Some of our most cherished childhood memories are often family vacations.
Travel is a great way to strengthen family bonds and open your kids’ eyes to new ideas and cultures. However, traveling with children can prove quite unpredictable and despite your best intentions can end up leaving everyone stressed if you don’t know effective ways to avoid it.
There’s no shortage of online advice out there focusing on the world’s best family-friendly destinations or money saving tips for families looking to travel on a budget, but there isn’t a lot of guidance on ways to make your family trips more enjoyable for everyone.
There is actually scientific research that has proven taking vacations together can bring families closer and make them happier. Vacations allow us to remove many of the distractions that plague our everyday lives, allowing parents and children the opportunity to communicate with each other and enjoy experiences together without all the normal stresses.
Of course a family vacation can also create conflict if not done properly. This is why it pays to understand some of the best ways you can experience a successful family trip together.
Here are some helpful tips on how you can create positive long-lasting travel memories for you and your family.
How to Make Family Travel More Enjoyable
Address any Family Issues Before Traveling
If your family is dealing with serious issues, it may be wise to seek professional help before investing in a family vacation. While family travel can strengthen bonds, it doesn’t have the ability to cure major underlying issues that your family may be facing.
There are many situations that can affect a family’s mental health and a licensed family therapist can help get to the root of any serious issues such as past trauma suffered by a family member, strained relationships between family members, mental health issues a family member is suffering from, or communication problems.
Other events that can have a huge impact on a family may include the addition of a new child, recent relocation, or a death in the family.
Your goal should be attempting to open lines of communication between your family members and creating a healthy family dynamic before you decide to book a holiday together. Travel often adds a lot of additional stress and anxiety which a family already dealing with issues may not be able to cope with.
Pick a Good Time to Travel for Everyone
Once you’re ready to start planning your family vacation, it’s vital to select a time that best suits everyone in the family. While school holidays may be most ideal for your children, the dates might not line up with your obligations or leave availability at work.
The goal is to pick a time that will have the least negative impact on everyone as a whole while also selecting a season that will allow you to actually enjoy your chosen destination.
Choosing a popular travel destination’s peak season could see your family wasting their vacation time stuck in long lines or sharing travel experiences among thousands of other tourists.
Build up the Anticipation
Some research suggests that the anticipation of travel is often more enjoyable than the actual trip itself. This building up of excitement can actually put you and your family in a positive mood for months which is most likely far longer than the duration you have planned for your trip.
You can help build up anticipation by watching videos or reading books on your travel destination with your kids. Put up a family calendar that allows you all to count down the days until your trip.
You can also go shopping for new gadgets or clothes which can further enhance the excitement of getting to use your new purchases on your upcoming trip.
Spread out travel anticipation throughout the year by booking several smaller trips as opposed to a single longer trip. This will give your family multiple trips to look forward to during the year.
Include Your Kids in the Travel Planning
Your children are likely to enjoy family vacations more if they get to play an active role in the planning stage. Everyone in your family should have a say in where you travel and what you do.
In a perfect world, your family would reach a consensus on what kind of vacation you take, but obviously this isn’t always possible due to logistics and finances. You want to make sure that your itinerary includes at least a few things that cater to each family member’s interests.
Another great way to involve your kids in the planning stage is to assign them roles. One child may be in charge of researching local history or drawing up maps for example. You can also assign roles during your travels such as making one family member the official photographer that will document the trip.
Allowing every member of your family to feel like they are playing a role in the decision making and having an assigned role to play, will make your family feel like a team as opposed to your kids feeling like they are being dragged on a vacation forcibly.
Put Yourself in Your Kids’ Shoes
While you shouldn’t have to revolve your travels entirely around your kids, you should at least try to see things from their perspective.
Try to remember what brought you enjoyment when you were a kid. I am guessing what brings you joy now is far from what entertained you as a child.
Your vacation doesn’t have to involve running around amusement parks all day every day. You as parents deserve to have some fun and relaxation as well, otherwise your anger and stress will impact the enjoyment your kids are having.
Younger children generally don’t appreciate things like suntanning on a secluded beach, walking tours, museum visits, golfing, or spas just as adults seem to have lost the enjoyment that building sandcastles or water slides once brought. Create an itinerary that will accommodate both you and your kid’s desires.
If your children are older, let’s say in their teens, don’t feel like you have to spend your entire family vacation together. Allow one another some freedom so that you all may enjoy your vacation.
You don’t spend every moment with your kids while at home, so you shouldn’t expect that it would be a good idea while on vacation.
Make Your Trip Educational
While this may not sound exciting, it’s important to make any travel a learning experience.
I’m not necessarily talking about visiting history museums or learning when and why a certain church was built, rather you should use travel as a way to expand your mind to new ideas and cultures.
It’s important for both kids and adults to see how other cultures live so that they may be able to better understand those that may be quite different to their own. We often fear or are quick to judge that which we don’t know. Only by opening up to new views and ideas can we become more well-rounded individuals.
You can also teach your kids the importance of responsible tourism and why protecting the environment is so important. Travel shouldn’t be just about gaining memorable experiences but also about giving back to the local communities and regions you pass through.
Book Active Outdoor Vacations
Being outdoors makes most people happier, especially kids. Therefore, planning a trip that will allow your family to engage in outdoor activities will go a long way to putting everyone in a happier mood.
Being active outdoors releases endorphins and dopamine, those “feel food” chemicals that also enhance memory and focus. Active outdoor holidays will also help to alleviate stress and anxiety while also promoting better sleep and giving you more energy throughout your trip.
Create Flexible Travel Plans
Traveling as a family, especially when you have a larger family, often requires a great deal of flexibility. It can be difficult enough for just traveling couples, but add in children and things can and often do get messy.
It is highly unlikely that everyone in your family will be in the same state of mind all the time during your travels. Some people may feel exhausted while others are ready to take on the city.
More bodies also means more chances that someone may get sick or injured. You may also have to cater to an individual family member’s food allergies when it comes to dining.
Regularly Check Up on How Everyone is Doing
We can often get lost in the moment when we travel and this means we may miss cues that we would otherwise normally pick up on in relation to how other members in our family may be feeling.
It’s important to regularly check up on how everyone is enjoying the trip and make everyone feel that they can be open about sharing their opinions and feelings.
Setting time aside each day to reflect on the day’s events and get everyone’s input will allow your family to address and problems or concerns so they can be rectified quickly.
You want to make sure nobody in your family is feeling left out and want to address any health issues someone may be hiding and don’t want to share out of fear of ruining the trip for the others.
These are just a few of the ways you can help improve the enjoyment of your family vacations. When planned and executed properly, family travel can provide some of the best long-lasting memories.