Parenting a child is a quick ride: You’ll blink and that cute baby you were coddling will suddenly be an eye-rolling teen or fully bearded adult. Not to put too fine a point on it, but you’re running out of time. As sure as there is a generational gap in what “good music” sounds like, there will come a day when your little bundle of joy will balk at the idea of spending a summer with you. And while there’s nothing you can do to stop the years from rolling by, there is plenty you can do to make the most of the roughly 18 summers of childhood that are all yours for the crafting.
Make the most of these years before your kid ditches you for love interests and sporting events, with summer plans that build the kinds of memories you’ll remember with joy for years to come. Plus, play your cards right and you may leave them so amazed at your vacation mastery that they’ll come back to you for a weekend or two long after they left the nest.
Between play dates and swim lessons, the frenetic pace of life with young kids can mean looking up at the end of August only to find you have no idea where the summer went. Press pause on your summer by extending the fun after-hours. There isn’t a kid on the planet who won’t jump at the offer of after-bedtime antics. Whether you opt for a tent under the stars, an evening trip out to a local hillside while in a foreign land or a visit to a planetarium, there’s nothing like a star-filled sky to put things in perspective. Even little kids go quiet in awe and the time together is as magical as the carpet of twinkling lights above you.
You don’t have to be a hiking family to find joy in nature. Pick a short trail for your first trip out and then put the phones away and follow your kids’ lead. They’ll find the puddles to jump in, the dirt to dig and the critters to inspect if you set them free. Don’t worry about trying to make it educational or to name every tree or shrub; just be present in the moment. Focus on the memories unfolding in front of you, the sounds of the wind in the trees and the giggles coming from your kids. Try to ignore the dirty shorts and muddy faces and focus on the grins that go from ear to ear and the fact that they’re still reaching back to hold your hand.
Sometimes the best outings are the ones that take you out with one simple goal in mind: Good Food. Set a family tradition of finding your favourite treat in new places. Will it be sourcing the world’s best gelato in Italy? Debating where to find the best burgers in the USA? Or a French-filled afternoon of uncovering the top macarons? Creating your own list of the best adds a purpose to strolls through new-to-you cities and will keep kids engaged as you explore.
It might seem counter-intuitive but breaking up your family on your next vacation could be the best thing that happened to all of you. Split the kids between adults so that each child gets some one-on-one time with a parent. Then, set out on different adventures.
Time alone with a child will always reward you with new insight into your offspring. Let them choose how you’ll spend that time together and you’ll end up doing something you likely couldn’t/wouldn’t do with the entire family.
Go somewhere new:
Every parent knows that the simplest way to have a great family vacation is to go back to the place you went to last year. You already know what worked there and you can conserve energy and sanity by doing the thing you’ve always done. (Heck, that’s’ why cottages were invented, right?) But while it’s true that that can be easier it isn’t the only option.
Familiarity breeds contempt and throwing something new into the mix offers all of you a chance to grow and learn. Consider mixing up your routine vacation plans with new-to- everyone destinations. Cross a new border, hop a flight to a place across an ocean or book in for a group tour to a place you’ve only dreamed of. Remember: Before your tried and true was tried and true, it was a new adventure waiting to be found.