All too often vacations—even holiday weekends—don’t meet our expectations. The kids are bored and grouchy, you’re overrunning your budget, and the amusement parks are beginning to look the same.
Does it really have to be this way?
Here’s how families can transform their next vacation into one that is peaceful, planned, and has a renewed purpose. When you solve these five common vacation problems you can easily transform your next trip.
Problem: The vacation budget always gets out of control
Solution: Eat at farmers markets and grocery stores, and camp
Stick to healthy foods. Takeout from a local farmers market or grocery store gives you the ultimate flexibility on what to eat. You can select a beautiful site to enjoy your picnic. Bonus: everyone can choose their meal, from sushi to mac and cheese, yes even from a farmers market. I talk about this (and more) in this TV interview.
Try camping. If you don’t want to pack a tent, many KOAs have cabins with linens, fully-stocked kitchens, heating and air conditioning. Bonus: there are always other kids in the campground to play with. A few hours of romping on the playground is a great way to work off the energy that has accumulated in the back seat.
Problem: What can we do that we haven’t already done?
Solution: A road trip with a theme
Pick a theme that your family is interested in, such as dinosaurs, the Trail of Tears, or your personal genealogy, and visit relevant sites that can educate, entertain and enrich everyone in the family. Listen to audio books from the public library or Audible.com based on the region you’re traveling and the theme of your vacation. Conversations will ensue as you listen together.
Vacations are a perfect opportunity to experience another culture and to foster interest in topics ranging from history to geology. If you’re headed to a family reunion, plan a road trip that follows where your ancestors have lived. Fun and education can easily go together.
Problem: The kids are bored
Solution: Let them help plan and navigate the trip
Involve kids of all ages. There are dozens of ways to do so. An older child can research roadside stops or a destination city using apps and websites. While traveling, younger children can help choose restaurants or where to eat a picnic lunch. Everyone likes to have a say and be involved, even (especially!) kids.
Here’s a TV interview that goes into more detail.
Problem: Not enough room in the car
Solution: Pack like Lego pieces
Standardize and minimize. Give each child the same size luggage, pillowcase or plastic bag and a checklist for what to pack. Think of clothing like Lego pieces, any top should go with any bottom. Pack enough to wear for three days and then wash the clothes—hotels and KOAs always have laundry facilities. Here’s a video where I show you how this works.
Problem: We come home exhausted at the end of each vacation
Solution: Don’t plan more than one major activity per day and leave 50% of your day unplanned
Leave time for Road Magic. Stopping the car to take a picture of a hot air balloon, meeting someone with an exotic pet at an unplanned rest stop, or simply lingering at a planned destination allows for Road Magic to happen.
Sometimes the Magic happens inside the car, within the family, thanks to that shared experience. It is the opposite of how we schedule our kids and lives the other 51 weeks of the year.