How to actually relax on a family vacation

Family at beach with ice cream cones smiling
Dreamed about snapshots like this can actually happen. You know, after everyone gets a nap.
Credit: Colourbox

“Family vacation” can seem like an oxymoron. How can you possibly relax with the kids around? But lo and behold, parenting expert and author of “Duct Tape Parenting,” Vicki Hoefle found a way. Put her tips into practice and you might remember something from your trip other than screaming kids and wanting a glass of wine.

Make the journey part of the fun.

“The vacation starts long before you get to the destination,” Hoefle says. “Children live in the moment, so you can’t rely on just talking about how much fun it will be when you get there.” Luckily most cars are equipped with DVD players these days, but Hoefle has a more creative way than keeping children entertained without just relying on movies and books. “Before the trip, I make a few ‘surprise bags’ full of cheap goodies for the kids. Every couple of hours, they get to open one. It gives them something to explore and play with,” she says.

Get everyone’s “top three” before you leave.

When you are still planning everything out, Hoefle advises that each family member each list three things they want to do, three things they want to see and three places they want to eat. Then when you get there, hold mini family meetings every morning and pick one thing from each list when planning the day. When you make the kids part of the process, they are more willing to wait until the afternoon or when it’s “their turn” because they helped create the plan.

Schedule in some down-time.

Having a two-hour rest period in the middle of the day might seem like wasted time when there’s so much to cram in, but no one will have fun if the kids are cranky. “Instead of saying, you get grouchy in the afternoon, say that you need a rest time so you don’t get grouchy,” Hoefie recommends.

Don’t expect everyone to go to bed at the same time.

If you have kids with different bedtimes, booking connecting rooms will make things a lot easier. If not, it’s still best to split the younger kids up from the older ones when it’s time for the little ones to go to bed. One parent can take the older kids down to the lobby to play games or watch a movie on the computer, while the other parent gets the younger kids to bed.

Be flexible and go with the flow.

“The most memorable moments are often the simple things; things you didn’t see coming,” Hoefle says. When you don’t over-schedule and allow for moments to just happen, that’s when the best memories are made.

Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence 


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