With summer just around the corner, we’ve all got vacay on the brain, yes? No school, warm weather, life slows down a bit—it’s the perfect season to get away for a nice, relaxing family vacation. Except ‘relaxing’ and ‘family vacation’ are oftentimes two phrases that you won’t find in the same sentence. Because while vacationing is nice, vacationing with kids is…well, let’s just say it doesn’t always live up to expectations. And we get it! Doing ANYTHING with kids adds a layer of stress and work that makes it harder, and vacationing is no exception.
Taking your kids to a new place, with lots of outside stimulation, and expecting them to be chill about it all is the very definition of ‘WTF were you thinking’. But don’t fret—and don’t let the stress of taking your kids on vacation keep you from going on one. It’s all about managing expectations and adjusting plans. These tips on how to enjoy your family vacation as a parent can help make it a memorable experience for the whole fam.
Work with what you’ve got.
A vacation can be anywhere and anything you want it to be—and it will look very different for every family. If your budget (financial and time!) only allows for a long weekend or short road trip, then work with what you have. Nothing will stress you out more or suck the fun out of your family vacay like constantly worrying about what/how much you’re spending or trying to fit a two week trip into five days. Set your parameters BEFORE you start to plan, and don’t deviate from what your family can manage.
Listen, if your kids have never stayed in a hotel/been to an amusement park/been on a plane/don’t do well in the car/etc., then you need to keep that in mind when you’re planning your family vacation. Flying across the country to spend a week at various amusement parks when your little one has never been on a plane and is easily overstimulated? Maybe not the best plan. Putting your whole family in one shared hotel room when your toddler needs total darkness and silence to sleep and your infant likes to party at 3 a.m.? Might be a no go. You know your family and kids better than anyone, so plan a vacation that doesn’t run completely contrary to their needs and wants. Expecting your kids to be happy and joyful when they are not having a good time is asking a lot.
Settle on your must-haves and don’t needs.
We know you want to make the most out of your family vacation, especially if it’s your first one (or even your first one in a while!). But trying to cram EVERYTHING into a short period of time is only going to leave everyone feeling overwhelmed and is about as relaxing as a pap smear. Make a list of everything you want to do, and a list of everything you can realistically do (within your financial and time budgets, remember!), and then start cutting them down until you have a reasonable itinerary. You want to be able to enjoy your vacation, and not feel like you have to do ALL OF THE THINGS.
Keep it simple.
Vacation does not automatically equal some grand trip far away from home filled with lots of activities and adventures. In fact, some of the best vacations end up being those that are not planned to the hilt and just sort of happen based on how everyone is feeling on a given day. Sometimes, all you need is a change of scenery and some downtime to just unwind and enjoy each other’s company without all the noise from everyday life. Instead of planning out every detail, maybe go with the flow a bit and let the vacation plan itself along the way.
Listen, we get it—as parents, the daily schedule and routine are CLUTCH. And we know that the urge to bring that same energy to a vacation is strong! It makes sense to plan out everyday so you can manage your time and expectations. But it’s a vacation! It’s the time to release yourself from the rigors of IT’S X O’CLOCK WE HAVE TO DO THIS THING. Be willing to change your plans, or scrap them altogether, in the interest of having a good time and being able to relax a bit. If you had an activity planned for a certain day but your kids had the absolute best time of their lives just digging in the sand at the beach for four hours the day before, screw your plans and head back to the happy place.
If you want to actually enjoy your family vacation, it would do you well to plan your days in such a way that keeps your kids from absolutely losing their minds and bottoming out into meltdowns. For example, if you have a day packed with lots of overwhelming and over stimulating activities, make sure you keep the next day really lowkey to give them a chance to recover. If your kids need naps or need to go to sleep at a very specific time every night, avoid planning activities or being away from their sleep routines around those times. Have a kid that absolutely loathes a certain type of food? Maybe skip the restaurant that ONLY does that type of food. That might mean making some concessions when it comes to what you would like to see/do on your family vacation, but if it keeps the kids happy and out of an emotional spiral, then it’s probably worth it.
If you play your cards right, your family vacation will go down as one for the record books, and not end up resembling something that the Griswolds would have been a part of. When you start planning your family vacation, make it something that you will ALL enjoy. You want to return home after a vacay feeling refreshed and full of memories—not wishing you could take another one by yourself to recover.