Get Your Family Unplugged on Vacation!
An alarm goes off if your Blackberry is more than 7 inches from your body. Your kids could stare at a DVD-player screen for nine hours straight. And don't even get started on his iPod addiction. Face it, we're pretty wired. But on family vacation? It's time to step off the information superhighway and actually hit the road! (And maybe, just maybe, you know, talk to each other.)
Here, our quick tips for cutting the electrical cord:
- Bench personal video players for the week. Instead, bring along travel-sized playing cards, board games or art supplies. Engage in some friendly family competition by rewarding each child with a special prize at your destination or host a family art show by drawing pictures of a favorite vacation moment.
- Exchange headphones for family time by letting the kids pick a book that can be read together. Give young readers their time to shine by passing the book around to be read aloud. Or split up the characters and let each family member perform for the rest in true theater fashion.
- Shut down the laptop and get back to basics by creating a handmade family journal and picture book, but instead of using photographs, have each person write an entry or draw a picture of his favorite part of the vacation. This can be a fun evening activity to help the kids wind down before bed or on long travel legs of your trip. Even the youngest family member will be able to contribute with a little help from mom or dad.
- If you can't abandon your gadgets completely, use them as a reward. While you don't want the kids spacing out in front of a DVD player or texting friends the entire trip, these activities can be great motivators for children to be on their best behavior. Chicago-based clinical psychologist Dr. Mary Beth Paul suggests that when it comes to family travel and technology, it's all about balance. "The great thing about a family vacation is the quality time everyone is spending together, but a specific amount of tech-time can provide parents with rewards for children to show their appropriate behavior is appreciated." Parent should practice what they preach by sticking to a specific amount of time each day for checking emails and cell phones.
- Don't forget, part of leaving home for a family trip means leaving daily distractions behind. Once you've shut down digitally for a relaxing vacation, you'll be happy you did.