We just got back from a week in Florida. Traveling with a large family has some unique challenges. I’ve learned a few things along the way. Enjoy this list of 10 things NOT to do on a family vacation. We may or may not have learned these the hard way!
- Expect everything to be awesome. Let’s just get this out of the way first. A family trip will never be perfect. Things will go wrong and attitudes will go awry. Expect it.
- Eat totally different than usual. If you normally eat simply, have several simple meals. If you normally eat healthy, avoid too much grease and fat. If you typically limit sugar, don’t just allow whatever. Should you enjoy eating a little different – yes! But do keep some of the same foods and eating routines. Try to stay on a similar eating schedule as home. If you don’t you’ll end up with stomach aches and bathroom issues and unusual attitudes.
- Allow the kids to stay up super late and skip naps and basically totally disrupt the normal sleep routine. Do this and set yourself up for grumpy kids and grumpy parents. Yes, enjoy some of those special moments of later evenings and sleeping during the car ride. If the kids nap, make sure they still nap close to schedule. If the kids go to bed at 8, don’t keep them up until midnight. Enjoy the vacation and keep semi-normal sleeping patterns. For the kids AND yourself.
- Schedule every moment for maximum fun and memories. Trying to pack too much into a vacation leaves everyone needing a vacation from the vacation! Plan activities and allow some downtime too. Do something that is a little similar to home (family movie night, park playtime, or evening walk) to provide a sense of “normal” to reconnect to.
- Play it all by ear. While scheduling every waking moment can lead to feeling over-stimulated and worn out, playing everything by ear can cause feelings of anxiety in those who need to know what is coming next. Do have a general plan for each day (travel day, pool day, adventure day, hiking day, shopping day) and let everyone know that general plan. If activities are weather dependent, talk about what changes you may need to make based on weather. Have a basic plan, yet be flexible enough to make changes as weather/attitudes/circumstances warrant.
- Have no budget and just spend whatever you want. Most families have a limit to the funds they are able to spend on a vacation. Be realistic to what works for you and your family. If need be, bring snacks from home, always have a refillable water bottle, and limit shopping. Shop at a local grocery store for food items you can keep and prepare where you are staying. Give kids a souvenir budget. If age appropriate, give kids some input and choice for paid activities (what adults think is fun and worth the cost is sometimes VERY different than what kids think). The stress of paying for the vacation credit card bills months after the fun has faded takes the fun out of the trip. If need be, skip the trip one year and instead of paying off the vacation, use that money to save up and pay cash for the next one.
- Spend every moment together as a whole family. Sometimes, too much together time leads to arguing and grumpy attitudes. Allow some time for people to have some alone time (if age appropriate) or divide up into small groups for some activities. If you are traveling with another family or extended family, arrange for the parents to have some time alone without kids. An early morning or late night walk, an adult only time by the pool, or even an hour in the room alone goes a long way in keeping everyone’s spirits up.
- Leave all the comfort items at home. If kids have a special stuffie or blanket, or need special items to reduce sensory overload, make sure to bring them!! These items will help calm anxiety, give a better night sleep, and make the trip easier. And for all that is good in the world, make sure you have them when you leave to head home!!
- Come home and go right into your regular routines the next day. Make sure to have just a chill day between when you get home and when you go back to work/school/normal life. Parents and kids need a chance to transition back to life at home. Take the day to unpack and put things away, get back into the “normal” routine, and allow all the emotions that come when the fun ends.
- Expect nothing but gratitude for all that you did to make the trip happen. It is important to teach kids a sense of gratitude and yet we must remember, they are just kids. Kids have their own personalities and some will point out all the things they “wish” we could have done. Some kids will dwell on the stuff the family didn’t do or even talk about all the better trips their friends took. That’s ok. Don’t take it personally, encourage conversation about the aspects of the trip they enjoyed, and take notes for ideas for future adventures. In the end, know you planned a family trip that created memories the family will talk about in 20 years. Take a deep breath and know you did your best.
What else would you add to the things NOT to do on a family trip list?