another

If you’ve spent enough time researching winter vacations in Ontario, you probably have a good idea of where you want to bring your family. What you might not know, however, is how to prepare. This guest post comes from Donna Brown, an Ontario mother of three who knows her way around a Canadian winter. If you’re planning your trip and don’t know where to start the preparation, this is the post for you. We’ll let Donna take it away.

We’ve all been there: You’ve spent months planning for the vacation of a lifetime. Maybe you’re going to Ottawa or the Snowflea Telefest. Maybe you want something a little more rustic, like Algonquin Provincial Park, or perhaps Sleeping Giant. No matter the destination, you’ve spent months preparing, and the big day has finally arrived. You realize with horror: you forgot to get the kids’ stuff in order.

We all do it. Heck, I live in Ontario and even I have missed a few things in preparing for our trips. Family vacations can so easily turn into “the vacation I want to take and the kids are just along for the ride,” but the truth is, unless everyone is comfortable and engaged, nobody is going to have fun. That said, I have some tips for making sure this is a family affair – not just Mom and Dad have fun and the kids whine in the corner.

Let your kids make some decisions. If you want your kids to have a good time, you have to include them in the trip planning. They don’t have to be in charge of everything (this is your vacation, too!), but you need to give them enough efficacy to feel like they’re on this trip voluntarily. If you’re planning a week-long trip, let the kids choose the activities for two out of your six or seven days. If your trip is shorter, let them pick the dinner spots, or maybe give them an afternoon to decide what they want to do. This will make it easier when you force them into the activities you’re more interested in doing.

Keep them occupied. Family vacations can be boring. Nobody wants to admit that, but kids don’t really understand the appeal of sitting quietly on the porch with a cup of coffee. If you want a few slow, quiet mornings or evenings, bring things to keep the kids busy. Coloring books, markers, an iPad. Anything that will keep them occupied and quiet for a few hours.

Keep everybody’s luggage separate. I’ve made this mistake quite a few times. You think, my kids are pretty small, so they don’t really need their own suitcases. I’ll just combine their stuff and figure it out when we get there. WRONG! This is the worst possible thing you can do while packing. If your kids are old enough, they’re probably very possessive of their things. If your son sees your daughter wearing his shoes, well, that’s a meltdown waiting to happen.

If you can, pack separate bags for each member of your family. Even if it’s a bag within a bag. To make sure no mistakes are made, consider custom woven labels for the kids from It’s Mine labels. They’re personalized, customized, and perfect for keeping everybody’s pants on the right owner.

Plan for both time together and time apart.I mentioned above the importance of keeping the kids occupied when you want some time for yourself. That comment presupposes that you’ve even blocked out some time for yourself in the first place. Don’t plan on spending every waking moment together as a family. That will inevitably lead to stress, disagreements, and an unhappy trip. If you want a quiet evening, take it. If you want a more manageable day, let one kid go with your partner and keep the other by yourself. Splitting up into smaller, rotating groups is an easy way to make a stressful vacation just a bit more manageable.