We all want the idyllic summer family vacation that you see advertised in the glossy magazines. You know those beautiful images on the pages of Conde Nast Traveller, Travel + Leisure etc where everyone is laughing, playing and generally beautiful. Those perfect families are creating joyful memories of happy times which the children will treasure when they are adults and which the parents will reminisce about in the old age home when their children don’t visit. To recreate this perfect holiday, I have decided to share with you 20 ways you too can have the best summer family vacations. Please, no thanks necessary. The images in my mind of your Kodak family moments is enough.
Vacation with friends
We go on holiday with life-long friends who have kids the same ages and gender as ours. The fact that their children can entertain our children is a happy coincidence. All our children get along perfectly well. The older children do not resent keep an eye on (ok, babysitting) the younger children.
Even though we have known each other for years, no one has any past dating history (or even drunken hook-ups) with another member of the group. We all like each others spouses and don’t break off into groups for some good gossip about other people (who may or may not be present).
All of our parenting styles harmonise perfectly. We do not judge (even privately) anyone else’s parenting styles. I know that no one else thinks my kids are the devil’s spawn even when they are setting ants on fire with a mirror.
We smile indulgently and watch when someone else’s child insists on performing a self-created theatrical piece to rival Wagner’s Das Rheingold in length. No one is secretly playing on their iPhone as the masterpiece unfolds.
We love our beach bodies! No one has been at the gym all winter, or even on a yoga holiday at Canyon Ranch *cough* fat farm *cough*. We feel only pride and admiration when we look at our teenage daughters lithe young bodies and not teensy amounts of despair that our own youthful good looks are gone.
My kids play happily and companionably on the beach with each other. There is no throwing sand in anyone’s faces or ‘accidentally’ stepping on another person’s sand castle. That howling you hear? It’s the gleeful sound of good times crashing about like waves on the shore.
The parents help their children create modern architectural masterpieces in the sand – castles, skyscrapers and entire towns, in fact. Why would an adult hang out in the sunshine with a book when they can let their artistic talents shine in the spirit of friendly competition?
Our children set up a lemonade stand of charm and distinction. They do not use old cardboard boxes as their stand or (heaven forbid) the Country Time Lemonade powder mix to make their lemonade. I have spent hours squeezing lemons for their enterprise. All the money the kids make gets donated to a local pet shelter and not taken to the candy store for immediate gratification.
We take our children to pick blueberries/peaches (fill in fruit of the season here) in the nearby fields and/or farms. The children do not eat all the fruit before they get home and so there is plenty of extra fruit to make home made pies and cobblers. The delicious scent of freshly baked goods fills the home just like I remember from my own Happy Days childhood.
In the evenings, we play family board games. No one stomps off in a huff because they feel cheated. We do not stick our children in front of the television with a movie and fall into an exhausted heap in another room with a bottle (or two) of wine.
We prepare evening banquets in the garden worthy of a Kinfolk spread and we which we Instagram immediately to our legion of admirers. No take-out pizza in front of the television for our kids. The parents do not leave them alone to hang out in another room drinking beer and eating nachos.
We fire up the grill and make delicious meals from food stuffs bought from the local farm stand. We do not feed our children Oscar Meyer hot dogs or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (with a side of apple sauce as a nod for the token vegetable).
Every evening before dinnertime, we gather on the porch for cocktails for the adults and lemonade for the children. It’s nice to start the conversation before we sit down at the table.
When we go out to dinner, everyone is perfectly behaved at the restaurant that actually has paper table clothes and non-plastic utensils. No child complains about the lack of menu choices, orders something they refuse to eat or create a modern art masterpiece on the linen table cloth. I don’t strategically position myself at the table furthest away from the children.
We sit around one table along with the children. How will they learn to behave in polite company otherwise? The men are jovial, the women beautiful, the children charming and everyone waits for their turn to speak. The laughter is in unison and everyone gets the joke. Even better, everyone is laughing with you (not at you).
Rest and Relaxation
I go for a peaceful run/cycle every evening to get back in touch with nature and enjoy the feeling of being one with nature. My run does not have the ulterior motive of getting away from a house full of fractious children.
We take healthy bracing walks in nature stopping to admire and to examine the flora and fauna. No one is swatting away mosquitoes and flies. We are not covered head to toe in protective clothing to ward against ticks. I hear only compliments directed at me on organising such an educational and enjoyable walk.
We happily go on cycle rides through the countryside and paddle kayaks in the sea. I have a child on my tandem bike/double kayak who actively participates in cycling instead of lollygagging and contributing nothing to the exercise other than his or her weight.
Every day is sunny and comfortably warm. Our hair does not stick to the back of our neck but instead bounces softly in the wind. We don’t need air conditioning in the car – we just put the top of the convertible down. Everyone can then hear our happy laughter as we pass them on the sidewalk.
When we buy souvenirs, we tend to buy something local, preferably handmade or vintage. Why would anybody want a refrigerator magnet or tee-shirt? It would look so out of out of place in our crisp, modern home.
Over To You
Does this sound like your family vacation? What other tips can you provide that would help all of us have the best summer family vacations ever? I’m sure any advice would be useful for all of us.