Thursday, January 29, 2009

13 Ways to make a Motel Stay Part of the Vacation Fun

There's no reason to wait until one reaches one's final destination to start indulging in the adventurous vacationing spirit. Wouldn't it be better to try to enjoy it all from packing up the car to unpacking? Here are 13 ideas for adding a little extra fun to an in-transit motel stay:

1. If there is an exercise facility, come up with wacky contests for your children involving the equipment. For example, challenge them to see how long and how fast they can run backward on the treadmill. Or, see how many times they can recite the pledge of allegiance while their arms are fully extended on the weight machine. (Taking all appropriate safety precautions and making sure not to annoy real exercisers, of course)

2. Bring hot chocolate packets and marshmallows, and make hot chocolate with hot water from the in-room coffee makers. Make a tradition of sipping hot chocolate while you all watch the weather predictions for the next day on TV.

3. Go out into the parking lot and see how many different states are represented in the license plates. Take advantage of the opportunity to teach U.S. Geography this way. (e.g. "Wow! that guy's from Arkansas! He drove a long way to get here!" or "Which car is further from home- the one from Massachusetts or the one from Georgia?")

4. Surprise your kids by doing handstands in the pool with them.

5. Bring your atlas in from the car, and see if your kids can find your location on the map. Then see if they can find your destination and ask them to try to figure out the best route for getting there. Build anticipation for the next day by talking about the kinds of things you might see along the way and interesting tidbits about the cities that you will travel through.

6. Come up with silly contests using the ice from the ice machine. (Going to get the ice is part of the fun for kids) Here are a couple ideas: Who can hold an ice cube in their hand the longest without opening their hand at all? Who can make the ice cube disappear most quickly in their mouth (without chewing it)? Play "real freeze tag." Everyone who is not it, must balance an ice cube on top of their head while they run. If the ice cube falls off, that person is "frozen" and must be touched by a teammate before they can move again.

7. Start a collection of "freebies" from motels, and keep them in a special box. Kids will have fun running around the motel room looking for items to add to the stash.

8. Keep a family vacation journal, and brainstorm together in the motel room about what sorts of things should be included from that day's adventures. Designate a different person each night to be the scribe. During the brainstorming session, each child could also be drawing pictures from what they remember of the day.

9. Find the Gideon Bible that has been left in the room. Let each person find a verse that is special to them, bookmark the place and write a short note about the verse to be left in the Bible for the next motel guest to find and read.

10. Get on the internet as a family and find out something interesting about the town where you happen to be staying. Does it have any unique history or off-beat claims to fame?

11. Start a tradition of searching for the best burger (or hot dog or bowl of spaghetti or whatever!) that you can find as a family. In every town you pass through see if you can eat at someplace that serves that item. Each of you taste it, and give the item a rating 1-10. Have fun discussing your disagreements. Won't it be fun to say someday, "The best burger I ever had was in the little town of Almena, Kansas"?

12. Create a car cleaning ritual. As soon as you check into a hotel, your family knows that it's time to clean out the car. Make it fun by running a stopwatch. Tell them that for every minute under a half an hour it takes to get the whole car clean, they may stay up that many minutes past their bedtime. Hopefully, the incentive will not only make your kids work quickly to clean up, but it will motivate them to keep the car clean during the day!

13. Write a thank-you note for the cleaning staff who will tidy the room after you are gone. Let every family member sign the letter, and then before you leave in the morning, have the kids hide pieces of wrapped candy for the cleaning staff to find and keep as thank-you treats!

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