Tuesday, May 18, 2010

5 Fun Family Vacation Activities

It's unbelievable, but it's true: there are only a few weeks of school left -- and fewer than there should be due to budget troubles here in Los Angeles. I realized today with a sinking sensation that I haven't yet planned much in the way of fun vacation activities for our daughter, so I decided to get with the program and review some of our very favorites to share.

Here are our top five:

1 - Find a beach or lake or pond and get into it! Nothing says summer to every cell in your body like sun and water. Take lots of sunscreen, water, and cover-ups and be willing to spend a little time in traffic or dealing with parking, but just do it. Fling a Frisbee, play outdoor games, read mindless books and have a blast.

2 - Pick a place to visit that's within two hours' driving that you've always wanted to visit, but never have. Does your family love Route 66 diners and dives? Drive just a few miles further down that stretch of road than you usually do and discover cool historic districts, funky Main-Street theaters, and monster chocolate sundaes at the counter.

3 - Hang out in the yard. Get a big umbrella if you need to, but roll around in the grass, play badminton, set up horseshoes, and talk to neighbors as they pass by. You may have to do it early morning or early evening to beat the heat, but don't spend all summer in front of a screen with gale-force air conditioning blowing your hair around. Get back to nature! Plant a flower or two.

4 - See outdoor movies! Many towns and cities set up special al-fresco screenings of popular or classic family movies during summer months. Pack the camp chairs and head for the pier, the public pool, the park, or your neighbor's backyard. Seeing "Daddy Daycare" may even be more enjoyable on a ripply white sheet hanging from someone's tree.

5 - Camp it up! Not just at learning-adventure day camps, but in a tent. Target has camping equipment for very little money (my advice: buy the inflatable beds...). Camping is inexpensive, but you'll have to plan ahead a bit to be sure you get a great spot.

What's your favorite summer vacation activity? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments section. And for more great ideas, check out these moms' blogs: http://www.twittermoms.com/forum/topics/share-5-fun-family-vacation.

By the way, I wrote this blog post while participating in the Williamsburg Tourism and TwitterMoms blogging program for a chance to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Ten Tips for a Distraction-free Family Vacation

Before our daughter was two years old, she was a frequent flyer. This came about not because we're wealthy jet-setters, but because she's the child of two parents who left their hometowns to head west for the fading charms of Los Angeles many years ago.

As a person who's sensitive to noise and to the idea that I might be bothering other people in any type of public situation, I had to develop some ways of keeping her quiet and happy on trips, both on planes and in restaurants. And for my sanity and that of my husband, I had to pick up tips for long car trips, too. Here are my top ten tips for keeping kids happy while traveling:

1) As much as is humanly possible, begin packing early (I have a permanent list I keep on my computer) and get everyone a full night's rest.

2) Tell the kids what the trip will be like. This helps a great deal for kids from ages three and up. "We'll be driving a long time, longer than when we go to Aunt Karen's, but we'll stop and have fun food and go to a playground." Set expectations.

3) Stock up on little activity books like the ones you see in spinners at Cracker Barrel. They keep nicely in any size handbag or seat-back pockets and work wonders while waiting for a seat or for food in restaurants.

4) Have a supply of small gifts -- stocking-stuffer types all the way up to a book or toy he's really wanted for awhile -- waiting in Mom's Untouchable Bag of Future Surprises for Good Girls and Boys. Dole them out as rewards for whine-free time at intervals of your choice.

5) Plan your McDonalds Playland stops -- know ahead of time which towns or highway rest stops have playgrounds available for running around. Even 20 minutes of this every three or four hours can work wonders for the driver's back as well as for kids' moods.

6) Bring lots of healthy finger foods as space (and FAA regulations) permit. I've found small snack packs of sliced apples, grapes and pretzels to help both my daughter's and my own mood greatly. Those little milk carton-sized containers of whole-grain Goldfish crackers, fruit, and baby carrots also work, of course.

7) Audio books can keep both parents and kids enraptured on long drives. Load up the iPod Touch or check out a few audio books on CD from your public library.

8) Classic road-trip games like the license plate game and "I Spy" still work wonders.

9) Singalongs, as corny as they may seem, can lift the spirits of everyone in the car, and it's OK to laugh when Dad sings off-key, right?

10) Laughter is the best antidote to boredom. Bring a book of knock-knock jokes, play a favorite (clean) comedy routine, or give the kids a book of Mad Libs for the whole family to work on together.

Sure, there's always the option of a big stack of new movies for the portable DVD player, but these suggestions keep kids' minds working and can keep the family happy together as the miles roll by.

P.S. See links to moms' other top-ten tips here.

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