Ahh, Vacations… A time to kick back, relax (as much as you can with kids, that is) disconnect from the stresses of the real world and just have some fun. We can all look back and remember holidays fondly… whether it was with our families as children, with our friends as adults or even with our kids in recent years.
But for everyone, there are a few holidays that stand out as next-level fun and relaxation… They are the holidays that you look back on photos fondly and spark those memories or “had to be there” stories you’ll keep talking about for years to come. Whether it is 10/10 amazing every step of the journey, or just super memorable and special because of a few key moments of connection – some holidays just have that magic quality to them.
Whether you only have a few days, a long weekend or a couple of weeks – time spent together as a family, disconnecting from the hustle and bustle – and reconnecting with each other is precious. In partnership with Discovery Parks, we’ve broken down what you should be looking for as a parent to get the absolute most out of your family vacay and elevate it to that magic, memorable level.
1. Getting there is half the fun!
…Or it should be anyway! As a parent, it is totally natural to completely dread the travelling part of the holiday – the thought of 10+ hours in a car, or on a plane is enough to trigger anyone’s flight or fight response. But try to think back on some of your favourite and most memorable holidays in the past… Many of us have such fond memories of singing along to music on a road trip, stopping at a cool landmark or travelling on a plane for the first time.
If your little one is very young, it is true they probably won’t remember it – but as they reach that toddler age and beyond, you’ll be surprised just how special they may find the journey. Of course, they will still probably fuss and not enjoy parts of the trip (because #kids)- and they definitely aren’t wired to be sitting down for long stints!
So to combat that, make sure to do lots of stops for them to stretch their legs along the way. Plan your stops out where you can have a snack, get some fresh air and burn off some energy. If there are any cool landmarks on your way it’s a great way to squeeze in some fun into the travel part of your trip and it will hopefully improve their (and your!) mood too.
For your first couple of family holidays – it can be a good idea to start off somewhere not too far away from home. Plus, you may be surprised just how many amazing locations are just a couple of hours away. We recently escaped to Discovery Parks Dubbo – which is just over 5 hours from Sydney – and we’re already planning our next getaway!
2. Have some things planned out – but leave room for spontaneity
It can be a really hard line to draw for how much should be planned, versus how much you should just go with the flow while away on a family vacation. On the one hand, if you don’t plan anything – it can feel like your holiday is over before you know it and you didn’t get to everything you wanted to do. On the other hand, holidaying with kids is a completely different ballgame than your pre-kids holiday life and if you focus too much on getting them from attraction to attraction, you can miss those moments of calm connection.
Plan out just a few small key things you want to do each day (e.g. go to the beach, watch the stars together, visit the playground) and then piece them in around how your little ones are feeling. If you have a big outing planned, maybe prepare for a quiet night in, rather than taking them straight back out again.
This way you can make sure you are doing all the activities you’ve been looking forward to, as well as taking time to go with the flow and let your kids (and their moods!) lead a little too.
3. Try to stay in the moment
Ahh, Instagram – it has truly changed the vacay game for many of us. We often see these pictures of amazing family holidays, everyone smiling at the camera and looking like they are having this perfect family moment… and it is a whole lot to try to live up to!
Whilst we are all for taking family photos – you’re definitely going to want to have things to remember the trip by – but don’t forget to stay in the moment too. Make taking pictures a quick, candid affair before putting your phone away and just being in the moment. Take the snaps and then upload them at night or when you’re back home.
4. Have a sanctuary to go back to
Once upon a time when you travelled your accommodation was often just a place to store your bags and rest your head. But when you travel with kids your accommodation really does need to be your home away from home. We recently had the fun trip of visiting Discovery Parks Dubbo and by far one of our favourite things was just having our little sanctuary to go back to after a busy day of action and exploration. Our kids are experiencing a looooot of different sensations and emotions while away on holiday so it is really important that you are also giving them just a few hours of downtime each day. You’ll no doubt need it too!
Whether you bring a book or some colouring in for them to do in the late afternoon or continue with some of your usual go-to bedtime routines – you’ll notice they’ll be less likely to have a classic holiday emotional meltdown.
Even if you are doing something like camping try to prioritise some quiet time for them in the tent or around the campsite as they may not be able to communicate that they are overwhelmed or overstimulated until it is a little bit too late.
5. Disconnect from stress
You’re probably reading that heading like, “If only it was that easy”, right? Yes, while we know it is super unhelpful to be told to stress less when being a parent can be pretty stressful – especially when navigating a brand new environment. However, there are a few stresses that you can leave behind at home which will be a big help.
If you have taken time off of work – take time off of work! We know it seems obvious, but how many of us have taken a family holiday only to then be checking emails, or sending stuff when the kids go to bed. Remember this isn’t just a holiday for the kids! We know not everyone can have the luxury of leaving work at home when on vacation – but if it is something you can do (even if it involves setting some boundaries!) it can definitely have a huge positive impact on your time away.
Rather than sending emails at 10 pm at night – use that time to get some seriously needed sleep, time on Instagram or bingeing that series you never get time for. If you have a partner who is away with you too, this can be a great time to reconnect with them too – look for a reputable local babysitter that might give you an opportunity for some 1:1 time, or simply enjoy a sunset wine together on the balcony or watch a movie when the kids are asleep.
6. Explore something new
When you think about a really memorable holiday – often they feel extra special when you get to experience something brand new. Whether it is a new cuisine, a new skill, a new activity or seeing a new amazing landscape or attraction, finding something new and exciting to do with your kids can really inject some magic into your holiday.
Plus, our kids tend to be just that little bit braver when you’re away on holiday. They are more open to trying new foods or even trying to make new friends when they are typically pretty shy. Encourage this by giving them lots of opportunities to try something new while you’re away and by modelling this behaviour yourself too. They’ll be much more open to trying a new cuisine if they see you digging in, or open to saying hi to another child on the playground if they see you chatting and talking to new people too.
We recently put this to the test on our trip to Discovery Parks Dubbo by setting some big, little adventures for us to complete while away…
7. Focus on connection
When we’re at home and in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, finding time for connection isn’t always easy so while away try to focus on really finding and soaking in those special moments. While they will definitely come naturally as making memories is definitely an inevitable part of being away as a family, try to think about what you can do to make it extra special.
Some children really value having that 1:1 time with their parents, and especially if they have siblings it can often be pretty hard to find time for it.
So, while away it is a great time to try to squeeze in some 1:1 time. If you have a partner, it can be a good idea to split up for an hour or two and just really focus on giving your little one some extra love and attention. Or if you’re spending time as a group, try out some activities the kids love doing together.
And if all else fails, watching the sunset over ice cream and talking about their favourite thing they did that day is always a winner!
8. Don’t expect perfection
And finally: don’t expect perfection. There probably will still be a few meltdowns, tantrums and things that don’t go quite to plan. But try to remember that probably even in a few days, you won’t be thinking about the stuff that went wrong, but rather all the precious memories you made. And even when things do go wrong (aka poop explosion on the way there, realising you didn’t pack them enough undies, or someone burnt the sausages on the BBQ) those are often the funny stories we retell for years to come.
Our kids can definitely pick up on our own stresses, so try not to sweat the small stuff and just think about the big picture. Focus on what really matters: connecting and having fun as a family!
At the end of the day, nothing can change how special it is to get some time away as a family. But hopefully, with these tips, you can plan, or go on your next adventure together and just get that bit more magic out of it.
This is a paid partnership between Kiindred x Discovery Parks.