How to… Enjoy Family Vacation & Come Back Closer Than Ever

May 30, 2012

As soon, and often before, our family vacations are over, our boys usually are planning our next vacation. Even at 11 and 13, they prefer being with their parents on vacation than at home with their friends. Not sure if that’s normal or not, but I love it. We work very hard as a family to make sure our times away strengthen and bond us, and the following tips are the building blocks of how we structure our vacations for this purpose. These points also help make vacations relaxing, which for me, needs to happen in order for the bonding to happen too.

  1. Know everyone’s priority. Depending on how long you will be on vacation, have each person prioritize activities. Then, do your best to make sure at least one of the tope items on every person’s list gets done. (Keep in mind that having several options is important.) We often spend time prior to leaving on vacation researching options while we plan our vacation as well as most of the first day of vacation deciding activities.
  2. Look at free/ low cost options. We love to visit state parks, national monuments and other free/low cost activities when on vacation. This gets us outside more and allows us to learn about the area we are visiting. On our last vacation, we spent a day hiking in a state park, visiting the fish hatchery and touring the DNR facility. These were all free activities and a lot of fun. Don’t forget to check out the local coupons for tourists too to help keep costs down.
  3. Immerse in local culture. We enjoy reading about the culture of our destination and then visiting some of the places we read about. We learn a lot about history and have fun quizzing each other on it. Local culture activities not only are usually the least expensive but are also often free.
  4. Have a flexible budget. My husband sets a budget for us and then monitors it as we plan activities. Utilizing the coupons that most destinations offer for tourists helps a lot in sticking to our budget. We also can enjoy activities without feeling guilty and wondering how we’ll pay for the vacation after it’s over.
  5. Schedule down time. My ideal vacation involves lots of reading and coffee time. Down time for reading and relaxing is my top priority on vacation, and my family knows this. They’ve also come to enjoy these times for themselves as well. We schedule plenty of time to rest, so the times spent out and about can be more enjoyable (i.e. no sore feet for me). We take movies to watch and games to play as a family for our down time, which usually makes up half of our vacation time.
  6. Avoid time. While I don’t wear a watch as a general rule, my husband also ditches his on vacation. Our oldest son enjoys being our “time keeper,” so we always know we can ask him if needed. Most of the time, though, we avoid worrying about the time. Having a week where time doesn’t matter is very refreshing. We eat when we’re hungry and sleep when we’re tired.
  7. Consider a kitchen. We stay in a time-share condominium on most vacations. Having a kitchen is a huge money saver, and it helps avoid unwanted weight gain that often comes with vacation. Many hotels have rooms with kitchens or kitchenettes, and they are well worth the extra money.

I know I don’t have all the answers when it comes to vacations, and know everyone’s situation is unique. But, I do know that what I have suggested here as well as in the rest of the series has made family vacations into great bonding times as well as low stress times for my family. All I can do is offer what works for me, and I pray that it stimulates you to explore what works for you to have vacations that draws you closer together as a family. Being deliberate about the structure of your vacation really will you to grow closer together as a family and to truly relax at the same time.

DISCUSSION: What are your suggestions for enjoying vacation and growing closer as a family?


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10 Responses to “How to… Enjoy Family Vacation & Come Back Closer Than Ever”

  1. Barb Says:

    These are great tips, Kari – they make me want to go on vacation!

  2. Chris Patton Says:

    Thanks for this post, Kari! Our family is leaving for ten days together in a car…these tips will certainly come in handy!

    • Kari Scare Says:

      Glad the timing worked out for this to be helpful. I was hoping that would be the case if I posted this series in May/June. Where are you going? I love road trips!

  3. WSM Says:

    Good article. Very helpful.

  4. tnealtarver Says:

    When I read your article, points 3-7 remind me of one very special trip we made years ago. It ranks as our all-time favorite family vacation. We had to do a lot of saving to pull it off but, having the budget already in place, made the trip both possible and truly refreshing. We spent a week on a houseboat in the Bahamas. We rose with the sun and went to bed early. With no electronics beyond the boat's radio (which gave us the local weather report, sunny and warm, and the island happenings–"Fresh bread today at Mama Jameson's"), we read and played a lot of games together. During the day, we explored the long stretch of harbor in our water taxi and found the best beaches for seashells and the best reefs for snorkeling. One humorous moment happened when, in a moment of close quarters and high tension, our son said, "Small boat, Mom. Small boat."

    • Kari Scare Says:

      Great story! How old was your son when he said this? Very funny. My husband and I are looking for something different to do for our 20th anniversary next year, and I'm going to check into this.

  5. OH MY GOODNESS – Amen to number 5. I've been on vacations before where I got back and felt more exhausted than when I left.

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