Planning a family vacation can be like riding a rollercoaster with lots of ups, downs, twists and turns!
I an not a fan of rollercoasters. My husband loves to ride them every chance he gets. He also enjoys taking long road trips listening to heavy death metal at top volume while I prefer actual melodies without screaming and headbanging. I save that angst for the rollercoaster rides.
When you mix in kids, it becomes even more troublesome. Jared could happily spend his days in art museums. Vanessa wouldn't be caught dead in an art museum and the same goes for Jared at the mall. Ariane is happiest when she's playing tennis or running a marathon.
So how on earth do you plan a family vacation when everybody has a completely different definition of their perfect vacation?
Finding vacation nirvana for everyone will require respect, compromise and the fine art of negotiation. Not only will this provide great teaching moments for the kids but it will save everyone's sanity in the long run. Here are some useful tips to help save on bickering and resentment...
1. Define "Vacation" for your family - Just because your sister wants you to drive three days to come and visit so that she can see the kids that doesn't mean you should do it. That's a guilt trip and far from a vacation. Going camping with your spouse to either gain points or avoid conflict is also a guilt trip. Constantly caving to the desires of others only leads to future resentment. Vacations are meant to be a time for recharging and renewal. It should be something that everyone sincerely looks forward to, not something to dread.
2. Vacation Rules for engagement - Mom and Dad need to sit down, face to face in a quiet place and have a real conversation about vacation planning. Is the family taking one long vacation together or do separate or smaller vacations make more sense. Pull out a calendar, save the date(s) and make vacation a family priority. Set a budget for what your family can comfortably afford.
3. Set Priorities -In order for family vacations to be happy experiences for everyone, they cannot be entirely all about the kids. Your dreams, desires and wishes didn't suddenly disappear the moment you became a parent. If both mom and dad want to spend a week at the beach great! Dad can fish while mom gets a little shopping time. If Dad wants to see a game with his favorite team and mom wants the beach then perhaps two mini trips might keep the peace.
4. Include the kids - Once children are old enough to have an opinion they will certainly will have one and chances are it will be contrary to your own. Obviously children should not be in charge of running the show but they will certainly be more present and invested in a vacation when they have the opportunity to participate in some of the planning. Have a pizza night and ask the kids to come up with three things they would like to do during their vacation and again, prioritize it according to which is the most important. Parents are often pleasantly surprised to learn it may take very little to make their kids really happy like a hotel with a really big pool.
5. Seek professional help - It may be a struggle to get your family just to this point. Now you may find yourself wracking your brains trying to plan trips that will hit the top priorities on everyone's list. This is why there are travel agents. This is EXACTLY what we do. But...in order to make it a phenomenal family vacation, we need to know your family's rules of engagment and top priorities. With these tools, we can customize your vacation so that it addresses your family's needs and makes everyone happy...as life should be!
Please know I practice what I preach. The photo here of my husband and I was taken on a recent day trip to Knoebels Amusement park about 2 hours drive from us in Elysburg, PA. We each select songs for a playlist during a drive time so that there is a balance. We also take breaks from the music that we set aside for conversation. When we got to the park, I went with him on 2 coaster rides and he went with me on the antique Merry Go Round and a visit to their Carousel museum. He chose where we ate lunch and I picked our stop for dinner. We both wanted to stop at the used car lot that we passed that had the 1966 restored mustang for sale. We both enjoyed a really fun and memorable day together and returned home happy. Plus Brian got this photo of me that we can joke about for years to come.