My family loves to travel. We always enjoy a vacation to a Disney theme park. As the family changes, the type of family trip we take also changes.
When we had a toddler at home, we enjoyed things like a small staycation checking out the local sites like the zoo. As our son grew, so did the types of vacations we tried out. We enjoyed exploring new destinations both near and far.
Every family has their own unique likes and dislikes when it comes to travel. Some love to camp and rough it while others enjoy a getaway at the local Great Wolf Lodge and spending the weekend on water slides. One of the great thing about travel is that the options are endless. And the type of trip your family takes can change and adapt just like your family does.
The Staycation: Exploring Your Own Back Yard
Occasionally, we enjoy staying around the home and exploring the local sites. Living in the Seattle area, it is surprising how many locals I talk to that have never taken the elevator up to the top of the Seattle Space Needle. Yet, it is a must-do for tourists from out of town. For the record, I have been up to the top several times, but it’s been decades and I have yet to see the new glass floors that were installed. Time to head back!
If you choose a staycation as the type of trip your family wants to take this year, remember to treat it as you would any vacation. Unplug from work, turn off distracting apps on your phone, and definitely avoid household chores. You wouldn’t be mowing the lawn if you were 2,000 miles from home, so don’t do mow it during your staycation.
A staycation is the opportunity to check out the newest exhibit at the children’s museum you’ve been wanting to see. Or maybe you want to try out the cookie dough food truck everyone has been raving about. Find a kid-friendly local hike and take your child on their first hike. Knowing how much they enjoy hiking and what their hiking abilities are can open up possibilities of exploration down the road…like hiking Arches National Park.
Find a Base and Do Some Exploring
My hubby and I have been doing this quite a bit during the summer of Covid-19. We have driven 3 to 6 hours from our home to a base hotel and explored some cities in Washington and Oregon. It is something we probably never would have done if it weren’t for our hesitation to fly during a pandemic.
Renting a home, condo, or a villa can be a great way to introduce kids to travel. You’ll have your own kitchen to make meals that are familiar to your kids. A mix of eating out and eating can initiate conversations about manners when eating out and trying new foods. We always told our son that he should try “one bite.” If he didn’t like it, he wouldn’t have to finish it. He’s a pretty adventurous eater now because we didn’t force him to finish eating things he didn’t like.
Renting a home allows your family more square footage to spread out if needed. And no need to tell your kids to not walk so hard so you don’t disturb the people in the room below. There is no need to worry about noisy neighbors in the room next door…playing loud music, TV, or holding wrestling matches.
Many rental homes and villas even offer toys for kids to play with.
Get Active on Vacation
As a child gets older, his physical abilities begin to develop. This means it might be the perfect time to try a vacation that takes a little more physical activity. It can be the perfect way to connect with your family.
There is a sense of achievement when your whole family makes it to the end of the hike…whether it was a 1-mile hike with toddlers or a 10-mile hike with teens. When the boys in our extended family did the STP bike ride (Seattle-to-Portland Ride), they came away with deeper bonds and lots of stories to share. It continues to be one of my hubby’s fondest travel memories.
As each member came across the finish line, there was a group of family waiting to cheer them on. And I heard no complaints about the fact that those of us in the sag wagon (support vehicle) had picked up VooDoo Doughnuts for them to enjoy after they finished.
Just be aware that a more active vacation may take some extra planning and patience. What you pack for a 180-mile bike ride is very different than what you pack for a weekend at the beach. Be sure that everyone in your group is in the physical shape necessary for the level of activity you will be doing. It is worth the payoff in the end.
Head to the Big City
Most big cities offer an astonishing amount of activities for kids…with lots of options appealing to kids’ taste buds, too.
Some cities can be very noisy, busy and a bit polluted. Other cities have tend to have aggressive street sales people. Do your research before you leave to make sure the city you are headed to will be one your kids will enjoy. Just because a guy is trying aggressively to sell you a “I Love NY” hat, doesn’t mean you won’t love New York (but it might frighten some kids). Be prepared so you know what to expect…and prepare your kids to know what to expect.
It can be a lot of fun to watch your kids immerse themselves in the culture of a new city. This is especially true of older kids who are more aware of the culture in a given city. It’s the perfect time to let the older ones learn to navigate how to get around a big city. And it’s a great life skill them to know for when they finally leave the nest.
Get Behind the Wheel and Embark on a Road Trip
Packing up a toddler for a 10-hour trip in the car can bring fear into the heart of any parent. The challenges of a road trip can be many.
But for many families, there is something kind of fun about getting ready for a road trip. In our family, every one puts together a “road trip playlist” for listening to…a special type of music (or podcasts) only listened to on the open road. Oh, and don’t forget those awesome road trip snacks! For us, no road trip is complete without chocolate chip cookies, Red Vines, and mixed nuts.
We have learned to look for pit stops along the way to use the bathroom or grab something to eat about every two to three hours. And if you are worried about the back of your car looking like a bomb went off…well, it probably will. But it will clean up. I suggest doing a pick up and clean up at the end of every day.
To make your road trip extra memorable, allow the kids to pick a few stops along the way. When kids are involved in the planning, it gives them a mental boost. And they are more apt to participate and support all the activities that have been planned.
Volunteer on Vacation
If you are wanting to increase your family’s ability to be more flexible, tolerant, and understanding of the world, then adding a volunteer type of component to your family trip might be just the answer.
Traveling can be one of the best ways to expose your kids to a world bigger than what they know and a lot of compassion. Volunteering offers an unequaled opportunity to teach your family how to appreciate what they have, to work together, and to learn empathy for others.
Taking the family to Disney World? How about spending a day sometime in the middle of your trip volunteering at Give Kids the World. Here you can help and serve kids with terminal and life-threatening illnesses enjoy a vacation with their families. (Our family LOVES Give Kids the World and the work they do!)
If you do decide to do a volunteer vacation, always do your research to make sure that you have chosen a trustworthy organization.
Mix Things Up
The type of trip that might be the perfect match for your family most likely will change from year to year…or even month to month. Different stages of life open up different types of travel. Give different types of travel a try and let the kids help plan when appropriate.
By the time our son was eight years old, we let him guide us to the airport and find our gates based on flight numbers, find baggage claim to get our suitcases, etc. When he flew by himself for the first time at age 14 to visit relatives, he was not nervous and was able to navigate the experience by himself with no issues. I considered it a win as he learned important life skills.
So go ahead and plan some family trips! Enjoy your time together! And remember: The family that plays together, stays together!
What’s your family’s current favorite type of vacation? I’d love to know in the comments below. We love learning about new travel ideas.
Please share this post if you know someone looking for ideas for a family vacation.
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