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
It’s important to pick your vacation friends carefully.
Go on holiday with life-long friends who have kids the same ages and gender as yours. The fact that their children can entertain your children is a happy coincidence. All your children get along perfectly well. The older children will not resent keeping an eye on (ok, babysitting) the younger children.
Even though you will have known each other for years, no one has any past dating history (or even drunken hook-ups) with another member of the group. You 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 your parenting styles harmonise perfectly. You do not judge (even privately) anyone else’s parenting styles. You know that no one else thinks your kids are the devil’s spawn even when they are setting ants on fire with a mirror.
You will 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.
It helps to have a glass (or bottle) of wine handy.
All the women love their beach bodies! No one has been at the gym all winter, or even on a yoga holiday at Canyon Ranch *cough* fat farm *cough*. They feel only pride and admiration when they look at their teenage daughters lithe young bodies and not teensy amounts of despair that their own youthful good looks are gone.
Our kids will 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. Go on, have another beer. It’s all good.
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?
Your 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.
You will have spent hours squeezing lemons for their enterprise. If only you hadn’t been carefully hand-washing and ironing their expensive bathing suits, or you could have even made some vegan, nut-free, allergy-free, taste-free cookies for them to sell.
All the money the kids make gets donated to a local pet shelter and not taken to the candy store for immediate gratification.
You will 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 that would make the Pioneer Woman jealous.
The delicious scent of freshly baked goods fills the home just like you remember from your own Happy Days childhood. You know the one where you were Joanie secretly pining for the town Chachi to notice her.
In the evenings, we play family board games. No one stomps off in a huff because they feel cheated. You wouldn’t dream of sticking your 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.
You will prepare evening banquets in the garden worthy of a Kinfolk spread and which you 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.
A strapping man will fire up the grill and make delicious meals from food stuffs bought from the local farm stand. You 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, the adults gather on the porch for cocktails. The children will drink milk or water because sugar so close to bedtime is such a bad idea. It’s nice to start the conversation on what we have done during the day before we sit down at the table (even though we have spent the entire day together).
When we go out to dinner, everyone will be 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. The adults don’t get into a scrum as they try to strategically position themselves 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
Many of the adults go for a peaceful run/cycle every evening to get back in touch with nature and enjoy the feeling of being one with nature. Their run does not have the ulterior motive of getting away from a house full of fractious children.
All of us 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. You hear only compliments directed at you on organising such an educational and enjoyable walk.
Everyone will happily go on cycle rides through the countryside and paddle kayaks in the sea. You will have brought your own folding bikes and inflatable kayaks because naturally this sort of exercise is a regular weekend occurrence in your family. You will 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. Your hair does not stick to the back of your neck but instead bounces softly in the wind (even when there is no wind). You don’t need air conditioning in the car – you just put the top of the convertible down. Everyone can then hear our happy laughter as we pass them on the sidewalk.
When you buy souvenirs, you 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 your crisp, modern, perfectly-curated 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.
Disclaimer: You should note that I have personally no experience with this perfect sort of summer holiday. We are more of a chaotic imperfectly perfect sort of family. I’m really good at giving advice though on the internets.