In order to achieve the seemingly elusive goal of the perfect family vacation, where fun, relaxation and familial bliss are the result, it requires more than luck and determination. Beyond the selection of destination, careful planning and travel there are several simple steps that one can take to ensure that a group trip becomes a cherished memory of togetherness.
All wrapped up in the first step of any vacation are the basics of one’s plans. There is the choice of where to go, how to get there, and where to stay once all have arrived. If there are children involved, there is the added task of making sure that wherever one chooses to go is kid-friendly and yet will have something for everyone to enjoy while there. Once the destination has been chosen – for the purpose of this plan it will be Wacky-Land, a generic, amusement park attraction known for its rides, family entertainment and high energy fun, fun, fun – the mode of transportation to reach this tourist Mecca must be decided. Train, airplane or automobile, is best chosen according to the number of people, their ages and amount of personal belongings required and balanced by the overall impact on the vacation budget of each method. The same basic formula, plus the added considerations of convenience, amenities and location, will aid in the selection of accommodations for the family for the duration of the Wacky-Land adventure.
Next there is the seemingly minor consideration of sharing the plans with those joining the trip. That is, the fun of telling the kids. There are many schools of thought on this matter. One could involve the children from day one, allowing them to express their opinions, ideas and desires as the plans take shape around everyone’s input. There are those who prefer to make an announcement the day all are being herded into the car, with luggage, to begin the vacation. Still more opt for a happy medium, explaining the program a few days or weeks in advance. Each methods has its pros and cons, each group must decide for themselves what works best for their situation.
A major step in planning, one that can aid in keeping things flowing smoothly or become the first cause of tears and recriminations, involves packing. Packing with children in mind takes a bit of creative thinking, a fair amount of patience and strong negotiating skills. When packing clothing for kids, less is more, but one should try to get maximum mileage out of what is brought along. Every item should be easily laundered, the better to rinse out at night and hang to dry in the shower. If they are all mix and max, so much the better, dressing is easy and messy mishaps do not eliminate entire outfits. In this case one can usually get by with a couple of pairs of pants, several shirts and an overcoat or jacket. Along with that, plenty of underwear and socks, a pair of pajamas and a very comfy pair of shoes or two should be enough. One’s negotiating skills come into play when it comes to packing traveling amusements. Generally, children want to take almost everything they own with them on vacation. For obvious reasons that is not possible. Talking them down to only one or two of their favorite stuffed animals, dolls or toys can be hard, but it must be done. Packing activity books, crayons, paper and music will take up less space, and offer more diversions anyway, and remember – there are always games one can make up that require nothing more than one’s eyes, ears or hands to enjoy.
Now with all the prep work done, one is on the road and tempted to think that all the potential for trouble has been left far behind. Wrong. There is still the destination itself to deal with. Take heart, though, with a little awareness and minimal effort any possible problems can be anticipated and averted before they become painful issues.
The timing of one’s arrival can make the difference between a jolly, happy well-rested, little group and a surly, sleep-deprived, over excitable bunch. Arrive too early and spending the rest of the day at the park is pretty much unavoidable, too late and everything will have to be postponed until the next day. Arriving shortly after lunchtime allows one plenty of time to get to the room, select or assign sleeping arrangements, use the facilities and freshen up. One can then proceed to the park, take a stroll around to check out the set up, maybe experience a few of the rides and return to the room for a good night’s sleep in preparation for a full schedule the following day.
Making the most of one’s time at Wacky-Land is easy if one keeps a few simple things in mind. Essential to the experience is setting aside time for breaks each day of your visit. An hour or so nap break in the afternoon has saved many a vacation and many a vacationer’s sanity. While it is a good idea to have a plan to help one fully enjoy all the park has to offer, it is an equally good idea that one is willing to deviate from that plan. Things may come up that are more tempting than what is listed in the plan; one must go ahead and do them, it is a vacation and doing what one wants to do is what it is all about. Don’t be afraid to split into smaller groups for a while as well. If Dad and little Billy want to ride the Mega-Fast-Mountain-Coaster and Mom and little Sally want to ride the Happy-Fun-Singing-Boats, then by all means split up, ride the rides and then meet up again and share the experiences with each other. The top of the list item should read, above all, “HAVE FUN!”
As one comes to the last day of vacation, spirits may be sagging at the thought of leaving: this is the time to acquire souvenirs. A souvenir, remember, is a small token that helps one to recall an experience, it is not necessary to bring home one of every trinket offered in the shops. To make the trip home less dreary, one can have a roll or two of the photographs taken developed prior to leaving and they can be shared among the group on the way home. Include this final portion of the trip as interesting and essential to the entire process: continue to take photos and videos to record the end leg of the trip as well. Make sure to build in a day or two after arriving at home to decompress and readjust before returning to a full daily schedule. Allow the experience to sink in and fade gradually. Have the kids make a display about the trip, or let them watch the home movies or look at the pictures. Sit back and realize that while the goal of the trip was to survive, that goal was not only reached but it was surpassed. All survived, thrived and returned with happy memories of fun, laughter and family togetherness.