Yes, that's the sound of the school bell again, but don't despair--you and your family can still build in a fun variation of the family vacation on the weekend or their next day off. Mini-vacations offer the same spirit-renewing benefits as their longer counterparts. The LaClairs of upstate New York said that one-day trips are a good match because "they fit into our time schedule and budget."
And there are plenty of fun things to do right in your own backyard. The trick often is in finding them and getting everyone behind the idea.
Give each family member the task of suggesting his or her favorite place to eat and something he or she would like to do. If their favorite restaurant is McDonald's, that's okay, but suggest to them that this is a great time to explore places they haven't been before. A picnic also qualifies. The main objective is just to allow everyone to pick his or her best idea for a fun time.
They may have plenty of ideas on their own, but if they would like to explore the possibilities, check out your city's Web site on the Internet. By logging onto any of the major search engines, you should be able to search for your city by name.
The Laclairs found that searching the Internet for a trip to the New York State Fair 2000 simplified things. "I got my whole driving route mapped out. It was very helpful," Peggy reported.
Be sure to let the kids know how far away their choices can be. Is it practical to say within 60 miles or would it be better for you and your family to stay within the city?
Have everyone place their ideas on 3"x 5" cards. Separate these cards into a stack for food-related activities and one for other activities. John Hannan cut up construction paper to make the cards. Their family color-coded the activities into the categories of food (yellow), indoor activities (red), and outdoor activities (blue). Fold the cards in fourths and place them in two separate containers. There will be more suggestions than you will have time for in one day, so explain that these are now your official good-time get-away boxes. Lynda Hannan said their indoor activities will be a treasure this winter.
When the time is right, designate which family members will draw the ideas from which box. Perhaps the youngest will get to take a card from the restaurant box and the oldest drawing one from the activity box. Depending on the activity, you can pick ideas for lunch and dinner with an activity in between. Or your activities may lend themselves well to a mid-morning activity, lunch and then another activity in the afternoon. The object is to make the day fun, not stressful, so plan your agenda accordingly.
Amy M. of California said that this is a great idea to formalize activities. "Sometimes it works for us to be spontaneous, but other times it works better to plan ahead," she said. "I love the idea of writing down the suggestions on note cards and picking, and of course the competition between who gets their card picked is huge in our family."
Post the one-day vacation plan in a place where everyone will see it. There will be little dissent since everyone has had input and will eventually have his or her ideas used. The California family also found that discussing everything in advance helped everyone know what to expect in terms of car ride, departure and special needs of some family members. "They also knew we had to leave by 2 p.m. so (the 18-month-old) could take her nap," she explained. The only thing left is to grab the camera and make some memories!
TAKE IT FROM ME: "We modified this one a little for our target audience of 1.5 and 4, but it definitely went well. John and I concurred that posting the planned activities a day in advance would produce constant badgering from our young and impatient Jack (4), so we explained the mini vacation concept on Sunday, the day planned for fun." --The Hannans