Whether you’re going near or far, the summertime family car trip is a time-honored tradition that provides for years of memories. The challenge on any trip is to make the vacation a time of adventure and enjoyment for the kids while also allowing parents some much-deserved R and R.
So, just what are some tried and true tips to making the vacation memorable for both kids and parents alike?
Rick Van Noy author of A Natural Sense of Wonder: Connecting Kids with Nature Through the Seasons, says, “Some of the best and most meaningful experiences you can have together are often the simplest (and cheapest!)” He recommends incorporating some aspects of the natural world into a family vacation. “I’m a big fan of canoeing, which is really like a boating-fishing-swimming-birding picnic. And it brings families together as everyone has to cooperate to get the boat moving in the right direction.”
Maplewood mom Lisa Basile echoes Van Noy’s advice. “We usually take a summer trip to Casco, Maine and stay at a cabin in a remote area. We relish the time and quiet, spending our time reading, canoeing, and kayaking. There is no wireless.” Summing it up, she adds, “Going to a quieter place, we all quiet down.”
A few other tried and true tips make for a trip that pleases both parents and kids alike…
- Don’t rely on weather to define your trip. Have plans for sunny or stormy weather. If it rains, don’t give up and drive home because of a spoiled beach experience. Instead, explore the museums, historical sights and nature centers an area has to offer.
- “Whatever you do, involve kids in the planning and navigation,” says Van Noy. Doing so builds anticipation, and kids will delight in recognizing the places they have been picturing in their heads. With guidance, kids can create a map of the travel route and destination, and the whole family will enjoy tracing this route along the way. Putting the map and running itinerary in a blog for friends and family to follow is a great way to use kids’ technological know-how in a productive manner.
- Create vacation rituals. Growing up, my family could count upon the ritual of returning to the same diner in Maine, year after year. We came to know the family that ran it. Another favorite pastime: telling stories in the car involving the same fictional character we had created. Many long hours in the car went quickly as we created new adventures for our heroine.
- Leave the cell phone at home–this goes for parents as well as kids. This will keep both mom and dad and the little ones from tuning out and texting with friends back home.
- Allow yourself to have a date night–even with the kids along! Yes, it is a family trip. But, it’s no reason for you to spend the entire time totally focused on the children. This is, after all, parents’ time away too! So, add those little extra touches. Dress up one night. Order wine. Have a dance around the dance floor–as the kids sit and color at the table. The kids will love seeing their parents enjoying each other’s company.
Cynthia Darling is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Barista Kids.