It’s great if you’ve figured out your “what,” but it’s likely that everyone else’s “what” is different from yours! How to handle that? I’ll tell you what we do.
Mom and Dad decide.
Really! When we start thinking about our next vacation, everyone chimes in. “I want to go see [insert historic site here].” “We haven’t been scuba diving in ages.” “Let’s go hiking.” “That last place was TOO HOT. We need air conditioning!” “I want to go zip-lining!”
But we, the parents, know better than anyone else what our family needs. Hopefully that goes without saying. Vacation planning, though, is a great place to practice benign dictatorship.
As I think back on our vacations, this idea is a lot more important now than when the kids were little. Real opinions seem to have kicked in around 8-10 years old with each one. That’s why this idea of balancing competing interests is on my mind so much now! When you have all littles, or only one big, the idea of balance is really more about keeping kids happier in the moment. I’ll write about that in another post.
But here I have people who are on their way to adulthood, with legitimate interests. Trips represent such great opportunities for growth and learning that we really do want to maximize that for each member of the family.
A couple of years ago our “what” was an adventure. We wanted to do something kind of exotic and off-the-beaten-path. Bill and the boys were interested in scuba diving. However, I have no interest in sitting on a beach all week. I’m too fair for that, and I would feel like a slug after about a day and a half. The idea of breathing underwater also gives me the willies! Also, islands are not my favorite. They make me claustrophobic. That is weird but I am owning it.
Both girls wanted to be around animals, especially horses to do a little riding. Paige wanted time for beach reading, and Darcy wanted a pool, not a beach. Matthew was also interested in hiking. Bill thought we needed some history built in. And weather–no hurricanes, please, and no rain and not humid. We live in Georgia and we are well acquainted with humidity, thank you very much.
The boys got scuba-certified in the fall, so they were absolutely determined to pick a great scuba spot.
That year we decided on a resort in Belize. We managed to accommodate the scuba diving (and the girls and I snorkeled, very cool), hiking, and animals. We added zip-lining as one of our favorite things to do! We didn’t get to ride horses, but Belize is full of amazing wildlife and we saw monkeys, alligators, toucans, and leaf-cutter ants.
I didn’t have to sit on the beach all the time because there were lots of other activities, like kayaking and bird-watching (surprisingly fun even though I’m not 83 years old). The resort had a lovely pool so Darcy, not crazy about sand, swam there. The beach wasn’t great because of the resort’s proximity to a river, but there was sand and surf.
We had a very, very tiny bit of history by visiting Mayan ruins one day. But our trade-off was getting to know and love Belizean culture much more than we expected.
The weather was, well, the tropics in July. Hot, hot, hot, and super humid. We bathed in DEET every day to fend off the bugs. But we picked a resort known for its delicious local cuisine. It isn’t surprising that Paige still talks about the food and our sweet waitress and bartender (smoothies only for her, of course!).
Bill and I also knew we needed some good family time and an extended break from technology. Our resort had no televisions and no wifi in the rooms which gave the kids withdrawal symptoms on the first couple of days. Instead, we played cards and sat and talked and read together. We also played so hard during the day that we were all exhausted by 9 at night. It was such a sweet time!
There are other times you impose your will, and still others where the kids pick most of the trip. A couple of years ago we took a trip to New England, as far north as Ogunquit, Maine, and then down to Cape Cod. That was an “impose our will” vacation, because we felt like a great way to soak up some history. But we did build in beach time and we sought out great restaurants.
My boys made a school trip to Boston last spring, and it was gratifying that they remembered that vacation fondly as they saw familiar sights on the Freedom Trail.
This year we are trying to let the kids, especially Matthew, really pick the trip. Like I said earlier, this may be his last regular summer vacation with us, and we want it to be somewhere really special to him. He is getting a taste of what it’s like to balance all these interests, though, as the other kids lobby him to their favorite idea.
There are other ways to balance out these interests, too, and I’m going to talk about an alternate method tomorrow…See you then!