I have been on a number of family vacations over the years; some of them more fun and less stressful than the others. As I was reflecting on what made our recent family trip so much fun (10 people, 7 days, and 40 hours in the car!), I came up with a few things that greatly contributed to the success of those vacations.
Here are my top 4 suggestions:
1. Plan ahead
Planning a trip in advance is important. Get the whole family on board so everyone is involved and is contributing their ideas and making suggestions. Having a formal or informal itinerary that you can share with the family can help with attitudes, as everyone will know what to expect ahead of time. The big parts of the plan (such as destination) can be shared ahead of time so everyone can enjoy looking forward to the trip. Smaller details can be shared with family members later on in case changes in the itinerary need to be made closer to vacation time.
2. Have reasonable and clear expectations
Accommodating individual needs for food, drinks, and bathroom breaks should also go into your planning. Kids have different attention spans at different ages, and grown ups and kids come with individual preferences. After your plans have been made, communicate with others what you’ll be doing when. It might not hurt to give everyone a pep talk about the trip too.
Ours went something like this: “We’re going to be spending a lot of time together over the next week. We have a lot of fun things planned. We won’t be watching TV the whole time we’re in the car, but we’ve got a lot of other fun things we can do. Let’s make this a good trip by having good attitudes and being kind to each other. We know you can do it!”
3. Be flexible
Being flexible will make things run even smoother. You may have a Plan A and Plan B, or you may just have a list of alternatives in case things don’t go the way you planned. Some things you may have to make accommodations for include sick kids, other group members not showing up, bad weather, and wrong dates for event tickets. In these cases, do the best you can to meet the needs of your group, and proceed to tip 4.
4. Focus on the positive
Things don’t always turn out like we’d hope with our vacations. Parents have to deal with unexpected unpleasantness and may just have different ideas of “fun”. But if you can focus on the positives, the trip will be a lot more enjoyable.
Although the kids might be unaware of much of the work that goes into making a vacation great, planning ahead, having reasonable and clear expectations, being flexible, and focusing on the positive will pave the way to a better trip for everyone!