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How to have an enjoyable family vacation

My husband's work has allowed our family of 10 to travel all over the world. We have found that basic principles employed ahead of time seem to encourage pleasant family vacations:

  • Involve children in planning details of the trip. Clearly explain the rules of travel ahead of time (along with consequences for disruptive behavior) so there are no surprises.- Discuss the travel budget as a family. This way there won't be begging for unnecessary extras along the way.
  • Make or buy separate road maps for each child. Instead of moaning about the long trip, kids will proudly advise the driver of the next town coming up.
  • Encourage regular rotation of seating. This breaks up monotony and gives each person a turn in their favorite place.
  • Find ways to identify and round up larger families when traveling in crowded theme parks or cities. Matching T-shirts or hats can be clever and inexpensive.
  • Take items to teach a new craft or hobby if your destination involves hours of travel. Quiet travel hours are also a good time to share family history stories.
  • Assign daily jobs. Things as simple as picking up wrappers in the car, filling water bottles, cleaning the windshield or keeping track of the spare car key give children pride and make them feel an integral part of the family outing.
  • Offer a special family prayer before leaving home. We always ask for safety as well as a feeling of peace with each other and an appreciation and remembrance for what we will soon see.
  • Avoid, as parents, "pre-trip jitters." Realize the family will remember what they feel longer than what they see on a vacation. - Sandra Savage Phillips, La Habra Heights, Calif.

What we did:

With a large family like ours, family vacations are few and far between. And because of this the vacation has to be planned right down to every detail and cost. During family home evening, we make the initial plans - where, when, what, how long and who. We work to justify every cent we spend and work to save each dollar. We planned a trip to visit an aged grandmother, but we also wanted to see several sites. To do such a trip, we estimate the travel time for each day, what each day's agenda will be, where we stay for the night and what our menu will be. Each person has chores assigned, and if it doesn't get done then it delays the activity for all of us, so everyone is more than willing to help. We alternate nights that we spend in campsites with showers, laundry, etc. We check out historical information about the areas we would be traveling through so we would better appreciate the area.

I think the most important thing to do if you will be traveling by auto is to take the time to stop at all the historical sites along the way. This gives you a chance to stretch your legs, and the kids get to run off some of their pent-up energy. - Becky Lewis, Hayward, Wis.

Special activity

Our children help earn spending money for family vacations by recycling cans and putting money aside instead of spending it on treats or meals out. We choose a vacation area with a major attraction, like a theme park and also some free fun things, like a beach or park. Each family member gets to pick a special activity that he or she wants to do, and we all enjoy it together. We pack our Sunday clothes and visit an area ward/branch and meet new people. It is fun to see how things are done in other wards. We always go to temple visitors centers if there is a temple nearby. This year we are going to San Diego, and we're going to have fun! - Kerry Hartman Lyon, El Paso, Texas

Family councils

  • Hold family councils. Decide location and type of trip.
  • Invite another family with similar goals, interests and financial means to go along. Same age and gender of children make for great compatibility.
  • Send for travel information from state tourist offices or auto clubs. Request travel routes, maps and points of interest.
  • Utilize state and federal parks. They are usually less expensive than private campgrounds and are well kept. - Joyce Crystal and Marilyn Deem, Sandy, Utah

Don't over-plan

Don't over-plan your time. Don't try to see everything there is to see where you are going, even if you probably won't get back there for a long time, if ever. "Slack time" in your trip will be helpful.

Continue to have your family prayers and scripture study during your trip. Also, rest on the Sabbath. Find a ward and go to the meetings. It's amazing how just doing that will recharge your batteries and make the trip more enjoyable. - Jared Weaver, San Jacinto, Calif.

Camping vacation

My parents were very committed to an annual camping vacation for our family. Camping was the most affordable way for us to visit areas of the United States and Canada. Lots of advance planning went into our vacations that heightened our level of anticipation for each trip.

Plan ahead and be prepared for all weather conditions. Games, books and craft items make days in the tent fun. - Dana Barton, Kennewick, Wash.

Write in journal

Leave your business completely behind you - no worrying how everything is going. This vacation is for you and your family, not your business.

Write in your journal. When you read about the vacation again someday, you will enjoy your vacation all over again. - Cheryl Robinson, Mission Viejo, Calif.

Be flexible

  • Plan ahead. Begin saving money early to avoid going into debt.
  • Be flexible. Don't try to do too much in one day. This makes for tired and unhappy children and stressed-out parents. Allow time for relaxing.
  • Take pictures and a video. These will help preserve the memories you're making as a family.
  • Remember family prayer. This can significantly reduce the stress of so much "togetherness."
  • Enjoy yourself. Taking a vacation with your family can be lots of fun and a great way to strengthen family ties. - DeLynn Parker Carling, Rexburg, Idaho

Staying at home

If your budget restricts how far you can go or the commercial recreation you can participate in, consider camping or a stay-at-home vacation where you go see the tourist attractions in your area - especially concentrating on the ones that are free or low cost.

Don't just work around the house. Do things that you don't do otherwise. Visiting family can be fun, if it is done in a festive and vacation-like atmosphere. - Nelson B. Jensen, Salt Lake City, Utah

How to checklist:

  1. Plan ahead; decide budget, destination; involve children.
  1. Attend Church services in vacation area; continue family prayer, scripture study.
  1. Take time for special activities, historical sites; request state tourist information.
  1. Be flexible, don't over-plan; allow time to rest, relax.

Write to us:

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July 5 "How to positively influence the lives of children who are not your own."

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  • Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to help young people show respect for authority in school," "How to be emotionally self-reliant," "How to place people above tasks."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2121 or use internet E-mail: [email protected] Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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