Do you always return from vacation a few pounds heavier? Is it a struggle to get back to the gym after a week with the family? Does just watching kids run around make you tired? You may be suffering from a condition called Family Vacation Health Deficiency Syndrome. The cure? Just a little planning and some research, and you’re well on your way to a healthier family getaway.
Here are seven ways to health-ify your vacation:
1. Take Them to the Water
When picking a travel destination, you really can’t go wrong with anyplace near water. Whether it’s an ocean, lake, river or stream, these locales are always ripe with fun (and calorie-burning) activities for young and old, like swimming, kayaking, sailing, and surfing. Parental tip: instead of sunning yourself on the beach, join the kids for a game or guided lesson. The memory of mom and dad making fools of themselves is one that will certainly last a lifetime.
2. Pack Healthy Snacks
One of the pitfalls of any vacation is getting hungry and resorting to food that is fast, convenient, and more often than not, unhealthy. Before leaving town, stock up on healthy hunger-busters, like fruit, yogurt, granola bars and string cheese. If you’re traveling far, stop at a grocery store before checking into your hotel for snacks, bottled water and breakfast items. You’ll save money, time, and maybe even a few pounds.
3. Plan Activities in Advance
No matter how interesting or exciting your destination, entertaining every member of the family is always a challenge. Planning ahead can help you avoid some of those dreaded complaints of boredom, but also help keep the entire family physically active every day. If you’re heading to the beach, bring gear for games like badminton, frisbee, or water balloon toss. Sign up in advance for planned activities, like biking the boardwalk, tennis lessons, guided tours or a scavenger hunt. Make it a goal to have at least one planned activity for the entire family per day.
4. Research Restaurants
While you may dread planning out yet another week of meals, researching restaurants in advance of your trip is a great way to find places that are healthy, affordable, and family-friendly. Steer clear of touristy establishments or buffets, and find eateries that offer local ingredients, fresh fish or meat, and vegetables your kids will eat. Create a list of restaurants with healthy options and stick it in our wallet. During vacation, let the kids choose off the list where to go each night. They’ll be making a healthy choice without even realizing it!
5. Bring Friends
Three words that will always get kids running: “Tag, you’re it!” The more the merrier when it comes to games like tag and hide-and-seek. Let one of your child’s friends come along on your family vacation and you’ll see more impromptu games and activity, and less time in front of the TV or video games. Better yet, consider traveling with another family and encourage all of the adults to play along, too.
6. Rely on Resort Kids Programs
If you need a vacation from planning activities for your kids, let someone else do it! Many family-oriented resorts offer programs just for the little ones, with a variety of arts and crafts, sports, games, and more. Drop the kids off in the morning and devote the day to your own personal health and wellness. Get a spa treatment, go for a walk, attend a yoga class, or just sit by the pool (with SPF, of course) and relish in the quiet.
7. Do the Unexpected
Unleash your inner-child and do things outside of your comfort zone. It is vacation, after all. Recent studies have shown that new experiences can help stimulate brain activity and improve brain health. Surprise your kids with something they would never expect, like white water rafting or hip hop dance lessons. The memories will be well worth the extra effort and you’ll return home reinvigorated and with lots of stories to tell.