I recently worked on a family vacation campaign with Embassy Suites about how to plan a family trip that’s enjoyable for everyone and how the hotel you choose can make or break a family getaway. I think it’s fair to say the same about the company you keep. We all know that when it comes to family we don’t get to choose but there are ways to make a family vacation with the best memories ever! We just returned from a cruise with many of my friends from NCL. Years ago I worked with NCL and became the God Mother of the Sun. David and I took all our kids plus an extra teenager and set sail on an ambitious family adventure.
First we had a family meeting and let everyone chime in on things they hoped to do and activities they wished to explore. Everyone got to pick certain activities and had to honor and respect the others’ wishes. I love this “own a day” concept because it gets the kids involved in planning and it’s not all on Ms. Brooke Burke, the family concierge. The kids did their own research and got excited about exploring new destinations. We also all agreed to have an adventurous spirit and try new things. In St. Thomas my big girls went parasailing and little Rain was too scared to even ride the jet ski to get out to the launch boat. After a little support and some convincing she decided to give it a try and soon enough was facing her fears high above the Indie Skies. It was such a treat for Shaya, who is super brave, but always too young for the fun stuff. Only in the French West Indies will they waive all liabilities to make a little guy smile. He said “Mama this is my dream.” Experiencing those words was a dream for me too.
We also decided that everyone would be allowed some privacy and freedom to do their own thing. That is hard to come by when traveling together and is tougher for the little ones, but David and I were able to schedule a date night while my teenager watched the little ones. Then my older kids were able to hook up with friends while we sucked it up at the kid slides. We met another family with four kids of all ages which was a total miracle. I was reminded that no matter how much there is to do, most kids are happy chilling in one room, enjoying each other’s company. I found 8 kids crammed into 1 room playing a game of charades while the rest of the ship raged on.
One of my favorite sites was watching my girls conquer the ropes course. They are so fearless.
We spent a day on the Bahamian beach listening to a wise local woman named Chubby. She spent hours braiding my kids’ hair and sharing her Bahamian stories. She held a captive audience for most of the day. I love a great story teller. Her cultural differences and outlook on life opened my children’s eyes. It was a 4 hour learning experience…better than most classes. I think traveling is one of the most educational of life experiences.
We had a family dinner almost every night, to connect, stay together and make sure everyone was getting what they needed. I’ve been on trips before with all our kids and someone is always off, not happy or dissatisfied. I used to get so deflated but now I’ve learned to let everyone fly their own flag and that my job is to stick to my intention to have daily dialogue with each of them. Talking about best and worst parts of each day and wishes for the following days makes my kids feel heard and that their voices matter. David and I also planned time to escape to the spa and work out which fueled us with more tolerance to get lost in kid-ville. Funny enough with all the activities to explore my son loved the arcade best. My older girls loved the freedom to break the rules a bit, stay out late and meet up with friends in a safe environment. I hate to be totally boring , but while everything feels calmer and more peaceful in the island air, I slept like a mama bear on board! Good zzz’s are hard to come by in my world. I even took afternoon naps. Maybe it was the gentle movement of the ocean or maybe because I finally could really relax, no cooking, no cleaning, no organizing….who knows, but that was a HUGE plus for me. Cruising is a super easy way to entertain a big family of all ages with plenty of romantic opportunities for Mom and Dad too. I’m not doing an ad, I’m just saying that I’ve been on my share of family getaways and this one was a 10 for all.
Too soon we found ourselves back in Miami, at Starbys, ordering our usual dbl tall non fat lattes and buying our fashion mags. Is funny how those silly pleasures bring us quickly back to reality. It was an amazing escape to totally check out and totally check in together as a family. We took a needed tech break. We found our groove together as a family and learned how to respect our differences in confined quarters. Family vacations can go one of many ways. Maybe it was new places or simply a new attitude that lead us to such a fun trip. As my children get older I am enjoying them in such a different way aside from the obvious. We all can contribute now and we all can plan the best of times.
What lies ahead for us this week will surely have us jonesing for the calming breeze of the Caribbean sea. Eight of us will move into a new home tomorrow….Wish me luck!