Your Life A to Z

Family Vacations

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Now that my kids are 15 and 19, I can look back at what worked well when we took our annual family vacations. Here are a few tips that worked for our family when it comes to planning and budgeting for a family vacation.   
*Don’t go travel expense crazy when they are small.  I am not telling you to cancel Disneyland, but do it on a budget because until they are about 5 or 6 years old (sometimes older) they probably won’t remember the trip.  So, if you want your cute little kid Disney photo op, go and enjoy, but cut corners where you can and plan to spend more when they are older and will actually remember the trip.  
*Budget all year long for your trip and involve the kids in that budget planning.  Every summer after we return from our vacation, we start again with what we call our vacation account.  It is a savings account with our bank that we add to all year long.  We put unexpected surprise money in the account, such as holiday gift money that our parents give us, our Allstate good driving bonus check, our overpayment health insurance deductible check and more.  We also have a big jar that we all put our loose change in daily.  Every year when I cash it out at the coin machine, I usually get close to $100 and sometimes more.  
*Consider and brainstorm all kinds of travel ideas and destinations with kids.  For example, our son’s grandparents took him on an Amtrak train travel vacation and my son helped his Pop Pop plan what they wanted to see along the train route during the stops.  Brainstorm all sorts of travel ideas as a family.  This also gives kids great hands on geography lesson. 
*With older kids, ask each family member to help plan the trip activities once a destination has been selected.  This encourages them to research and study ahead about the region being visited. For example, when we went to Maui, our daughter researched where and when to schedule surf lessons and she also found us an awesome one day excursion that included snorkeling, kayaking, lunch, hiking and swimming in waterfalls.  Her find ended up being one of our favorite activities ever.  And she was only 11 years old at the time!  This taught her to be resourceful and organized in her planning.  
*Consider splitting up for some activities.  While my girl and I went to surf lessons, the guys golfed all day on the island and they loved it.  They cherish this memory so much. 
*Make at least one family vacation a long road trip.  We went from Phoenix to San Francisco and back one summer and it was so much fun.  As a family, we sat with a map of California and planned our stops and overnight stays together.  From the very cool aquarium in Monterey to wine tasting in Sonoma, all family members enjoyed something that appealed to each of us. 
*Look for travel experiences that are also educational and combine out-of-town reunion/family visits with fun outings for your immediate family as well.  Lucky for me, my family, on my Mom’s side, live in the Washington DC area, so when we visit family, we always take the opportunity to also check out museums at the Smithsonian. It is important to us to take treasured photos like the one of four generations with myself, my daughter, my mother and my grandmother. And during that same trip, we visited the war memorials that my son had just learned about in school that year.  We let him take some pictures of the experience through his 9-year-old eyes.  His photos were quite good and encouraged discussion about our country’s history, the significance of Memorial Day and the importance and value of our freedoms.  
Finally, take those trips.  Budget by staying in a hotel that has a kitchen to save on vacation dining or plan a road trip if airfare is too expensive.  But do take those vacations because believe me when I tell you not to blink.  It is true what everyone tells you when your kids are small.  They grow up so fast and those trips you took with them will stay in your heart…and theirs…for a lifetime. 
Happy travels families!