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The best part of traveling with your family is the opportunity to make memories. As the last article in the Planning Your Next Vacation series, family travel experts share how they make the most of their family vacations.
Easy Ways to Keep Travel Memorabilias
With today’s technology, you don’t need to be carrying around a large camcorder or a camera to memorialize your travel memories. A smart phone, which most people have, can be sufficient.
There are several social media outlets that let you share your photos and videos to family and friends. You have Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, to mention some. However, there’s always something about having a physical book or album that you have in your family room at home.
Sites like Shutterfly, Walgreens or even Costco, have available templates for photo books. All you need to do is upload your pictures and they’d format the layout for you. You can also choose your favorite pictures to put in frames or a more traditional photo album. A magnetic, self-adhesive photo album allows you to include trip souvenirs like admission tickets or passes like a scrapbook.
While it’s fun to snap moments with our cameras, we should be mindful and be present in the moment itself. The best memories I have when traveling are usually the ones that I don’t have a camera snapping or rolling. The best memories I could remember are just from being there and spending time together with my family.
Memories of Good and Bad
Sarah of State By State is a full-time RV traveling wife and mother of three that loves adventure and sharing off-the-beaten-path travel destinations.
“We travel to make memories. That is the best part about traveling together as a family. It is impossible to travel and not make a memory.” For Sarah, “even a bad travel experience can turn into a funny memory later”.
Sarah recalls a funny memory. “We once ate at a horrible restaurant, at the time it was extremely disappointing and frustrating. Spending money on food we could hardly eat was not the experience we wanted to have. Looking back on it now we always laugh. Every time we want to eat somewhere we say, “it can’t be as bad as (fill in bad restaurant name here)!”
“Traveling all over the US as a family has been an incredible experience and one we wouldn’t change for anything. It hasn’t always been fun. We have been sick, had our car break, and stayed in some less than amazing places. We love every memory both good and bad. This is something we will all remember forever!”
Strengthening Family Bonds
Regina of Full Time Field Trip uses travel to deepen their family connections.
“Doing new things in different places helps us grow as individuals and together as a family unit. We try to reduce tangible collectibles and focus on creating memories through these family connections.”
“While we try to live by the motto take only pictures, leave only footprints, young kids treasure a small keepsake of their travels and it helps them retain the memories of the trip.”
Keep It Simple.
If we do collect something tangible, we like things like pressed pennies, foreign coins, and found objects like shells and small rocks. Small things that transport easily and the kids can keep in their treasure boxes once home.
Keep the Trip Going At Home.
This might be making art and drawing pictures of our trip. It could be reading and learning more about the things we were introduced to on the trip. Once we bought some flowers and planted them at home.
Revisit The Memories.
As the kids get older we like playing ‘high and low of the day’ to keep things in our mind. This is a great dinner time or bedtime activity. Just take turns stating your high of the day and low of the day. Once home, we’ll do high and low of the trip. Then we love to look at the pictures and see if we captured any highs and lows.
Take A Moment.
As we started our full-time travel journey, we implemented something we call ‘take a moment.’ When we’re in some amazing historical place or at a beautiful natural wonder someone says “take a moment.” We all pause for about 5-10 seconds and try to soak it all in. Trying to take in all the sights, sounds, smells and drop them into our long term memory. It sounds like a beautiful moment of reflection in theory. But mostly someone giggles or farts and we all crack up laughing. It’s not the soul touching experience I was hoping for but it still makes for some great memories.
“For us, keeping our travel memories alive is an essential part of the travel experience ( especially as I have an awful memory!),” says Kirsty of World For A Girl. “We use six different approaches to make sure that we have lots of objects and pictures around the house and in our lives that remind us constantly of the awesome experiences we’ve had together.”
- We have photos everywhere in the house. We choose our best ones and frame them.
- We have globes and maps as decor throughout the house which provide great conversation prompts with the kids about our travels.
- In the past, we’ve made and printed gorgeous hardback photo books of two of our main family trips. Both of our children have a copy that they can treasure forever.
- Every country we visit we buy a postcard for our children and write a short message on it about that trip. Both children have a small box with the postcards in that they love looking through and talking about.
- We buy children’s books from the places we visit that we then read as bedtime stories for years afterwards.
- My partner and I like to buy each other creative gifts based on our adventures. For example, I bought him a bespoke print of a globe containing the stamps of all the countries we’ve visited together and he bought me handpainted copies of our favorite photographs.
Being in the Moment
“The most important thing about traveling is the memories we make,” shares Annette of Tips From A Typical Mom.
