Three ways to make this year's summer vacation the best yet
Travel Photography | Toronto real life family documentary photographer
Planning a carefree, relaxing and fun summer sounds like it should be easy, but there is a lot of pressure to make the short summer months the most of those things. I often struggled with just HOW to do that. If you live in a cold weather climate like we do here in Toronto, you bask in every single glow of warm weather that comes your way — usually only between June and September (sigggghhhh….). And, so, many of us find ourselves cramming all that fun into three short months and wanting to make sure we pick the best vacation spots, the best activities, the best overall mix of things that will make all family members happy. In short, a super TALL ORDER.
The good news: I’ve come up with a sure-fire approach for our summers (while coming out victorious in fun department) by sticking with three simple concepts that always brings praise from everyone in my crew. Curious? Let’s go.
Summer vacation tip #1: Pick a location that looks and feels different….but that you can make feel like home
How many times have you looked forward to a vacation only to find yourself on the first night away jammed into a small hotel room, everyone all together, nowhere to stash some groceries and arguing about what you are all going to watch on the TV? I love hotels when I’m alone or with my husband, but when we travel as a family it’s ALL home rental, all the way (we are big Airbnb fans and have had nothing but amazing experiences). Renting a house or apartment on vacation lets you relax like you’re at home — sleep in bedrooms (not the only room), have groceries on hand for meals or snacks, and, most importantly — spread out. We recently planned an entire trip to France by picking our specific locations based on how awesome the Airbnbs were. Involving your kids in the selection process (or at least asking them what’s important — pool, outdoor space, proximity to activities, etc.) makes your accommodation part of the vacation, not an inconvenient by-product of travelling.
Summer vacation tip #2: Pick one thing to do each day. That’s it.
We learned really early on that efforts to travel and sightsee the way we did before we had kids was a terrible idea. We rarely checked off everything on our daily to-do list, everyone ended up being exhausted and cranky because of long days and unchecked lists, and, perhaps most telling: it felt like work, not vacation. Now when we vacation somewhere — whether it’s a busy city or an outdoor, country break — we only ever plan to do one specific thing each day. Don’t get me wrong — we almost always do more than one thing — but those other activities are things that we decide on along the way. It leaves room for spontaneity — to stop for ice cream at that cool roadside spot; to hike down a cliff to a sandy beach we didn’t know was there; or to drop everything and just spend the whole day by the water instead of the couple of hours we had planned. Vacationing this way makes the days feel slow yet adventurous; makes everyone feel like they are getting a say in the day; and allows for quiet time with no rushing from one thing to the next.
Summer vacation tip #3: Make the ‘boring' stuff part of the fun
You already know about my love for staying in Airbnbs when we travel (I’ve been told I should offer consulting services on finding amazing places….hmmmm….let’s chat?). But the reality of staying at a house is that you need to do a little work to make it feel like home. Namely: grocery shopping. We have, however, made grocery shopping a highlight of vacationing. Perusing a new store or market might just be one of my favourite things E-V-E-R. And I’ve managed to get my family to see the fun in what could be an annoying time-suck. Everyone gets to pick out new, fun-looking treats to add to our cart and inevitably the kids get into a conversation with the cashier about the fact that we’re on vacation.
Together, these three tips are about taking the stress out of what is meant to be fun. It’s also about making every part of the vacation part of the adventure — not just the ok-now-we’ve-unpacked-and-shopped-and-driven-300-kilometres-so-NOW-we-can-have-fun parts.
Do you have vacation tips to share? I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment below (I’ll steal them for my upcoming summer plans!).