Story by Nicole Keck
Vacay.ca Family Travel Columnist
Call it what you want — call it three days; call it 72 hours; call it 4,320 minutes if you really want to make it sound lengthy, but a long weekend means valuable extra time with the ones we love. With a long weekend just about here in several provinces in Canada, those of us with travel plans want to make the most of our trip so that on Tuesday we will return to our normal routine feeling relaxed and rejuvenated, having made some special memories. Here are 10 ways to help you stress less and involve the whole family while you enjoy your three-day time away.
1. Cut down on travel time. If you are still deciding where to go, consider staying fairly close to home; less time on the road means more time having fun at your destination, not to mention less fuel. Draw a circle on a map showing the possibilities within a two- to three-hour drive, then get creative.
2. Chill out. Leave “the need for speed” at home and switch from rush-hour mode to vacay mode. It doesn’t really matter if the guy in front of you is in cruise control at precisely the posted speed limit, or a dreaded 5 km/h under; just have fun in the car with your family. You can find some great safety suggestions for driving while on holiday here.
3. Let the kids each choose one “must do” activity. Within reason, of course; winter camping in tents, or say, base jumping, may need to be vetoed … but, then again, maybe not. It’s your trip.
4. Ask if the hotel or resort has a suite available. At least try to reserve something where the bedroom has a door so that not everyone has to go to bed at 8 pm when the littlest ones do.
5. Make it a family project. While you are finalizing plans or scouting out things to do, remember kids are Internet gurus; put them to work (pardon me, “involve” them) and you may be surprised at the good ideas they come up with. Consider having a family meeting about it before you leave. If they know they’ve had input and their opinions matter, you’ll likely have happier travellers.
6. Let the BFFs come. Letting your children, or even just the oldest, bring someone along means having a built-in buddy. That way there is less chance of your tween or teen feeling bored, or like they have nobody their age to swim in the pool with, for instance. And speaking of the pool…
7. Two words: Sunless Tanner. Let’s face it, February can be frightening. For one thing, it’s the pale season. It’s also right about when the fun of holiday eating has faded and the realization sets in that bathing-suit season is fast-approaching … oh, the horror. Solution? Slap on some sunless tanner for a few days before you leave, maybe even splurge on a great new swimsuit, and then stop fretting and just have fun with the kids. They won’t remember how you looked in your bathing suit, but they will remember if you refused to get in the pool with them. (Ouch! Sorry, too far perhaps?)
8. Keep clothing simple. For ladies, just bring three things to wear on the bottom; jeans, trousers and nice yoga or lounge pants for lazy afternoons. Pick a few tops that can do double duty and maybe a sweater and you’re done. For little kids; go for comfort and don’t bring too much, maybe just one back up outfit. Men and teenagers — FFY (fend for yourself).
9. Try to squeeze in some adult time. Some resorts have supervised activities for little kids that allow parents a couple hours to themselves. Use it to talk and catch up, take a walk, or have a quiet meal (ah yes, remember quiet meals?). Alternatively, is there a cousin or friend that might appreciate being brought along? Young teenagers usually like entertaining kids, which could translate into a little more breathing space for you and a fun getaway for him or her.
10. Remember, “recreation” means to “re-create.” Give some thought to what has been going on in your family and what each member may need. Do the kids need some one-on-one time with mom or dad? Is there a subject that needs to be addressed that could be softened by discussing it casually, in a relaxed setting? Reconnect with your family in the best way you can so that your long weekend turns out to be refreshing for everyone.
So if you are in Alberta, Saskatchewan or Ontario, enjoy the long weekend. If you happen to be in Manitoba, have a great Louis Riel Day. And to all in Prince Edward Island, happy Islander Day. And hang in there one more year, British Columbia, and in 2013 you’ll celebrate your first Family Day. Wherever you happen to be, make the most of your weekend, short or long, by spending it wisely and with the ones you love.