“Pictures are very important to me, but I also need to remind myself to not focus on getting the perfect picture and live in the moment. Take a few snapshots at each new place, then just put the camera away and really be there. I think because I’m not a millennial, it’s a little easier for me to put the camera down. Everyone doesn’t need to know what you are doing every moment of the day. It’s much more important to be in the moment making real memories and engaging with the family. When we get home I take all the pictures we took and create a slideshow. My kids love to watch these slideshows all the time. We also make photo books (we like Chatbooks to do this). These memories are much more valuable than the money you spent on the vacation.”
Beyond the Test of Time
According to Tiffany of Mommy and Me Travels, “Family vacations and adventures are things that you can give your kids that they will never outgrow.”
“There are many benefits to traveling with your kids,” she continues. “It teaches them flexibility, patients, and a sense of adventure. It builds family bonds that will last beyond the time that children grown up and move out of the house. This is a tradition that will be able to be passed from generation to generation. We like to ensure that we have family involvement and input at every step of a vacation. Start by picking a location from your family bucket list. Plan your vacation and adventure as a family to start building your memories from the very beginning together. Lastly, enjoy your time together. These are moments that will pass all too quickly and you’ll never regret that you took the time to enjoy your loved ones.”
Making it Special
Shannan of Captivating Compass shares that one of her favorite ways to help their family make fun family memories when we travel is to let the kids pick their favorite activity for our destination. “Early in the planning process, I’ll throw out a list of ideas and activities. We will all talk about them and everyone gets to list the activity that they would enjoy the most. Then, when we are on vacation, that activity is super special to that person because they got to choose it. Everyone gets to be involved and enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes the activity may not be one that everyone enjoys, but, it is a great opportunity to learn to think of others. Sometimes everyone is surprised that they all enjoyed the same thing!”
“Another way to make special memories while traveling is to ‘divide and conquer’. Splitting the group up to do a couple of different things and then meet up later in the day allows everyone to enjoy themselves. The kids enjoy a bit of quality time with mom or dad doing something they enjoy together makes it super special and memorable.”
The Time is Now
Kris of Gadsventure believes that the most important thing to remember about travelling with your family is this: Even though your younger kids might not remember the specific sights and exotic destinations you have visited, there is something tangible about being together as a family without the stresses of everyday life, that will stay with them forever. “That feeling of belonging, and togetherness, of family bonding and security, wherever you are in the world. That is something real.”
“So, whenever someone asks me what the best age to travel is, I tell them every age,” says Kris. “Don’t wait for the perfect time. The time is now! Take the trip. Life is short but family is forever.”
Ways to Document your Travels
Deb of World Wise Kid has a variety of ways we keep our travel memories alive:
- Photos – We take lots of photos and video on our smartphones. While many we delete, a few amazing photos will be lifelong treasurers. The best images appear in our annual calendar and in photo books we order through Shutterfly. Some, we enlarge and frame.
- Maps – For each region where we travel, we collect a paper map and draw our route in marker. This map gets tucked into the photobook and shared alongside the images. We also have a world map on the wall at home which continues to document where we have been, and where our next trip might take us.
- Stories – The more we talk about our travels, the more the stories are embedded in our long-term memory. We encourage the kids to share their impressions with other travelers, and with friends once we return home. My son enjoys recording an audio clip of some of our silly moments. He then puts them it to a digital animation video.
- Journals – My daughter and I love to write descriptions of places we go. We will describe the inside of a train station or coffee shop, or the feeling of sitting on a beach with the sunset and sweet breeze. We often read our journal content out loud to solidify the memories.
- Blog – Many of our travel memories are put into blog posts to encourage others to worldschool and discuss academic experiences.
- Magnets – Our home refrigerator is covered with magnets of places we love. One small, well-placed reminder, can bring back wonderful memories and ignite sharing of stories in our kitchen – where so much engaging conversation occurs!
Scrapbooking Made Easy and Affordable
“Vacations are the perfect opportunity to make memories with your family,” says Melissa of Disabled Disney. “There are so many things you can do to make and keep your memories.”
“I make a vacation book with photos and mementos from the trip. Scrapbooking can be very expensive so I buy a 3 ring binder and loose photo paper to save everything! You can also get buy a shadowbox and make vacation shadowboxes. One way to get some interesting pictures is to give your kids a camera! If you are concerned about them losing or damaging one then buy a disposable for each of your kids and they can take personalized pics! If you do scrapbook make sure you save items from your vacation to aid in your scrapbook. Even things like napkins, maps and programs can be perfect keepsakes to aid in your post vacation memory saving projects!”