By Jessica Williams
“Mom, I’m bored!” “Dad, can I use your phone?” “I wish I could’ve brought a friend.”

“Honey, if we leave the hotel at 7:30am, we can make it to the Kapai Trail Loop by 7:45am which we can complete by 9:15am and then we can take a shuttle to the Kunai Trail Loop, and…”

“Sweetie, I was kind of hoping to stay put and have lunch by the pool.”

The kids are out of school, summer camp is over, and it’s time for your annual family vacation. You’ve researched the location, you’ve gotten the time off of work, you’ve spent the money…now, how to enjoy your time together and not secretly long for the days of 9-5!

Self-inventory: Before you pack your bags, ask yourself, “What do I need from this vacation?” “What is my primary objective?” “Am I longing for restoration or invigoration, solitude or connection?”

Setting the tone: Introduce the trip to your children with a narrative about where you are going and the significance of the location, the history, the people, the culture, and the customs. Set the tone of the environment you will be visiting.

Expectations: Let your partner and your children articulate their wants for this trip. What are they hoping to experience and how do they see the rhythm of each day unfolding?

Game-plan: Strategize with your partner to create a structure to the week that includes the wants, needs and hopes of the whole family.

Agreement: Once you’ve created a collective frame of reference about where you are going, and how you are planning to spend your time, the whole family can “shake” on it, and agree to each do his part to help things run smoothly with joy and respect.

The comfort bag:
Let your children pack a bag for the plane, car or hotel that will both comfort and entertain them. This bag can contain a small photo book of familiar places, school friends, teachers, and neighbors, something from nature around your home such as a small stone, and activities for self-entertainment such as books, cards or art supplies. Consider adding a trip journal and a camera so your children can have their own relationship to chronicling the journey.

Daily rhythm:
Invite your children to participate in the schedule of the week: you can rotate family members to choose the activity for the day, or you can let the children decide the order of events in a single day.

Without the natural parameters of school, it is easy for parents to be bombarded by an insatiable request for media in its many forms. Decide ahead of time what limits you are comfortable with, communicate the boundaries with love and compassion and then follow through. Perhaps you want full access during vacation or you might want a media-free zone in the mornings, evenings, on outings or in restaurants. Be prepared with inviting alternatives for connection during the “down time.”

Family Connection:
You might enjoy these timeless traditions for family connection: Card games, board games, sing-a-longs, reading aloud, charades and some lesser known games such as:
Dictionary: Player One picks an unknown word from the dictionary, players write down a made-up definition while the Player One writes the correct definition on a piece of paper. Player One reads all the definitions aloud, and players vote on the correct definition. Rotate “Player One.” This game encourages creativity, humor and vocabulary.
Portraits: Sit in partners with a notepad and draw each other’s faces without looking at the page. This game encourages eye contact, connection, and produces silly art.
Theme songs: Choose a well-known song and replace the lyrics with made up rhymes about your vacation, one line per person. This game encourages creativity, observation and working as a team.

Memorialize: At the end of the vacation, create a group scrapbook including photographs, memorabilia, and a letter about the trip from each family member. Add to this “vacation book” over the years and you will create a priceless record of the memories that last a lifetime.

Jessica Williams offers private coaching with a series of L.O.V.E. Parenting techniques that promote effective communication for deepened connection and more joy in parenting and life. She is an expert for’s Ask An Expert forum & regular contributor to LA Parent Magazine. Tweet: @Loveparenting Facebook: L.O.V.E. Parenting