It happens all the time: vacationers, like the swallows of Capistrano, returning to the same place year after year.
For some families, the comfort and convenience of renting that familiar house each summer can’t be beat. Others are drawn annually to the same location for family reunions, a chance to laugh and play with aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins from afar. For my family, the impetus to make the same trip each year is even simpler: We like Florida a lot.
Those of us who succumb to the pull of our favorite vacation spots will agree: Although we have a soft spot for all that is familiar in a place, all that is familiar can become boring.
So how do you breathe new life into the same old destination? One way is to substitute familiar activities with new ones. Scrapping tradition (“But we ride the carousel every year!”) can affect family members in different ways, though.
Recognizing that interests change is probably the most important step in reviving your family vacation. If you’ve been retreating to the same place for a half decade, that means your kids are five years older. You may have grown accustomed to catching up on your reading while your then preschoolers spent hours digging in the sand, but said children may no longer find this activity amusing. Now nearly through grade school, they may cringe at the feel of wet sand under their fingernails. If they’re like my daughters, they might have begun to dislike saltwater entirely.
Adjust the Routine
Overcoming vacation ennui is a matter of adjusting your routine. Consider what the family may have outgrown (or just become tired of) and eliminate those activities from your itinerary.
Sometimes a small modification can do the trick. On one trip our family drove to a nearby beach instead of holing up at the one outside our hotel room. We watched dozens of surfers hang ten, something none of us had ever seen before, and were entertained for an entire afternoon.
Even theme parks, with their seemingly boredom-proof rides, games, and arcades, can become a ho-hum event. Kids with a “been there, done that” mentality often move unsatisfied from ride to ride. This becomes obvious when they fall into the retail rut, looking for the next souvenir to acquire.
It may seem counterintuitive to go to theme parks and not spend all of your time in them, but neighboring resorts often have shows, boat rides, and bike trails to cure theme-park burnout. After a decade of Disney visits, my family enjoys simply hanging around our hotel or resort (“Living in Fantasy Land,” as my daughter calls it), with only occasional forays to the parks.
Change of Scenery
Your choice of accommodations can have a big impact on your experience. You may feel nostalgic about a fifth trip to a quaint motel, but your children may feel differently. Finding a hotel with a pool (as opposed to one with just a beach) can do wonders for lazy afternoons. Something about clear, chlorinated water seems to rejuvenate the kids’ desire to swim. And room service, a perk not available at most small properties, enables the gang to linger in the morning, an attractive prospect to the cartoon-loving, school-age set.
So before heading back to your tried-and-true destination, invest time in a little anti-boredom planning:
Give everyone a say. Once upon a time your little ones went happily wherever you took them, but older kids have opinions and desires that need to be acknowledged. Thumb through leaflets and online brochures together, and let everyone contribute to the itinerary.
Change your mode of transportation. A train trip instead of a plane ride can make getting to your destination an adventure. For something really different, merge your transportation and accommodations: Rent an RV.
Budget some “say yes” money. As kids grow older the activities that interest them become more expensive. You can’t indulge all their whims, but a chorus of “no’s” can be disheartening. Stash some cash for an occasional “yes” to something new, such as an afternoon of JetSki rentals.
Make it shorter but shinier. On our most recent trip to Florida, we cut the vacation time in half but stayed at the hotel of our dreams. Nobody complained.
Bring a friend. Sharing a favorite destination adds a whole new element. Consider hooking up with another family on the next return trip. If your kids are old enough, look into inviting one of their buddies along.
Try out the kids’ club. You don’t have to sequester kids for the entire trip to appreciate the benefits of a resort’s kids’ club. These are key places for your cherubs to find the best vacation treasures of all — other kids.
Change the season. Traveling to the same place at a different time of year can yield new insights and experiences. Try planning your trip around a holiday, music festival, sports season, or special event.
Go solo. If you’re holed up en masse at the extended-family compound, don’t feel like you have to do everything together. This year, take the kids on a few solo excursions.