02 May 2024

How to Survive and Thrive on Vacation

[See recording of the CHADD of Northern Virginia and Washington, DC Lecture Series presentation of April 16th presentation How to Survive and Thrive on your Family Vacation by Cheryl Gedzelman and Dr. Teri Bulles]

Do you dread your next family vacation? Do your children fight with each other in the car or seem unenthusiastic about vacation? Do any of your children resist going with the program? Family vacations are a wonderful way to bond and build memories. However, it can be challenging to please everyone. Since you cannot please everyone all the time, it is important for each family member to participate in planning activities that they will enjoy, to provide structure and predictability, to be open to spontaneity, and to incorporate rules and consequences.

Plan activities and structure to maximize joy and minimize stress.

Planning is key here, especially if you have children who do best with structure. It is helpful to review the day’s itinerary the night before and the day of, and make sure it includes something to look forward to for everyone, even the parents.  Does one of your children like trains?  Do your children love amusement parks?  Do the parents enjoy sightseeing and museums? Do your best to incorporate everyone’s interests and passions, including the adults. (If every activity is kid oriented, the parents may get drained, unhappy, or irritable.) You can even show your children pictures of what you are going to see and familiarize them with the accommodations in advance.  Plan incentives like pool time for the end of the day, and let the children help pick restaurants.

Keep children involved by having them record the trip.

They can be the narrators while explaining sites and events and why they are important. They can add humor and put together a little video upon returning home. Other ways to keep them engaged are active and hands-on activities such as a science museum. Anything that keeps them engaged, active, helps them explore their interests, and introduces them to something that will grab their attention will be a win.

Recognize when and how to change the plan.

Sometimes the original plan seems like a great idea, but someone gets too tired or cranky, or the weather doesn’t cooperate, or the walk is much longer than you expected. Have back-up plans and be open to changing the plan as you go along, especially for some needed down time. (One of our favorite unplanned activities was a tea shop!)  Make sure to bring water and healthy snacks along.

Allow space and time for kids and parents to each do their own thing during down time.

Bring travel games so that kids have alternatives to electronic games and social media. If possible, rent space that is roomy enough to spread out so that kids and parents can recharge in separate spaces.

Vacation should include learning and keeping brains active.

Allot daily time for independent reading, journaling, mental math, logic problems, and learning about historical events that are associated with the sites you visit.

Plug in time for family bonding.

Many house rentals come with old fashioned board games; or you can bring your own. You can talk about highlights of the day, watch TV together, or work on a scrapbook with photos and written comments from each family member to record the vacation.  You can play charades or let each family member choose a bonding activity on one night of the week.

Clarify rules and consequences that will set kids up for success. 

Throughout your vacation, make sure the children know that fighting is not allowed, and there will be consequences for poor behavior. You can even set up a point system to encourage good behavior and get rewards from earning enough points. Set up for success by bringing healthy snacks, playing car games, and listening to recorded books together.

Don’t feel like a failure if there is a meltdown.

All the planning and foreseeing you can think of may not prevent a meltdown. Just like at home, you can all get through it and continue your vacation on the other side.

Take notes for future trips.

Were the days too long? Did you bring enough snacks? Were the kids engaged enough?  What were each family member’s favorite activities? Get everyone’s input on what to repeat and what to scrap for next time.

Talk about your trips.

To keep the best memories alive, bring up the best and funniest moments of your family vacations in the years to come.

Need to focus on academics while you’re not on vacation?  Register here, and we will call you to discuss your child’s needs and areas to focus.

By Cheryl Gedzelman, President, Tutoring For Success

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