The Great Expectations of Summer Vacation

Summer vacation– the two words together can inspire joy and excitement for schoolchildren everywhere! Whether you're hitting the beach, staying at home, or spending hours on a road trip, we'll show you some ways to make the most of your summer holidays.

Planning the Perfect Summer Vacation

Summer vacation can mean many things for many people. Most kids are thrilled about unstructured days of play, or carefully curated camps. Other kids might be less excited about having to use the summer holiday to get extra tutoring so that they can catch up with their studies in summer school.

But in any case, most families use these months of June through August to plan a memorable family vacation. Some want to spend part of their holidays in a resort town, like Virginia Beach, VA.  Perhaps they might want to visit a water park or the Virginia Aquarium?

Summer Vacation: Exploring Nature, Water Park, or Both?

Some children love to spend the day in nature and want great hiking adventures. In the state of Virginia alone there are lots of great options like Great Falls Park in Northern Virginia,  Shenandoah National Park in western Virginia, and First Landing State Park in southeastern Virginia. The advantages of visiting a nature center are many- you can explore uncharted territory and enjoy the elements. But other people prefer a faster-paced experience.

Water parks are hugely popular with kids, and many kids love slides, splashing, and diving? Of course, if your child isn't too comfortable in the water, or hates crowds, this isn't going to your best option.

Before you decide on your holiday, do your research!

  • Talk to your children about where they would like to go. Would they prefer the refreshment of a water park or would they rather explore undiscovered places in nature during their summer vacation?
  • Ask friends about the vacations they've enjoyed.
  • Look into options that fit your family's interests, but also aren't going to blow your budget.
  • Keep an open mind about your next trip; the best option might be something you least expect.

Road Trip- Not the Destination, But the Journey

After you know where you're going, you've got to figure out how to get there. For many families, this means a road trip. There's nothing like getting stuck in a heavy traffic jam with your toddler and six-year-old to test the limits of your patience and sanity. Here are some tips for a good trip.

Tips for a Happy Car Ride:

  • Bring good snacks– It helps keep spirits high and avoids potential "hangry" attitudes that can spoil anyone's mood.
  • Play a game– You don't need physical pieces to play a game. Try "I Spy" or "20 Questions"
  • Have a family sing-along -"The Greatest Showman" has been the current favorite in our car, but sing anything until it starts to drive everyone crazy.
  • Order a pack of eco-friendly Search & Find Adventure cards, specifically "The Car Ride" Search & Find. This fun activity will help the minutes and hours disappear as the entire family plays along to spotting different things along the road. Tag #searchandfindadventures to share the fun! Or you can send them securely to friends and family on the FamilyApp.
  • Bring coloring books– art supplies are a great activity for road trips, provided you don't get car sick
  • Let them watch a movie/play game on a tablet or car TV. Ideally, we won't need to resort to technology as a friend/nanny, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Summer Vacation by Air

Sometimes it makes more sense to take an airline flight to your destination. As you fasten your seat belt on the plane, your child will probably be excited and ask a lot of questions about the plane and the trip. However, especially with anxious children, this excitement can quickly turn into fear – particularly during take-off and landing. The altitude and ear-popping can also frighten your little ones.

For these reasons, some parents like to start their journey at night, especially if you're taking an especially long flight. Ideally, your children will be tired and fall asleep on the plane quickly. By the time they wake up, you'll have arrived at your holiday destination.

Of course, this strategy can also backfire, so proceed with caution! I took an evening flight with my then 18-month-old toddler, only to discover that the plane was a stimulating, exciting place for her. She was so excited with the lights and new friends, she was up babbling away through the wee hours of the morning.

Bottom line: with plane travel, book a flight that's convenient for you and your family. We usually look for the cheapest ones, but use whichever works for you. Also, be sure to pack toys, snacks, and entertainment for the long haul!

Enjoy the Ride!

Whether you stay close or far, remember, packing up and preparing to leave is usually the most difficult part. Don't stress over the "perfect" trip or planning everything flawlessly, because most of the time, our greatest memories happen when things don't go according to plan. Safe and happy travels! They're going to be great!

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