Almost everyone agrees that family vacations are an integral part of a well-rounded family life. With more and more children spending most of their time on their own or in day care, they need family vacations just as much as parents do. Vacations are the perfect time for families to bond. This time should be enjoyable and it can be. By adhering to a few basic guidelines, family vacations can be restful, affordable and fun.
1. Select a destination that everyone will enjoy. If a theme park is your idea of a vacation, then you have dozens of options. Undoubtedly the kids will enjoy the “happiest place on Earth” but there are dozens of other vacation destinations that can provide all the fun and excitement you can stand without the theme park atmosphere. Many vacationers seek more relaxing vacations. The beach, lake or mountain can provide loads of entertainment and still allow for quiet, family time. If you are feeling really adventurous, how about camping? If that’s just a little too rugged for your family, consider a beach condo, lakeside villa or mountain cabin.
2. Getting there can be half the fun. Millions of Americans hit the road every year for vacation. To make the traveling as easy as possible, there are several things that you can do. Whenever possible, plan to do most of your driving when the kids are sleeping. At the very least, include their nap time into your driving schedule. This works well with flights, too. Try to schedule long flights to coincide with kids’ sleeping schedules. If you have decided on a road trip, pack the car, load up the kids and get started. Be sure to bring along books, games, cards, wipes and snacks. If your vehicle has a built-in dvd player, pop in a movie and the kids are set. However, this can be a great time to get the bonding experience started. Do you remember the old alphabet games? Look for letters of the alphabet on road signs and billboards. A sing-along is a great way to pass the time. Maybe this is a great time to just talk with the kids. A car is a great place to hold a conversation.
3. Spend realistically. No matter where you go, there is bound to be some souvenir that the kids just have to have. If you give into their every craving, you can cause serious damage to your vacation fund before you even reach your destination. Many people give their children the option of purchasing one or two souvenirs throughout the course of the vacation. When and what to buy may be left up to the kids. When children are old enough, maybe it is best to give them a reasonable vacation allowance. Just be sure to make it clear that if they wipe out their allowance at the first gas station, they will be unable to buy anything for the rest of their trip. You may be surprised at just how thrifty kids can be.
4. Take everything you need. This sounds simple, but take a few minutes to make sure you have everything the kids will need for the trip. In addition to food, games and clothes, many kids require regular medication. You are the best judge as to whether this can be packed in the suitcase or if it is something that you need close by, ready for easy access. Make sure you include a measuring spoon or drinking water if that is required for the dosage.
5. Know your limits. This applies to your stamina and your finances. Kids may want to go climb mountains, parasail and ride zip lines. If you are up to it, enjoy! However, if you are unable to do something the kids are intent on doing, remember that you are in charge. Give them options or let them select from a list of things. You don’t have to do everything this trip. There will be other vacations! To stretch your vacation money, alternate pricier activities with free or low-cost activities. Riding an inner tube down a lazy river is great fun and is also a very inexpensive way to spend several hours. State parks provide lots of low-cost activities that the kids are sure to enjoy.
The most important thing to do is to remember that this is a vacation. You and the kids need to relax. Children are great followers. If you are tense or irritable, they will most likely follow suit. If you make a wrong turn, just consider it an adventure and let finding your way back be a treasure hunt. On the other hand, if you laugh out loud, truly enjoying your vacation, you may be pleased to find that your whole family is happy too.