Who are these people that you see in all the family travel brochures?
Maybe this IS your family and if so, I do apologize for my envy. I know our family vacation photos never looked like this. Usually one of my kids was tormenting a sibling while I was screaming just trying to get one usable shot for that year's Christmas card. Over the years, I've become a keen observer of families on vacation. In reality, most appear to be more like an episode from "The Simpsons" than the people show in this photo here.
Let's face it, family life is stressful at best. We take family vacations to escape our daily drama, bond, relax and spend quality time with our kids. The problem is family vacations come with a different set of stress factors...planning, travel hassles, finances and more.
Here are some tips to help make your next family vacation the idyllic escape you're looking for with a lot less drama...
Plan Ahead - Don't set yourself up for drama trying to plan a last minute get away. This is far more stressful and you will end up paying far more than you have to. Start planning your vacation about 1 year to 9 months in advance for resorts and theme parks. Cruises can be planned up to 2 years out. Use Vacation Layaway options to avoid credit card interest fees and financial burdens. Besides, having more time to "look forward" to vacation is part of the fun. Why miss out.
Get Help - Get an experienced travel agent on your side. You could spend hours searching, comparison shopping and pulling your hair out but chances are you have much better things to do with your time. A good travel agent will save you time, money and help you avoid costly mistakes.
Be Realistic - Set the right expectations. Make sure the trip you want and the itinerary you plan is age appropriate for all members of the family. If not you'll be setting yourself up for vacation drama. Many times travel and compromise go hand in hand.
Keep Open Communication -If you assume your spouse will watch the kids while you get some down time on the beach and your spouse assumes you're all going sightseeing that same day there will be problems. Getting everyone in the family on the same page as much as possible will help avoid drama.
Coach Your Kids -This may means explaining to your toddler that they will be sleeping in a different bed or discussing behavior rules and consequences with your teens. Having these types of chats ahead of time at home will avoid confrontations in the heat of the moment.
Don't Overload - Remember this is suppose to be a vacation, not work. Do not jam pack itinerary. Give yourself time to smell the roses and time for kids to be kids. Serendipitous moments are often the most cherished memories from a vacation.
Unplug - From work, school and the everyday. Travel is the opportunity to escape daily stress so take advantage of the opportunity to reconnect with your family. Giving everyone's brain a chance to rest, recharge and explore new things will lead to better problem solving and creative thinking when you return home.
Travel Insurance - Hurricanes, snow storms, accidents, last minute illnesses...you never know what can happen while you're away from home...so why worry about it. Make sure your family is properly protected with travel insurance, especially for medical care, trip interruptions and cancellations. This way you know your family and your vacation is protected leaving you with nothing to do except to have fun and enjoy yourself.