Summertime getaways are here. Pack the suitcase, sunscreen and enjoy family time.

According to psychologist and best-selling author, Oliver James, “family holidays are valued by children, both in the moment and for long afterward in their memory.”

Not that you needed another excuse to hit the road, but travel is beneficial to a child’s brain development too. “An enriched environment offers new experiences that are strong in combined social, physical, cognitive, and sensory interaction,” says child psychotherapist Dr. Margot Sunderland.

Let’s start with social interaction…shall we?

Sunderland is right – while trying to avoid the folded creases in our clothes, we can forget the most important accessory of all… our social graces. A vacation shouldn’t signal an “anything goes” type of behavior. Yes, you’re letting your hair down, yet flexing communication and listening skills are key. Remember, between a loaded itinerary, flight changes, and squabbling siblings, parents can sometimes find themselves swimming in choppy waters.

Lucky for you there’s a secret to becoming a road trip renegade. Ready to rid yourself of a short fuse, go with the flow, and set the tone for your next family outing?

Adopt these small gestures for smoother sailing… happiness guaranteed!

Before you leave

Help your kids manage their excitement and anticipation. Little ones, especially, don’t have a context for time and distance. Nancy Josephson Liff, senior contributing editor at Highlights for Children, says to forgo any vague references. “We’re leaving next week” or “we’re not packing up the car yet” doesn’t boost their clarity, but rather muddles it.

Instead, Liff advises a more tangible approach like, “We’ll be there in three more sleeps” and “We’ll see the penguins in seven more lunches.”  Be sure to share stories about your mode of transportation too – train, plane, or automobile – so kids warm up to the idea before leaving their familiar place.

Crossing the border

Don’t speak the native language? Haven’t studied the local customs? Not a problem. According to families of all configurations (immediate, extended, and multigenerational) are relying on tour groups.  Multigenerational vacations often involve finding activities for different age ranges, deciphering who cooks the meals, and who is going to manage the travel itinerary. If it all falls on your shoulders, chances are you’ll feel resentful and stressed which is counterintuitive.

Once you’re finished with the preparations, leave the rest of the decision-making process to your guide for the most hassle-free, smile-filled adventure.

Disconnect to connect

The beauty of a vacation is to unplug, and with kids, you can take this quite literally. Video games and social feeds just can’t compete with new surroundings. Children get to see different people, food, and customs in real life (#IRL). According to Amruta Deshpande, contributor to Parent Circle Magazine, it’s up to parents to educate their children about new places, but also let them interact and explore with the locals.

“This increases their confidence,” she says, “and also improves their social and interpersonal skills.”

The bonus: children are more likely to open up and express their deeper feelings, such as their joys and fears while traveling. It’s the perfect opportunity for parents to indulge them in light-hearted, meaningful conversations away from the usual distractions of home.

Cheers to connecting with family this summer and making memories that last the whole year and then some.