Summer is fast approaching and school is coming to an end. Soon it will be time to load the family into the car and head down the road on a family vacation you hope will be more than fun for all.
Perhaps you’re thinking of vacationing somewhere new this year and taking in the sights of our beautiful country. Or maybe you’re planning on spending some much-needed R & R around a campfire at your favorite campground. Whether you plan to vacation for a full week or a few long weekends, how you prepare the family can make or break this year’s vacation. The 10 tips below can help you make this year’s family vacation the best ever.
#1 ESTABLISH A MUTUAL PLAN
Allow every member of the family to have input on the type of vacation and/or activities they would like to experience. Pick a destination together. Reach consensus on what type of vacation you want to create. Then brainstorm all the possible sites to visit and potential activities. Build a list of things you want to do, making sure that each family member has a top priority on the list. When everyone has a say, you built commitment and lower resistance towards the activities.
If your children are younger, establish the destination with your spouse and present the various options to the children for discussion. As your children become older, increase their input on decisions.
By allowing every family member to have input, ownership is established. Each family member can now look forward to the specific part they desired while allowing other family members to enjoy different aspects of the vacation. Each person can enjoy the part they wanted as well as tolerate the choices of others.
#2 FAMILY VACATION WITHIN YOUR FINANCIAL MEANS
Plan a vacation that you know you can afford. Stress builds as the money dwindles. Only do what you can afford to do. If you cannot afford to do the vacation the way you would like, plan to do that vacation at a later date and get everyone involved in building the funds to do so. Agree that for now, we will vacation within the limits of what the family can afford. This model's fiscal responsibility for your children and teaches them to work and save for something desirable.
#3 STICK TO THE CHILDREN’S REGULAR DAILY SCHEDULE/ROUTINE
The younger the child the more important it is to stick to your regular schedule. While on vacation, children under the age of 10 need to go to bed, get up, and eat at the same time they normally do. Young children’s bodies are not able to adjust quickly to time changes and schedule adjustments. The more adjustments in their traditional schedule your child is called upon to make the more mood swings and irritability you are likely to encounter. For less stress and a relaxed vacation, keep the changes in schedule to a minimum.
#4 BE FLEXIBLE
No matter what the plan, be willing and able to adjust it. No matter how well you planned beforehand, surprises and unexpected events will occur. Flexibility allows you to bring variability and energy to your vacation plan. Stubbornly insisting that the plan is precisely followed when roadblocks occur, can create unwelcome stress and tension. Relax and roll with the punches.
#5 DON’T ATTEMPT TO DO IT ALL
Slow down. The more you and your family members attempt to “fit it all in,” the greater the chance that irritability and frustration will occur. Set a steady pace that attempts to accomplish a little bit of the plan at a time. Do not push to accomplish everything on your list. Remember, a vacation is about enjoying and savoring the time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
#6 REMEMBER BOREDOM IS A CHOICE
When traveling (especially by car) take a variety of games, toys, books, and videos to occupy time. Be creative. The words, “I’m bored,” or “This is boring” are a cue to make a different choice and change to another activity. Perhaps it is time to get out of the car and run around. It could be time to stop at a new restaurant. A travel center could provide treasures of trinkets, books, and brochures to rekindle interest.
#7 DON’T ATTEMPT TO DO EVERYTHING TOGETHER AS A FAMILY
It is OK to split up. You don’t have to do everything together as a family all the time. Different people have different interests. Allow for opportunities to explore these different interests without those people who are less interested and prone to “grumble and moan” through the activity. Seek opportunities to have one-on-one time with each of your children. The experiences of the individual will add life and energy to the family as they are shared and talked about later.
#8 FOLLOW A HIGH VOLUME DAY WITH A LOW VOLUME DAY
Give yourself and your children the opportunity to recuperate and reenergize. Mix a day of rest and low activity in with the fast paced, high energy days. The entire family will be able to enjoy the high volume day when everyone’s energy is strong. Your family will only be as energetic as the least energetic person.
#9 EAT HEALTHY WHENEVER POSSIBLE
So many vacations are riddled with fast food and high sugar drinks. As your vacation progresses the body’s ability to manage stress challenges the immune system. Eating healthy and drinking water instead of soft drinks increase the body’s ability to adjust and cope with change. No one wants to be sick while on vacation. Eating healthy increases your chances of staying healthy and full of energy.
#10 MAKE A “BE” CHOICE
Discuss and choose how you are going to “BE” in various parts of the vacation. Decide to “BE” playful at times, serious at other times. Talk about the various choices in mood and temperament that are available to everyone during a specific activity. If a trip is planned where waiting in line is likely, some choices are to “BE” observant, friendly, patient, frustrated, curious, or talkative. Help one another make choices that enable the vacation to be enjoyable for the entire family. Support one another in making a helpful “BE” choice and in BEING that choice.
Once your vacation is complete, come together as a family and discuss how it went. View pictures together and reflect on what each person remembers about that moment. Debrief and evaluate what worked and what did not. Consider adjustments that would make the next family vacation smoother and more enjoyable. Begin to plan the next trip, keeping in mind the highs and lows of the trip that just passed. Do so and you will be on your way to making your next family vacation the best vacation ever.
Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman are are co-authors of
The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose