All families love the anticipation of an upcoming adventure. We brainstorm summer vacation ideas, hoping to provide those meaningful experiences for our families. What we envision is beautiful and perfect but it doesn’t usually work out that way, does it?
One of the reasons why family vacations often become frustrating is because we dreamed big but never thought through what we wanted our family to get from the adventure. Here are 4 things you need to do on your summer vacation that will help you achieve the lofty goals you’ve dreamed of.
1. Create a Family Safe Word
My kids are closing in on 21 and 18. I have a ton of experience at family vacations at all age levels. This might be the best advice I could ever provide another dad: Create a family safe word. What does that mean? Vacations are brief and have a fixed timeline. Do you really want to spend most of it bickering and stressed? Tired of wasting precious time fighting as a family, my wife and I devised the plan of the safe word. All four of us agreed that if any of us invoked that word, whatever was going on had to immediately stop. It has worked like a charm, and it has been invoked many times over the years. Our word: matrix. None of us remember why. But if we hear that word, it’s time to pipe down and get over it.
2. Make a Structured Outline of Each Day
To achieve the family vacation of your dreams, a great deal of planning and research needs to be done. So much frustration and time wasted can be avoided by knowing ahead where you’re going, where to eat that suits everyone, and carefully designing structured daily activities. Just make sure to build flexibility and different options into the plan.
3. Save Room for Downtime
I do not sit still well, and that amplifies on vacation. I like to make the most of every second and I don’t care if I’m tired. I’ve learned that my family does not feel the same way. They have openly rebelled against me enough times that I finally figured it out. I learned that downtime turned into moments of family closeness (deeper bonds), and great conversations that usually don’t happen at home. Save room for downtime. That’s where the magic often happens.Vacations are the perfect time to let your kids begin to learn, explore and navigate on their own.
4. Give Your Kids Independence
How much and what kind of independence is based on the age of your kids. Obviously, the older the child the more freedom we can grant. Vacations are the perfect time to let them begin to learn to explore and navigate on their own. Maybe it’s letting them walk to the beach without us, or a brother and sister riding a coaster while Mom and Dad take a break. But those moments of independence are where they learn to become their own person. Let them live and experience.
Sound off: What was your greatest summer vacation? Where did you go?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one thing you would like to do over summer vacation?”