August 20, 2017

5 Ways to Maximize Your Family Vacation Before You Pack Your Suitcase

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It’s our second day here in sunny (and very humid) South Florida. I’m sitting alone poolside at my in-law’s house. Everyone else has gone to the beach. We had planned to take the two big girls to Everglades Holiday Park using a two-for-one Groupon deal I picked up a few days ago. Then I found out it was an hour drive and that was that. I wasn’t excited about spending two hours in the car.

So, what’s Plan B? I spent so much time searching online for places to go while we’re here, like Gumbo Limbo Nature Center and The Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens, and yet now I’m sitting here alone while my family is at the beach. Has this every happened to you? I’m not sure whether to enjoy the quiet time or kick myself for not having a back-up plan.

With this in mind, I was inspire to put together a quick list of five ways to maximize your vacation with kids before you get on the plane or hop in the car.

  • Investigate Activities. Before you go, search online for fun activities to do with your kids in your vacation destination. One popular site I checked is Uptake, which features pictures, reviews and ratings for thousands of destinations. When I found activities I liked, such as Red Reef Park in Boca Raton, I then went to the website for each one to look for special activities going on and printed out what I needed.
  • Map it Out. It’s tempting to rely on your smartphone to get directions to certain parks and museums once you land, but the benefit of doing it ahead of time is that you can gauge just how long it will take you to get from Point A to Point B. Then you can decide whether it’s worth the time spent in the car. Honestly, I thought Ft. Lauderdale was a lot closer than one hour away.
  • Give the Kids (and Yourself) Choices. I like to plan but nobody likes to stick to an extra rigid schedule, so if you want to plan out each day of your trip, make two choices available each day for the kids to pick one. My kids are more excited to have a say in the day’s plans than to be simply shuttled around on vacation.
  • Build Down Time into the Schedule. I like to go, go, go, but I also know that when my kids are also forced to go, go, go it leads to a melt, melt, melt down, and that’s not fun for anyone. So what we usually do is head out early for an activity in the morning, then either eat lunch at the house or at a restaurant (if we’re staying at a hotel), and head back to take a nap or quietly read or relax. That lets everyone recharge so we can have more fun in the afternoon.
  • Allow for Plan Changes. Sure, I still feel like I should be doing something a little more constructive right now than sitting by the pool on my laptop, but my kids were very excited to go to the beach. So even though that wasn’t my first choice, nor part of my plans for the day, I think they are ultimately having a better vacation by building sand castles this morning.

Also, be open to new activities you learn about once you hit the ground in your vacation destination. We went to church this morning for Palm Sunday and learned about an Easter Egg Hunt at the church, so that’s now on our agenda for this afternoon. I also was able to pick up a copy of South Florida Parenting at church too, which has an activities calendar inside, giving us even more options should we need them.

So, what’s your family vacation style? Do you like to plan out your trip day-by-day or just take it easy and go wherever the wind blows you when on vacation?

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