Bon Voyage

Ten ways to reconnect with family on vacations.

Between parents’ work, children’s schooling, extracurricular activities, homework, housework and outside commitments, family life can get so hectic that sharing quality time often requires escaping the daily grind. What better way to reconnect with your family than by packing up and taking a collective vacation several times a year?
  
Most people think of a week-long getaway when contemplating a vacation, but long weekends are also wonderful departures from daily life. Keep reading for ten ways to make the most of your time away with family.

1. Road trips provide numerous benefits for family travel. Especially helpful for families with young children, a car allows parents to pack all the necessary items, such as a stroller, a car seat, diapers, and books and toys to keep tots busy. Road trips grant the freedom to leave when everyone is ready, without having to rush, and enable stops along the way. But the biggest benefit is that road trips present substantial time for parents and children to talk while on long car rides.

2. Vacationing with extended family members provides much-needed bonding time, namely when conflicting schedules prevent regular get-togethers and family members’ residences are scattered across the world. Many people purchase vacation homes specifically for family gatherings. Such homes create a special place to come together for holidays and festive weekends. Whether or not you have a vacation home, wonderful houses for rent exist in prime locations across the United States and beyond. These houses become extremely affordable when the expense is split among siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins or grandparents. And staying together for a handful of days means late night talks in the living room, relaxing breakfasts in the kitchen, cherished moments while getting ready and other simple ways to reconnect.

3. Picking destinations with activities that various family members enjoy creates an environment for learning about everyone’s passions and relating through those experiences. There are virtually endless choices when planning a getaway, whether it involves attending sporting events, swimming, hiking, golfing, skiing, visiting museums or amusement parks, sailing, food tasting, shopping, sightseeing or just relaxing. Jot down activities that everyone in the family favors, then research hot spots that have them all!

4. Leaving work and “to do” lists at the office is one of the most important ingredients to a successful family vacation. Because quality family time is not a given throughout the year, vacations should be considered sacred time focused on family— the quintessential aspect of life. Leave the laptop at home, make sure the office only reaches you if it’s crucial and let your kids know that you are there for them 100 percent. They will respect you for it. Work should support your life; your life should not support your work.

5. Avoid distractions by preventing technological advances, such as a cell phones and BlackBerries, from interrupting your vacation time. Every day that you are away, be in the moment with your kids. Vacations are ideal for catching up on what you have been missing. When life is busy and family time is scarce, kids are not free flowing with their thoughts and feelings because they know they are operating against the clock. Children also tap into the pressures and responsibilities that their parents feel, and often figure their problems or activities are not as significant as their parents’ concerns. However, by providing a whole day, weekend or week completely dedicated to being there for your kids, you provide crucial communication time. 

6. Slow down and go with the flow of each vacation day by losing your watch and agenda. Life is often regimented, with every minute of the day being accounted for. Not having to be somewhere at a specific time, for days on end, relieves stress. Kids require more down time than modern culture allows for, and parents need down time as well. Take advantage of having a whole week (or weekend) without a schedule and be open to what your family truly needs. Mere freedom generally grants a vital recharge.   

7. Enjoy meals together at every opportunity when you are away. No matter how you dine, food and fun always go hand in hand, whether by cooking with the family, making S’mores around a campfire or relaxing in a restaurant. Eating out provides an environment for being together, catching up and mutually exchanging ideas. And in sharing a house, the kitchen becomes a central gathering spot for family members. Even apart from mealtime, the kitchen table invites easy and open conversations.     

8. Explore and learn by venturing to new places. This allows you to show your children various sights, and enables you to experience landmarks and venues from children’s perspectives. By doing novel activities together, you also get to hear children’s thoughts and understand their inner workings. This family time is priceless. Having knowledge about your child’s experiences, strengths and weaknesses will help you to advocate for your child in the future. Plus, you may spark new interests in your children and acquire a new hobby yourself.

9. Understand that a fresh viewpoint is often gained about your life and family by taking a vacation. Sometimes people get caught on a hamster wheel, blindly going through the same cycle day after day. But, by jumping off that wheel and relishing a vacation, a person may adopt another perspective— possibly providing answers regarding how to improve life for oneself and one’s family.

Treasure private time with your children and your spouse during quiet moments in the daylight and late evenings. These encounters lead to memories cherished for years to come.

Life is short. Looking back, time seems to speed by at a lightning pace. Children quickly go from babies to toddlers to middle schoolers to teens to young adults and perhaps parents themselves. Enhance your family time and collective experiences by planning regular vacations throughout the year. Reconnect and strengthen the everlasting bonds that can become so fragile.