As promised here are some things that I have learned from the many family trips we have taken. Maybe you will find a little tidbit useful to incorporate in your upcoming family travels.
– Save ahead of time for the trip. It is great to have money that you have already put aside for vacation. We stash a little bit here and there every year so that by the time vacation rolls around we have what we need to do what we want to do. It would to have sucked to have traveled to Galveston, but not have had the funds to play on the pier. Even if you don’t have a lot of money for travel you can take a road trip closer to home. You don’t have to travel 4500 miles to reconnect with your family and get time away.
– Planning ahead is best. Some of the biggest arguments husband and I have had on vacation have been over which hotel to stay at. I just want a clean bed and shower he wants it to be the cheapest bed in town (clean or not). I say, come to an agreement on where to stay before you leave and book the rooms early. There is nothing worse than looking for a place to rest your head when you are tired and hungry. It just sets you up for arguments.
– Learn about your destination ahead of time. Is it expensive? Will you have to pay for parking everywhere you go? How far is it from other places you may want to visit? What is the weather like? I feel it is best to know these things ahead of time. It would be awful to find out you have to spend $25 a day in parking when you get there and realize you didn’t budget for that.
– Bring lots of activities for the kids. For road trips and long airplane rides you need distractions. It doesn’t have to be continuous, but something to help pass the time is very helpful. This year I brought road trip games that I had prepared before we left and I brought goodies for the kids to periodically reward them for good behavior. I also bought a few new things in the dollar section of Target (like little white boards and road atlases for each of them) so they had new things to look at or play with on the drive. We also let them listen to their IPod or watch movies on the IPad, but I did make sure that this time was limited. The point of a family vacation is to connect and communicate. You can’t do that if you are plugged in the whole time.
– Be still for a while. We like to travel somewhere and then stay for a few days before we move to our next destination. It not only gives you time to explore certain places, but also breaks up the monotony of being in the car for so many days. A vacation should feel like a vacation. Time to relax and unwind a bit. If you pack too much in, you will only feel exhausted and unrested. Make sure you take some time to chill. Have a day with nothing planned. Those are always my favorites.
– Get the kids their own room. For me, this is key for a happy vacation. Husband and I must have time to connect too and can’t do that easily in a hotel room with the kids in the bed right next to you. We always try to get a suite that has a door so that the kids can have their space and grown ups can have theirs. If we are in a place for a week or so, we will rent a house on VRBO.com. It usually ends up being around same price as a hotel would be, but you have a lot more space. The kids love it too. They need a break from Mom and Dad too!
– Plan activities for everyone. Give everyone a say in what they would like to get out of the vacation. In Texas, my daughter wanted to swim, husband wanted to visit Dealy Plaza, son wanted to visit the Nasa Space Center, and I just wanted to sit in a quiet space and read. We accommodated everyone.
Most of all, just treasure the moments. Each is so special. Even the times you are arguing you may look back on with a grin. Like remember that time that we took that dirt back road through Arizona that took us 5 hours longer than we anticipated and we were thoroughly pissed at each other by the time we it pavement? I will never forget 🙂
Today’s lesson in improving my marriage: Continue to take family vacations and build precious memories.