Ahh, summer vacation. It’s one of the best ways to relieve stress — and to get stressed out. But it doesn’t have to be a stressful event. Follow these tricks for ensuring your family has a relaxing, fun-filled, safe vacation and you come home feeling rested and invigorated.
1. Plan. Plan. Plan. Make hotel and travel reservations weeks, if not months, in advance. Don’t wait for last-minute deals or to find a hotel once you reach your destination. Decide where you are going and what places, attractions or activities you want to see. Make reservations ahead of time for as many attractions as you can. Make an agenda for the week so you are sure to see all the sites your family wants, but also keep in mind that plans can change and you need to be flexible. And don’t forget to plan for some downtime.
2. Bond with the family. Vacations are one of the best ways to bond and build communication as a family. They allow for connections to deepen so that family members feel closer to one another. To make the most of your time together, do as many activities together as possible. Avoid activities just for adults or just for children. And put down the phone — keep your texting and posting to social media to a minimum. Instead, enjoy being in the moment with one another.
3. Try new things. Even if you’re traveling just a state or two away, there’s always new foods and local culture to explore. Try other modes of transportation, such as bicycles, the subway or rollerblades, to get around. Avoid chain restaurants you can go to in your own town and discover local establishments. Be sure to try new dishes you may not have another chance to taste.
4. While we’re on the topic of food … eat mindfully. It’s easy to pack on weight while on vacation because you are eating out more than usual, which means larger portions and more courses. When you savor each bite and slow down while you’re eating — called eating mindfully — you will eat less while enjoying it more, creating memories you can savor later.
5. Survive the car ride. If you’re driving a long distance with kids, you’ll need to keep them occupied and keep your sanity intact. A lot of games and materials are available these days specifically for keeping kids busy while traveling. Some can be printed for free from the Internet. Pack a variety and introduce them one by one. If your kids are old enough, consider having them journal their travel experiences. Younger kids can color things they see. (For less risk of mess, look for markers that write only on special paper.) Your kids will come home with a wonderful memento of their vacation. Also, plan for many stops. Use the breaks as a time for kids to burn a little energy. Stop at a park or do a lap around a rest area. Take advantage of scenic overlooks along your driving route.
6. Stay healthy and safe. Pack for sickness, sunburn, cuts and bruises, and lost glasses or contacts. Discuss safety plans with kids, such as what to do if you’re separated. Be sure kids know parents’ names and a phone number to contact one. Always bring plenty of water on your adventures. And remember, kids still need naps or adequate rest and snacks.
Norton Children’s Hospital offers more information on vacation health and safety for the whole family.