One of the biggest challenges of putting together a family vacation is figuring just how much relaxation time you can work in without driving the kids stir-crazy: Sure, you could happily sit on a beach with a book for the entire week, but the little ones need more activity than that. These four types of trips will make everyone happy: They offer plenty for kids and teens to do (with or without their parents) but, with a little planning, still give adults plenty of time to kick back and de-stress.
Camping may not sound very relaxing if you’re the person who’s in charge of packing food, tents, sleeping bags, gear, and activities for your entire family – or if you’re the one who keeps seeing rain in the forecast – but once you set up camp in the great outdoors, it doesn’t take long to let the sights and sounds of nature push all the stresses of your daily life out of your mind. Spend your days reading by the tent, splashing in the lake, or tiring out the kids on an afternoon hike; then sleep like a baby under the stars after campfire dinners, s’mores, and ghost stories. For maximum relaxation, choose a site out of Wi-Fi and 3G range so you can all unplug.
When you think of a trip to an amusement park, do you only think of long ride lines, scorching hot summers, and overpriced tickets? If you plan a little smarter, you can avoid of all those: choose an off-season time to visit without the crowds (and the heat); watch for deals on entrance fees and hotel stays; and research smaller parks that offer just as many thrills without the big-name branding. Once you’re there, plan to spend more than one day so that you don’t have to rush through the attractions: You can return to your favorite coasters when the lines are shorter, check out a stage show after lunch, and even head back to the hotel in the afternoon for a few hours of swimming (or napping) before hitting up the park at night.
Cruise lines are always pushing their high fun factor – they offer excursions, waterslides, stage shows, rock climbing, and much more – but many of them also have childcare services that make it possible for parents to get a little downtime for themselves. In between the beach trips and family activities, let your kids join in activities designed for their specific age group and treat yourself to a massage, a cocktail, an hour by the pool, or – better yet – an afternoon of doing absolutely nothing at all.
We know, we know: Few trips sound less relaxing than packing your kids into the car for a long drive. But the family road trip has one major benefit that many other trips can’t match: You set your own schedule, stick to your own itinerary, and can change your plans whenever you want. Do the kids want to stay an extra day to see that children’s museum again? No problem. Do you want to switch your hotel plans at the last minute? Just make a call. Decided you want to come home a day early – or stay a day longer? You have no plane tickets to rebook. It’s the ultimate in planning flexibility – plus, if you have older teens, you can share driving duties with them (assuming, of course, you find it relaxing to have your teen at the wheel).