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 


Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking


K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.


Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.


Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.


Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.


Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…


Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…


Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.


2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…


NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…


Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.


Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.


Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.


Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.