On some vacations, you have a lot of down time where you're just cooling your heels with not much to do. On other trips, you're constantly on the go with sightseeing and other activities-that may be totally uninteresting or only aimed at adults.
Zzzzzzzz. Nothing kills a family trip faster than Vacation Boredom Syndrome!
How can you keep from catching it? Try these ideas:
Keep a travel journal. Years after you get home from your vacation, will you remember everything about it? Will you recall your feelings about where you stayed, what you did, and who you met? If preserving memories is important to you, you might want to keep journal entries while on vacation. If you've got some time in a hotel, for example, resist the urge to just zone out in front of the TV. Instead, open your journal and write down your thoughts about what you did that day. Or, keep a pocket-sized notebook and pen handy at all times to jot down funny things you see and hear. It's a great way to "be in the moment" of your vacation, record the memories you're making, and keep you excited about the trip.
Be a photojournalist. Use the family camera -- or better yet, get a disposable camera for yourself -- and keep a photo journal of your trip. All you need is a blank notebook and a gluestick! Get creative and take more than just posed shots of your family members. Snap images of places you go, including buildings, funny signs, and nature. Try to find things that really capture a sense of your trip. For instance, if you find yourself always eating lunch from sidewalk hot dog carts, take a photo of one so you'll always remember it. Don't forget to take pictures of the people you meet, too, as long as you've asked their permission first.
Collect free scrapbook items. Everyone likes shopping for trinkets and t-shirts, but sometimes the best souvenirs of a vacation are the ones you get for free. Ticket stubs from shows, printed napkins or placemats from restaurants, brochures-these free items can tell the story of your trip, especially if you arrange them into a scrapbook when you get back home.
Take time for yourself. You're on vacation to spend time with your family, sure, but we all need a little time to ourselves. Finding a time to be alone, like going for a walk or reading a book, can help you clear your head and help you enjoy all the group activities that are still to come.
Find interesting activities. Look in the newspaper, in guidebooks, or on the Web to find local goings-on for young people. If you're staying at a hotel, the concierge -- that's a person whose job it is to help guests avoid boredom! -- might have some great suggestions.
Ask about kids clubs. Many hotels, resorts, and theme parks also have special kids clubs or teen clubs where you can meet people your age while parents do their own thing. These clubs often have video games and pool tables, or just places to hang out with other kids. There might also be planned activities for kids or teens where you can play sports, watch movies, or take lessons.
Postcards. Postcards are cheap and fun to send to friends and relatives back home. Write about what you're doing on vacation, or just create goofy stories or poems that will make people laugh. You can even send postcards to yourself, so you'll have something fun waiting in your mailbox when you get home!
Make a friend. Chances are, your family isn't the only one visiting your destination. In most places -- especially hotels and campgrounds -- there will be other kids like you who want to hang out and have fun. Kids clubs are a great place to find friends. If you're vacationing at a relative's house, ask if there are kids in the neighborhood or local hangouts where you might meet people. If your family visits the same place each year, you might even make "vacation friends" who you see time and again.
Avoid homesickness. Even if you're having a blast on vacation, you might still find yourself missing a friend or family member left behind. Meet up in cyberspace through e-mails and IM's (look for Internet cafes, hotels, libraries, and tourist centers with access to the Web). When you find yourself shopping for souvenirs, try to find that perfect item that someone back home will love.
In the next section, we have some advice for Dealing With Relatives.