Summer is here already and before we know it, it will be gone. The kids will be back to school and life will go back to "normal." Why not take the time to make the most of the summer months with your kids. As parents, we have so much to do, and while yes quality time is more important then quantity, summer offers us the chance to give our kids both of those things.
I am not saying that you have to plan an elaborate get away. You don't even have to spend thousands of dollars. This week's tips are all about planning the perfect family vacation, the perfect vacation for your family that is.
Tip One: Pick a Destination Together
This is a great idea no matter how old your kids are. I think that part of the reason that so many families are holding back from going on vacation is because we as parents think that we have to make the trip to Cancun or to Disney or some other big name place. Talk to your kids, and your spouse. You may be surprised to find out that really all they want is a few days at the log cabin at their favorite beach.
Tip Two: Make a List and Check it Twice
Once you know where you want to go, have everyone pick one or two things that they absolutely must do while you are away. Then everyone needs to agree to take part in what they other wants. So if it is a day of fishing, the others in the family can sit and enjoy nature, pack a picnic and make the most of it. If everyone gets to provide input then no one will be disappointed at the end of the vacation… and you won't feel like you have to go and do everything.
Tip Three: Remember it is About Family
While I think that cruise ships with entertainment for the kids has a place, I don't think that a family vacation is that place. Mind you this is only my opinion, but when you go on a family trip isn't the point to spend time together. Our hectic lives provide enough time apart, we really don't need the three or seven days we plan our trip to provide us with more reasons not to be together.
Tip Four: Connect With Your Kids
Ban iPods, Nintendo DS, Play stations or whatever electronic gadget you and your kids have for the time you are away. Think of family oriented things to do. There are board games, puzzles… go out a limb and really talk to your kids… or just listen to them. Our oldest two can talk your ear off if you let them, and it isn't always about topics that we are clueless on. Many times they have really excellent insight into what is going on in the world and the way they think things should be done. Take the time to connect with your kids.
Tip Five: Drive Don't Fly
I prefer to drive if possible for any vacation. The reason is that airports and airplanes are crowded, they aren't comfortable and when you are traveling with three kids… it just isn't fun. In the car (or van in our case) we can stop when we want. We get to see more places along the way. For example over spring break we drove to Orlando… our kids like to count the states we go through… but along the way they got to drive through the mountains… and stop at places that you would totally miss in an airplane, like the NASCAR speedway where they got to race their dad in fast go carts.
Tip Six: You Don't Have to Do Everything
So you go to Orlando. No one says that you have to spend 3 days at Disney, 2 days at Universal, go to Sea World and Busch Gardens. One of our favorite places in Orlando actually is Old Towne. It is a great little place with tons of cool little stores, rides that you would find at a fair, the best pizza place in the world and one of the best go cart racing tracks we have found. It is more of a place for locals or for people that are staying at one of the hotels by it… but it is the most fun! Look for the things to do that are fun, that aren't over crowded so that you can be a family. (By the way, if you go and visit Old Towne, you must try Flipper's Pizza. It is amazing!)
Tip Seven: Make a Vacation Budget
I know, budgets don't sound fun… they actually sound like fun suckers… but in my experience they are necessary. We now have a family of 5. When we vacation we like to have fun… and not feel limited. We also know what our spending habits on vacation are like. A budget helps us not come home broke. Laugh, go ahead… but we have done that before as well. We know what a vacation for us is going to cost. We set aside that money… and then all we take is that money. I highly recommend taking cash and only spending cash. Hide your debit cards and credit cards. If you have to take one, only take the one that the hotel is on and then lock it in the safe in your room. Out of sight out of mind. You want to go and have fun… but don't break the bank.
While I am out of room for tips, my final comment is this… it isn't about where you go, what you do when you are there or the amount of money you spend. All that is important is the time you spend with your kids. Isn't it better that your kids grow up remembering that mom and dad took the time to be with them… or that mom and dad took them to Disney? Camp out in your backyard. Go to a local hotel for two days. You don't have to go away, just spend time with your kids.