Family holidays for bond building and memories

Family holidays build bonds and unforgettable memories,Tara Jenkins andKaren Pittar report

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 September, 2012, 5:22pm


What makes a memorable family holiday? Certainly not the organisation: packing for five, finding someone to look after the family pet, stopping the newspaper delivery and buying a vat of sunscreen. So why, year after year, do we put ourselves through it?

Family holidays are all about building special bonds and memories, according to Kathy Wong Kin-ho, executive director of Playright Children's Play Association in Hong Kong.

"They are a time for play and new experiences, a chance for adventure and exploration, and importantly, for rest and relationship building."

Family holidays don't have to be expensive or far-flung, Wong says - just fairly regular. "We all need time every day for rest, play, sleep, love and communication. The problem is we all live in cities, and city life has taken these basic things away from us. Family holidays are a time for us to re-experience these things, and we should look forward to a break every year, as much as possible."

Even structured holidays, with children and parents taking part in separate activities such as ski schools, kids clubs or language lessons, can be a bonding experience, as long as a family makes time to spend together.

"If you go on a holiday and everyone separates, it's not a family holiday. It's fine for part of the time, but not the total," she says.

It's always tricky with children of different ages and interests, but Wong advises trying to find some commonality between family members. "You have to be creative. We all have busy, separate day-to-day lives. We took our family camping recently and we all slept side by side and cooked our meals together. Even though we have a 17-year-old and an eight-year-old, we all enjoyed the experience."

She says the best way to build relationships during a holiday is to involve the entire family, from beginning to end. "Before you go, discuss what you want to do, pack together, and during the holiday make decisions together."

The bonding doesn't have to end when you come home. Wong says families should share photos and talk about the trip, citing her own holiday in Singapore. The impressive Singapore SkyPark captured her son's imagination to such an extent that he thoroughly researched the complex on his return to Hong Kong. Poons' place in the sun As a busy IT consultant, Tobby Poon's home is filled with the latest technological gadgets. A holiday for him means a chance to take his wife and small daughter away for some peace, quiet and relaxation. "We treasure our family life but seldom have the chance to holiday together," he says. "Even so, once in a while it's important to leave all our things behind and vacation together. There are so many things to share if we have the chance to be together in a more relaxed environment."

Earlier this year, Poon took his family to the Margaret River wine region in Western Australia, where award-winning vineyards are dotted along a magnificent coastline and the wine and food are legendary.

"Our favourite memory was the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. There was a pole you could stand on to get a better view of the sea. We went up one by one, opened our arms wide and enjoyed the 360-degree, unobstructed view of the sea."

Poon says he and his wife value every moment with their young daughter and often wish they had a bigger brood. "It's so much fun seeing them growing up and enjoying special moments together. With the hectic life in Hong Kong, we should seize every opportunity to go outside the city to places where all family members can get close together, relax and have fun." The Winstanleys' Chinese adventure As a full-time working mother, Polytechnic University lecturer Gail Winstanley often has to get creative when it comes to planning family holidays. So when she was asked to spend time at Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou over the summer break, she thought it the perfect opportunity for a family holiday where her three girls - Erin, Pia and Alana - could practise the Putonghua they have been learning since the age of four.

"I love holidays with my family," Winstanley says. "An adventure, a time to bond, a time to learn and to discover together new and sometimes even familiar things."

During the trip, Winstanley worked with colleagues every morning, organising a private Putonghua tutor for the girls. In the afternoon they explored Guangzhou, visiting the old town, an amazing science museum and a water park.

"Studying language in a classroom is very different from being able to use it in a real-world context," Winstanley says.

"Spending two weeks in Guangzhou was a great start - not really long enough - and I hope we can do more. And by basing ourselves in Guangzhou, we found out more about the Pearl River Delta and the surrounding area."

Winstanley is considering doing it all over again next summer. "I'd recommend other families explore China together, and take some time to improve and develop their Putonghua. It's not the most relaxing of holidays, but definitely one you'll remember." The Lanes' winter wonderland A family holiday is especially important to corporate lawyer Geoff Lane as it is one of the few occasions he gets to spend plenty of time with his daughters Sabrina and Lydia.

"The girls get to bond with him and appreciate his sense of fun," says wife Julie. And what better way to have fun than by visiting the "real" Santa at Christmas-time, in his grotto in Lapland?

The Lane family travelled to Finnish Lapland in December 2008 for a magical holiday experience, which included husky sledding, skidoo racing, reindeer rides and, of course, meeting the big man himself. According to Lane, aside from the structured activities, the best part of the holiday was watching the girls experience snow for the first time.

For the Lanes, visiting Santa was all about creating unforgettable memories that will stay with the girls for the rest of their lives. "Living such busy lives, we forget what matters - and that is spending time together as a family," Lane says. "Our girls are still quite young so we savour holidays with them and try to create as many happy memories as we can for them."