A fun family vacation is what everyone wants. But do you know how to have a fun family vacation? If you are planning a family vacation this summer, you’ll need to be prepared so you can have fun during it. You can’t plan for every possible situation in every vacation with your family. But you are almost guaranteed to not to have fun on your family vacation it if you don’t plan at all! You can also be aware of your expectations going into your family vacation to be present and enjoy the moments. Here are three ways to make your family vacation more fun for everyone.
The year before the pandemic, my husband was on Sabbatical for three months. For part of it, our family took a five-week cross-country road trip that included teenagers, cousins, parents, grandparents, and friends. Sometimes during this trip, I thought, “What was I thinking being on the road for five weeks?!”. MOST times I was just grateful that we had the foresight to think through these three steps!
Step #1: Planning for fun family vacations
FINANCES for Vacation:
Our planning began by my husband and I looking through the financial resources we’d have available. You have to make sure the adults are on the same page as to how much money can be spent. Then you can best plan out where you can go and how much time can be spent at each place. We choose to use a credit card to earn rewards. But only use it if we can completely pay off balances each month to not pay interest. Sometimes that “stretches” our money, but we don’t want to be caught off guard when the bill comes in. So you can’t just go all willy-nilly if you do this!
SNACKS for Vacation:
When you are taking a trip – especially in a car – you MUST plan ahead for snacks and drinks. Not only because eating “fast food” often takes a toll on your physical and mental health, but also financial health! We tried to stock up at grocery stores when we had extended stays. How frustrating is it to pay $4 for a bottle of water or bag of pretzels at a gas station? This didn’t ALWAYS happen, because, you know….LIFE. But when you need snacks at a gas station you may think, “I wish I would’ve stocked up at Kroger!”
ACTIVITIES on Vacation:
We brainstormed all the things we wanted to do, people we were able to see, and asked the kids if they had preferences. I found that asking the boys open-ended questions like, “What would you like to see or do on this vacation?” almost always got me an answer of, “I don’t know.” Which got really annoying. So, I gave them choices: “When we stay in Madison, Indiana we could visit the Ark Encounter or the Creation Museum. Which would you prefer?” Then, they could research and make an educated guess at which one they’d like to visit. As a side note, our family was given a very generous gift from my Early Childhood Team for this trip and we were able to visit BOTH of these places – praise God for their generosity!
KIDS STUFF for fun:
Planning with kids for vacation is important from as early as three years old. Think and talk with your spouse about these things first. And then let your kids know what your united-front response will be. For example, my husband and I enjoy finding Christmas tree ornaments as reminders of the places we’ve vacationed together. We know how much we’re willing to spend, so sometimes we don’t get one because we can’t find one we love for the price point we’ve set.
It’s like this with your kids. You need to figure out if it’s OK for them to ask you to buy them stuff at every stop. Will you give them a certain budget limit? Will they need to use their own money? There is no one right way to do this, but I strongly suggest you help teens figure out how to budget their own money (even if it’s money you give them). This will help them understand that they cannot have EVERY thing they want. They may choose to get everything they want at the first stop. And then have none left for the rest of the trip! This will be a useful life lesson for them – one they will remember much more than if you controlled the outcome for them.
Step #2: Expectations for fun family vacations
BEHAVIOR on vacation:
No matter where you’re staying, make sure to talk beforehand about behavioral expectations. For example, you don’t jump on beds at home, so don’t do it at others’ homes. You clean up after yourself at home (dishes, clothes, trash), so you do the same when staying elsewhere. When staying with with family, make sure to offer to help prepare meals, set tables, or take out trash. It’s just good manners! And, just because hotels have maid service doesn’t mean you lose all sense of propriety! Still put trash in trash cans. Be aware that other people may be trying to sleep when you walk down hallways and close (not slam) doors. This is what Jesus taught in Matthew 7:12. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.“
MEDIA USE on vacation:
If you and your husband are not on the same page, it’s crucial you can agree on how much media use is acceptable on this vacation before talking to your kids. Once you both agree, invite your older children/teens into the conversation so they can have input – and by in. They may surprise you by suggesting less time than you would have offered! Also, consider removing “downtime” so they can learn to be responsible for WHEN they use those hours of allowed media. If they stay up all night and have none left for the next day, there is a natural consequence! It’s important to give chances to work on building their own self-control, while you can still control the consequences.
EATING OUT on vacation:
This is almost inevitable when you are traveling on the road! Even the most planned and prepared families can only eat so many pre-made sandwiches in the car and eventually will eat out. Aside from the budget you set, remind your kids of proper manners at the table. This includes; napkin use, chewing with small bites and mouth closed, waiting your turn to speak, listening when others are talking, asking to leave the table, and so on. For excellent help and more information on this, check out Sallie Plass’s Etiquette Enrichment page. She’s amazing!
Step #3: Flexibility to have a fun family vacation
RELAX to have a fun family vacation:
You have now planned for finances, snacks, activities, and kid’s stuff. You have outlined expectations for behavior, media use, and eating out. There is nothing else you can do but relax and ENJOY your vacation! Not everyone gets to take a vacation, so even the rough moments can be appreciated for what they are. YOU ARE ON VACATION!!!
Things are not always going to go as planned, because nothing is perfect. Now, if that freaks you out a bit, just Stop, Breathe, and Pray. Thank God for this moment and ask Him for His strength, peace, and comfort. You are not alone! Just because you planned and outlined expectations is no guarantee. So please remember Step 3 is to RELAX and ENJOY your vacation. If you get stuck thinking, “This is the only way it can go” then you’ll lose the chance to enjoy the moment, your family, and God’s creation. Praying you ENJOY your vacation this summer!
Kate Fraiser is a Parent Coach with Connect Point Moms helping you create stronger relational connections with the children in your life. This starts with being aware of your own stuff so you can BE PRESENT with your children in the moment you’re in, and then knowing and using the best ways to communicate with them. For quick and helpful parenting videos, find her on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, or Facebook.