What comes to your mind when you think of family vacations? Do you have fond memories of visiting the beach or a national park with your immediate family? Is it a family reunion including grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles? Is it a happy memory or one that makes you shudder at the mere thought?
Successful family vacations can happen with a little planning and foresight. There are several key elements to consider when planning that all important family vacation.
1. Your Children’s Ages
Taking into consideration your children’s ages as you select your destination is the first step. Younger children tire easily and need frequent breaks. Keep the daily schedule open and allow for unexpected changes. Older children have more stamina and understanding. Trying to fit too many activities into one day can take all the fun away, especially if crankiness sets in. Make frequent stops on a driving vacation and search for local parks where children can run and play.
2. A Variety of Activities
Let’s face it; in this day and age, neither adults nor children have long attention spans. Making sure to plan days that include both active and cultural outings helps keep everyone engaged. For example, a museum in the morning (when everyone is fresh) and an afternoon of hiking.
3. A Home Base–with good meals and a pool!
Moving around from hotel to hotel and spending long hours driving or traveling between points is not recommended on a family vacation. Settling in to one hotel for multiple days allows the family to feel a part of the place, to get to know the hotel staff, to return after a long day with a sense of home. Many international hotels offer meal plans including breakfast and dinner. The children love the certainty of a full meal, with dessert, every night. Furthermore, it relieves the stress of finding an appropriate, good restaurant every night-one that your children will agree upon unanimously.
A pool during the summer makes your home base even more appealing. Some of my children’s favorite vacation memories are of “swimming in the dark with mom and dad”.
4. Experiential Activities
Whether cultural or active, the kinds of activities to plan for a family vacation must be interactive and engaging. This is, of course, fairly easy with active options like hiking, riding horses, kayaking, and zip-lining. When choosing a museum, for example, seek out any special visit days that involve more creativity in the presentation. Hands on science museums make education seem more like playtime.
Any time you travel as a group, it’s important to gauge members’ energy and interest level, and remain flexible on timing and the order of activities. Let each child choose an activity that they most want to do and plan your visit to ensure that each activity is done. An older child is more likely to tolerate a visit to the kids section of the amusement park, knowing their turn for the big roller coaster is coming next.
We would love to hear your family vacation success stories!