Since the first thing to spoil a family outing is a stressed parent, let's make it easier for you by guiding you through the essential steps.
Choosing a destination
Your choice of venue will of course depend upon the age of your children, how much time you have and your mode of transport. Popular outdoor options for the day include the zoo, amusement parks, nature parks and trails, historical monuments and heritage walks, bird sanctuaries, boating and adventure sport venues and farm picnics. If you have a little more time in hand, plan a weekend out to a destination that you can reach in about 4-5 hours of travel.
Get all the info
Once you have finalized the destination, do some research for important information like timings, ticket prices, availability of food, activities organized, access to rest rooms and parking facilities. In a place like a nature park or bird sanctuary, you will also need to know if you are permitted to carry food and drinks, bags, cell phones, cameras, etc. For a farm picnic, check the tariff for adults and children and get a clear idea whether meals and activities are included in the tariff or not. If headed for a weekend vacation, check if the hotel has a children's room or any special activities for children. It does not have to be an elaborate itinerary of activities, children will be extremely happy with just a swimming pool too.
Work around this information to pack everything you need. If there don't seem to be any facilities for food, pack a picnic basket with non-messy finger foods, fruits, juices, soft drinks and other favourites. But irrespective of what you are told about water, always play safe by carrying your own drinking water.
Most outdoor venues have enough activities to spend your entire day. You will not hear a bored "what do we do now" whine if you are at an amusement park or the zoo. But if you choose a historical monument, make sure you identify the closest favourite restaurant to move to after sightseeing.Farm picnics also take care of activities and can pack in a lot of fun with a camel or horse ride, pottery lessons, kite making/flying, vegetable patch or herb garden walks etc.
In case you plan a picnic at a park, you will have to create your own activity schedule. Your packing list will also be much longer including essentials like durries or sheets, collapsible chairs or stools, perhaps a sun umbrella, insect repellants, food and drinks as well as disposable plates, cups, spoons and lots of paper napkins and wet wipes. Take along frisbees, balls, playing cards, fun stuff like bubble liquid and wands, or even board games like Tambola. After a while, go for a short nature hike, collecting different types of leaves on your way. Fly a kite or simply lie down and watch the clouds.
If your destination is a long drive away, pack simple board games or pen and paper games and some dry snacks to keep the critical "Are we there yet" question at bay!
Why not visit a biscuit, soft drink or candy factory or even a printing press? A few quick phone calls within your friends' network may turn up opportunities to tour nearby factories. If a group is required, get together with a couple of other families. You might be surprised at how many companies are happy to cooperate.
Even if you are compelled to stay home, move the picnic outdoors to your terrace or garden. Just don't let the TV, computer, and video games become a distraction.
Be patient and go with the flow
Sometimes family activities don't go as planned. The baby is tired, the car had a flat tire, or it rained when it was supposed to be sunny and warm. Be prepared, always have a back-up plan and don't stress the inevitable.
Once your plan is made - follow through. Try your best not to let an office meeting, presentation, work deadlines or anything of the kind cancel your day out with the kids. So before your Blackberry beeps again, just grab your car keys and get going for some fun in the sun!
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