What a difference a year makes. This time last year we were 2 ½ months into our pandemic shelter in place with no plans of summer vacations. For my travel loving family that just got back from a two week vacation to Australia in February 2020, the highlight of summer 2020 was a road trip for 4th of July to visit family in Baltimore, MD (which we absolutely LOVED). So what does summer 2021 have in store? Hopefully you’re fully vaccinated and ready for some normalcy. For my family, we aren’t quite ready to get the kiddies on a plane but that doesn’t mean there is no fun to be had. Vacations should be about having fun and making the most with the time, resources, and means that you have. So here are some of my summer vacation tips to help you with whatever rest, relaxation, and fun you have planned.
WHAT TO PACK?
I’ve been complimented on how well I pack and I think it has a lot to do with my planning. I like to think of different scenarios and I’m always looking for simple solutions. I’m definitely not trying to solve all the world’s problems but I like to be prepared for the potential needs of our 4 person unit. I start with the basics – what can occupy idle minds and hands while traveling. My kids each have small backpacks that they get to pack themselves with their “things” they want to bring. This varies from time to time but I must emphasize the “small” part of the backpack. They need to be able to carry it themselves (my kiddies are 4 and 6 years old) and the size limits them bringing too much.
Their essentials are crayons (no markers…and I think you know why), small coloring books, notepads, and stickers. My go-to for fun add-ons to what they already have is the Target Bullseye section. For those who aren’t familiar, this is the seasonal $1 – $5 area in Target with all the cute little trinkets. Depending on where we’re going, we’ll even pack a small set of LEGOs, puzzles, books, and baggies for approved nature walk finds (only what is on the ground, no plucking leaves). One easy and great game we travel with and the kids love is Spot It! The final must-haves we pack are our refillable water bottles, sunblock, travel size hand sanitizing wipes (can be used for hands and surfaces), and a small First Aid kit for any boo-boos.
This summer is all about the road trip for my family. We’ve perfected what we need for successful car rides. Again, it’s all about occupying the littles ones and preventing the infamous, “Are we there yet?” rants. We enjoy traditional car games like “I Spy” and the license plate game where we try to identify different state license plates. A new game we’ve learned and made our own is “Banana”; where you call out if you see a yellow car (can’t be a service vehicle of any kind). Our kids have taken it further with “Tomato”, “Blueberry”, and “Marshmallow”. We also encourage our kids to take in their surroundings and utilize those crayons and notepads. For kids that are prone to car sickness, it might help them to look out the window and take in the sights and draw what they see on the drive.
One of the best things about a road trip for me has always been the music. With my family we have had to learn how to share music time. If you have a music streaming service, I suggest creating different playlists (download them in case you’re in weak cell service areas during the trip) for each family member. By doing this, everyone gets a chance to hear their jams. My husband and I also have podcasts ready to play once the kids are napping since they tend to talk through anything that’s not music, haha.
YOU HAVE ARRIVED – NOW WHAT?
When staying at a rental property (AirBnB, Vrbo), I like to plan the first two meals (normally dinner and breakfast). Depending on the length of the drive and time of arrival, the last thing we want to have to deal with is what and where we are eating. Some easy plan ahead meals are soup and grilled cheese or a simple pasta dish. I discovered Shake-n-Pour Pancake mix a couple years ago and it’s an easy way to get your vacay morning breakfast going.
When staying at a place with a kitchen, I like to have a few meals planned to cook. I know vacations are about relaxing so to each their own, however, I like to enjoy the space I’ve rented if it has an awesome outdoor grilling area or gourmet kitchen. Going out to dinner is great but with a family of 4, it’s not a necessity for me every night when on vacation. For this reason, I like to pack some pantry essentials when staying at a rental property. Vacation destination grocery stores tend to have ridiculous mark-ups, so why pay a premium for gourmet peanut butter when you can bring your own. I do tend to purchase fresh produce, dairy, and/or meats once I get to my destination. The key is not to over do it by cooking that Beef Steaks Wellington recipe you’ve been wanting to try. Keep it simple with some of your fewest ingredients and simplest recipes.
Finally, my family LOVES snacking. I tend to bring some of our fave snacks to again avoid paying for the over priced versions at the vacation grocery store. Pistachios, applesauce pouches, little raisin boxes, snack pack chips, and/or microwave popcorn are great to have on hand. I will even leave a bowl of apples or boxed raisins out for the kids to grab to hold them over in the mornings before breakfast. I like to take a few snacks with me as well to combat the inevitable “I’m hungry” from my kids when we’re out and about exploring.
DON’T FORGET TO VACAY!
My best advice for summer vacations is don’t over do it – pace yourself. Try to plan downtime in the evenings for the parents separate from the kiddies. Have your kids watch a movie in their own space while you enjoy a glass of wine and the beautiful view wherever you are. Make it a point to have a relaxation period of an hour or two in the late afternoon (prior to dinner plans) for everyone to decompress from the day. For those who are committed to their fitness regimen, stick to your workout routine in creative ways to stay active (hike, swim, or just walk/run along the beach). At the end of the day, the worst feeling is coming back from a vacation and feeling like you need another vacation. Remember this summer has to be better than last summer! If I’ve learned anything from the past year it is to focus on what I am fortunate enough to have and enjoy. I am so thankful for having a fun filled summer back!
Avoca Beach, NSW, Australia – February 2020