Blue. It was all you could see.
A sea of blue rain ponchos ebbed and flowed as eager Disneyland guests moved out of the rain and into the next ride’s queue. To this day as a 20-something, I still reminisce with my cousins about the time all twelve of us (my immediate family, my cousins’ family, and my grandparents) looked like Smurfs during a particularly wet day in Anaheim.
Cold and wet? Without a doubt. Memorable? Absolutely.
Spring break is a blank canvas waiting to be filled with lifelong memories like this.
A row of seven empty boxes on your calendar has been staring at you. It’s up to you to decide what to pencil in. You may choose a family trip you’ve been dreaming about. Or, you may decide to keep those empty boxes as they are: empty.
Either way, spring break is a prime opportunity for your family to make memories together that the typical daily craze does not allow for.
Over the course of 12 school years, my family did various things during spring break. Three of those years we took family vacations. Other than that, we stayed home and basked in a few days without plans. Both experiences were memorable and made our family tighter.
Here are a few reflections on my childhood spring breaks that I hope will offer inspiration for a family-oriented break of your own.
You have a week on your hands with kids at home. It’s one of the only weeks in the year without an agenda.
A perk about staycations is your freedom to obey the name: break. When I was growing up, my family of four usually stayed at home to enjoy a few days doing what we didn’t otherwise have time for. We had more time for games after dinner, visiting dad at work, and getting together with our nearby relatives.
My Great Grandma, endearingly known as “GG”, lived just ten minutes down the street. She had a lovely backyard filled with too many flowers to count and wild blackberries climbing over her back gate.
When we weren’t playing “chicken foot,” the domino game GG liked, we visited on her porch and watched the birds enjoy her birdfeeder. It was during this rare “free” time like spring break that we optimized time with family.
Who could you visit on a free week? Who do your kids not know as well as you would like? How can you take advantage of this opportunity to connect them?
Here are a few more low-key activities that make a staycation fun:
- Hang out at a park. Bring your sketch pads and your Frisbee.
- Pull your painting supplies out of the closet. Turn the kitchen table into an art studio for a few days.
- Play the games you got for Christmas.
- Finally take that hiking trail your friend has been telling you about.
Something my parents were careful to avoid was the trap of comparison. Some of our friends took trips to Hawaii, something my family has still never done. Yet, as staycation kids we were expected to have thankful hearts and enjoy what he had.
Don’t feel like you must do something extravagant to keep up with your friends. Take advantage of this break handed to your family on a silver platter. Even if you don’t go big, it’ll be meaningful time together.
If you choose to do something bigger, choose an experience as family-oriented as possible. Invite multiple generations to join. And plan activities the entire family can enjoy.
A favorite memory of mine is caravanning with my extended family down to Southern California and riding in the backseat of my grandparents’ car. They had one of those small bench seats that faced the opposite direction of where the car was heading, a novelty to us kids. We laughed and sang and doodled and created stories to our hearts’ content.
I’m sure there was some bickering as well, but what can I say? Many of our most treasured memories sprung out of these multigenerational trips.
Aside from including more family, here are a few practical suggestions for building family memories over a spring break vacation:
- Establish a phone-free zone. Bring your conversation to the table, not your phone. You won’t remember what you read on social media or who liked your post ten years from now.
- Come with a list of fun questions, hypothetical and serious. Whether you’re standing in line at a theme park, waiting for a table at a restaurant, or driving to and from destinations, be creative with how you fill space.
- Share stories from the past. You never know; maybe you’ll hear a new one!
- Avoid splitting off from each other when out for the day. It is a family spring break, after all.
- Allow yourself time to be still. While you may feel the pressure to experience every inch of your vacation spot, rest is necessary. As people addicted to productivity, we must work hard to section off time for rest, both individually and collectively.
- Take family pictures, not just selfies or scenery photos.
Even a small handful of spring break vacations left their mark on our family. As adults, when my cousin and I reunite, we still try to prioritize some kind of Disney experience because we enjoy the nostalgia.
Now it’s up to you. Which will spring break will you opt with? Vacation? Or staycation? Be encouraged that whatever you choose, your spring break has great potential for family connection.
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