How to Plan a Great Family Vacation
Ever been on a vacation that feels as stressful as a day at the office?
Whether it’s a trip with your kids, a vacation with your parents or a big family reunion, organization is key. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your holiday time together.
Tips for Intergenerational Vacations
It just takes a little planning and ingenuity to keep everyone from children to grandparents happy on an intergenerational vacation, says Pamela Lanier, author of Family Travel: The Complete Guide and founder of travelguides.com. Above all, respect everyone’s privacy and independence. Lanier suggests several approaches to picking the location:
- Accommodate everyone’s budget and travel preferences by choosing an area that has an inn, an RV park, and a campsite near each other.
- Try a family resort with supervised activities that keep children busy and allow adults time to do things together.
Tips for Organizing Family Reunions
Planning a big family reunion can be a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. Delegate responsibilities, advises Lanier. Put one person in charge of finding accommodations for out-of-town guests. Let another plan outings and activities. Have somebody else plan meals. Here are some other super tips for your next reunion:
- Plan a potluck night, when everyone brings their special signature dish. This is guaranteed to be a big hit.
- A fishing trip is fun for all generations, and you can reward yourselves with a fish fry.
- Have all your relatives contribute to a family cookbook. Put it together on your computer, and give everyone a copy.
- Arrange for a photographer to capture the event.
Tips for Choosing a Family-Friendly Destination
“Let your kids help decide where to go and what to do once you’ve arrived,” advises Laura Sutherland, author of The Best Bargain Family Vacations in the U.S.A. Having a say means they’ll probably have a better time. Other tips for a fun-filled family vacation include:
- When choosing accommodations, make sure your children will be welcome: An antique-filled B&B might be great for a couple, but a nightmare for a young family.
- Families with very small children might prefer a low-key vacation, perhaps in a cottage by the beach. Location, convenience, and flexibility are key when travelling with toddlers: Too much scheduled activity will frustrate children and parents alike.
- Children between the ages of 5 and 12 will have a great time socializing with other kids at campgrounds and hotels that offer organized activities for kids.
- Older children and teens love active vacations, such as supervised rafting expeditions, water sport holidays, and dude ranch stays.
- If you’re travelling with teenagers, consider bringing one of their friends along. Teens are very peer-oriented and crave a little independence from their parents.
- Consider a family learning vacation. Learn how to dig for dinosaur bones at an archeological site or to play banjo or old-time fiddle at a folk heritage centre. Many universities offer summer programs and classes for kids and parents to participate in together.
- Try going to camp together. Many youth camps offer one- or two-week programs where they host entire families. “Family camps are a great buy and lots of fun,” says Sutherland. Parents get the chance to be kids again and everyone gets to spend time with their families as well as other people their own age.
“Children will pick up on parents’ anxieties about traveling,” says child psychologist Nancy Marks. If parents find travelling fun, more than likely their children will as well.
- It’s important to try to maintain some of the regularity of home on the road. Children will feel more secure if you try to keep their eating and sleeping schedules as regular as possible.
- Long car rides can be a particular challenge. Schedule lots of stops, so children can snack and run around. Play word games and visual games. Sing together. Let your children take turns looking for landmarks or navigating with your road map. Try to make the trip as much fun as possible for everyone.
- To prepare for your child’s first flight, take a trip to the airport ahead of time. Play airplane together. On the travel day, bring along a favourite toy from home for the trip.
- Electronic games, portable DVD players, and compact travel toys are handy on long trips.
- Involve your children in the adventure of travel. Encourage them to save up some of their allowance to purchase their own souvenirs. Let them use the digital camera to take pictures to remind them of what they saw. Bring along a few art supplies so they can record their experiences.