We recently celebrated our daughters 8th birthday and although she was really excited, it wasn’t as memorable as her 7th birthday which we celebrated on a short family vacation to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Celebrating with the girls from a shelter where we volunteered for an afternoon was an experience she will cherish forever.
With summer upon us, and kids out of school, I got to thinking about Family Summer Vacations and decided to share some tips on what to do with all that togetherness. Please share any tips you may have from your family vacation experiences.
What To Do With All That Togetherness
Vacations with the family can be the best of times or the worst of times. Exploring new places together, sharing time and goofing-off for days at a stretch, meeting new people or reuniting with loving relatives — family vacations can be the best thing since summer was invented.
On the other hand, interminable plane trips, boring hotel rooms, exhausting hours together in the car, funky cabins on muddy lakes and six straight days of rain — family vacations can be difficult and stressful for adults and children.
So how can you have more of the best of times and less of the worst? Here’s a list of things to consider when planning family vacations:
1. Watch out for great expectations. Your own and the kids’. Enjoy the surprise of the vacation as it unfolds. This doesn’t mean don’t make plans. By all means, do make plans. And include everyone in the planning. Maps, brochures, photographs, letters, share them all. Make check-lists and packing lists, too, with responsibilities for everyone.
2. Allow plenty of time. Don’t jam-pack days or crowd too much into the trip. If you’re traveling with young children or toddlers, take short jumps instead of long leaps. If you’re driving, stop often, get out and stretch, move around. Consider picnics instead of restaurant meals.
3. Keep it simple. Don’t schedule so many activities that there’s no time for just hanging out. Build in rest-time, too. Tempers have a tendency to flare when everyone’s packed together day and night for long stretches of time. Create alone time, for you and the children. Everyone needs recharging. Remember, both boredom and over-stimulation can result in acting out. Strive for balance.
4. Choose appropriate activities based on age and interests for everyone. At Vacations That Matter, we recommend incorporating volunteer service activities. One of the easiest connections for children is other children or support of animals. Imagine taking care of elephants in Thailand, or lion cubs in South Africa, or interacting with children of a similar age via sports or reading programs. Choose programs that will educate, inspire, and be fun for the whole family. Consider age and physical fitness requirements.
5. Choose destinations based on seasons. The best time of year to travel to your desired destination may not be during the hot and humid summer months. Or our summer may be their winter, so consider the weather and avoid complaints, fussing, and a miserable experience.
6. If possible, choose accommodations that are spacious and provide plenty of various age group activities with minimal safety concerns. Comfort adds greatly to your overall vacation experience. For large parties or families with small children who may spend most of their time at a pool or beach, consider All-inclusive resorts or cruises where all your meals and snacks are included. It takes the stress out of trying to please everyone & deciding where and what to eat and making reservations.
7. Take tips and advice from friends or families who have been to your desired destinations, but be aware that your family is unique, has its own opinions and feelings on things, and, therefore, requires your due diligence in selecting a program that meets your personal family needs. Consulting with a travel specialist will save you time and provide peace of mind.
8. Try to allow a day or two to re-coup before you go back to work and the children return to their routine. Coming home can be as stressful as leaving. Make homecoming part of the vacation, too.
We all want family vacations to be the best of times with everlasting memories, so consider doing something that could shape the way your children will travel for the rest of their lives. The values that may have guided you in your own life journey can be instilled in your children through Voluntourism experiences. Try it with your family and share your inspiring stories with us.