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First family trip: Travel tips needed

The van de Geyns are getting ready for their first-ever family vacation, and Lisa's looking for some advice.

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Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as Today’s Parent contributor Lisa van de Geyn weighs in on parenting issues and life with her two young daughters. Stay tuned for occasional posts from her husband Peter as he shares parenting stories from his point on view.

Back in November, during a short-lived moment of euphoria, Peter and I booked our first family vacation. We decided to take advantage of a sale Disney’s cruise line was offering Canadian residents, and opted for a three-night excursion aboard one of their super-awesome ships. We figured it would be a hoot to pack up the kids and let them experience their first plane and boat rides, and since we’d been wanting to get away for a few days to relax, a short cruise—filled with swimming, sunshine, yummy food, great entertainment, playing in the sand and ocean, and hanging out with the Mouse himself and his pals, including all the “real” princesses—seemed ideal.

My short-lived euphoria and excitement ended about 10 minutes after I booked the trip. I went from “ahoy” to “oy,” and I started, um, freaking out.

What if the kids panic on the plane? What if their ears pop like crazy and they lose it? What if there’s turbulence and they see me freak out? What if they spend the two-and-a-half-hour flight crying? Or misbehaving? Or yelling? What if I spend the two-and-a-half-hour flight yelling? What if my anxiety gets kicked into high gear? What if we all end up seasick? What if everyone gets the runs and we spend the entire trip in our wee bathroom? What if Addy asks if the boat will sink? (She’s already done this, by the way. I have no idea where she gets her teensy bit of anxiety from, obviously.) What if Peter pretends to throw Peyton overboard and accidentally does? What if the “real” Goofy scares the hell out of the girls? And the “what-ifs” have continued…

Read more: 10 tips for taking your kids on an airplane >

Since Addyson was born, Peter and I have been able to get away together (read: I’ve tagged along on a few of his business trips), but we’ve never taken the girls with us. The closest thing we’ve had to a family vacation was last March when we spent a night at Great Wolf Lodge, so I don’t really feel prepared for travelling via something other than a car, or being away from home for several nights. Since I like to be well prepared, I’ve done the easy stuff—I’ve read plenty about the cruise line and have done my research, our passports are taken care of, I’ve made a list of what I think we’ll need to bring, and the suitcase has made its way upstairs to our bedroom so I can start packing well in advance (it’s pretty easy to pack summer clothes during an extreme cold-weather polar vortex). But that’s it—I’m not sure what to expect, or how to keep my cool, or how to make sure we enjoy our first few nights away together. Still, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed and could use some advice.

Have you taken your little ones on a cruise before? Got any great tips? What about the flight? I didn’t get to go on a plane until I was 16, so I can’t even compare their experience to my own. I’m sure they’ll be too excited to be nervous, but is there anything special I should know to calm nerves/keep them happy? (And keep myself unstressed?)