Our annual family vacation is coming quickly and I’m getting in that vacation zone. Family vacations have been a huge part of our history. Our kids have long left the nest and yet every year they still go out of their way to carve out a few days to gather together with us.
We’ve seen some great parts of our country over the years. But destination has never been the attraction. And it isn’t just the hope of some needed recharging. It’s the memories of our times together and the excitement of making new memories that keeps these times a priority for everyone.
Here are eight recommendations for making your own great family vacation memories.
- Make annual vacations happen. Whatever budget you have available can work with a little creativity. We’ve seen too many families postpone family vacations until “someday when we can afford it”. When is that someday? How much money is enough? It’s kind of like saying, “We’re waiting to start a family when we can afford it.” Baloney. Make it happen. A great family vacation doesn’t have to be the Disney-experience of a lifetime. The important thing is the extended time together as a family doing something out of the ordinary and creating great memories.
Make the vacation planning a family activity. It’s part of the fun. It builds anticipation and cooperation. Weeks or months before the vacation, set aside one night of the week as a family night and make vacation planning part of the agenda. Include everyone in the travel plans, researching where staying, sites to see, activities to do. Don’t make the mistake of planning alone with your spouse and then just packing up the kids along with the suitcases.
Create the name and Vacation Cry. Early on during the planning stages, give your vacation a name. Two or three words that sum it up either by the destination, an attraction, an event, etc. We turn it into our Vacation Cry. At any point during the vacation when any family member feels the need to stir up the enthusiasm and excitement, they can call out, “Vacation Cry!”, and the whole family shouts out the name of your vacation. Toddlers particularly love this when they realize they can issue a command to the family at will (you may need to reel them in a bit).
Consider camping. It may not work for every family but I can honestly say camping was one of the best experiences we shared as a family. It builds togetherness in ways like nothing else—setting up and tearing down camp; living together in close quarters; rallying the troops during inclement weather; eating outside; etc. It can also be a more economical vacation for when the budget is tight.
At-home vacations can also be an option. Some of our best vacations have been stay-cations. You just have to make sure you intentionally make it different than the norm. Tell people you’re going on vacation but don’t tell them where you’re going. Simply say you haven’t really decided yet and everyone will think you’ve left town. It’s a chance to plan day trips or just make up the day’s activities on the spur of the moment. This can be very relaxing and a great option if you’ve already had a bigger trip yet have some vacation time left over.
Plan time to do what everyone enjoys. Obviously, it’s great to find activities you can do together. But if individuals really enjoy something that perhaps is no big deal to others, try to make a way for them to enjoy it. Sometimes having the whole family involved in something for the enjoyment of another is a great way to build family unity. “All for one, one for all” is healthy for building a close family.
Document your vacation. Use pictures, videos, scrapbooks, whatever to preserve your memories for years to come. We keep a journal of our vacations listing where we went, housing accommodations, special things that happened, funny things said or done.
Times of afterglow. It’s always a bit of a let down to ease back into the routine of life after a great vacation. Instead of complaining about getting back to the routine, keep the joy going by reliving some of the memories each day over the next couple of weeks. Edit videos; catalog photos; write in the journal; retell funny stories at dinner; even an occasional Vacation Cry.
The years together as a family go by way too fast. You need to seize every opportunity to build family spirit and memories through shared experiences. The family vacation is one of the best ways to do that. If it hasn’t been part of your experience, decide to make it happen and get as creative as you need to. Do it well and your kids won’t want to miss it—even after they’ve left the nest.
Question: What have you done to make family vacations memory-makers? Share your answer in the comments below.