Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What do you want from your vacation?

If you know me or have read my blog, you know that the only thing I love more than taking vacations is PLANNING vacations. Planning involves researching vacation destinations, reading reviews and figuring out how to get the cheapest price.

However, I've discovered throughout the past few years that there is an important question that should not be ignored when you plan your vacations:

What do you want from your vacation??? What is your goal?

Do you want to see as many tourist attractions in your destination as possible in your limited time? Do you want to experience how the locals live? Do you want to challenge yourself with a new activity, or maybe spend some time with your spouse away from your kids? Do you want to disconnect from technology and lounge at the beach all day?

The answers to these questions are unique to each family, and they can change depending on the destination, your kids' ages, your mood at the moment and many other factors.

We went on our first family vacation (as a family of 3) in 2008, when our oldest son was 4 1/2 years old. We had adopted him one year prior, and felt like he had assimilated to our family and the language enough that he was ready for a trip to Disney World. Prior to our trip, we didn't really talk about what we wanted out of the vacation. We had 4 full days in the parks, and we tried to see everything we could possibly squeeze in during our time there. We came back exhausted.

Disney World September 2008

So 18 months later, when we went to Disney World as a family of 4 (with another kid on the way and staying with our extended family of 11), we knew we wanted to do things differently. We wanted to slow down and relax a little more. So we built a "day off" into our vacation plans. We went to the parks for 3 days, and then we spent an entire day at our hotel. We enjoyed the swimming pools and the kids' activities the resort offered (a bounce house, face painting, etc.) In the late afternoon, we explored Downtown Disney and had dinner there. It was just what we needed to rejuvenate and help us power through the rest of our vacation. The next 3 days, we explored the parks more, but we shortened our days there and spent more time relaxing at our resort. Totally worth it!

Disney World April 2010
The following year, we went to San Diego (as a family of 5 + Nana). We knew in advance we wanted some downtime, so we narrowed our activities down to a smaller list so that we could spend more time relaxing at our resort.

San Diego January 2011
As our family grew, our vacation goals changed. My husband and I realized that it would be important to have some time to ourselves, without our kids for just a few hours, since we don't have a lot of opportunities for that throughout the year. So that lead us to our first Disney Cruise, which offered fun kids clubs and a nursery to entertain our kids while we dined by ourselves once a day. And we discovered that even having 2 hours alone to reconnect on our vacation was priceless!

Disney Dream Cruise June 2012
We were hooked, and we booked another cruise for the following year:

Disney Magic Cruise February 2013

So we figured out that for now, at this point in our lives, the type of vacation that works for us involves fun activities for and with our kids as well as downtime in the hotel combined with alone time for me and my husband. So our options are limited to places with kids' clubs or onsite babysitting. I've discovered that, in addition to cruise ships, there are a number of all-inclusive resorts and even domestic hotels that offer kids' clubs for people in our exact situation. Kids' clubs are even available at Disney World, they just require an advance reservation.

Our kids seem to be on board with our vacation strategy. Often, they tell us that they just want to go back to the resort and play with their new souvenir or swim in the pool.

Disney World Adoption Reunion July 2013

At some point, I'm sure our vacation goals will change. Once our kids get older, we might try to see more things during our vacation time and pack more activities into our limited time. Our kids might want to spend less time in the resorts and more time on the go.

We realize that we need to be flexible when we visit family, as we don't always have the same vacation goals. But we can still incorporate some of our goals into any trip, we may just have to compromise when other people are involved.

Do you know what you want from your next vacation? What can you do in advance to ensure your vacation accomplishes your goal?