4 Practical Tips for a Family Vacation

Although family vacations take place throughout the summer, we’re just entering the weeks that seem most common for an extended family getaway. Kids’ summer activities and sports schedules typically take a break for a few weeks, and a new school year is on the horizon.

If you’re approaching your family vacation time, it’s probably something you’ve planned and eagerly anticipated for weeks, if not months. And you can be sure that your children are even more eager.

aa family in vanTypically, when we think about getting away and changing the daily routine with our families, we imagine laughter, smiles, seeing the sights, going swimming, good meals, peaceful times, and having fun. It seems simple and almost effortless. But for most fathers, the dream and the reality are dramatically different.

Count on it: If you have everyone together in a minivan, hotel room, airport gate, even sitting around a pool or walking through an amusement park, there will be some tense or frustrating moments. Kids will act up and argue and complain; and we dads will find it difficult not to yell at them. Our family habits and attitudes won’t change when we’re on vacation. There are hard talks we need to have with our kids, issues to resolve, and discipline to deliver.

So, what can you do to help make your vacation the most excellent family adventure ever?

– Expect that things won’t always go smoothly, and decide to have a good attitude anyway. Try to relax. Smile and count to ten before responding to difficulties. YOU can set the tone for the entire family.

– When events are sold out, lines are long or you hit other snags, be ready to “flex.” Maybe that can become an opportunity to discover some local treasure that’s off the beaten path, where you can enjoy a meal or do something else that’s fun.

– No matter what, don’t give up. The next day of your vacation may be all apple pie and lights sparkling in your children’s eyes. Soak it all in, because more “reality” could be right around the corner.

– Capture the memories. Try the “Hi/Lo/Funny” exercise each evening, where every member of the family tells that day’s high moment, low point, and funniest thing that happened. Then, a week after you get home, recall those highs, lows, and funny events during a family dinner. These events will become memories that your family talks about for many years to come. The secret is to talk about the misadventures in a way that makes them positive or funny when you think about them in the future.


  • Allow (and encourage) your kids to give their input and help make decisions about your vacation itinerary and activities. Have them do research on the best routes, attractions, etc. See the resources below for some help.
  • Schedule some high-adrenaline activities during your vacation to help everyone blow off some steam: rafting, horseback riding, sailing, bike riding, hiking, and so on.
  • Also, be sure to leave plenty of “down” time, especially with young children (and moms) who may need naps.
  • If you’re driving, relax a little! Be willing to take breaks and have fun. Don’t be so focused on getting there quickly that everyone gets tense and irritable.
  • Do your kids ask for snacks at every stop? Give them a limited amount of money at the start. Let them know they can spend it however they want, but that’s all they’ll get.

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