Pack your bags, it’s vacation time! What’s your idea of the perfect summer getaway? Some say that relaxing in the sun, seeing the sights, and tasting local food are the ingredients for a great trip. Stir up heartwarming memories of family vacations with some of the activities suggested below. Allow plenty of time for a funny story or two.

  • VACATION WORDS: Ask participants to list words associated with vacations. (Examples: binoculars, getaway, airplane, lodging, camera, passport, sightseeing, tickets, tourist, hotel, baggage, waterpark)  Play various games with the words: scramble words, word search, rhymes, acrostics, missing letters, vacation words for each letter of the alphabet. Or, play a game of vacation/travel bingo.
  • VACATION MEMORIES: Talk about why people need vacations. Ask if anyone in the group preferred to stay home for a vacation. Encourage participants to share memories of the following: Best vacation, worst, most interesting, costliest, most beautiful, most relaxing, most active, multi-generational vacations.
  • VACATION ACTIVITY: Ask each participant to create a colorful “On Vacation” sign. Hang the signs around the room. Add other typical vacation props: camera, sunglasses, suitcase, walking shoes, guidebook, map, sun hat. Gather the participants for a group photo (suggest that they wear a piece of vacation clothing) and say “Cheese!” Talk about favorite vacation spots. Share photos of family vacations in years past.
  • TRAVELING: Ask group members if they like to travel and to talk about their favorite mode of travel – plane, car, tour bus, train, or cruise ship. Do they prefer: Traveling in their own country or visiting another country? Using tour groups or planning their own trip? Traveling light or with lots of baggage?  Traveling in large groups or with family/friends? Staying at a hotel or camping? Returning to an annual spot or visiting a new destination?
  • CONVERSATION STARTERS: Ask participants to raise their hand if they have… Travelled to all 50 states, visited a state that begins with the letter ‘A’, stopped in the state whose capital is Richmond, took a trip to the “Sunshine State,” stayed for a vacation in the smallest state, visited a state that borders Canada. (Add others as they come to mind.)
  • SONG WRITING: Use the song “Let’s Get Away from It All” for lyric writing. Ask participants to name some places they would like to travel to. Then ask them to name a way to get to each of those places. Last, fit these lines into the song. Rhyming is optional. Here is an example: Let’s take a steamship to Vancouver, Let’s motorbike to Peru, Let’s hop the Amtrak and go to the Arctic, Let’s get away from it all.
  • DISCUSSION: Discuss the following quote by Elbert Hubbard: “No man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one.”
  • VACATION MEMORIES: Reminisce about vacations or trips in the 1930s/1940s, including auto camping, camp cabins, travel trailers, trailer camps, tourist courts, motor courts/motels. Ask: What is your earliest memory of a family vacation or trip? How did the Depression and World War II affect vacations or travel?
  • STORYTELLING: Obtain some antique or well-used pieces of luggage. Tuck an interesting item inside each one: a silk scarf, a pair of ice skate laces or socks, an old-fashioned powder compact, hairpins, cuff links, cigar bands or matchbooks, a piece of costume jewelry, a program from a theatrical production from a distant city, or a subway guide. Open each suitcase, have the group find the hidden item, and make up stories about where the bag has been and how it came to have a particular item inside. Try for mysterious, funny, or romantic tales.
  • WORLD’S FAIR: Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, New York. Share photos/souvenirs of the fair (Westinghouse Time Capsule, Disney’s Small World Ride, Ford Pavilion – introduction of Mustang, RCA Pavilion – color TV). Ask if anyone ever traveled to a world’s fair on vacation. Find out when and where the next fair/expo will be held. (2015 in Milan, Italy)
  • PICNICS: Celebrate National Picnic Month. Reminisce about a 1950s-style road trip in the family station wagon and enjoy a simple roadside picnic – bread, cheese, fresh fruit, lemonade – indoors! Or check out the picnic menus in Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook, published in the 1950s. Talk about roadside diners and listen to jukebox music.
  • TRAVEL SONGS: Sing or hum the first verse of some songs about places in the U.S.: “California, Here I Come,” “New York, New York,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” “Oklahoma!” “Tennessee Waltz,” “Gary, Indiana,” “Georgia on My Mind.” Share recollections of states visited and something unique about each one.
  • TRAVEL ABROAD: Listen to the song “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Invite a travel agent or a “seasoned traveler” to talk about the most popular countries for Americans to visit today. Ask: Have you ever been abroad? Where did you go? How many countries have you visited? Which country would you most like to visit? Play a geography board game, like “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?”
  • BON VOYAGE PARTY: Take a “Vacation of the Mind.” Announce that you will be “cruising” to a particular city or country/island. Give a Bon Voyage Party (with champagne or sparkling cider, cruise ship sound effects, ship decorations, travel songs) and “set sail,” planning to “arrive” at your destination on a certain day. On your “arrival” day, plan several special events that will give the participants the flavor of the country – for example, short film about the country, guest speaker to talk about the place, a meal of typical food from the country, or a group that will perform native dances or music or model native costumes. (Example: Hawaiian luau or German Oktoberfest)
  • VOLUNTEERING: Talk about the benefits of taking a “volunteer” vacation. (Example: Helping park rangers in state/national parks) Ask participants how they can make a difference on vacation.


  1. In which country will you find the Taj Mahal? India
  2. What is the name of Queen Elizabeth’s residence in London, England? Buckingham Palace
  3. Where is the Eiffel Tower? Paris, France
  4. If you wanted to vacation on the beach at Waikiki and see Diamond Head in the distance, where would you fly? Hawaiian Islands
  5. In which country could you snorkel off the Great Barrier Reef? Australia
  6. Where is the Walt Disney World Resort located in the U.S.? Orlando, Florida
  7. Helsinki is the capital of this country of lakes. Finland
  8. Where are the following attractions: The Vatican, Sistine Chapel, Coliseum? Rome, Italy
  9. Which city in the province of Quebec hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics? Montreal, Canada
  10. Where would you go to see the pyramids? Egypt


“A traveler sees what he sees. A tourist sees what he has come to see.” ~ G.K. Chesterton

“Vacation Time” written by Sue Hansen. Copyright 2014 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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