Dreaming of Places to Go This Summer? Create memories & enjoy meaningful places together this season.

art-0613-getawaySummer is nearly here and the signs signaling the end of the school year are clear.  With some daydreaming, careful planning, and input from our kids, we can look forward to enjoying interesting travel-related experiences together and create great summer memories.

Try these four fun activities for making even more out of your trip. Whether close to home or far away, these suggestions offer fun and educational experiences:

1: Create a personalized vacation plan. 

a) Invite everyone in your family to recall their favorite vacation moments and places from previous years. Use questions to draw out the highlights for adults and kids alike. Example: Where did you have the most fun last summer? What made that vacation special? What place would you like to visit this year and why? b) Pull out craft supplies you have on hand – markers, scissors, glue, paper, rubber stamps, old magazines – and have fun creating a map or maps of your favorite ideas and destinations. c) For a greater challenge, ask your kids to imagine places they remember from a different perspective (i.e., from the air or from the sea), and then work together to draw your favorite vacation spots from that viewpoint. For example: What would Grandma’s town look like if we were flying over it? What does our backyard look like to a squirrel? How does Manhattan look from the deck of a tugboat?

2: Make your own souvenir. 

Every parent knows that even the coolest souvenir eventually loses its charm. So, before you even leave on a trip, plan what it is that you want from the places you visit;  make a treasure hunt out of it by planning to find drink cups, photos, balloons, t-shirts, hats, post cards, etc.  Or, after the vacation dust has settled, set aside a night for making mementos. Ask each person in your family to think about a significant landmark, person or event from your summer vacation. Is your 7-year-old still talking about the rollercoaster he went on? Let him use clay, Play-Doh© or Wikki Stix© to mold a miniature replica of it. Or create vacation-themed sun catchers with colored markers and clear plastic salvaged from food containers.

3: Use a real map or Google Earth to locate destinations you want to visit over the summer. 

This can really make summer plans seem more real and pique interest in new places. They are also great for learning geography, map reading, and GPS planning. Bring the map to life by sharing recollections about your family’s past trips. For example: Here’s the trail we hiked where we saw the hawk flying overhead. Remember when we got soaked on the water flume? Can you find the amusement park on the map? After you’ve pointed out places on the map, ask your children to figure out how to get there on highways, roads and trails. Post-summer everyone can re-tell their favorite parts of your family’s journey. For more fun, use your smart phone or video camera to record your children’s vacation memories, and share them with people you visited. Play vacation charades and act out your family’s summer adventures.

4: Create a dream vacation or memory jar. 

The beauty of these is that you can dip into them whenever the mood strikes. To create one, you’ll need a clean empty jar, felt tip markers, or pens and strips of paper. For a vacation jar, gather your family and ask everyone to think over their summer dreams and ideas. With the whole family contributing ideas about what is going to happen, it can really build excitement about the summer months, including upcoming camps and interest in new places.

Question examples: What is something that you want to do again this summer and why? What is something new that you want to see or do? After summer you can do the exercise in reverse to create a memory jar. What was your favorite moment this summer? What’s one special vacation moment that you’ll tell your classmates about? What’s one activity you would like to do again next year? After everyone has reminisced and shared, ask each person to jot down a sentence or some key words about their memory on a strip of paper. Older children who can write can help younger siblings get their ideas on paper. Fold all the strips in half and toss them into the memory jar. Later, on rainy fall days or chilly winter nights, randomly pull out some of the paper strips, read them aloud, and take your family on a trip down memory lane.

Taking the time to dream and plan a vacation is a great way to build interest and excitement, as well as learning the value of anticipation and research in helping to create a good experience. By savoring the highlights of your family’s summer, you can make those memories last until it’s time for your next vacation!

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Learn something new together, or travel to uncharted territories

Go rafting, try sailing lessons, go camping, visit a water-park, go fishing, hike trails in nearby regions, try an overnight backpacking trip, take a houseboat adventure, visit a different county or state fair. Take up croquet or badminton, try bird watching, go stargazing with an astronomy group. Make your own ice cream, pick local fruit when it becomes ripe (make pies!). Try Sierra Club hikes or visit a new-to-you state or national park. Visit a local or nearby museum, play horseshoes or bocce ball, go caving, see a Shakespeare play in Ashland, Oregon.

Be sure to review North State Parent magazine’s calendar of events for many fun local events; it’s available both in print and online at http://www.northstateparent.com.


North State Parent Reader Picks for Fun Science-based Road-trip Adventures

Barry Kirshner Wildlife Sanctuary & Education Center
4995 Durham-Pentz Rd., Oroville, CA. (530) 345-1700. Open Tue-Sun, 9am-5pm. http://www.kirshner.org.

Chico Creek Nature Center and Bidwell Park
1968 E 8th St., Chico, CA. (530) 891-4671.
Living Animal Museum open Wed-Sun, 11am-4pm. Howard Tucker Exhibit Hall open Fri-Sun,11am-4pm.

Gateway Science Museum
625 Esplanade, Chico, CA. (530) 898-4121. Open Wed-Sun; 12-5pm. http://www.csuchico.edu/gateway.

Lake Shasta Caverns
20359 Shasta Caverns Rd., Lakehead, CA.
(530) 238-2341. Open daily, 8am-4:30pm.

Lava Beds National Monument
Located in Siskiyou County; travel directions are online. (530) 667-8100. Open daily 8am-6pm.

Sacramento River Discovery Center
1000 Sale Lane, Red Bluff, CA. (530) 527-1196. Open Tue-Sat, 11am-4pm. http://www.srdc.tehama.k12.ca.us.

ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum
1500 E Main St., Ashland, OR. (541) 482-6767. Open Wed-Sun,10am–5pm. http://www.scienceworksmuseum.org.

Turtle Bay Exploration Park
1335 Arboretum Dr., Redding, CA. (530) 243-8850.Open Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm & Sun,10am-5pm.

Wildlife Safari
1790 Safari Rd., Winston, OR. (541) 679-6761.
Open daily, 9am-5pm. http://www.wildlifesafari.net.


Justine Ickes
About Justine Ickes

Justine Ickes writes about culture, family, travel and people making a difference. She loves curling up with a good book, her two sons and hot cocoa with plenty of marshmallows.

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