At the heart of family travel is encouraging family bonding and creating lasting memories. One of the best ways to make a lasting connection as a family is to practice mindfulness while you travel. It's so easy to become distracted while traveling. Put that impulse in check with a goal to live in the moment.
Mindful travel takes practice. It's challenging to give your full attention to the moment. It also takes commitment to live in the present and accept what cannot be changed. Try these tips on your next trip and let us know how it goes.
Tips for practicing mindfulness on your next family vacation
Let Go of Control
It may rain, schedules will change, attractions may be closed. Trying to be in control on vacation can drive you completely crazy. The uncertainly of travel can make me a bit nervous, but I've learned to accept that there are many, many things that I cannot control. Be mindful of what causes you stress and try to let go. A fun activity we've started as a family is keeping track of the things that do not go as planned. It's our “oops!” report. This helps us keep our sense of humor when things go wrong.
Create a No Judgement Zone
People in different places and cultures do things differently. Instead of getting caught up in judging what seems strange, unsafe or unsanitary to you, focus on what life lesson can be learned in these moments. For example, when I was in Thailand, seeing four people (baby included) on a moped seemed CRAZY to me, but I needed to accept that it was commonplace there. Instead, I tried to focus on the beautiful family and not their mode of transportation. Keep an open mind and you'll enjoy each moment more fully.
Live in the moment
Our kids are 11 and 13, so they often want to be plugged in to their gadgets. My husband and I have challenged them to spend time just living in the moment. We want them to observe using all of their senses. What colors do they notice? What sounds do they hear? Are there any particular smells? What new flavors can they identify in a meal? Even it it's just for a few minutes a few times each day, it makes such a difference.
Do More with Less
It can be very tempting to try to fit in everything in a given place. You've done your research and you want to see it all. Instead, consider exploring fewer things and allowing for more flexibility in your schedule. Rushing around to fit in every “must see” attraction leaves little time for unscheduled discoveries. These unplanned moments are often the fondest memories from our family vacations. Our kids still reminisce about running through a muddy marsh in Quebec, Canada (and this was 5 years ago).
Keep Travel Journals
We require our kids to keep journals when we travel. They don't need to write a detailed narrative of the day. Instead, we ask them to do anything that feels special to them. Some days they will write a paragraph. Other days they will draw a picture or glue a ticket stub. I have a library of wonderful travel journals from the time I was a teenager. I'm glad we started earlier with our kids. Some of the cutest keepsakes are journal entries from when they were 5 and 7. It's never too early to have your kids start recording their memories in some way.
Schedule camera-free time
This is a huge challenge for my husband and me since we LOVE taking photos. That said, we have caught ourselves spending far too much time concerned with setting up the perfect shot instead of enjoying the moment. We have recently started having camera-free time on our trips. Some tourist activities provide photo services. This really came in handy on a recent visit to Discovery Cove in Orlando. Consider giving this option a try. Otherwise, challenge your family to stay camera-free for at least a few hours each day.
Create Home-made Souvenirs
A few years ago, we started realizing that we waste a lot of time trying to find the perfect souvenirs for everyone. We have not given up shopping entirely, but we also challenge the kids to create their own souvenirs. For beach vacations, they collect shells. In cities, they put together collages of ticket stubs and post cards.
Embrace the wait
Waiting is the one constant in travel. At the airport, hotel check-ins, ticket lines, etc., waiting cannot be avoided. Instead of allowing these situations to cause frustration, “embrace the wait.” Use the time to observe your surroundings. It's often in these moments that you'll catch a glimpse of locals and visitors from other countries. Observe their languages, style, and how they interact with one another.
What are the ways that you practice mindfulness when you travel?