Change your family vacation approach with these simple steps & enjoy a bit of kid-free time on your next trip.
I've got to give him credit for the simple brilliance ... this was all my husband's idea. There, I said it.
We were planning a family trip to Bayfield Wisconsin near the Apostle Islands National Park when he suggested it. My husband and I have been celebrating our wedding anniversary in Bayfield for the last ten years, but lately we've been doing family trips too.
As we made our reservations this spring, my husband suggested we research a class for the girls to take while on the summer trip. At first I was hesitant, the thought of "scheduling" a class for the kids felt like a contradiction.
Vacation is supposed to be relaxing, a time to connect and an opportunity to spend quality time together. Right? There was no way I wanted to schedule a class while on vacation when kids today already tend to live in an over-scheduled world.
My husband convinced me to go for it this year, and well... he was right. There, I said it again. Our trip was amazing. We found that, with the right activity, scheduling a class for your kids on vacation can provide all of the aforementioned benefits and more.
How to Schedule Down Time Away From the Kids on a FAMILY Vacation
Here are simple three tips to ensure you'll get the same vacation results:
1. Go Local. Wether your heading camping or to a more urban setting, there are often many local community learning opportunities for kids. Check event calendars for museums, schedules for park and rec programs and courses offered through community websites like the YMCA.
2. Chunk Time. Look for a class that lasts at least two-hours. This will give you the opportunity to spend some stress-free time alone having coffee, taking a walk or having a quiet lunch while they enjoy class. If the class is too short, scheduling it during your vacation will just make you feel busy. That defeats the entire purpose.
3. Follow THEIR Interests. This should go without saying -- Don't just dump your kid in a lame program to get some one-on-one time. You'll regret it. Of course, we want them to have an amazing time too. That way, when you want to do it again next summer, they'll be game.
If your daughter loves engineering, look for a robotics class at the local science museum. If your son loves soccer, check to see if something like Challenger Sports is offering a camp nearby. Consider things like: drama camp, art classes, tennis lessons, nature programs, sports opportunities, dance, cooking classes, swimming lessons, gymnastics and more. There are so many cool opportunities available for kids.
. . .
My husband researched local options in Bayfield and found an annual kids' program offered through North Coast Community Sailing. The local organization provides local kids of all ages the opportunity to learn how to sail on Lake Superior.
Here's what we loved about the experience:
We found a local class that emphasizes the fact that our nation's Great Lakes are an absolutely amazing natural resource. Lake Superior and Chequamegon Bay offer a world-class opportunity for all kinds of water sports, especially sailing. It was wonderful to find an activity that put Bayfield's natural beauty in the spotlight.
I was shocked by how reasonable the price was for the week long learning opportunity. I'm telling you friends, shop local. We also felt good knowing that the money we spent with North Coast Community Sailing was going back into the community to provide scholarships and affordable opportunities for other local kids to learn to appreciate the beauty of Lake Superior.
We signed the girls up for the Optimist Class which ran Monday through Friday from nine o'clock to noon each day. This three-hour chunk of time gave my husband and I time to have breakfast together, do nature hikes and have a few coffee dates at Big Water Coffee (our favorite local shop).
We followed their interest when picking this opportunity. My girls both love nature, swimming and water in general, so we knew this would be a great fit. What we didn't expect was how truly wonderful the experience would be for the whole family. This experience required thought, hard work, physical challenges and lead to self respect.
Every morning the kids would begin their day with a dry-land lesson. There is so much to know!
Next, the children would have to work together as a team to carry their small boats (dinghies) to the lake shore. They learned it is not all just about fun, there is work and collaboration involved too.
I loved that each child got to name their boats on the first day, truly giving them ownership of their experience.
My daughter's named their boats Majestic and The Aspen. Some of my other favorite boat names were Jack Black and Neverland. Is that sweet or what?
Once the group had ALL of the boats to the lake shore, they began set-up of the different components of the boat. My girls are officially smarter than I when it comes to nautical terms. I asked her if the centerboard she was inserting into the bottom of the boat in the photo below was the "boom," and she informed me, "That's the dagger board that we put it into the hull of the boat Mom." Ha. Love it.
Once the kids' boats are reviewed for safety, they get a nice shove out into Lake Gitchigoomie (AKA: the Chippewa's original name for Lake Superior) to get some hands-on experience.
Safety is a big concern at North Coast Community Sailing. Of course, all the children are required to wear life jackets. You cannot tell from the photos I have here, but there are also teachers zooming around in small motor boats to aid the children in case of an emergency.
On the first day, the children are also required to take a test where they flip their boat over, get it back upright and then get back in safely. It was really empowering for the girls and I was proud as I watched them from the shore line while they completed this feat.
Quick Disclaimer: This is *not* a sponsored post, but I am an official Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador. Love their stuff.
The final day of class was Pirate Day. The girls were proud to show off and sail in their Melissa & Doug Pirate Costumes. What the girls love about the costume set? The swords.
The week ended with an awesome sail-by (video), where the children showed off some of the impressive moves they learned, and a family potluck lunch.
The girls learned so much during the week that they were able to take a test with the instructor to earn their Basic Sailor Certification. Both girls passed and left the class ready for Open Sailing, which means they are able to sail any time during the summer for a small fee. Which is pretty awesome.
I just have to note too that the North Coast Community Sailing teaching staff was wonderful. Each of the young men and women assisting the kids seemed to truly connect with the kids and be passionate about sailing. We honestly couldn't have asked for a better experience.
How Scheduling a Class for the Kids Made This a GREAT Family Vacation
So, again... a vacation is supposed to be relaxing, a time to connect and an opportunity to spend quality time together. This is how it worked for us:
- Having this constant in our schedule forced us to keep a pretty consistent sleep schedule. I don't know about you, but I have a hard time saying no to staying up late when on vacation. That being said, I almost always regret it the following day. The nine o'clock start time helped keep us on a semi-flexible routine and ensured everyone was well-rested each day.
- Every day my husband and I had three-hours together to hangout, to talk without interruptions, to reconnect and relax kid-free. By the end of the three-hours we were always curious about how things were going with sailing and eager to return to get the girls. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
- The North Coast Community Sailing class was definitely an empowering, sister-bonding experience for our girls. They were able to experience independence out on the lake, but safely and TOGETHER. It gave them something to talk about all afternoon and something to look forward to the next day.
- Because we had already "done something" in the morning, we were able to use our afternoons to truly just enjoying each other's company. Anything we decided to do together was great because there was no "What should we do today?" vacation pressure.
The scheduled morning made our unstructured time together later in the day even more enjoyable.
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