Summer Vacation Life Hack: 7 Guidelines for Maximizing Family Fun

Do you want your family to have an amazing summer? Of course you do. Now that Covid-19 vaccines are rolling out and social distancing rules are easing up, you have more opportunities to make this summer memorable.

But where should you start?

Having a summer filled with new activities for you and your family doesn’t just happen on a whim. Truly memorable events require planning.

Whether you’re vacationing in Europe or trying out a new stand up paddle board with your kids, here are seven tips for planning activities everyone will enjoy.

1. Create a budget.

According to a TD Ameritrade survey, 52% of parents blew their summer budgets in 2019. Worse, survey respondents piled up an average of $1,960 in debt. You want to come back from your trip with good memories and fun photos, not a stack of unpaid bills.

Get ahead of summer spending before it gets ahead of you. While this isn’t a “fun” tip, it’s an important reminder. Before planning your summer vacations, make sure you have an agreed-upon summer budget. Determine how much you can comfortably allocate to family activities without putting yourself in debt.

Advance planning is one sure way to save money. Flights, hotels, and vacation activities are expensive, and the prices only go up the closer you book to your travel date. By calculating these costs ahead of time and booking in advance, you’ll make better financial decisions.

2. Set some goals for summer.

Another way to ensure a fun summer is to set goals and then budget time for everything on your list. Aim to allocate your time much the same way you budget your finances. Chances are, you’ll be working during the summer even though your kids are on break. It’s going to be important to stay organized as you seek to maximize your time away from the office.

Start by setting professional goals for yourself. For example, write down when you want to have certain work projects completed. How many hours will you need to set aside during the week, or the day, to focus on a specific project?

After you have your work-related milestones figured out, focus on family-related goals. Write down activities you don’t want your family to miss — whether it’s that European vacation or paddleboarding trip — and budget time accordingly.

3. Create a family “bucket list.”

Working together, have your family create a bucket list of activities for the summer. Let each family member pick a few things they’d like to do. Jot them all down, and make sure everyone gets a say.

Of course, your family won’t be able to do absolutely everything in just one summer. You don’t want to go over budget or overschedule your family. This is why it’s so important to have a good grip on available finances and time before you sit down to have this conversation.

The good news is that many family activities can be budget-friendly. You could read a book together, take a family bike ride, go stargazing, go camping, play a board game, and so on. Use your imagination and be creative as you plan.

4. Don’t forget about last summer.

During the pandemic, many family vacation activities necessarily looked a lot different. With social distancing in full swing, your family probably wasn’t able to enjoy your usual summer routine. Keep last year in mind as you go about listing ideas and making plans.

It’s also possible that being stuck at home wasn’t an altogether bad thing. Chances are your family found new and creative ways to spend time together as your freedom to travel was restricted. Write down the things you did last year that created surprisingly good times.

Are there ways to integrate the fun activities from last summer into your plans for this year? Even as the pandemic looks to be winding down, new traditions may have been formed as everyone tried to stay healthy. An added bonus is that many of those pandemic-inspired activities were likely on the less expensive side, too.

5. Encourage new activities.

In addition to planning family getaways, be sure to plan day-to-day activities for your children. Summer camps are always a good option, where available. However, even if they attend camp more than once, there will probably be weeks where your kids will complain about being bored.

At those times, encourage your children to try something new. Summer is a great time to start a new hobby or acquire a new skill since kids have more time available. Maybe your daughter wants to try rollerblading, or your son would be interested in taking a painting class.

By trying a new activity, kids become more creative individuals and more willing to step out of their comfort zone. Incidentally, stepping outside your comfort zone is something you’ll want to model for them as you make your plans.

6. Put the technology down.

Technology addiction is a huge problem in the U.S. and elsewhere, and it’s not just adults who are having problems. Children worldwide are spending an unhealthy amount of time in front of a screen.

According to research, 50% of kids now say they’re addicted to their phones. With the onset of summer and less to do, there’s a good chance your kids will be spending even more time on their devices.

This is why scheduling non-tech activities is so important. Whether you send your kids to camp or sign them up for soccer, try to replace screen time with something that’ll help them grow.

7. Make sure to leave some downtime.

Summer activities are important, but so is downtime. If you overschedule your family members this summer, they won’t really be able to enjoy themselves. If you’ve ever been on a planned vacation that rushed you from one activity to another, you know what this feels like.

Instead of filling up each day with activities, leave some time to connect with your kids. Have meaningful conversations and grow your relationship with them. Redeem drive time by injecting periods where the electronics must be tucked away. Learn to ask good questions about each other.

If you flat-out tell your kids you are trying to revive the lost art of conversation, you deserve every eye roll you get. Instead, set aside times when a conversation is more likely to take place. When’s the last time you sat around a roaring campfire?

For many people, summer is their favorite season. The weather is nice. Kids are out of school and have more time to spend with their friends and family.

As a parent, you probably want to make sure your kids take full advantage of this season, but don’t go overboard. A good way to ensure summer fun is by creating a schedule that includes playdates, vacations, new activities, and a ton of flexibility.