Over the past few years, my family and I have been lucky enough to take some really wonderful vacations. Before our youngest son, who has special needs, entered public school, most of our extra money was spent on therapies so there was a few years lag on family vacations. The first family vacation that we went on as a complete family of five was while funds were still relatively tight, so it was on the less expensive side. That particular vacation is still my favorite to date (we are making it an annual tradition!!!). Since then we have been on some more expensive vacations, and what I have gathered is that a great family vacation is not measured by the amount you spend, but instead by the amount of enjoyment the family experiences.
The most important piece of advice I can give families traveling with kids is to keep it simple. The easier, the better! We just came back from Disney World, which was the most expensive vacation we have ever taken as a family. My husband and I both felt that, when you compare the cost of that vacation to the level of enjoyment we experienced (after factoring in crowds, stress etc.), the trip would only have been worth it if we had spent half the price; the full price left us feeling like we didn’t use our money wisely. And don’t get me wrong, we stayed on-property in Disney at two of the higher-end resorts and enjoyed many parts of the trip. However, it just seemed too pricey for the level of enjoyment we experienced with our kids.
In the spirit of keeping it simple: kids love pools. If you find a hotel with a good pool, some water slides, and/or a spray ground, you are set. Depending on your kids’ ages, you get to sit your butt on a chair, possibly enjoy a cocktail (a pool with a bar is a complete win/win) and the kids can spend hours entertained. Many kids also love camps, so if the resort you choose has a camp, take advantage of it! After all, who is working hard to make the vacation happen...US, THE PARENTS! We deserve to enjoy the family vacation and have some relaxation time too. I also love the camps because my kids have learned to make new friends.
Again, thinking back to Disney, make sure your vacation has some downtime. My youngest son, who has special needs, was completely overwhelmed by constantly being on-the-go. The two older boys were able to handle the break-neck pace better, but I am sure they would have enjoyed more relaxation as well. Knowing your child and their limitations is also important. If you know certain situations are too much, just scale back and go with the flow. All kids have their limitations, not just kids with special needs.
Every person in our family agrees on our favorite vacation spot, which is a family resort in Vermont. It is the simplest and least expensive vacation we’ve taken (nothing fancy), and it definitely has something for everyone. It has four pools with water slides, a kids camp, an indoor playground, and organized activities throughout the day for both kids and adults (even if they are not in camp). One more important detail for us is that you can stay in different types of units, from a studio unit, or up to a four bedroom unit that comes with a fully-equipped kitchen and several bathrooms (this big unit is great if you travel with your extended family). Since you have a kitchen, you don’t have to eat out every night, which I personally love because eating out with kids can be expensive and stressful. We have been to the simple Vermont resort twice, and after having recently come back from Disney, the kids still prefer the family resort in Vermont.
In conclusion, the keys to a successful vacation for us are fun, convenience and simplicity! As we continue to take family vacations, we are going to make these things our number one priority when choosing where to go. Happy travels everyone!