3 Keys to the Quick and Easy Family Vacation

After months of begging, I finally convinced my awesome wife to share some of her wisdom.  She makes so much of our travel possible.  I pick locations and take pictures, she pretty much does the rest.  The rest is in her words on how to plan a perfect quick and easy family vacation.

As I sat in my house today I realized that it had become like a little prison… okay, not a little prison, especially when you consider how small prison cells are, but I needed to get out.  It had been a little while since I left town and I was in desperate need of an escape. Living in Las Vegas, you would think that entertainment is just a part of life.  Like everywhere else, however, it can be suffocating seeing the same landscape with the same weather, in the same places everyday, which warrants an escape regardless of where you live.

There, of course, are a couple things that make running away for a quick vacation more difficult than just possessing a desire, such as work, children, money and previous commitments. If you are like me, fear not, there is a way to get a break without breaking the delicate balance of life. Here are three keys that will allow you to have a fun escape with your family.

1: Set the Tone

Before you try and get away, have a plan.  When you are dealing with a short period of time or limited funds, the worst thing you can do is assume you will be able to do it all.  My husband and I often have different visions of what vacations will look like.  I want relaxing family time and adorable memories and he wants to be exposed to nature so he can capture the perfect landscape (okay, he wants all the family stuff too).  This isn’t to say that we can’t both have our way because we usually do as long as we both realize we will be compromising and accommodating each other.

The easiest way to feel let down by a travel experience is to have expectations that are not met. The easiest way to set the tone is to talk it out with those you are going with.  This could mean you tell your significant other that you want to relax, get a massage and shop when your usual vacation is more action and adventure.  You could also decide you really need to commune with nature and want to spend your time hiking or camping.  It doesn’t matter what you choose to do as long as it is out in the open what everyone should expect. By setting the tone of the getaway you will now know what to look for in a location, activities and resources.

This is also a vital step if you are travelling with friends or family. Depending on who I travel with, I am either a follower or a leader. If someone invited you to tag along on a trip they are planning, make sure you have an understanding of what they want to do and that you want to do that too.  This usually requires everyone to be more flexible than a private vacation.

Recently, we did a quick and easy family vacation day trip out of town with a few friends and their children. The three families had different times they were available to meet, so instead of trying to over plan and accommodate everyone, I planned a few different activities and told the families to call when they got into town and we would tell them where we were. Of course, it would have been fun to spend the entire day with everyone, but life happens and it isn’t worth spending your precious time trying to make everyone have the experience you want to have.

I should also mention that setting the tone means setting a budget.  I am not a huge believer in budgeting travel down to the penny because part of the fun is paying for an experience you may not normally spend money on, however, that does not mean blowing your monthly grocery money just because you are out and about.  When you have decided the tone, you will be able to decide that you should pack some snacks so you can go horseback riding or plan to eat out because you intend to spend your day hiking at a local park.  Nothing ruins the good feelings of a vacation more than coming home and realizing you spent way too much on things that just weren’t important to you.

2: Keep it close to home

Laying on the beaches of Greece for two weeks sounds pretty amazing, but once you have kids, a career, obligations and a budget, you realize how much work goes into making that dream a reality. Big travel experiences are amazing, but, for most people, they require a big commitment of time, energy and money (even on the cheap end). This is the reason that sometimes it is worth keeping it close to home.

There are several ways to keep it close to home while still maintaining a vacation atmosphere.  First, you can rent a hotel room in your city or local metropolitan (assuming you have one decently close) and playing tourist.  This is easily accomplished by logging onto Groupon or Living Social and looking up activities that a local would NEVER do. You can step it up and even pretend that you are from somewhere else when asked.

If a hotel room and a fake identity isn’t enough for you, then start looking outside of your immediate proximity to small towns within an hour or two drive that work for an easy family vacation.  The whole point of a quick vacation is to keep it easy, and dealing with the airport, delays, baggage pick up, renting a vehicle or arranging transportation doesn’t really sound “easy” to me.  If you think there is nothing of note close you, I can sympathize. Vegas is a big town in the middle of nowhere, we are fairly close to a lot of things but within a few hours we only have a few tiny towns.

Before you give up and assume you’ll never get away, log onto those towns’ websites and see what they are offering.  They could have some community gems that you didn’t think of or be hosting a festival that would totally make a weekend away worth it.  If you really can’t think of anywhere close, it may be time to do the unthinkable and reach out to those around you.  No one knows your area and the potential getaways better than those who are faced with the same dilemma as you.  The best recommendations I have gotten have been scribbled on a note pad or napkin when someone mentioned a fun trip they took that I didn’t want to forget. The whole point of an easy getaway it to keep it easy.  The most stressful part of travelling is the actual travel.  My husband often stress dreams about baggage size limitations. Keeping it close saves you time, money and a huge hassle while still providing you a change of scenery.

3: Set a Plan for the Day

I think it is becoming evident that I am a Type A personality (aka a little controlling) and that is something that I recognize and I understand that others do not enjoy planning as much as I do. For those who insist they do not need to plan out what they plan to do on quick vacations, I salute you, but for most, a little time spent on an agenda will make for a much smoother and relaxing vacations.

When planning out your days during an easy family vacation it is best to start with the activities you want to do.  After deciding what you hope to do, I like to estimate about how much time I think they will take and then plan out my eating schedule accordingly because, like most people, a lack of food on my part, or my children, leads to disaster.

Another way to plan your day is to rank your activities by what you really want to do and then have some contingency activities in case something goes wrong or you are left with 5 hours and nothing to do and a few kids who don’t consider an afternoon nap beneficial. If you don’t get to your contingency activities there is no loss, you got to enjoy what you had looked forward to the most, but I have often found little gems because the rain made a hike implausible with toddlers.

If you really don’t want to plan your trip, fine, I can’t make you set an itinerary, but I still have a recommendation or two.  Give an ounce of forethought into the tone of your trip.  If you and your travel companion have different expectations, it would be worth making sure each of you has activities that you are excited about planned into the day so no one feels that they are being neglected or tagging along on someone else’s trip. Secondly, give a little thought to your food arrangements.  I can go most the day without food, but as soon as I am hungry, it gets dangerous. If you are trying to save money and eat in, then plan accordingly, but if you are eating out, then make sure you have an idea of where local restaurants are located.  This sounds ridiculous, but we spent two hours on Christmas Eve during one vacation looking for food before finally settling for McDonald’s because we didn’t take the time to make sure somewhere would be open or where the major retail areas were.

Finally, look into your main activity to make sure it is plausible.  Recently, we wanted to go to Zion National Park.  We are only two hours away and there is plenty there to keep the entire family happy.  After looking up the park hours, we realized we had chosen one of the busiest weekends of the year to go.  This means that we would fight for parking and would be subject to 3 hour long lines (not the first time that has happened to us at Zion). None of this sounded like fun to me.  We decided to still get away, but to save Zion National Park for another day.

Travelling isn’t as simple as a lot of blogs would like you to believe.  Even if you manage to travel for free, it is still work to arrange, to get there and to make sure that investment was worth it, all of which makes a quick weekend or a day trip even more appealing. When you give it a little thought and a little more discussion, you can find a home away from home to refresh once or several times a year for the perfect quick and easy family vacation.

And, don’t forget to join our Facebook group, Photography and Travel, to share tips, favorite locations and questions!

2 thoughts on “3 Keys to the Quick and Easy Family Vacation

    1. Thanks Roseanne! We are insanely swamped with stuff right now, jobs and new baby coming, but please do check back in a month or so and maybe we can work something out. Feel free to email us at brentdhuntley@yahoo.com.

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