Taking the family back home for a visit this summer? Here are ways to both maximize your time and ensure the trip is memorable.
Plan – When my kids were little, I took them to visit my mom for two weeks every summer. We scheduled alternating days to stay home or go out. I reached out to family and friends I wanted to connect with ahead of time, so when we arrived we didn’t spend precious time figuring out what to do.
Let everyone pick one thing – I asked each person to choose one thing they wanted to do on our trip. I then made sure we covered those things and scheduled everything else around them.
Let the kids pack themselves – Guide them but let them choose what to bring. My kids were allowed one backpack with toys. They also picked five movies each to bring for the long drive and for a stay-at-home day during the trip.
Pack an ice chest with basic foods – I shopped and emptied my fridge, taking what I could, then made another grocery trip later. This helped us jump into the fun right away.
Pack toys to leave behind – I cleaned out toys the kids didn’t play with anymore and brought them with us. Grammy stored them, and the kids loved having different toys to play with each trip.
Visit play dates – For young children, an hour or two visiting with friends or family at a park allows them to run and play to their hearts’ content. Choose different parks (elementary schools have great playgrounds) and schedule who’ll you be meeting ahead of time to ensure you have everyone covered.
Schedule larger gatherings – Only have one day? Pick the day, time, and location, and communicate it to everyone. You could plan a picnic or host a BBQ. One year, I posted a day and time at a park on Facebook. It turned into a mini high school reunion with several friends and their kids attending.
Take group photos – I’m known as the photo queen. I use a tripod and camera with an automatic timer to take a group photo every time we visit. You never know when you’ll see everyone again.
Bring some traditions with you – Our family has a family pizza movie night every week. We continue this tradition even when we travel.
And make new ones – Napa has a model railroad club which meets every Friday night at the fairgrounds. Through the years, this was by far the thing my boys loved to do most. We make sure we go to watch the trains at least once every trip.
Utilize local services – Every town has a library, second-hand store, ice cream parlor, bowling alley, miniature golf, and fire station. These make great outings, as do local historical sites. On one trip we visited Jack London State Park, which was a hike, museum, picnic, and family gathering with cousins, aunts, and uncles all rolled into one.
Share afterwards – On the drive home, discuss the trip, favorites, and ask which activities everyone wanted to do but didn’t get to. Write ideas down to start planning for the next outing.
Denise M. Colby is a freelance writer, blogger, wife, and mother of teenage boys