7. Play active games. When most people think of outdoor games, they think of team sports like baseball, football, or volleyball, all of which can be both intimidating and excessively strenuous for grown-ups who stopped playing such things a long time back. So forget about the standard games. All types of fun outdoor games are available today. Start with the old-fashioned ones — badminton, shuffleboard, horseshoes, Wiffle ball, or bocce. Try some new ones too — they make great balls out of Nerf these days, and if you haven’t bought a squirt gun in a while, be prepared for today’s amazing supersoakers. Plus all types of new paddle games are available that are easy and fun. Your goal: Play an outdoor game every day while on vacation.
8. Create a silly tournament. Particularly if there are kids on the vacation, it can be a hoot to create your own mini-Olympics. For example, if you use the swimming pool every day, have a daily competition, such as holding your breath underwater, or swimming between people’s legs, or having a big splash contest. Or maybe a week-long badminton competition. “Silly” is the operative word — don’t make it serious competition, but just a chance to have active fun in which everyone participates.
9. Play miniature golf. You burn more calories sitting than lying, standing than sitting, and walking than standing. Although miniature golf won’t incinerate fat, it will burn more calories than lying in a hammock. Plus, your kids will have a great time. You probably will too.
10. Beware the food obsession. Let’s be honest: For many of us, vacations are about eating splurges. It’s fresh seafood by the ocean, amazing restaurants in great cities, unlimited breakfast buffets at the hotel, that ice cream/candy/cake/jambalaya that you remember as a child and come back for every few years. This is the stuff of great vacations, and don’t deny yourself these pleasures. Our suggestion: Limit yourself to one food splurge a day. If you do more, the uniqueness and specialness of the splurges fade away. And you’ll spend too much time sitting in restaurants — and then sitting some more, recuperating from the overindulgence.
11. Explore on foot. Yes, you can use the concierge, the travel guides, the map, or the bus tours to get acquainted with a new location. But only by getting out and walking can you truly get the feel of a village, city, resort, or wilderness. We recommend that you plan to spend the first several hours at your vacation destination walking the area. If you are in a city, pick a few restaurants to try while you are walking and make your reservations in person. Be sure to locate the parks, museums, and shopping areas.
12. Fly a stunt kite. If there’s a good wind blowing at your destination, purchase a stunt kite and take it to the beach or other large open area. These kites can be easily assembled and then taken apart, making them perfect for traveling. You’ll give your upper body a great workout as you struggle to control the kite. You may also have to run or walk to keep the kite in the air — or chase it down once it plummets to the earth.
13. Schedule an activity-based vacation. Ready to commit to even more action? Wrap your entire vacation around an activity, such as sailing, skiing, hiking, biking, or exploring. No expertise is necessary — just a willingness to take on a new challenge. Travel agents can hook you up with any number of vacation packages targeted from novice to expert, adolescent to senior, single or whole family. If you have children, look for packages that include excavating dinosaur bones and other anthropological expeditions, or that teach them a new sport. A ski vacation with lessons for different ages and ability levels works beautifully.