One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about having kids is the way they’ve brought us closer to our families. The shared experience of loving the kids connects us, and because my kids’ relatives want to see them, we end up traveling with our families so that we can all be together. Such trips have taken many different forms, from visiting my dad and stepmom in Washington and Bali, to taking family camping trips with my mom and her husband (and their Airstream!), and most recently taking a 3-generation cruise with my in-laws. And now that my kids are getting bigger, we’ve started brainstorming more ways that we can travel together. Here are 4 family vacation ideas that I’m daydreaming about:
Two Airstreams, three generations, and one big road trip!
We’ve already done a few family “camping” trips in California Gold Country and Sonoma County. We love the quiet of spending time outdoors in California, but recently we’ve talked about really hitting the road as a family. My mom and her husband will bring their new Airstream (not the vintage 1950s one you see above), and we will rent a trailer to explore more of the West Coast. It’s a comfortable way to travel without us getting in each other’s hair too much, and camping with a trailer means we can experience the outdoors with some of the comforts of home.
National parks for all the family members
Have you seen the IMAX movie “National Parks Adventure“? After seeing it last weekend, we felt even more inspired to visit more of our country’s national parks. I love the idea doing it as a family with three generations. Visiting national parks doesn’t have to be expensive, and the experience of witnessing such beauty is a special way to bond, I think. First up? Probably Crater Lake and Lassen, but I hope to add many more to that list soon!
Reliving past experiences
I’ve thought about this idea a lot. One day, I hope to take trips with two important friends from my past. One would be to visit the Czech Republic with the friend that I lived there with 20 years ago. The other would be to visit Florence again with my art history pal with whom I spent a month in Italy in 1996. I’m drawn to the idea of creating new memories based on past connections; there’s something that feels good about connecting with the past and renewing old friendships.
But I’d love to do the same with family. My mom and I have started by doing things that we loved to do when I was little, but I’d like to take this a step further. Perhaps my parents could take us to the places they loved to visit when they were younger, or perhaps we could all visit places that my family and I enjoyed during my childhood.
Getting back to basics and creating family traditions
My kids go to a very old-fashioned type of school where they learn to work with their hands and be comfortable in nature from the very beginning. They learn how to make crafts, play music, and grow their own food before they learn to read. After watching the transformation of my older son into child who’s independent and imaginative, I clearly see the importance of giving kids much more time in those basics of childhood, and much less time exposed to the commercialism and technology of modern life.
Simple pleasures like roasting marshmallows, painting pictures, doing puzzles, and playing with marbles are naturally appealing to kids, and I think adults should encourage those simple activities by participating in them fully (i.e. without their phones in one hand). Kids love tradition and feel loved through the predictability of family traditions. My kids know that with one grandparent, they’ll roast marshmallows, while with another they’ll bake cookies, and with another, they’ll drink coconut water. It’s sweet to see how much they look forward to those little things.
So as a family, we can honor that by creating easy, cheap vacations full of family traditions–playing games, singing songs, having campfires, exploring the woods with a flashlight…my kids would choose those activities over seeing a European capital any day. But we can also try long vacations with plenty of downtime, like a month at a rented house in the countryside in Europe, maybe a different country every summer.
What family vacation ideas do you have?