If you're planning your vacation anywhere near a coast, take some time to simply relax on the surf. Pack a cooler with water and snacks along with a bag of towels, sunscreen and sand toys and park yourselves on the sand for a few hours under an oversized umbrella. This is one that the adults can equally enjoy.
Staying in a hotel is such a treat for kids, so give them proper time to explore their new, albeit temporary, digs. Walk around the grounds and ask the concierge if they offer any special amenities just for kids such as a kid-friendly pool with toys and floatables, a clubhouse with movies or games or even a kids "camp" with activities geared just for them. Mom and Dad, these on-site kids' camps often offer drop-off services so you can explore the city while the kids are supervised and entertained right there at the resort.
Your tweens and teens will thank you for calling to cancel the early-a.m. wake-up call in favor of letting the family sleep in a few extra hours before you start your Griswold-esque tour of the town. While you may want to see everything there is to see when you're traveling, your older kids may really just need some time to relax and unwind from their busy schedules of school, homework, extracurricular activities and part-time work. It's tough being a kid, remember. (Wink, wink.)
Don't underestimate the importance of simply letting your kids play at a local park. You may think, "We can go to the park at home," and that's true. But how often do you take the time to? Take the opportunity now. One of my favorite family travel memories happened during a European cruise when my son was just 1. He tagged along like a trouper in his carrier through travel tours literally 10 hours long. When we happened upon a little playground during one excursion, we were happy to stop and help him play on it. That remains one of my favorite memories of that trip.
If you've got adrenaline junkies for children, visiting an amusement park is a must on your family vacation. Scout out locations that are appropriate for your kids based on their ages, sizes and scare tolerance.
The allure of the hotel swimming pool is almost too strong for any kid to resist. So why not let them spend a few hours splashing around while you catch up on that good read you've been dying to finish? Bonus: After a good swim sesh, they'll be ready to hit the hay without complaint.
If your family travel destination is a campground, don't fret about your kids getting dirty. It's a futile exercise that will only leave you exhausted, frustrated and probably a little dirty yourself. Stand back and let them have some messy fun or pick up a stick yourself and discover the therapeutic effect of digging in the dirt.
Back to that Griswold reference (come on, it's a travel article — what did you expect?). When planning your vacation, don't get too caught up in creating — and sticking to — a specific schedule. Travel should include time for spontaneous activities or just relaxing downtime.
Along with sleeping in, we're certain at least some of your children are going to want to stay up late. And while I'm a proponent of not totally blowing your kids' sleep schedule when you're traveling, I don't see the harm in stretching bedtime out a little... especially if it leads to a few more precious hours of sleep come morning.
Even when we're on vacation and I'm letting loose on my kids' bedtime curfew, they expect their bedtime routine to remain largely intact. Which means no matter where we are or how late we've stayed up, my kids want me to cuddle up and read to them. If you have special nighttime rituals that you adhere to at home, remember how special these are to your children and try your best to recreate them while on vacation.
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