Energize Your Family Vacation!


Ah … The Family Vacation. A different take on the 3 Rs: Relax, Reconnect, Rejuvenate. Oh, except maybe not the relax part. Travel, especially with young kids, can involve long, crowded and confining conditions, impacting their ability to move around. Oh, and maybe not the rejuvenate part. Because all that crowding and confining that limits physical activity and increases sedentary behaviour drains us of energy and impacts our overall mood.i But, on the bright side, think of all the family bonding and reconnecting that can happen during three days together in the family van!

On the even brighter side, we have some great tips to help energize your next family vacation by helping you to move more and sit less during every aspect of your trip! The majority of parents understand the importance of physical activity for children and youth, participate in physical activity with their kids, and provide both encouragement and opportunities for their children to be activeii, making them important role models and facilitators of physical activity, even while on vacation!

Planes, Trains …

Let’s be honest, not many of us are actually going to stand in the aisle of a plane or train demonstrating our yoga moves. We are also not likely about to embrace a vigorous cardio workout in our seat … especially if we’re in the middle seat! So, a more realistic approach to airline and train activity might take the form of walking up and down the aisles and isometric stretches in your seat. For example:

  • Sit up tall, pull your belly button into your spine and hold for 3 breaths and then slowly release. Repeat five times.
  • Squeeze your glutes together for five to ten seconds, repeating 5-10 times.
  • To stimulate your leg muscles, place your feet on the floor, pull your toes up and press your heels into the floor, lifting your butt about an inch off the seat. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then relaxing. Repeat 10 times.
  • Pump your feet up and down, do toe and heel raises, lift your knees, and make circles with your ankles.
  • Stretch! Do shoulder rolls, neck rolls and lean forward in your seat with your hands grabbing your ankles.
  • Don’t forget you can tune your younger children into the airline’s radio station or your downloaded music and help your kids move to the music.
  • Read a book and have your child act out the story.

And Automobiles!

Is asking you to stop every hour for a fitbreak and stretch too much? If the answer is yes, try these ideas while driving:

  • Dance Party - Bring along some lively music and have a dance party in the car. Try some popular kids’ songs with movements such as Shake Your Sillies Out.
  • Car Calisthenics – Every hour, try different strength and flexibility exercises. These can be done with exercise bands or simply using your own muscles. Contract and relax your biceps and triceps. Do shoulder shrugs and circles. March on the spot (while sitting in your seat), lifting knees as high as possible. Contract and relax all leg muscles and do toe and heal lifts.
  • Push-ups – With fingers against the car window, do push ups.
  • Core strength – Push against the roof with your hands while squeezing your abs. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat as often as possible. This works your arms, shoulders, back and core. Now, with your hands still on the roof, begin walking your hands toward the back seat (and back seat passengers can walk them as far back on the roof as possible). When you feel that stretch in your chest and shoulders, start walking your hands back to where they started above your head.
  • Engage in rubber necking - Turn your head from side to side, holding on each side for at least five seconds. Repeat. Next, sit straight and tilt your ear towards your shoulder. Hold for five seconds and repeat on the other side. Next take your chin to your chest. Hold for five seconds. Repeat.
  • Massage therapy – enjoy a personalized massage from back seat passengers!

And remember, seatbelts should be worn at all times while the car is moving!

As often as possible, get out of the car to stand up, move around and stretch:

  • Go for a walk – around the Rest Stop building, the parking lot, or, where appropriate, run around the car.
  • Find a patch of grass at the rest stop and do some push ups, planks, jumping jacks, or other fun kid-friendly activities. Get creative or ask your kids to come up with activities to do!
  • Create a “Rest Stop Revival” kit – fill it with active games and toys that can be pulled out at a rest stop (or hotel) to get everyone active. Ideas include skipping ropes, badminton racquets, balls, sidewalk chalk, etc.

Active Destinations

When deciding where to go on holidays, consider choosing an active vacation or a place that just naturally involves being a bit more active. Examples include:

  • Cycling vacations (ideal for families with teens).
  • Ski vacations.
  • A cottage or camping vacation that includes kayaking, canoeing, swimming and hiking in the summer and/or snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and tobogganing in the winter.
  • Backpack adventures.
  • Theme and adventure parks.

It isn’t difficult to think of ways to incorporate physical activity into your travel plans. And being active on vacation will help you overcome travel fatigue and jet lag, get a better night’s sleep, keep you energized and provide you with lasting memories.

Feel free to share any additional tips you may have for an active family vacation with us on Twitter @OpheaCanada.

1Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth: An Integration of Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Sleep. Ottawa: Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology; 2016.

2ParticipACTION. The 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. Toronto: ParticipACTION; 2018.