Debbie Gross, LCSW, Ltd. - Individual, Marital & Family Therapy

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One Therapist's Reflections

Making Family Vacations Memorable

June 29, 2009

During summer, many families take time off from their 
weekly routines to enjoy some time away. Whether it’s 
a trip to the Wisconsin Dells, camping under the stars, or sightseeing across our beautiful country, family vacation 
time is upon us. Having traveled to every state with my 
family during the past eight years, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on planning memorable 
vacations. Notice I didn’t say perfect – in fact, some of 
our best memories are when things went wrong. Having 
the right attitude and great planning are the keys to vacation fun!

1. Plan the vacation 
with YOUR children in mind. Think 
about the ages and developmental levels of your 
children when planning a vacation. While some four-
year-olds can keep themselves busy in a car for long 
periods of time, most need frequent breaks, lots of 
activities, snacks, and patience! Plan trips from your children’s point of view. Kids don’t have an awareness 
of what they are “missing” on a trip, they only know 
what they are experiencing. As you think about running 
from sun-up to sun-down through the streets of 
Disneyworld, and you picture yourself yelling at the 
kids to stop crying and keep up, STOP! Take a break 
and rethink your plan! Getting to only 7 rides, but 
savoring and enjoying each one AND the sights in-
between, will have a must more lasting, positive 
memory than hurriedly and crazily rushing through all 
16, barely taking time to appreciate any one before 
you shuttle along to the next!

2. Be creative in the car. There’s a great game on the market called “Are we there yet?” It’s a deck of cards 
with things to look for on a road trip. Both the front and 
back of the cards have things like: a car with a flat tire, 
two birds flying together, a broken fence, or a tractor. 
Each time your child spots one of the objects, they 
earn a new card. Instead of playing child against child, 
have them be a team – during the next 30 minutes, if 
they are able to find 10 items on the cards between 
them, they win! To save money, you can make up your 
own deck of cards. Prizes can be little token things you
pick up before starting your trip, a small souvenir from 
your next destination, or something special that you 
can do together as a family when you get to your next 
hotel. Be creative in planning those long rides, and anticipate the time for frequent breaks as part of your 
travel plans.

3. For the plane ride, pack a bag of tricks. It’s essential 
to pack small snacks, as you never know if you will be 
stuck on a runway or circling a city longer than planned. Suckers are great during take-offs and landings as the swallowing process helps keep little ears from popping. 
If your child has a real problem with his ears, someone 
once told me that if you heat some wet paper towels 
(use the bathroom sink if it has hot water or ask the flight attendant to heat them in a microwave on board) and 
put the paper towels in the bottoms of small cups, then place the cups over the child’s ears. The ears will not 
feel the pressure of landing. A Portable DVD player is 
a great entertainment tool on an airplane. Make sure 
you charge the battery. You can also go online to to see if your airline's plane has an 
outlet near your seat. Check with the site to make sure 
you have the right adapter as well!

4. Be creative in your preparations for the kids! Once I decided to make a felt board for my kids when they 
were very young and we had a long journey planned. I wanted to give them something unique to play with, 
but didn’t have a lot of money to buy the professionally made ones. While it was a lot of work, it was a godsend! 
I bought felt from the local art supply store. If you can 
find the kind with one side that has sticky-tape on it, it 
works best. Otherwise, you need to have white glue as 
well. Each child had different colored felt backing, 
based on her favorite color at the time. I also purchased several rolls of clear shelf liner. I put the felt on two 
pieces of cardboard, and then taped the boards 
together so it could fold in half for storage. I then cut 
out their favorite Disney characters from magazines, wrapping paper, ANYTHING that I could get my hands 
on. I laid out all the pieces onto the shelf liner to 
“laminate” them. I attached felt on the back of the 
design, and stored everything in baggies. You can also substitute magnetic backing and a magnet board in 
place of the felt. It was labor-intensive, but they played 
for hours! Having their own colored backing helped in 
sorting when they shared their characters too.

5. Plan ahead, but be flexible. Some travelers are 
planners, like myself, and have every detail of the trip covered. I have the most organized packing lists and 
travel itineraries. Yet something is always forgotten, or 
the best plans go haywire. Teach your children flexibility, keep your sense of humor, and roll with the punches to 
fill each trip with positive memories. Some of our crazier moments include driving over a shop vac in the highway 
at 75 m.p.h., weather related flight cancellations, and having a child step in a fire ant hill on the side of the 
road while taking a picture of the “Welcome to 
Louisiana” sign. How we handled those moments kept 
us laughing together and defined us as a family. When 
you go into a trip knowing it won’t be perfect, there 
will be tired kids (and grown-ups), and weather or travel arrangements don’t always go according to “the plan," 
you are prepared for whatever comes your way.
I will end with one of my favorite stories from a trip 
to Mt. Rushmore. As we were making the long drive 
west, we had a scheduled stop at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. Across the street was a doll 
museum (not on our itinerary). We decided to check 
out the doll museum, and in it, my husband spotted 
his long lost Jolly Green Giant stuffed toy. He described 
his love for this toy, and how it went missing many years earlier on one of his family vacations. The girls were 
both amazed and humored at hearing this grown 
man’s story about a lost stuffed toy. On the return 
trip, we had another scheduled overnight stop in 
Blue Earth, Minnesota. When we pulled into our hotel 
parking lot, my husband quietly pointed out to me, 
through the glass of the swimming pool enclosure, 
a GIANT, 20-foot statue of the jolly green giant. I 
secretly showed the kids, through the windows, that 
the Green Giant was waiting for us! The kids and I blindfolded my husband, who at this point was playing dumb, and I drove him to the statue. The kids ripped 
off the blindfold, and my husband shrieked with 
delight while the kids giggled with laughter and 
excitement. That unplanned surprise was one of our 
best moments as a family.
Have fun making your own positive vacation memories! 

9 Comments to Making Family Vacations Memorable:

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alice on Tuesday, June 19, 2018 4:46 AM
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elite assignment help on Thursday, July 26, 2018 2:33 AM
Life is a blessing and it is important to value it for any good reason.I really liked this impressive article and learnt so many good health tips from this.
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anonymous on Monday, August 13, 2018 6:44 AM
nice one
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Two Squares on Wednesday, August 29, 2018 6:38 AM
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superiorpapers on Wednesday, September 05, 2018 4:54 AM
After following these simple steps you can easily make your family vocations memorable. If you own your own methods then you also make your vocations more better. Hence you can do anything to make your family vocation more better.
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Ed on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 8:20 AM
Reply to comment review on Friday, November 30, 2018 3:36 AM
It is very nice to spend most of the with the family. Planning vacation is indeed one of the exciting moments, how much more when the vacation will really happen. We need this kind of time with the family amidst the stress of work and such stuff that making us stressed. We need to unwind to relax our mind and planning a vacation is the best thing to do. It's so nice to have a vacation away from the city and spend more on nature because it will really freshen up one's mind.
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Sani on Sunday, December 02, 2018 11:14 PM
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