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10 powerful ways to make your family vacations memorable every year!

Try some (or all) of these powerful ways to make family vacations memorable for your kids.

As we planned for a trip up to Boston, I reminisced with the boys about another day trip. “Do you remember going on the subway in New York?” I asked. They gave me blank stares. I ran through several other events of that day with the same results. I was stunned! What had been a well-orchestrated and happy trip that lived on in my memory, was as absent to their minds as parking spaces or public bathrooms had been in the Big Apple! 

What were all these family outings for if the kids wouldn’t remember them later, I wondered! Were we wasting time and money giving them amazing experiences that they wouldn’t remember!? Surely that couldn’t be true, since I have fond memories of many trips in my childhood. 

I had to find a way to keep these memories rich and alive for my kids. Browsing around, I read an article about how to maximize vacation happiness (I think it was this one, but I am not sure). Several of the points stood out to me as ways we can ensure that our vacation adventures live on in our collective memories.

Yes, there are ways to shape your summer to create lasting memories. Here’s how to create memorable vacations with your kids instead of… well, National Lampoon… unless, of course, that’s the kind of memories you’re hoping to create!

create memorable vacations

How to make your family vacations memorable for your kids

1. Build the Anticipation of the Vacation!

The first step is to build anticipation towards an event or outing. We derive so much pleasure simply from anticipating a positive event. Don’t think this ship has sailed just because it’s August! There’s still days, weekends, and Labor Day to anticipate! Even if your children started school, anticipating end-of-summer fun when they get off the bus is exciting, don’t you think! Plan a few things you can do with your kids this season – and throughout the year! Involve your children in the planning process to build excitement and forge those memories early on.

2. Talk it up! As you plan, talk it up! Share your excitement about what you’ll see and do there. Tell about any experiences you’ve had at the vacation destination, or similar adventure. Ask questions to find out what your kids want to see and do.

3. Research fun facts and information. When I was a classroom teacher, I would help the history teacher as he had students write a newspaper report about Washington D.C. prior to our 3-day field trip to the city. Because kids researched facts and saw pictures of where they would soon visit, the actual experience had a greater impact, and I am sure created a lasting memory.

4. Create a folder, vision board, or Pinterest board to collect the details visually.

5. Read books about your vacation destination. We love to read camping books all year long so we can relive memories and look forward to the next year’s adventures!

6. Find a unique or new activity

You’ll likely have several ideas by now… I encourage you to do something new or unique while you’re away. Research shows we tend to value unique experiences, so go for it! (Dare I insert a little YOLO here?). We go camping at the same spot year after year. While some of our activities are “old favorites,” I always find a new restaurant, sports activity, or hiking adventure to try. This keeps each year distinct from the others.

Create Memorable Vacations

7. Guard against the comparison trap

Once you’ve enjoyed your trip, event, experience, or whatever you chose to do, guard against comparing when you share it with others. Playing the comparison game only steals the joy of your moment. Definitely stay off social media while you’re away.

Even when you’re home, avoid the constant scroll of other people’s vacations. Maybe don’t even post yours until you’ve had a chance to truly savor the experience.Honestly? Sometimes for me, this means I have to put down the camera and enjoy the moment. Don’t forget to take SOME photos though, because that can also help solidify memories.

8. Schedule a family vacation for the beginning or end of summer

Generally, our brains remember beginnings and endings best, and we tend to muddle up the middle. I love when we can whisk the kids away right after hubby gets out of school for the summer. But a Labor Day excursion is also a great way to end the season. The end of summer is perfect timing to plan a go-out-with-a-bang activity for your family. Going on a much-anticipated vacation or activity at the end of summer, means it’ll leave a more lasting impression!

9. Tell the parts that mattered most. 

We all have the choice of what story to tell. Now, this isn’t about “faking it” or creating an unrealistically perfect “Insta-world.” It’s about choosing to focus on what matters. Choosing to see opportunity instead of disaster.

Maybe your child did throw up on you in the tent, and maybe you did have to see a chiropractor for back pain midway through your camping trip (more on that in the next post!). Instead of focusing on bumps in the road, choose the best and most exciting parts of your vacation to tell and retell.

Like how your five year old swam with you to the island in the middle of the lake.

And how you stayed up late making monkey bread over the campfire.

Or the canoe ride through a forest of lilypads at sunset.

Selecting which stories to highlight is a great chance to model to our children how to focus on the positive.

10. Create a keepsake to hold your family vacation memories

All this retelling… be sure to capture it, but from your child’s perspective. Mom and dads, now that you’ve done all that planning and created memorable vacations for your kids, let them share their tales with you! Have your children create their own book about their experiences! 

  • We’ve had great times reliving our Washington D. C. trip by reading the book my 5 year old drew and wrote about our trip.
  • You can also create photo collages to frame at your local drugstores quick print shop.
  • Or, fill a digital photo frame with pictures of your vacation to watch over and over through the next year.

PIN THIS–> to your parenting or vacation Pinterest boards to remind yourself how to make your family vacations memorable EVERY time you travel!

As the years go by, these memories will be the glue that holds your family together. I promise you that–my siblings and I STILL laugh about the crazy ride up Pike’s Peak, because we have a video and have recounted it many times over the years! Try some (or all) of these powerful ways to make family vacations memorable for your kids.

Comment below on your favorite way to keep family vacations memorable for your family!

April Yap

Sunday 29th of January 2017

Nice read! I agree that building anticipation builds up the hype for the kids. My Parents used to bring us to some camping trips from time to time and our dad would tell us some scary camping stories and it makes the trip more memorable! One time when were trekking at the Yellowstone park my dad would share us some random memories about the place and it just makes the experience way better!

Sand Casting: Capture Beach Memories with Kids - Melissa & Doug

Friday 29th of July 2016

[…] details. Then, ask the kids to retell their favorite moment of the day. Try these ideas for how to create memorable vacations with your kids through storytelling […]