Have you ever been traveling with your family and felt disheartened at the end of the day? Below are five tried-and-true ways to plan well and get more from your next family vacation. A big thanks to Vail Resorts for sponsoring today's family travel tips.
It was the fourth day of our trip. I sat on the end of the bed, looked out our cabin window at the night sky, and let out an audible sigh. Not just a deep exhale, mind you, but a slow, draining, this-is-killing-me sigh. My husband came out of the bathroom, rinsed toothbrush in hand, asking, "What was that?!?" I explained, "Here we are on what sounded like it would be the perfect family vacation when I planned it... But now that we're here, everything just feels so hard."
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been on a family vacation and felt disheartened at the end of the day? Have you ever thought to yourself while traveling, "It shouldn't be this hard to have fun together"?
With each family vacation we take, I feel like we learn something—something to avoid, something to do again, something that we've just GOT to share with our friends because it worked so dang well.
Well, my online friends, this is exactly what I want to share with you today...
Below are five tried-and-true ways for you to "get more" from your next family vacation. (And just in time for those upcoming holiday breaks!)
1. Share your joy.
So, what do I mean by that? When planning a family vacation, you need to be a little selfish. There I said it. The truth is: Your kids are happiest when YOU are happy, too. Think about it... Were you modeling JOY on your last vacation? (If you were, kudos to you for figuring this out already!)
You see... my husband loves to kayak, so one summer we went to the Apostle Islands National Seashore and explored sea caves with the girls. He was in heaven. Me? I'm obsessed with waterfalls, so another year we went to the Smoky Mountains. (That's where I nabbed this pic of my daughter below.)
If you ask my daughter about her favorite part of our trip to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, she'll tell you about our hike on the Trillium Gap Trail to Grotto Falls. I was literally giddy as we headed up the trail because you can walk behind the falls. (So cool, right?) My enthusiasm was absolutely contagious.
If you're having fun as a parent exploring your interests with genuine awe and wonder and JOY, chances are your kids will be happy, too.
We've been thinking about switching things up this year and taking a winter family vacation instead. I've been researching family-friendly skiing options. These eight resort options look amazing: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood.
8 Ski Resorts for an Awesome Winter Vacation
Which leads me to...
2. Pick a destination that takes things to the next level.
Choose something already familiar to your family and then show your kids what EPIC looks like.
Throughout my childhood, my dad took us downhill skiing every winter. I remember thinking our local ski hill was huge. Then one year, our family took a winter family vacation and flew out to California to ski Heavenly. I still remember getting off the lift and looking around, realizing I was standing on the Sierra Nevada mountain range looking over Lake Tahoe… Epic.
Now I have children of my own. We love doing local inland kayaking trips, so it was absolutely jaw-dropping for our girls to explore sea caves out on the open waters of Lake Superior on a guided kayaking tour. (We leveled up.)
Along those same lines, we spend a lot of time on the lakes here in Wisconsin. That's pretty cool and all, but the first time we took the girls to see and swim in the ocean... Now, that was epic. I mean, just look at my daughter's body language below.
On occasion, when we're traveling, my daughter makes this gesture. She raises her hands toward the sky, almost out of reverence for the moment. It's a beautiful, unconscious gesture that lets me know she's experiencing EPIC JOY.
Make traveling with your family an opportunity to encourage exploration and see more.
Learn more about family skiing in Beaver Creek Ski School
3. Research the trip with your kids.
Once you've made a final decision on where you want to go, sit down and show the kids the activities that fall within your vacation budget. I love creating a private Pinterest board for this! That way I can show the kids at a glance all the different pre-approved adventure options.
What I love about the eight resorts mentioned earlier is that there are tons of kid-friendly non-ski activities to enjoy, too. Check out their list of top five activities that are just right for kids.
Top: Zip lining at Vail, Middle: Giant snow fort at Keystone, Bottom: Tubing at Beaver Creek
*My daughter would so be like that girl above just loafing in the snow fort.
4. Follow the "Pick one thing" approach.
After you've researched all the opportunities available, have each family member pick one thing that he or she simply MUST do to "make" the vacation awesome. What makes me laugh about this approach to family travel is that... often my daughters' one thing choices are inexpensive things we do at home—things like getting frozen yogurt or ice cream. After all...
Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos. — Don Kardong
As I look through all these ski resort activities, I imagine my daughter Quinn would love to go ice-skating in the evening as her one thing. I admit, the photos are so stunning, it makes me consider planning a holiday getaway for next year already.
5. Schedule "one-on-one time" with your kids into the family-vacation plan.
When taking a vacation, there's almost an inherent requirement that everyone participate in everything, forcing the entire family to be together one-hundred percent of the time. We moms may imagine a Norman Rockwell scenario for our families each day, but days on end of constant togetherness can sometimes have the opposite effect.
My husband and I have learned over the years to make a habit of intentionally scheduling one-on-one dates with each of our daughters when we travel. Some of our fondest memories have come from these "private moments."
Here's a quite moment I caught up at Voyageurs National Park.
On a trip out to the Black Hills National Forest, my early bird daughter and I got up before sunrise to drive the Custer State Park Wildlife Loop. This is one of the quietest (peoplewise) but most active (animalwise) parts of the day. The adventure started with this...
...then led to a herd of over one thousand buffalo around the ridge, and ended with a one-on-one coffee date at the historic park lodge. The experience was truly once in a lifetime for both of us.
As I look through this list of fun activities for kids, I know that making winter s'mores would definitely be a one-on-one date requirement with my daughter Rose. We both love sitting around a fire and chit-chatting.
Of these five vacation tips, scheduling one-on-one time is the suggestion I feel most strongly about... It's provided our family with so many wonderful memories. I know it can feel almost wrong to split up on a family vacation, but I strongly urge you to try it.
As I said at the outset, the kitsch phrase live and learn sure applies for our family vacations. I'd love to hear lessons you've learned when traveling with your family. This is the first time we've ever considered traveling during the winter; we've always stuck with summer adventures in the past.
I'm an outdoorsy girl. Even at home during our Wisconsin winters, I've found rejuvenation and JOY through skiing.
If you're the same way, be sure to check out these beautiful opportunities in Colorado, Utah, and Tahoe. #thisisepic
If you have any family vacation tips of your own, especially about planning a winter trip, I'd love to hear them in the comments.
Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Vail Resorts. The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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