We always have the best intentions when it comes to planning a family vacation, right? In our minds, it will be perfect and everything will go right and everyone will be 100% satisfied. BUT, we’re also parents, and as parents we know: nothing EVER goes according to plan. You know what they say about the road to hell, right? Going on a trip with your family should be fun and relaxing. But if you take your kids, it probably won’t be both of those things. That being said, it doesn’t have to be an absolute disaster! You can totally plan a family vacation the whole clan will enjoy. It just takes for foresight, a lot of research, and incredibly low expectations.
Planning a family vacation that won’t make you want to run away into the woods takes A LOT of preparation. To put it bluntly, prepare for things to go wrong at every turn.
Sure, you might have been on 11 vacations without your kids where nothing went wrong and everything worked! Your luck is due to run out at some point, and it’ll be when you have bored, whiny kids in tow. If you’re flying somewhere, factor in an extra day before the activities start in case luggage gets lost or flights get delayed. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, and have backup plans in case bad weather ruins your itinerary. It also can’t hurt to purchase travel insurance, in case something comes up before you leave or you have a major emergency when you’re traveling.
Don’t bog yourself down with all of the crap kids need. Ship it to your destination ahead of time, and keep those checked bag fees low.
If you’re staying at a hotel or resort, you can have essentials shipped ahead of time (think baby wipes, diapers, formula, etc.). That way, you don’t have to worry about packing it all or forgetting anything. You can also do the same thing in reverse! Ship souvenirs and such back home so you don’t have to travel with them!
Another thing to consider is researching grocery delivery services where you’ll be staying, and planning a delivery shortly after you arrive. This is a great idea if you’ll be staying at an Airbnb or a condo with a kitchen. Save yourself from having to make a trip to the market so soon after you’re arrived by bringing the market right to your door.
Definitely plan some fun activities and excursions, but don’t overdo it. An over-scheduled family vacation is a recipe for disaster.
You have to sort of expect the same behavior from your kids on vacation as you do at home, which is to say, expect for them to meltdown when there’s too much going on. Play it loose with the itinerary, and definitely schedule in plenty of downtime. If you’re changing time zones, factor in jet lag and adjustment time for them. If you’ve got nappers, plan around their regular schedule, and in general try to keep their daily routine the same as much as possible (naps, bedtimes, mealtimes, etc.). Kids don’t like change.
Be prepared, but also, be realistic. Keep those expectations at a low-medium, tops.
Listen, I know you want it to be the most magical family vacation in the entire world, but let’s be real. Kids are fun, but they’re also unpredictable, as is the weather, plane travel, traffic … you get the picture. You can plan and plan all you want, but you’re bound to hit some bumps and hiccups. The most important thing to do is NOT to let that ruin your vacation! Just because you didn’t follow your itinerary to the T or get to do all you planned on doing, doesn’t mean your kids didn’t have an amazing time. We see things a lot differently then they do, you know? I mean, my kids think a night or two in a nice hotel is the best thing in the entire world.
Most of all, HAVE FUN.
Relaaaaaaaaax and have a good time! Don’t worry too much about the particulars once you get to where you’re going. Take a day and let your kids decide what they want to do! Some of my fondest memories of family vacations from my own childhood aren’t of the activities we did, but of the little things in between like swimming in a hotel pool or eating a new restaurant. You don’t have to plan the vacation of a lifetime to have a memorable trip. As long as everyone is together and enjoying themselves, you’ve already won.
In order to plan a family vacation that everyone will enjoy, you’ve got to plan like you’re trying to outrun the zombie apocalypse. But you’ve also got to relax and let a lot of stuff slide. It’s a balancing act, but it can mean the difference between a good family vacation and one that everyone is still fighting about 10 years later.
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