Great family vacations all have some common threads. There's an ease of accessibility in terms of food. Everyone's interests are considered, and there's a good balance of alone time and group activities!
What's not on the list? Weather, transportation choice or specific destinations. Trust me: it's important to know your group well before hitting the road together. With a little forethought, though, you can have the trip of a lifetime no matter what the world may throw your way.
My husband, myself, and our four kids have been on hundreds of family getaways. Good ones, bad ones, great ones and some in-betweeners! The memories we truly cherish haven't come from spending the most money or eagerly researching all the activity options in advance.
Great family vacations primarily come from considering everyone's wants, needs and desires.
Great Family Vacations Need Food!
I'll tell you right now, a lack of access to good food is one of the fastest ways to ruin a great family vacation. I've seen things go wrong in this arena because people booked rooms that had nowhere to store snacks, they didn't have access to a kitchen or nearby restaurant, and they were completely out of range of delivery services (the horror!).
We've mentioned before that our family prefers to stay at properties like our sponsor Wyndham, because they offer the space of a condo at the price of a typical hotel. I can easily swing by a grocery store or get ingredients delivered. Then, I can whip up sheet pan meals for a group of any size with very little effort.
I've even been known to stop by Costco and get some easy frozen casseroles and a bunch of breakfast muffins. This cuts down on time running back-and-forth around town looking for food, and it ensures that there's something for everyone anytime someone feels snack-ish.
If you're in a beverage-focused location (think: Vegas or Puerto Vallarta) you can also save a ton of money by pouring yourself a glass of wine or mixing up a margarita instead of purchasing drinks on-the-go. Even if you don't plan to serve full meals in your room, it can be really nice to have sandwich fixins or cereal and milk on-hand.
Consider Everyone's Needs and Interests
There are a few common options that often work for groups, like theme parks or an amusement park, a state park or beach vacations. However, those won't work if someone in your crew is terrified of roller coasters, hates outdoor adventure, or is hell-bent on seeing white sand beaches for the very first time with their lover. If La Jolla or the Grand Canyon is on someone's bucket list, they may have a specific vision for that place that doesn't involve a bunch of people. That's understandable.
Start by asking everyone if they have any no-gos on their list, and what they DO find enjoyable. There are bound to be commonalities that can make everyone happy. We've found that lesser-known towns are often a perfect solution to get dynamic groups excited. Chances are, nobody will have already been there, they won't have any preconceived notions, and places like that usually offer lots of charming, kid-friendly and more grown-up entertainment options.
Our last trip as a family was to a small town outside of Park City, UT called Midway. The area was originally populated by Swiss families, because it reminded them of the Alps. It's known for epic lakes and hiking, which I figured we'd spend the majority of our time enjoying.
When we got there, though, one of the kids wasn't feeling great and definitely couldn't spend tons of time in the sun. So we shifted our plans to smaller outings exploring the region's businesses. I discovered adorable shops with toys and trinkets, and Nate and the boys found delicious farm-to-table cheesemakers. The trip didn't look exactly as planned, but it worked out perfectly for everyone!
The moral of the story is: flexibility is key. I had several relatives when I was younger who would have intricately-detailed plans for our time together. They didn't account for potential illness, shifting moods or a simple difference of opinion. Always remember that great family vacations are more about the people than about the place. Make sure yourself and others are comfortable, and go with the flow as unexpected situations arise.
Vacation Alone Time Matters – a Lot
Here's another arena where I see people getting things really wrong. Folks just don't realize how much space they have at home, and how much time they spend away from other people. Introverts like myself can get overwhelmed and exhausted quickly! For travelers like me, it's crucial that there is designated space to escape and decompress. Once again, booking a Wyndham property can ensure that there's plenty of room for everyone to stretch out comfortably.
If you're going on a long trip, great family vacations usually include some “solo time” in the middle where everyone can spend the day doing whatever they want. Older kids may want to explore the arcade or lazy river while parents take toddlers to a children's museum. If the trip includes a multi-generational group, this might be a good time for immediate relatives to take smaller family trips to strengthen their own bond as well.
Explore Something New, Together
Younger kids will love just about anywhere you choose to go, as long as the whole crew gets to spend quality bonding time together. Think outside the box, and embrace eclectic exploration. Search for the world's largest yarn ball or rocking chair! Or stay inside and play a new game together. Great family vacations always have an element of group interaction, from escape rooms to Monopoly. This is one of the reasons we love condo vacations that provide a central room where everyone can gather.
Water, Water Should be Everywhere
When my kids were young, we had a saying. “Take them outside or put them in water.” If someone was cranky, throwing a tantrum, having a bad day or just downright crotchety, this was the solution. The same applies to adults, I've found. You can't necessarily control what “outside” looks like when you're traveling, but water is almost always a safe bet for creating peace.
Book a place with a hot tub and a pool. If you can swing it, I'd suggest that every couple has their own bathroom and soaking tub in case they need some time away from the group, but I know that isn't always feasible. A hot tub and a pool can always bring the whole group together, when all else fails. Who doesn't love the calm feeling of bobbing away on a floaty, or the blissful relaxation found in a spa?
Start Vacationing Small
If you've never gone vacationing as a group, I do NOT recommend that you book a week-long shore adventure with boat tours, dolphin watching, zipline adventures and scuba diving. Something like that is a LOT to take on at once. Instead, try out some quick day trips and weekend excursions. You'll learn as you go about packing, activities that your group enjoys, and what limitations people may have that they may not even be aware of.
A condo with Wyndham is the perfect way to dip your toes in the water and discover what great family vacations look like for you.
I mentioned earlier that specific destination, weather and transportation choices shouldn't really impact great family vacations. Our family has experienced endlessly delayed flights, hurricanes descending (yikes!) and times when we've been rerouted to places completely different than where we intended to go. I can still say that we've had fun dancing in rain and shine, playing UNO at airport bars, and holing up in basements with a flashlight and a book of spooky tales.
Do the best you can to set your group up for success. Beyond that, it's important to remember that great family vacations are about the memories and bonds you share together!
Have you been on great family vacations yet? You can get a 20% discount on Wyndham's website with my discount code: DAY21.