School started back for us on Monday. It was definitely a bittersweet day for me. My oldest is in Kindergarten this year. It’s fun to see him beginning a new stage of life. It’s nice to pat myself on the back and know that we are past the diapers, baby food and sleepless nights. But it’s so sad too. His little brother misses him terribly each day.
It’s so quiet around the house with just one. I will miss going on adventures with them…heading to story time at the library, going to the children’s museum on a Tuesday morning, having a playdate at the zoo. Things will be so different now.
This new chapter of life means that our family needs to truly maximize the the school breaks and spend time together and make memories. I only have 13 summers until my oldest is gone. Now 13 years seems like a long(ish) time but when you break it down into a smaller piece, it sounds so finite: 13 summers. We need to make the most of this time, make lasting memories and make an effort to connect as a family.
One way I love to connect as a family is by traveling. It’s a great time to leave everything behind: friends, work, responsibility and just have fun together. Sometimes we go on crazy fun trips. Last year we went to Universal Studios for Family Forward and had the time of our lives. The kids are still talking about meeting Bumblebee, riding the Spiderman ride, the Harry Potter train, Minions and more. When we were lucky enough to be invited back again this year, I jumped at the chance. These are memories my kids will be talking about for ages. It’s fun to see the joy on their face and experience it with them.
But you don’t have to go on a huge trip to travel, connect and make memories. My boys and I spend the summer going on adventures together. They love it. Sometimes I let them pick where we go. Other times I surprise them and sometimes we pick an idea out of a hat and just go with it! Usually it’s just the three of us, but Dad comes us when he can or we’ll call in the grandparents to join us. There’s no reason the regular, everyday can’t be a time to connect too. I know my boys may not remember every weekend getaway or day trip we take but they will remember that Mom took them on adventures every summer and how much fun they had.
This family connection is so important. Making a plan to get out there is the first step but it does take a little effort. Here are 5 ways that we connect when traveling as a family:
1. Just Go!
Like I said above, it doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Just gather up your crew and get out there – even if it’s just for a day. Go on a nature walk, go camping, take a day trip to a neighboring town and explore. #TravelforReal. Your trip is yours; love the time you have! Take those once-in-a-lifetime trips when you can but don’t miss the moments in between!
2. Involve The Whole Family in Planning
When taking a trip we always show our kids some of the activity options. Each kid gets a day where they get to choose: where to go, what to do, what to eat. They love that we are doing their thing for the day. It also fosters creativity as they think of fun ideas. For older kids you can give them a budget and really put them in charge! This makes the vacation real to them. It’s their own experience. Not something someone else thought they’d like.
3. Create Traditions
We have trips we take for the boys’ birthdays every year. My older son loves to go to the waterpark in a neighboring town. My parents give him tickets as his birthday present every year and we all go together. My younger son’s birthday is at Christmas and we attend a small town festival together as a family every year. It’s a great way to spend their special day, celebrating each child while having fun and making memories in the process.
4. Limit Technology
This goes for everyone! You can’t connect with your kids if you are making work calls and checking emails. Plus it sends a message to your kids that they aren’t the most important in that moment. When you are on a trip, turn your phone off for a couple hours each day. Enjoy these precious moments. Explain that this time is for the family and they will get your undivided attention. For the kids, explain that you will have a technology-free time each day when you just spend time together. Be sure you set a good example.
5. Show Off!
When you get back from a trip, don’t let those pictures just sit on your camera card. Print them, display them, look at them. We have photos of our vacations and adventures all over the playroom. They are often conversation starter pieces. “Hey Mom, remember when we went there?” “Hey Mom, remember when we did this?” “Hey Mom, can we go do that together again?” These are the real, in-the-moment memories they’ll always remember.
As I said above, we are headed to Universal Studios once again with Mom It Forward in a few weeks. We are so excited to spend time at Loews Royal Pacific, see a Blue Man Group show, eat at restaurants at Universal’s City Walk like The Cowfish, spend an evening at Wet n Wild and so many more fun things and opportunities to connect and make memories. We absolutely can. not. wait!
One reason I love participating in Mom it Forward, Family Forward events with Universal is the emphasis they place on families and fostering family connections. But you don’t have to attend an event to reap the benefits! Check out Mom it Forward’s eBook series about Becoming a Super Hero Family. One of my favorites is Super Power #9: Connection. It’s full of ideas to strengthen those family bonds.
What are some of the ways you love to connect with your family? Need ideas? Check out my Explore section for more travel tips and adventure ideas.