By Suzanne Rutledge
While it is said that there’s no place like home for the holidays, many families travel to visit grandparents and relatives, or they choose to celebrate the days off with a vacation. No matter where you journey this holiday season, every parent deserves to enjoy the vacation as much as their kids do. After our family traveled around the world together for nine months, we learned some tips and tricks for making the most out of every destination. Our aim was to travel slowly and spend intentional time together as a family, much like we hope to do during the holiday season. Here are some ideas to build into your itinerary to bring out the best in your children and help you find the most joy in your travel experiences.
The anticipation and excitement of the holidays often makes children wilder than you thought possible. And, after all of the gifts are unwrapped and multiple meals have been eaten, kids are ready to get outside, and parents long to rejuvenate with some fresh air. We are blessed in the South with milder December weather, and my family loves to work off some of that Christmas turkey and ham with a long bicycle ride. Bring your children’s bikes along to Grandma’s house and investigate the many city share bike programs, like Houston BCycle. Cycle along river paths or public parks – avoid the city streets until you are a pro – and use your time wisely. You can get a great deal if you are willing to swap them in and out of kiosks before your price increases. We’ve found that we can cover much more ground in a new destination on bicycles, and as parents we can keep up with our active son much easier when we are all cycling together.
Teach the Joy of Giving Back
A vacation is a vacation, but there is something rewarding about giving back to those in need. We’ve found that there are plenty of opportunities to work with organizations in the U.S. or in foreign countries, either for a week or a day. It usually requires some time and research online to find a charity or cause aligned with your interests. But, some experiences can be as simple as asking your local hotel or tour guide to point you toward a “voluntourism” opportunity. Especially during the holiday season, there are many opportunities to serve a meal, donate time or gifts to a homeless shelter or volunteer at an animal shelter.
For a child, seeing their parents give back and working alongside other volunteers while learning about an important cause plants positive memories and a future desire to serve. Giving of themselves while seeing the benefit it provides others is a worthwhile lesson to teach early.
Savor the Slow Pace
In our busy world of activities, commitments and responsibilities, there is not much room for the simple and slow pleasures of family time. When we traveled around the world, our intention was to purposefully spend time together soaking up what life was like around the world. We wanted to peel away the layers of schedules and busyness that enveloped our family. At home, it was sometimes hard to slow down and find time to play a simple board game or take a bike ride as a family. Old-fashioned family activities seemed to be drowned out by baseball, basketball, Cub Scouts, swim practice, and of course, TV. But on our journey, simple was all we had. Take the holidays to get back to simple family life. Pull out board games, engage extended family in a puzzle or ask the patriarch to tell a few stories about his childhood holiday memories. Those moments where we breathe space into the hustle and bustle of the holidays are what we and our children will remember for years to come.
Whether you are traveling to another state or just out of your zip code, these tips and tricks offer the opportunity to try something new and different on your next vacation. And, if you are visiting family this holiday season, ask them to join in the fun. Rather than sticking to the staid holiday traditions, your kids will thank you for introducing some new family activities that are sure to make lasting memories.
Tired of living in their “comfortable rut,” Suzanne and Mitch Rutledge decided to quit their jobs in America and take their seven-year-old son with them on a nine-month journey around the world. Suzanne’s new book, “From the Rut to the Ledge,” shares their highs and lows, but also provides practical travel tips for anyone who wants to see the world on a budget. Learn more and buy the book at www.ruttotheledge.com.