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Plan a Great Vacation!

Some of my favorite childhood memories are from my family's vacations. Every summer my parents, three siblings and I would load up the station wagon and set out on what always promised to be a bonding experience. As soon as we got back from one vacation, we would take steps to plan the next one.

Because of the memorable times I had as a child on those trips, I made summer vacation a top priority as a parent myself. Now if you were to ask my children about some of their favorite memories, it would probably be a story about one of our family trips.

Here are some tips on how to plan a great summer vacation:

  1. Have a family meeting to decide what kind of vacation your family has in mind. There are many options: road trips, educational, beach resort, cruise - the list goes on. Get a consensus so that everyone feels that they had a say in what you decide to do.

  2. Stay within a pre-determined budget. You don't want to spend your whole vacation worrying about how you're going to pay for it. Fortunately, there are some great vacation packages available. All-inclusive trips and cruises have the benefit of upfront costs, and they often include many extras. We have a vacation fund that we add to throughout the year so that the money is there when we are ready to go.

  3. Be prepared! For instance, if you are going on a road trip, plan activities that you can do in the car. DVDs are great, but try to do things where you can interact as well. Some activities that you can do are 20 questions, auto bingo or my kids' favorite, the licence plate game. Other things to consider are the climate, the activities that you are going to be involved in and any advanced reservations that need to be made.

  4. Record your experience with pictures or a journal. As a family, we often look at our pictures from our family vacations and reminisce about the things we did on those trips. Plus, years from now when they show their own children, they can laugh about the hairstyles and clothes we wore.

  5. When you're on vacation, be on vacation. In other words, try to leave the work at home. My husband, who loves his Blackberry, will not check his email during our family vacations (and this is the only time that happens). Taking time off from your work shows your children that this vacation is about them and them alone.

  6. Try something new. Whether it's a new activity - like white-water rafting or a new cuisine - be sure to show off your adventurous side. Even if you don't like the experience, you can say you've been there and done that.

  7. Have specific family time. When we've been on cruise vacations, everyone is doing different activities during the day. However, we will all come together at night for a leisurely family dinner. We have great food, great conversation and make wonderful memories.

  8. Listen to what your kids have to say about what they want to do on a vacation. It might lead you down a path you would have never thought of. For example, we have done some very offbeat activities that we would have never considered if my children had not brought them to our attention.

  9. Make it fun and laugh a lot! Whatever you do, wherever you go, just remember that vacation is a time to have fun, bond with your kids and make wonderful memories.

The best way to build strong bonds between parents and children is to really share fun experiences and get to know each other better. Family vacations can not only be fun but can create a solid foundation of mutual caring that will help kids and parents also connect when life isn't all fun and games.

Janine, RN, MSN, WHNP-BC, is a Woman's Health Nurse Practitioner who specializes in the care of adolescent patients. She currently works in a busy OB/GYN office in Houston. She is also the co-author of Start Talking: A Girls Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex, or Whatever,


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