Family Vacation: What Does That Mean to You?

car driving through Sequoia

Our camping trip to Sequoia a few years ago

We just came back from four days up in Mammoth Lakes, California, where our family stayed in a cabin with my husband’s parents and his brother’s family. In a distant past life, HapaPapa and I used to live in that little Eastern Sierra ski town. But it’s a long, icy drive from the Bay Area to Mammoth in the winter, which is why most skiers come from So Cal, via the dry southern stretch of Highway 395 through the Owens Valley.

By this stage in our marrried family life, we’ve gotten the hang of how to cram the four of us — and our belongings — into a minivan, and figured out some routines that work for us. So while we were visiting our old stomping grounds

They usually include:

  • Bringing a bag full of car games (travel bingo, Mad Libs, can be as simple as a bunch of dollar store or new-to-you Happy Meal toys for toddlers)
  • A bag full of snacks in the backseat, including things that are already in single servings, such as granola bars, cheese crackers, and fruit leather
  • HapaPapa carries the backpack when we go on day trips. This is especially important since our kids are too big for strollers now, which means we give up that precious underseat basket. He recently upgraded to a big metal-framed hiking backpack, with exterior pockets for water bottles. I carry my purse and a camera. Neither of which anybody else touches. Otherwise it gets ugly.
  • When on vacation, we don’t really have bedtimes or dietary restrictions (adults or kids). Do you really want to spend your precious downtime struggling to get over-excited kids to go to bed when the adults are talking and laughing late into the night?
  • We try to avoid eating at fast-foods or chain restaurants if at all possible, and get a taste of the local cuisine (even if it is the Country Waffle House).
  • But taking a family vacation can also call attention to the ways that your own upbringing informs your idea of “vacation”. With the exception of the occasional summer in Taiwan, my childhood vacations usually involved roadtrips and lots of national parks: Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon. We’d stop at the visitor’s center, hike around, eat dinner at a local restaurant, and then check into the Wagon Wheel Motel, or whatever. In my mind, I called this “camping”.

    I’ve already elaborated on HapaPapa’s idea of camping in my post The Great Outdoors, so you can read it there, if you like.

    What are your family vacation traditions?

    In your wildest dreams, what would you want your vacations to be like?



    1. says

      Thanks for sharing your vacation experience. We really haven’t traveled much yet with our 2 year old. When I grew up, we did a lot of roadtrips like yours, and I remember them fondly.

    2. says

      Seems like a lot of people in our generations remember those family road trips! The under-two years are pretty rough for travelling, I remember those days. On the upside, it costs a lot less to fly because babies don’t need a ticket! Thanks for commenting, Bicultural Mama!

    3. Amy L says

      Grace, I love hearing about your travels. Growing up camping is all we did year after year. Great memories. And now my boys love it too. Sadly, this year we don’t have any planned. But hearing about your trips is motivating me to plan one. Perhaps we’ll squeeze one in in August.

    4. says

      Rory, you’ll get there! The infant and toddler years are challenging, the older they get the easier it is to go places…

      Amy, there’s still a lot of summer left. And next year there’s Adventure Guides Family Camp, right?

    5. says

      Growing up, I camped and canoed a lot with my family. My husband did not camp or canoe–or even learn to swim! So far our family vacations have involved visiting extended family, and either staying with them or in a hotel. My oldest child is 11 and he is absolutely not interested in camping. But my younger two are 7 and 9 and have just finished a week of daycamping in a state park. They are now begging to go camping :) Maybe we will plan a mother/daughter camping trip! We also follow the no bedtime/dietary restrictions on vacation policy. Time to relax and enjoy each other, not fight. Thanks for sharing your tips and stories!

    6. says

      Jen- That’s a great point about how we’re raised shaping what we’re comfortable with. I don’t think I would have ever ventured to go camping if my husband wasn’t already an expert. And I have to admit, that long camping trips can push my comfort zone ;) Some things are hard to learn unless you’ve been aught by someone- especially growing up. You’d be such a great role model to your kids by taking them camping.


    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *