My family never really traveled much when I was young, and to this day, I really feel like we missed out on some primo bonding opportunities. We never had the inside jokes, cheesy pictures, sibling rivalry, and noisey, arguing shenanigans all the movies and books so fondly portrayed. I realize now, as a family travel planner, that engaging and inclusive family vacations that satisfy everyone's expectations are actually quite difficult to pull off (maybe that's why my parents didn't do them!). You've got schedules disrupted, attention spans challenged, teenagers missing friends and cell phone data, and everyone in much closer proximity than usual.
Here are some tips and tricks to bring your family closer together on your next vacations!
1) Pull out a map and read some web pages on the areas of interest with your kids. Read about the history, culture and learn a few words of the language. Get everyone engaged and see if you can incorporate in anything with their recent studies or homework. Are the areas and activities you're considering interesting and relevant to everyone? Our guides can tailor tours for specific areas of interests or knowledge, so let your travel specialist know what your family is looking for!
2) Come up with a list of wants and expectations from the whole family and share it with your travel planner! Do you have to have a pool? Walking access to restaurants? What activities and experiences are important to everyone? How long can you handle being in a car?
3) Determine your family's activity level. How active is your family? Can you all manage a full-day hike or camping? Do you do these activities at home? In general, I would recommend avoiding any extensive physical activities you don't do, at least occasionally, at home.
4) Get your kids activity levels up at home. Go for a vacation training run or bike ride or spend a day rafting, if these are things you are planning during your trip. The better physical shape you and your family are in before you leave, the more you will enjoy the active days planned over your trip.
5) Plan as much in advance as possible to avoid stress during your vacation, but allow yourself 1 or 2 days or half-days per week for spur of the moment activities. Let the kids choose these activities and engage the whole family!
6) Make sure you have the right amount of space to come back to in the evenings. Families need more space, so often times I recommend villas or accommodations with a mini-fridge. Separate rooms with closing doors can be great if you have older children. Often times, boutique hotels have special family room options available that provide more needed privacy and space after a long day out together.
7) Can your family disconnect from their phones and WiFi? Data can be very expensive in Latin America. If going without is going to cause stress on you or your teenagers during your vacation, be sure to ask your travel specialist if WiFi is available at your hotel. If you are in remoter areas, such as Southern Patagonia, often times electricity cuts out in the evenings and there will be no WiFi. Instead, play games and come up with inside jokes!
8) Take lots of pictures but don't forget to make memories outside of the camera too. I sometimes notice tourists so focused on taking the right picture, only to put their camera down and walk away immediately on to the next photograph opportunity. After your pictures, take the time to sit down with your loved ones and just simmer in the views, sounds and treasured company. Reflect on the differences and similarities in the space you are occupying in comparison to your life at home.
9) Incorporate in homework and reading time while traveling. Homework while flying or riding can pass the time, and reading together out loud in the evenings at your hotel is enjoyable and can help justify time out of the classroom!
10) Start a family tradition on your trips! Whether it's picking up a magnet from every country you visit, sending yourselves a postcard home, or taking a themed picture at each new stop... come up with something special that your family can look forward to completing together. It might seem cheesy at first, but I pretty much guarantee that looking back in 20 years, you will be so glad you did it.
So... what kind of trip will bring your family closer together? I think the answer lies right under your own roof!