Many parents have been known to say a specific vacation will be the last they’ll ever take as a family. As their children approach college age, many of them have no patience for the older generation — especially if they happen to be authority figures, for example, parents.
Plus, teens develop lives of their own, want to do things with friends, hang out or (hopefully) get summer jobs that preclude leaving town.
If, in spite of these hurdles, you’re planning a getaway as a family unit, there are ways to facilitate making it a trip everyone enjoys. The magic is called planning. Plus, throw in a little TLC, some to give and take, compromise, cooperation and free time.
The first decision is what type of vacation you’re going to take and where the family will be headed.
1. Chose a Destination: There are plenty of questions when it comes to this decision.
Do you want to go near or far? Will you need air transportation, train or by car? Are you looking for an all-inclusive vacation? For example, a cruise, a vacation at a dude ranch, a Club Med, a safari, a biking or hiking trip? Do you want a resort that has camps targeting different ages and interests?
Do you want to stay in a hotel or would you rather rent an apartment? Is the trip intended to be educational or do you to relax on the beach? Is it going to be a sports or water related get-away? You get the idea.
2. Budget: Set a budget and have it fixed in stone. Depending on how small or how big, this will dictate where you may and may not go. Wear your brutally realistic hat when you’re using a calculator and doing the math. Anyone who says a family of four can “do” a city in Western Europe on $100 a day is dreaming.
Some frugal travelers might be able to pull it off if they’re willing to sleep on the pavement and confine their meals to bread, cheese, possibly some fruit, rotgut wine and tap water. Personally, I don’t consider that a vacation.
On the other hand, for the camping, biking or hiking types, it’s doable. I’ve camped in France and discovered parts of the country I would never have seen had I stayed in a hotel.
3. Involve your children in the decision-making process: If you don’t, you’re doomed. They’ll feel as if they’re being dragged to a destination they haven’t chosen. This is where it gets tricky since not all members of a family necessarily like to do the same things at the same time
There are different types of excursions and something for everyone. Let your children take ownership of specific days — One day (or more) might be dedicated to museums; other days might be designated to outdoor activities.
Have an agenda. But don’t be so rigid that nothing can be changed under any circumstances. The key to a successful trip is when everyone feels as if his or her preferences are being accommodated.
4. Give each member of the group specific responsiblies: Teens are amazing when it comes to doing research on the Internet. One may be fascinated by specific destinations while another may excel at identifying accommodations and places to eat.
5. Give children freedom: Clear boundaries need to be set about what’s appropriate and what’s not.
- acceptable norms of the people at the travel destination
- acceptable behavior of the family unit even as if they weren’t traveling
6. Keep a journal and take photos: Start at the beginning of the planning process and record everything until the end of the trip.
Photos are a great way to capture memories. In these days of digital photography, creating a trip website doesn’t take forever and is a means of sharing.
7. Include unscheduled time for spontaneous fun.
Vacations are experiences that will be with you far longer than the trip itself. Please add any and all ideas you may have for making a family vacation a memorable one. Times such as this deserve to be cherished.
Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.