For parents of young children, thinking about taking a family vacation can bring on a whirlwind of emotions. Parents are scared their children will not enjoy themselves, whine too much or demand too much. Parents are also concerned that the money spent on a family vacation just won’t be worth it everyone enjoys themselves – including the parents being able to relax at some point. However, parents also have that hope that the whole family will enjoy themselves so much that they will bring back home, not only souvenirs but happy memories that bring them closer together.
Ideally, this is what we all want. A family vacation with our young children that is not only a getaway but a time to bond and strengthen the family unit. We long for the kind of family vacation that when our kids get home all they want to do is run to their friend’s house and tell them all about it and how cool it was. As parents we want fun stories of our trip to bring back to our adult friends as well. As you flip through vacation magazines you see pictures of smiling, satisfied families on vacation and wonder why that can’t be you too.
Yes, that can be you. You can have a satisfying family vacation with your young children that will build happy memories. What it takes is a lot of realistic expectations, finding the kind of vacation that works for your family and some planning.
Let’s start with realistic expectations. This, above all, is key for all family vacations. I believe a lot of parents get discouraged from planning family vacations because they expect the world from them and therefore feel they can never achieve it. Realistic expectations begin with knowing your children and what they are capable of tolerating and handling. Sometimes we over plan our vacations and tire our children out to the point of irritability, day by day. Sometimes we even want to do so many big things every day that it becomes an overload for their still-developing senses.
I believe the root cause of “overloading” or “over planning” our vacations is the feeling that we absolutely must stuff our days with as much as possible in order to get the most out of our vacation. In reality, the opposite is true. The simpler we keep our vacation with young children, the more relaxed we will naturally be. Then, the more we are capable of enjoying the family we’re with.
Think about it; if we’ve packed our day full of things to do, then how much time is there to enjoy your family’s company? Did you talk or laugh together? Did you enjoy each event of the day to its fullest? If you answered “No” to these questions you most likely spent the day hurrying your family from event to event while they dragged behind. At the end of your day, few events stand out as truly enjoyable and your day instead becomes a crammed checklist of things you got done. Adjust your expectations and you will stand a great chance of having a memorable family vacation.
Find the kind of vacation that works for your family. Start by writing down on a piece of paper what kind of things you’d like to accomplish on a vacation. Let the whole family join in on this so you can get a clear perspective on what your family expects out of a vacation. Do you vacation to relax or to be entertained? Do you vacation to educate yourselves or to escape from the world? Once you’ve asked yourselves these questions and any more you may think of, look at your budget. Then, given the goals of the vacation and your budget, move forward in choosing a vacation destination.
If your vacation goals are to educate yourselves further while enjoying each other’s company then maybe a sightseeing road trip or vacationing on a working farm is what you would enjoy. If your vacation goals are to escape and relax, but your children still want their own excitement, then maybe a family cruise is what you need. Many cruise lines offer “child camps” on board their ship. Most ships do an amazing job of entertaining your young children with shows, activities, and even talent nights. This is all while the parents relax in the hot tub or catch a dinner show without worry or guilt.
Last, of all, don’t “over plan” as talked about earlier, but do plan a little. Once your vacation choice is made have your family write down a few events you would like to do on your vacation that everyone can enjoy. Don’t cram them all into one day, but spread them out over a few days and look forward to each event as they come day by day. This way you will have time to enjoy each event to its fullest while still being aware of enjoying it together as a family. This way, your memories are guaranteed to be more acute, memorable, and satisfying.
Family vacations are for everyone. Whether they are short, long, luxurious, or more affordable – what shapes the journey of the vacation and the consequent outcome is having realistic expectations for your young children, finding the right kind of vacation for your family, and planning a few events to truly enjoy. Bonn Voyage!