Saturday, August 25, 2012

{12 in 12} Tips for a Great Family Vacation

Back in the over-confident days of January, I was certain I could get 12 projects done in 2012.  One project a month.  No problem.  While most of those projects are still waiting to be given any thought at all  started  completed ...  I was pretty sure I could manage the August project just fine:  


It's a big project to tackle, I know, but we have experience with this one, and I'm determined!!!!

Here are some of our tried and true tips for having a great family vacation:

Go to the same place every year.

Once I thought an annual vacation in the same spot would be the most boring thing ever, 
but especially with a young family, it's a great idea.  
We've vacationed at the beach in Alabama for 20 years now.

Going back to the Gulf Coast feels like going home, and because we're so familiar with it, we don't spend those first few days of vacation trying to figure everything out.  The familiarity removes some stress.
It's vacation stress, which is an oxymoron, but still.

 In Alabama, we know what to expect and we already know the things we love to do.  We've never had a bad time, even the first year, when Hurricane Andrew cut our stay short, so it's reasonably "risk-free."  Nostalgia and great memories are waiting for us, and because we know the drill, 
the relaxing begins more quickly ... that's a great thing!!!

Stay in the same place every year.

Not only do we go to the same place on the beach, we stay in the same condo.  So when I say vacation feels like going home, I really mean it feels like going home.  It took us a while to find the unit we loved, but once we found the one that fit us just right, it's a repeat every year.

Our booking service, Brett-Robinson, (click }here{ to go to their website) has an online booking service and you can take a virtual tour of the rooms before you book. I've looked at other units, but haven't found one I like any better!  Want to see why I love this place so?

I love the beachy colors and decor of this unit.  The walls are the perfect sunny yellow.  One year we stayed in a condo that was very elegantly decorated but we never got that kick-off-your-flip-flops kind of feeling.  
This condo has a beachy fun tone.

Here's the view from the balcony ...

One of our favorite things about this unit is that the master bedroom has a sliding glass door right onto the balcony ... we  leave it cracked open all the time.  
We go to sleep and wake up listening to the waves.  Pure bliss!

Know what else I love here?  

The shower curtain.  

It makes me happy - I LOVE it.

I also love the painted cabinets in the kitchen.  

Very much a happy place!

Get a great swimsuit that's comfortable.

If your vacation involves water play, especially in the waves, you don't want to worry about staying covered up.  We love to play in the waves, and last year I got board shorts from Board Shorts World ...

 It was an excellent investment for totally worry free water play ... more fun than ever!! 

Be sunscreen ninjas.  

We're fair skinned, so our goal is to cross back over the Texas state line at the end of vacation in the same shade in which we left.  Part of going down to the beach includes spending 15 minutes making sure everyone is adequately covered.  It's kind of like packing someone else's parachute.  

We love each other, but at the same time,
 we don't want to spend a week with someone who's inside the misery of sunburn.  

Make everyone get haircuts before you go.

I love to take pictures on vacation, but I have to say that the pictures from the year my children look like 1960's beatnicks are my least favorite.

Even though Nate did rock the surfer dude look :o)

Get a really really cute haircut before you go.

Not only did Abbie get a haircut before vacation this year, she went from super long to cute and short  and donated her long hair to Locks of Love ... 

what fun to take lots of pics with a new style!

Cook.  Or Grill.  Or both - instead of eating out.

Do I have to tell you eating out with a family of six is expensive?
Our condo has a full kitchen with all the cooking paraphernalia you could ever need.
We go to the grocery store at the beginning of the week (it's the happiest grocery store run EVER) and we eat breakfast and lunch in.  It saves us a good bit of money, and makes eating out a little more special.

And LtDan grills dinner by the pool at least once.
Barbeque ... at the pool ... by the beach?  Perfection!

Make a schedule for the day ... and for the week.

We learned that making a vacation schedule helps put everyone at ease when the kids were pretty little.  Because answering "when are we going to the pool?" 84,000 times a day gets tedious, we make a loose daily schedule so everyone knows what to expect.  We do the same thing with the week ... just so everyone can relax and know when their favorite thing is going to happen. 

The best part is that once you've decided how the week's going to go, you can put it on auto-pilot and turn off your brain ;o)  The year Lt.Dan and I just weren't up to officiating The Schedule was a somewhat amusing role reversal ... our kids wanted to get everything all lined out  - and they've never let us forget how important a schedule is to a satisfying vacation!

Take a book that's challenging.

I always take a good beach read, but I also like to bring along something that's a challenge or thought provoking on a spiritual or emotional level, or maybe a self-improvement book that will help me jump back into everyday life with greater passion.  It takes the concept of a vacation reset to a deeper level.

One of my favorite vacation reads has been Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindberg.  This year, I read The Art of Extreme Self-Care, by Cheryl Richardson, and I started The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Mid-Life, by Marianne Williamson.  I loved Cheryl's concept of the Absolute No List:  I will no longer rush ... I will no longer jump out of bed in the morning before taking time and space to start the day in a serene and relaxed state ... etc.  And here are some empowering words from Marianne:  "It's time to intend to age with joy, deciding that the joy of youth is a good kind of joy, but it's not the only kind.  In fact, there is a joy in knowing that after all these years, we've finally grown up."  

Designate a day to take pictures.  

If it were up to me, I would snap photos every minute, which would drive my family crazy and I would be banished from vacation.  So, we designate a picture day for mom to resemble the most obnoxious paparazzi you can imagine, and then I leave the camera behind and live the moments instead of trying to capture them ... which is really the best vacation tip of all.

What about you?  Do you have some good vacation tips or a favorite place to vacation?

I'm linking this post to Amanda's Weekend Bloggy Reading Party at Serenity Now!

Shared joy is doubled joy ... let's double the joy for both of us - what are you most grateful for today? Click below to leave your comment. I'll go first :

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