The last week before schools reopened was spent by us in the foothills of Himachal Pradesh, at a hill station called Kasauli. Kasauli is a cantonment area and was established by the British as an army hill station.
Once you reach there you feel like you are in a time warp. You get transported to the colonial era with old quaint houses, pebbled roads, people who are in no hurry to do anything whatsoever. There is nothing touristy to do there-Zilch! No activities for kids, no museums, no theme parks and definitely no fast food centers. But we still had ONE of OUR BEST VACATIONS EVER!!
Usually we parents tend to plan family vacations which include loads of activities for kids, herding kids to theme parks, shopping at the malls (which are identical to all the other malls), sightseeing the must-see places and off loading kids at a hotel or resort activity center while the parents get some alone time (which usually translates into looking at the watch till the center’s hours are over).
So much of packing, planning, logistical nightmares are involved that at the end of the family vacation you are even more stressed out than you were before. You feel like taking a vacation to get over this vacation!! But that’s not how it always needs to be. Every once in a while you can plan worry free vacations which are all about relaxing and rejuvenating. Yeah even with the kids around!
7 ways to really have a
relaxing family vacation with kids
1. Choose the right location
There is no way to relax if you are stuck in a car or even an air craft with kids for a 15 hour journey. If relaxation is your only concern then your destination needs to be closer to your city. A drive of 5-6 hrs with stops in between are ideal for young kids.
We stayed at a beautiful homestay called Denisford estate and it was a treat for the senses with beautiful gardens, a charming cottage and a sprawling estate. It was around 300 kms from Delhi and we reached in about 6 hours. Kids slept through most of the journey and the rest they spent looking at the beautiful scenery outside.
2. Don’t try to engage the Kids
You might feel guilty and want to engage kids with toys or planned activities. Don’t! Let kids discover the joy of playing on their own. Let them think of unusual ways to find fun. A hotel room table can be turned into a tree house, a pool can be the ocean and the resort gardens can be the jungle. There is no limit to the creativity of kids.
My daughter and niece made their own kitchen with pine cones, flowers, dried leaves and other things and kept themselves busy. It was so endearing to see them make the best of everything around them and enjoy time without any external stimuli but their imagination.
3. Stop and smell the flowers
It is so relaxing to walk feeling the abundance of nature and exploring a new city. Don’t bereft your self of this joy by falling into the trap of sight seeing. Even a walk around the hotel grounds will prove to be way more relaxing than a trip to the must–see monuments.
We walked a lot around the estate, picked fresh fruits and flowers, picked up pine cones for a DIY project, breathing in the fresh air and marveling at god’s beautiful creation.
4. Unplug completely
It is so difficult to go off the grid given almost every place now has internet connectivity. But we made a conscious decision to not take calls or check mails. In fact before leaving I set my mails to auto respond, scheduled my blog and facebook posts and completely stayed off the internet for the duration of our vacation.
It felt so freeing to not be overwhelmed with information and when I dove back in after the vacation, I was ready to take charge of it.
5. Sleep and let sleep
My husband has a very erratic work schedule and despite our best intentions, we hardly ever get to sleep for the recommended 8 hours. During this vacation we not only slept for more than 8 hours, we also took naps when we felt like and it felt so refreshing to recharge ourselves with some much needed snooze.
Even the kids enjoyed sleeping later than their routine time and cuddling the parents for a long time in the mornings. Imagine if we had a planned itinerary! I doubt we would be able to take out such memorable moments.
6. Eat fresh and local food
Since we were at a home stay we didn’t have the usual hotel food. Our food was cooked by a local cook who made dishes according to our palate. We also discovered a local cafe which had some awesome oriental cuisine and made us go back there almost every afternoon.
Our cottage had a small kitchen too and we made some meals for ourselves with husband and kids pitching in. It was a treat to enjoy local flavors and fruits. Now if you travelled 500 kms and still ended up eating a pizza what vacation would that be?
7. Connect with your spouse
Vacations are the perfect time for bonding, connecting and talking! Having unscheduled free time means you can talk about your goals, visions, dreams as a family.
Me and husband talked a lot about our family goals, chalked out our plans for the next few years, listened to our favorite music and had a relaxing time. If we had packed ten activities a day in our itinerary then I doubt we would have been left with the energy to talk.
I realize that a zero activity vacation is not for everyone and some of us actually feel relaxed by doing high adrenaline stuff like bungee jumping, cliff diving etc. But I think every once a while a real relaxing vacation is a must for every family!
Which has been your most memorable vacation? Let me know through your comments.