Keeping peace on a family vacation
It’s that time of year again…summer vacation. These are days when families go somewhere new, eat new foods and do new things. That is also the perfect storm for a meltdown or hurt feelings.
Here are a few tips to help keep the peace during a family vacation
- Before you and your partner start planning, determine your trip goal.
What is your shared goal for this vacation? Is it to do nothing on a beach? Explore a new destination? See relatives? Avoid relatives? Sleep? Determine your trip goal so that, whichever parent is making arrangements, you both want the same result.
- Give each family member responsibility for part of the trip.
Put each parent and child (who’s old enough) in charge of one day of the vacation, or in charge of one activity each day. Or, at the very least, let each choose one activity during the trip that everybody does together. (If your child is very young, at least let him pick a lunch spot.) The more each family member is has a say in the activities, the less family discord.
- Set a trip budget.
You don’t want to argue during the trip about how much you’re spending, nor do you want to argue about it after the trip when you get the credit-card bill. When you’re doing a money-bleeding activity such as going to an amusement park, put your child in charge of that outing. It’s a great way to teach your child a valuable lesson about budgeting. Also, every museum, monument, or aquarium exit is through the gift shop; not only set a budget for gift shops but also a time limit.
- Make sure everyone gets the naps and sleep they need.
The last thing you need is a bed configuration that means one family member (parent or child) can’t sleep, putting him/her in a cranky mood that affects everyone. A suite such as the type you find in an extended-stay hotel—where you’ve got a door to the kids’ room that you can close at nap time or bedtime—allows you to have some space, light, and time to yourself, rather than having to tiptoe around in the dark. A house rental provides more space and beds, but it doesn’t come with housekeeping or other niceties that you find at a hotel.
- Have an activity ready for shortly after you arrive.
On a trip, your mood tends to dip lowest during the first part of the trip. That’s when you’re dealing with all the ins and outs of traveling—possibly including a long drive or flight, jet lag, and sleep deprivation. Plan an easy and fun family outing that is soothing and reinvigorating. A swim for the kids and a massage for the parents can make everyone feel better.
- Exhaust the kids.
The earlier you can get them to bed at night, the more time you will have alone with your partner. If it’s a city trip plan on walking miles each day. If it’s a road trip, make sure you stop someplace interesting to running around, play ball or some other activity. If you’re stuck in a hotel room or house because of bad weather, get the kids to do indoor exercises, put together a skit or some other creative outlet that will also tire them out.
- Plan for couple time.
The best way to ensure you and your partner get some quality time together is to have easy access to child care. Many resorts and cruise ships offer complimentary supervised kids’ clubs. Or, consider giving a relative a free trip in exchange for being the babysitter.
- Carve out me time too.
Each parent needs time alone on vacation. You can take turns with your partner to take the kids off to give each you some of that much needed alone time.
- Pack an outlet splitter.
Let’s face it: When you’re squeezed together like sardines on long car rides and flights, electronics are often the easiest and, for today’s teens, sometimes an essential way to keep the peace. Pack whatever you need to keep everyone’s devices charged in transit; that may include a power inverter for the car and an outlet splitter for the airport gate and hotel rooms.
- If you must work, do it when it won’t take away from the family activity.
Sometimes you can’t avoid having to work on vacation. Do it while your kids are sleeping or occupied, or while your spouse is in the shower or finishing up a novel. Keep the work time as short as possible so that you can get back to your family and your vacation!