Make family holiday memories

Do you have cherished childhood memories – even just one – of family holidays? Chances are that your recollection isn’t only of a place; it’s also of the people who gathered there and the experiences you shared. You hold these memories with much nostalgia, and now could make new memories with the next generation.

Fond family memories

We were not a family that went on an annual vacation to the same location every year, but there was a hotel in Sea Point where we visited over three or four consecutive years … I think I was seven or eight years old when we first visited.

Memories of Surfcrest Hotel holidays are sensory snapshots: white starched tablecloths and matching napkins; heavy sliver cutlery; printed menus listing three courses; the tantalising smell of soup of day signaling dinner ready to be served.

It was a great adventure for me and my sister. A black-and-white clad waiter urged the kids to eat their toast at breakfast (unlike today, I was a frugal eater in my childhood). The hotel faced the ocean, and, I recall that sensation of being ushered into sleep by the sound of gentle waves.

Whether local or abroad, the trips that my parents planned for us made lifelong memories, and instilled in both my sister and me a love of travel and a spirit of adventure. It’s a legacy I treasure.

If you would like to create a legacy for your family and friends of memorable vacations, here are some ideas to make your holidays a special tradition.

1. Choose the right type of vacation

Take your and your family’s needs and preferences into account. A getaway with your group of girlfriends (this is for you women, of course!) will most likely require a different setting than a family vacation with young children.

Multigenerational holidays are great for creating a legacy for your children to treasure and possibly recreate for the next generation. A young daughter who fished at Dad’s side may one day teach her son or daughter to do the same; a grandparent may introduce succeeding generations to the joy of jigsaw puzzles while holidaying with the family.

Be sensitive, though, to the fact that multigenerational holidays may have a sell-by date for some members. Children may want to be in a more sociable milieu as they enter their teenage years (or certainly one with connectivity!), and older family members may need their familiar comfort as physical limitations set in. You may just limit the time in a more remote location, and spend some of your vacation elsewhere, to suit all tastes.

Some like it hot, and some not

You may find daily walks in the bush invigorating, but does the rest of the family? Be especially aware of locations that are too hot or demanding for either the younger or older generation.

Consider, too, what entertainment is offered at each location, and if one member is likely to be isolated because of the nature of the attractions. Families with small children may appreciate holidaying where there are activities to occupy their energetic offspring, and those with babies may need accommodation that cater to their particular needs.

Some like a frenetic pace, and others’ idea of a vacation may be completely slowing down. Allow some freedom for independent activities so that those who want some solitude can recharge alone, and those who love to socialise can do so.

2. Create opportunities for connection

As teens become more independent, you may find that they spend holiday time away from the rest of the family. Older people may go to sleep earlier, and rise earlier.

Consider how you can make some time together sacrosanct. Perhaps dinners are always together. Or, if you are away over Christmas, for example, make that Christmas morning a ritual – a special breakfast, carol singing, opening presents … whatever suits your family.

Perhaps there is an activity that you can plan each year that is non-negotiable, but also fun. A games evening, completing a puzzle together, having a “Table-Talk” evening or meal where you share with each other around a particular topic. Maybe baking together, or taking that first swim together.
Isolation is a reality for many older people, and keeping this connection strong makes for healthier and happier older members of our families.

3. Be creative

Not all vacations have to be in an exotic setting. A weekend together where you spend time in the country may work better for a frail older member of the family. Having grandparents stay over and children camping in the garden is another way of creating memories and connection. How about a “Come Dine with Me” type of dinner where the children are the chefs or hosts?

Give yourself the freedom to find out what will work. There is no right or wrong, just good intention to create stronger family ties and a legacy of fond memories of those we love.

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