Mastering Family Vacations with School-Aged Kids
Spring break is coming up. If you're anything like me and stuck in a place of eternal cold weather (heeey Michigan), you're probably dreaming of whisking your kids away to a place of sunshine and warmth for spring break.
And honestly, you should. Studies have shown that vacations are good for us, good for our health, and good for our family, so it's pretty much a requirement that we need to go seek the sun, like right now.
But let's be real. Family vacations with kids can be tricky. Kids don't cooperate, they can be a nightmare to plan, and then once you actually get to the trip destination, there's no real guarantee you will actually be refreshed and relaxed while you're there. I've talked my husband into several trips that didn't pan out (one unfortunate incident involving a toddler in a hospital) and while I can tell you that those trips were not the vacations I once dreamed of, I can honestly say that I don't regret taking them. They still created memories and experiences that brought our family together and that's the whole point all along, right?
OK, great, now that we've got that all out of the way, let's move on to actually taking a family vacation with school-aged kids, shall we?
Let's talk school. First of all, get the school stuff figured out. Obviously, it's easier to take family vacations when kids are younger and the workload that they will miss won't be as intense. And I may be the odd woman out here, but I'm just not a mom who worries about my kids missing school, especially for something like a family vacation. I'm of the belief that life comes first and we can always work school in.
That being said, school-aged kids, especially in older grades, do a lot at school and even a day or two can really add up. So talk to their teachers if you can, figure out what they will be missing during your trip, and try to see if the teacher will give you work ahead of time to work through. Also, keep in mind that that's a lot of extra work for the teacher (my husband is a teacher so I don't say this lightly!), so if you can, make it as easy as possible for them and consider sending a token of your appreciation for their part in making your vacation possible. Lastly, prepare your kids and consider building some work time into your trip on the plane or in the car so they aren't overwhelmed doing it all at once.
Consider a cruise. I did a lot of research this past month for a family-friendly vacation that wouldn't break the bank and I was really impressed with how convenient and affordable cruises could be, even for our family of six. Especially if you look at off-season rates, even taking a full-amenity Disney cruise came in under $1,000 for our entire family and two rooms. When you consider that compared to actually going to the Disney parks, it starts to sound like a pretty sweet deal. You can get all the magic of Disney without the craziness of the parks and the fact that Disney has their own private island is the highlight of the trip.
Outside of Disney, however, there are a lot of family-friendly cruises that let you take a fun trip without worrying about anything and that's what vacations are all about, right?
Travel agents can be your best friends. While doing the research for my Disney cruise, I also contacted a Disney-specific travel agent and she was incredibly helpful in giving me all the information I needed. I honestly have never considered using a travel agent before, mostly because I didn't understand how they work, but if you go with the right travel agent, it should not cost you anything extra to book with them. They make money from the destination, not you, so they can be a great resource to use when you're short on time and totally overwhelmed with planning a trip that will make everyone happy.
Keep it simple. This year, we ultimately decided we weren't ready to a take a big family trip. Instead, we opted for a shorter stay at a family-friendly waterpark resort that has a spa for moi, lots of family activities, and a restaurant on-site. The kids get to run and play and we get to connect without being stressed spending a lot of money and traveling. I think it can be helpful to remember that even a short weekend trip or “staycation” can be fun and memorable for the whole family.
Do you have any tips for family vacations with school-aged kids?