It seems many vacations are mostly about one thing…. beaches or golfing or camping or hiking or cycling, etc. But many vacations involve groups of people who don’t always have the same interests. Therefore, taking time for a few hours or even a day to switch things up by doing a tour or a day trip can really add some special memories to your trip.
Sometimes a great day trip will happen with a spur of the moment idea. But, when traveling with children or older people, that seems to be the exception, not the rule. Some advanced planning will lead to a better experience for everyone when groups are large, diverse in age or mobility levels. Below are my top tips to keep in mind when planning a day trip.
1. Know your group members:
Many family trip disasters could be avoided if Mom/Dad though about an event from the other members’ perspective. Older people and young kids are often temperature sensitive. Therefore, maybe a day at an amusement park in July with little or no shade isn’t the best idea. Does your child get frightened in large crowds? Perhaps avoiding opening day of a highly publicized tour or event will be the difference between success and well, not success. And, just because something is billed as family-friendly, or YOU think it’s really cool, doesn’t mean it will interest your own kids or other adults. When people get bored things can go south, fast. So get your group members thoughts about the trip or tour before you finalize your plans.
2. Plan for a break or downtime:
`Consider planning a mid-trip break if your family outing is projected to last more than 3 or 4 hours. Ideally this `downtime would be relatively calm and quiet, and there would be a minimal amount of “chaos factor”. But, depending on your own child’s personality, sometimes just sitting few a half hour or so can rejuvenate them. Staying close to a beach or amusement park can allow you to go back to your place for a few hours mid day for a nap or break from the sun. I like going to a beach either early in the day and then back in the late afternoon. This lets me usually get a good parking spot and many people have left the beach to go home for supper. I prefer the beach when it’s not as crowded. Here are some other ideas to break up a day trip:
- Let them just run around – in a field or a park or an empty school parking lot, just let them burn off some energy
- If your event didn’t include much walking, take a short walk
- No matter what the age, sometimes a nap can really save the day. It’s amazing where kids can fall asleep if given the chance and a blanket to curl up with (under a tree, on a park bench, etc).
- If it very hot outside, do some “window shopping” inside an air-conditioned store.
3. A little investment can pay big dividends:
Ok, when it comes to family trips you are more than welcome to hold a hard line. You know how it goes. “When I was your age we walked everywhere.” Or, “we don’t need to spend money on a snack – we’re having lunch in two hours”. The reality is that tired, hangry people can make a day tour feel like a month tour with few good memories at the end of it. So budget the money and plan ahead for a little convenience. At Sea World with our 6 and 9 year olds I suggested we rent one of the large strollers. My husband said “she’s 6 years old, she doesn’t need a stroller”.
But our kids weren’t used to walking for hours on end – not in the Florida heat. As a result, after a number of hours we were taking turns giving her piggy backs to get through the rest of the park. The next day when we hit the Magic Kingdom, I said “we’re getting a stroller”. It really came in handy for short rests after a few hours of walking. Both girls used it and we stored things like our water bottles and souvenirs. This also meant my husband and I weren’t carrying everything.
4. Vacation rules are different:
Is your child prone to hangry meltdowns? That mid morning ice-cream cone may get their blood sugar up enough to prevent a pre-lunch melt down. Don’t be worried about setting a bad precedent. Every kid knows vacation rules are different than home rules. They know ice-cream cones before lunch are not going to be a regular thing. It’s the thing they tell stories about later. “Remember when mom let us….”
If your family fun trip is worth doing, it is worth spending a little time in planning and budgeting. That way the trip will end as well as it begins and make memories that will last for years.