Taking a family vacation this summer? Why not capitalize on your investment to maximize family connection? Brain scientists, travel experts and battle-tested parents all agree: focus on these six keys and your trip can be surprisingly amazing.
- Pick a destination that works for every family member, including parents. Everyone should have something to look forward to.
- Talk it up positively and early! Setting up positive expectations primes the brain to enjoy and savor each moment of the trip. In our family we print pictures of our destination with a big countdown calendar.
- Make a plan now for electronics. Get input from everyone then set clear boundaries to establish phone-free zones, such as the campfire or dinner table. Our family’s best vacation? Any time we pick a destination with no cellular coverage (like much of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – my favorite family destination!).
- Schedule one-on-one time with each other. When camping I make sure I either do a task or go for a walk with each family member. When closer to civilization my wife and I take each person out for coffee or a meal. These one-on-one times often become highlights of the trip.
- Do one small effortful and unpleasant task while on vacation. For example, take 1-2 hours to reorganize your contact list or clean up your data files. Why? Effortful work resets the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine to normal, so when you return to vacation you will experience a surge of relief and pleasure. Just be sure to put a strong limit on how much work you are going to do.
- Have a plan to savor it after. Our family prints pictures from our vacations and hangs them in the kitchen the day we get back. Activating these memories re-awakens the positive feelings and serves to keep family members bonded, effectively extending the vacation fun.
Can’t get away this summer? Then get ready for some serious family fun! Next week I’ll share the 5 most exciting, creative and connecting summer activities!