What To Do With All That Togetherness? Summer vacations with the family can be the best of times or the worst of times. Delayed plane trips, boring hotel rooms, exhausting hours together in the car, funky cabins on muddy lakes and six straight days of rain — family vacations can be difficult enough for adults, but for children they can be down right awful! On the other hand, exploring new places together, sharing time and goofing-off for days at a stretch, meeting new people or reuniting with loving relatives — family vacations can be the best thing since summer was invented. How to have more of the best of times and less of the worst?
1. Watch out for great expectations, your own and the kids’. Enjoy the surprise of the vacation as it unfolds. This doesn’t mean don’t make plans. By all means, do make plans. And include everyone in the planning. Maps, brochures, photographs, letters, share them all. Make check-lists, too, with responsibilities for everyone. If you do have expectations… expect the unexpected…discuss what this might mean with your children and give them examples of what might come up unexpectedly; a delayed flight, no reservations at the hotel when you arrive, someone might fall and hurt themselves. When and if something does occur just say “We’ve entered the unexpected zone!” Just like everyday life when the unexpected happens we need to be flexible and move forward gathering the necessary information to get back on track.
2. Prepare to launch. Getting bills paid, the house picked up and laundry done before you leave means you will be coming home to order not chaos.
3. Do less. It sounds simple, and it is. You’ll have years of vacations with your kids: Do less now, and enjoy your time with them. It’s the one week of the year when you don’t need to rush everyone — so don’t. One good rule of thumb: While you’re planning your itinerary, plan for half of every day to be free, unscheduled time. Don’t schedule so many activities that there’s no time for just hanging out. If you’re traveling with young children or toddlers, take short jumps instead of long leaps.
4. Do your driving at night. Plan car trips after bedtime. The kids will sleep, there will be less traffic, and you may even get to have your first adult conversation in months! Also, you can snack uninterrupted on the good chocolates you’ve been hiding from the children. When driving, stop often, get out and stretch, move around. Consider picnics instead of restaurant meals. Take along familiar winning games along with a couple of new ones as a surprise for the children. If you have budding artists be sure to include no stain crayons and paper. Origami is another fun project that can be a delightful pass time that will be fun for them. Build in rest-time, too. Tempers have a tendency to flare when everyone’s packed together day and night for long stretches of time. Create alone time, for you and the children. Everyone needs recharging. Remember, both boredom and over-stimulation can result in acting out. Strive for balance.
5. Allow a day or two for re-entry. Before you go back to work and the children return to their summer routine schedule time for unpacking and decompressing. Coming home can be as stressful as leaving. Make homecoming part of the vacation, too.
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