Some of the best times we had when our boys were young were those spent on family vacations. Being together away from the normal routines of life creates an atmosphere just right for bonding and for making memories to last a lifetime.
A great family vacation allows you to bond with your kids and bring your family closer together through shared experiences. But it also has to be a vacation that’s affordable, not exhausting, and embraces common sense.
Be realistic about rest. Here is the first rule of family vacations: Parents on vacation really aren’t. Unload any personal expectations that you will be relaxed and refreshed when it’s over so you won’t be disappointed when you’re not. And if you do get a little rest and relaxation along the way, consider it an unexpected bonus.
Be realistic about the cost. Consider the money you have first and then design a vacation that will realistically fit within that financial boundary. If you have a family of five and $500 to spend, don’t even think about a couple of days at Disney World.
Be realistic about time. Divide what you can spend by a reasonable daily budget to determine how many days you can be gone. Carefully consider all the costs, not only the admission fees and overnight accommodations. Instead of full weeks, consider day trips or a weekend vacation.
Camping. If you’re careful, camping can be nearly as cheap as staying at home—provided you already have the basic equipment or can borrow it. Kids love to camp! A nice campsite costs about $15-$35 a night. Many campgrounds do require reservations so don’t wait until the last minute to make your plans.
The National Park Service website, has all the information you need about every national park in the country. The beautiful website will make you want to visit every single one of them, too.
Gas up the car. Road trips are an American tradition, a wonderful way to see the country and an inexpensive vacation alternative for families with young children. Even if your goal is to get somewhere and stay there, make the drive itself a special part of the vacation. Stop often. Take in every visitor’s center and historic site. When it’s time to fill up, visit GasBuddy.com or GasPriceWatch.com for to find the cheapest gasoline price.
Meals included. Look for family-friendly, residential-style accommodations that include a complimentary breakfast. I am particularly fond of Hilton’s Homewood Suites because every room is a two-room suite with a full kitchen and the rate includes a daily hot breakfast and a light evening meal (trust me, it’s dinner) with beverages Monday – Thursday evenings. Perfect for families.
Stay-at-home vacation. If your bottom line says you just don’t have the money available to leave town on vacation this year, don’t let that get you down. Take your vacation at home. Visit your own city as if you’ve never been there before. Go to the museums, theme parks—all those places that tourists visit when they come to your town, but you’ve only driven by. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce. Google the name of your city plus “tourist.” Take day hikes. Visit all the parks within a five mile radius of your house. Clever and creative parents can turn even a tent in the backyard into an amazing camping experience.
Vacation is healthy. Studies show that an annual vacation can cut the risk of heart attack in men by 32 percent and in women by 50 percent. See? Vacation is really good for you.