It’s the time of year that every parent loves and dreads in equal measure: summer vacation. School is out and our kids are home, from the most energetic kindergartener to the surliest tween. It’s tempting to park them in front of their electronic devices and leave them there until school starts again, but if you do that, you’re missing out on the chance to make some amazing memories. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you navigate summer vacation with your tweens.
1. Involve Them
Your tweens are old enough to start having a say in what you do during summer vacation. Why not involve them in the planning process? Sure, they’ll probably have some off-the-wall ideas that you can’t pull off, but we guarantee your vacation planning with go smoother if you’re at least entertaining some of those ideas.
They love to be involved, even if they act like they’re annoyed at being pulled away from their social media or video games. Keeping them in the loop will help make your summer go a little smoother.
2. Browse Social Media for Ideas
Even if you hang out on social media, it can be easy to feel like you’re out of touch with the kind of things your tween actually enjoys. Spend some time browsing social media for summer vacation ideas — including on your kid’s own social media. Even if they haven’t mentioned anything specific that they want to do this summer, they may have posted about it.
3. Head Out on the Water
All your summer vacation planning doesn’t have to be at home. Whether you’re heading up to the glaciers of Alaska or the white sand beaches of Mexico, taking a family cruise can be a great way to make some amazing memories and spend some quality time together. Just make sure you discuss your plans with your tweens first — not all of them will be happy with being stuck on a cruise ship for a couple of weeks at the time.
4. Plan Around Your Tween
There are plenty of tween-related things you have to wait until summer to plan, like doctor’s appointments, braces and other things that you didn’t want to take them out of school for. This isn’t a bad thing, and it can even make things like braces easier.
Let’s face it: Braces are uncomfortable for days after their installation. Plan your vacation around your tween hiding out in bed with ibuprofen and reality TV for a few days after their appointment. The last thing you want is to take them on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation they’re not going to enjoy because their mouth hurts.
This might sound a little too much like work, but it can be a great way to raise civic-minded children while doing a little bit of good for your community during summer break. Be on the lookout for tween-friendly volunteer opportunities. There are plenty of options, so it’s easy to find the kind of volunteer work that your tween will enjoy, whether that’s working with animals or building a new park. They might even find the type of work they will enjoy doing for the rest of their lives.
6. Go Camping
There are 58 national parks in the United States, and hundreds of smaller state parks scattered across the country. Why not explore a few of these during your summer vacation? You can start by visiting your local parks, or head all the way across the country if that sounds like fun. If tent camping is not your thing, look for cabins you can rent for a little bit of the comfort of home without worrying about bugs or sleeping on the ground.
7. Go Back to Your Roots
Traveling through Europe is a popular summer vacation option, but seeing all the major cities can get a little old after a while. Why not consider going back to your roots — if you have ancestors from outside the country, that is. Spend a little time on Ancestry.com or other genealogy sites and trace your roots. It might be a great way to learn more about your personal family history while spending some time abroad.
8. Thrill Seekers
This might seem like a pretty standard summer vacation plan, but you can’t go wrong with roller coasters and other rides that get your adrenaline pumping. Find a local theme park or spend some time planning a trip to Six Flags or Busch Gardens to find some of the best roller coasters in the country.
9. Safari Bound
There’s nothing quite like being face to face with one of the big cats of Africa or watching a baby elephant play with their mother in real life. Why not build those memories together by taking a safari this summer? There are plenty of places in Africa where you can plan a safari, but if leaving the country isn’t in the cards, consider renting a hotel at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You’ll have giraffes greeting you on your patio every morning.
10. Get Wet
When those hot summer months roll around, there’s often nothing better to do than just jump in the pool or head to the beach. Enjoy the warm weather but don’t forget that sunscreen!
Whether you’re staying home or traveling the world, hopefully these tips can help you enjoy your summer vacation with your tweens a little bit more.
Jennifer Landis is a 29-year-old healthy living blogger who loves yoga, running, and dancing it out with her toddler! You can find more from Jennifer at her blog, Mindfulness Mama, or by following her on Twitter: @jenniferelandis.