Some families’ idea of a successful vacation is when everyone is still speaking to each other when they pull into the driveway. Or maybe it’s when Dad only got lost twice and Mom didn’t yell at him.
In my own experience, those would be big scores on the report card of vacations. But I’d like to offer some suggestions for going even beyond these traditional markers of success.
Family vacations come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from camping to cruising, hiking to hoolaing. Sometimes, the dynamic is as simple as you, your spouse and that new baby or as complicated as you, your spouse, your kids, their spouses, their kids, your parents and the dogs. (My head hurts just thinking about that scenario)
Regardless of the configuration, here are a few things that I’ve found to keep things on the right track and increase the odds that everyone has had a rippin’ good time.
- KISS – yes it still stands for “Keep it Simple, …” (we don’t use that word at our house). People go on vacation to relax and get away from the craziness and complexity of life. Vacation should be a slower, simpler way of life for a few days. Type A’s need to check their drive at the door.
- Make sure everyone (including Mom) gets some “me” time. If it’s just you, your spouse and the kids, schedule at least a morning or afternoon when each of you can do your own thing and not be responsible for anyone else for a few hours.
- Give everyone their space, especially in the morning. You may have worked out the morning person vs. night owl thing in your own marriage, but a week isn’t long enough to come to an agreeable arrangement with everyone else on the trip.
- Strike a good balance between free time and planned group activities. Teenagers are already orbiting in another universe and won’t appreciate being summoned back to earth too often. Individual families should be encouraged to plan their own outings at least once or twice during the trip.
- Planned group activities should be opt in only. If they require an outlay of money that is forfeitable if canceled, make sure everyone pays their own deposit. The last thing you want to be is the banker.
- As far as meals go, flexibility and individual responsibility are key. A good plan is for all those capable to be on their own for breakfast and lunch and then encourage everyone to gather for dinner together.
- If you have to have a clutter free environment to be happy, you’d better change your definition of happiness. People make clutter, eventually it all gets sorted out and taken home and in the meantime, you have the choice to ignore the mess and have fun with the mess makers.
- If you tend to be a high-controller (yes, admit it), you’re going to have to take your hands off the reins and let things evolve. The only person you need to worry about is yourself. I can guarantee things won’t go exactly the way you’d like them to but that’s life, especially on vacation.
- As our own kids got older, I took a survey each year and asked what they enjoyed about our family vacations, how they would like to change things for the next year, and did they have any vacation locations or activities that they’d like to suggest.
- Now that all of our children are adults and mostly married, I continue to ask if all the trouble and expense of gathering together for a week is still worth it to them. Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes from everyone and I think that’s in part due to the above suggestions being observed.
- Enjoy the moment. Make a point to have a positive discussion with each person, completely focused on them. Affirm them with your words, affection and actions.
- If you’re the mom or grandmom who’s orchestrated this family vacation, don’t plan on getting much rest. You’ll probably need a vacation after this vacation is over.
These are just a few things that I’ve found to make family vacations more fun for everyone.
How about you? I’d love to have you share with us what you’ve done that works.