It happens EVERY Chol Hamoed. You get up early, Daven with the first Minyan come home, for a change the kids are dressed and ready to go. But the family can’t decide where to go and you spend two hours undecided. By the time you get into the car everyone is in a bad mood and the entire Yom Tov atmosphere is out the window. The big goods all had good will and decided not to fight but now had already all forgotten all their good intentions.
Does this sound familiar? Does your Chol Hamoed outing always ends in a stressful long day? Take some tips from me. I have been going places with my growing family for twenty years Bli Ein Horah.
Plan in Advance
Decide up front an appropriate outing or trip and stick to it. You can’t make everyone happy. But try to find a place that is balanced to the needs of your kids where everyone has a bit of what they enjoy.
Start Your Chol Hamoed Outing Early
I can’t say this enough! Be in the car AFTER DAVENING, no later than 8:30am! We used to go to the Bronx Zoo from Brooklyn. We were always members to Wildlife Conservation Society. We had unlimited access to all their zoos in NYC including the Aquarium. We would always go to Bronx Zoo very early. We had the best parking spots (you get a few parking passes with the membership) and we had no lines for their rides (the Monorail, Camel Rides, Bug Carousel, Chairlift ride, etc). We really enjoyed ourselves and when we left at around 1:30pm we could not believe the huge lines waiting to enter the zoo.
Get Home Early
You don’t have to be out all day. We plan most of our trips to be home no later than 7:00pm. We then sit down and eat a “Holiday Dinner” and the little kids still get to bed at a decent hour.
Make Sure You Have Plenty of Food
We hate to schlep. However, hungry kids are cranky kids and no sport. Everyone MUST eat breakfast before we go. We do not allow eating breakfast in the car. We also take along lots of finger foods or light snacks that are appetizing and appealing to the kids. Like cheese snacks. There is also plenty of cut up carrots and other veggies for the teenagers on diet. We shy away from heavy sugary items.
The Cheaper the Better
This is the second most important tip on where to go on Chol Hamoed. I have proven this over and over again. The kids are not happier based on how much you spend on your Passover or Sukkoth Chol Hamoed outing or trip. We used to go to Great Escape, The Safari and other expensive places. The first problem is that the driving is always very long. Are we there yet? By the time you get there, everyone is already on everyone’s nerves. Then you have huge lines to get in. That you have huge lines for each ride. And you start thinking, is what I spend so much money for?
When our finances were tight, we used to go to FREE places. We once took a few balls and went to Central Park. We hiked around the pond, played ball, climbed the stones on the hills and everyone was very happy.
Another year, we paid for membership at The Bronx Zoo. Yes, it is one large purchase, but it was a long Chol Hamoed and we went back EVERY DAY. We went very early, enjoyed the best exhibits and rides, left at 1:00pm just when the lines started.
Stay Calm, Cool and above All, Smile
This is the most important tip to have a pleasant day and a memorable Oneg Yom Tov. If this is the only thing you will pick up from this article, you will have a great Yom Tov and happay holiday.
There will always be tension around the holidays. Dad might be in a bad mood because he did not pay the mortgage yet but does not know how to share his feelings (sounds familiar?), Mom might be upset because she did not get the diamond bracelet she hinted dad she likes since Chanukah, and if you have teenage girls, forget it. There will always be one person in a bad mood that will try (unwillingly) to bring down the rest of the family.
Just remember, it is up to each you to stay calm. Ignore bad barbs thrown your way and just smile. If the kids spill soft drinks in the car, don’t let it spoil your entire day. Just smile. The kids will not remember the spilled drinks; they will remember the yelling or the smiles. It is to you to have them memorable memories and not hate you for the rest of their lives.
So take these simple tips from a family that has done it all and above all, enjoy the Holiday. Keep in mind that on Pesach it is a Mitzvah to be happy. Vesumachto Bechgecho is a Mitzvah from our holy Torah. Yes, I know that it is not always easy with all the kids not in school, etc. But please remember to keep calm, cool and always smiling.