The scene: Busy people have taken time off work to gather with their family for a long-awaited vacation. But beach toys are sitting in puddles on the driveway, while bored little kids gaze forlornly out the windows at the pouring rain. Family members have sleepily gathered around the table, sipping coffee and wondering, “What are we going to do in this weather??”
We’ve all been there. In fact, my family has had so many rainy vacations we’ve started conjecturing that we somehow summon the rain through some kind of family curse. Although wet conditions can put quite the damper on summer plans, it doesn’t have to ruin the time you have together. The most important thing to do is maintain a sunny outlook, and the weather won’t matter. Here are some ideas for making the most of a rainy vacation.
Make It An Adventure
Rain may be inconvenient, but it’s not like you will melt if you get wet. Instead of letting it keep you inside, gear up and head outdoors anyway. The beach will still be there, and if there isn’t any thunder or lightning you are safely able to enjoy the water to your heart’s delight. A rainy hike can be lots of fun, too, as long as you wear proper footwear and decide to embrace whatever nature throws at you. If you have kids along, turn a walk into a nature observation journey, and point out the critters that come out when the skies are gray.
It helps to have a positive attitude and some key rain gear, like easy-to-pack disposable ponchos. You may look a bit silly, but that often contributes to cultivating the devil-may-care attitude that is needed.
Embrace Board Games, Puzzles, and Crafts
If you’ve ever rented a vacation house or cabin, you’ll note that there is almost always a shelf crammed full of old board games and puzzles. That’s because a rainy vacation day is absolutely perfect to indulge in some time-wasting activities that often get neglected thanks to our busy schedules. Set up a 1,000-piece puzzle and work on it together; the more inane the subject matter, the better. Play an hours-long, no-holds-barred game of Monopoly. Break out the Twister mat and have a tournament. Pack a few paint-by-number kits and see who can do their best Bob Ross impersonation. Go for a walk and bring back interesting objects to craft with — you can glue them to picture frames, make a sculpture, or decorate them with acrylic paint. If you’re near a beach, make sand art by dying ziplock baggies of sand with food coloring and then layering it in glassware. Get creative.
Visit Usually-Crowded Outdoor Venues
If you’re willing to brave a little weather, sometimes rainy days are the best times to visit otherwise crowded venues. Zoos, botanical gardens, and touristy landmarks are sometimes better experienced when there are fewer people to navigate through. My family’s go-to rainy day option is miniature golf: no waiting for the people ahead of you, and no groups waiting behind you as your four-year-old takes his 20th illegal stroke. And, as a further bonus, you’ll get more personalized attention from staff.
Take Turns Entertaining the Kids
If there are young children in the group, a rainy vacation can be particularly trying for everyone. Try to take turns entertaining the little gremlins, so that one set of adults aren’t stuck tap-dancing ‘till exhaustion. If you’re in a hotel, volunteer to take them down to the indoor pool to get out some energy. Go for a field trip to get ice cream from the local scoop shop. Lead them through a craft. Introduce them to an old movie they haven’t seen yet. Or, as my mom loves to do with her grandchildren on vacation, gather them all on the bed for a story and take a group nap.
Visit a Museum
It doesn’t matter whether you’re on a whirlwind trip of Europe or camping out in a cabin in the Catskills, there is always a museum nearby. The scale will be different, obviously, but you’d be surprised at some of the gems you can find in even the tiniest towns. Local historical museums are always fascinating (though sometimes for different reasons than they’d like), and a quick internet search will reveal if there are any single-interest museums you’d want to explore. Our only advice is to make sure they’re open before you make a trek, as sometimes smaller museums keep odd hours.
Not everyone loves to shop, but for those who do, a rainy day is a perfect excuse. As a kid, rainy days meant we got to visit the general store and buy things like shark tooth necklaces or fun souvenirs. Now that I’m older, I love to window shop and look for funky little stores that might have something I can’t find at home. Pedestrian thoroughfares are often less crowded on rainy days, and outlet malls are pretty quiet as well.
As a worst-case scenario, use the time to go to a big box store to purchase the time-wasting supplies you might need for continued contingency plans, like the puzzles or craft kits we mentioned earlier. At least you won’t be grumpy that you’re missing out on beach or woods time.
Become a Foodie
Rainy days are perfect for taking the time to create a truly gourmet dinner menu. Plan a fancy charcuterie tray for happy hour and concoct a special cocktail. Cook a dinner that takes 6 hours to slowly roast. Take your time shopping for the perfect ingredients and enjoy the luxury of it.
Alternatively, let someone else do the work. Take a food or drink tour of the local area, and visit places you’ve never tried. Get a reservation at a fancy restaurant, show up early and ask to sit at the bar so you can people-watch to pass the time. Or even better, sign up for a cooking class and learn how to make a local delicacy.
Have a Spa Day
If vacation is about rest and relaxation, then where better to do so than at a spa? Ordinarily you’d probably feel bad about having a spa day if it was beautiful outside, so take advantage of less-than perfect weather for some pampering.
Go to the Movies
Going to the movies on a rainy vacation day is always a big win for any crowd. Everyone doesn’t even need to agree on the same movie, as long as it gets people out of the house for a few hours. The only downside is that a lot of other people might have the same idea, so it’s a good idea to get tickets online ahead of time to ensure you’ll all get seats.
Take a Nap
Naps are underrated. If you’re stuck inside, embrace the cozy atmosphere and snuggle up. Everyone can enjoy doing their own quiet activity, like reading a book or watching a movie, and then pass the hours with a comfortable snooze. It’s vacation, baby: Relax.
Final Tip: Find Your Balance
With all of these suggestions, the hardest part is maintaining a cheerful disposition. It might be helpful if you see yourself as a facilitator for these activities, but be prepared that not everyone is going to want to participate. If no one wants to take you up on a rainy hike, fine! But don’t let it stop you if that’s what you’d like to do. If you lay out the paint-by-number kits and no one tries their hand, it’s okay! All you can do is provide the ideas and opportunities, and then let everyone else choose their own paths.
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