Vacation planning looms. For some, vacation prep is a joyful process. And then there are the other 90 percent of families, still paying for last year’s getaways and dreading another summer season.
Though ads and posts rarely reflect reality, family vacations really can be beautiful, memory-making occasions. Find out how with these 10 tips.
1. Budget for the vacation.
Never take a trip on borrowed money or spend funds intended for critical financial goals. Prayerfully save. Pay cash. When there’s no travel budget, get creative. Erect a borrowed tent in a state park—or your own backyard. Contact like-minded friends elsewhere to ask about swapping homes (and toys and local freebie ideas). Or invent your own staycation, incorporating library programs, park picnics and board games.
2. Make it values-validated.
Don’t line up without evaluating whether God’s plan for you might be different from what you’ve always done. How might your children’s lives be changed by a mission trip? How would your marital relationship benefit from a marriage getaway? How might God nurture sibling relationships at a retreat center, lakeside cabin, or farm? How can this year’s vacation grow your faith and family?
3. Consider the ages of your kids.
Every theme park visitor has witnessed the glassy stare of MSP’s—Miserable Stroller Parents. After spending money they don’t have on a trip their child will not remember, MSPs realize what veteran parents know: the best baby-toddler vacations are simple and short. Plan trips for the average age, stage and stamina of your clan. The Magic Kingdom will still be there—and much more magical—in the post-stroller era. Don’t push your children to enjoy something before they’re developmentally ready.
4. Make a memory-filled vacation.
The vacation goal is to spend time together. For children, a parent’s undivided attention is better than anything. A tradition as simple as playing checkers or a just-me-and-dad walk are the “we-always-do-this-on-vacation” moments lasting far longer than photos. When planning, recall your own best-of moments, or the ones you wish you had. Then begin forming memories with your children, based on what is special to them, not what looks great to adults.
5. Investigate the interests of your children.
What interests do your children have that you can explore on vacation? What interests do you and your spouse have that you want to share with your children? Your passions—fishing, reading, theater, science, swimming—are part of your family story. Investigate your kids’ interests and share your own. Incorporate career coaching as you talk to park rangers, museum curators or other travelers. As children get older, take detours to explore college campuses, ballparks or concert halls. Expand their world.
6. Do your research.
To customize family travel, collect alternative destination and scheduling ideas. Off-season or shoulder-season trips often offer more value and less stress. Even one week before/after prime season can make a difference at popular destinations. Families with toddlers might schedule multiple extended-weekend trips rather than a single week away. As children become teens, some families adopt December getaways as their whole-family gift, rather than tons of packages. Others visit nearby tourism sites year-round. Online travel forums and free newsletters help parents think out of their box.
7. Consider your traveling buddies.
Some extended families vacation together annually. Some parents always vacation with other families. Some always allow children to bring buddies along. Before making every-year plans, prayerfully evaluate what you want your children to remember once they are your age. Consider whether every trip should be shared or whether your family needs an occasional week alone.
8. Take advantage of the learning opportunities.
You needn’t be a homeschooling household to exploit travel’s educational opportunities. Study online news outlets, including parenting magazines, of your destination to learn of festivals, reenactments or cool tours during your stay. Read related library books on history, environment or geography. Appoint older children as navigators, plotting progress, mileage and arrival times. Stop at historical markers, marinas, roadside farms and forts to learn more.
9. Give everyone an option.
Perhaps one spouse defines “vacation” as a sail–or a sale. One child equates vacations with pizza, the other with parks. Provide opportunities for age-appropriate choices. Older children might choose their favorite restaurants or suggest cycling paths. Manage everyone’s expectations with individualized options, making time for adult solo pursuits too.
10. Build your faith along the way.
Even if the trek is not an official mission trip, make it faith-building. Challenge children to memorize a Bible verse as the journey’s “motto.” Before departure, visit NAMB's official site to investigate church-planting efforts in your destination. Consider worshiping with that congregation or serving the church planter in some way. When saying a restaurant meal’s blessing, always pray by name for those who served you. Lead children to notice needs they witness while traveling. Turn a hike into a prayerwalk, praying for the
community and God’s plan for everyone you see.
No trip is perfect. Expect some things to go wrong. But a prayerfully planned vacation can be a lasting blessing, building faith and family for years to come.
Article courtesy of ParentLife magazine.