Surviving Family Vacations
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
Family vacations can be fun, exciting, and an enormous headache. Conflicts about interests, how to get there, and finances can get in the way of your good time. Finding the right balance of planning and spontaneity will reduce the chances of unwanted surprises. Here are some tips to help you get the most of your vacation relaxation.
Deciding where and when to go on vacation is often the most difficult challenge. Sometimes spontaneous decisions work out great, but more often than not planning for a family trip will make things easier, even though it can take many months. How can you start that process? Here are some ideas:
Planning is important, but whenever you travel, flexibility is a must. Many things can occur that will cause you to change your plans. There will always be things that you have no control over, such as traffic, bad weather, sick children, and delayed or cancelled flights. Adapting to change is important for you and those you travel with.
If you choose the car, getting there may not be half the fun. Think of safe car games to help pass the time. Discuss landmarks like state welcome signs, historic sites, mountains, and oceans that will be passed each day. This gives everyone something to look for.
Some other tips to help make the road a happier place include:
Be aware of rules and routines that you will encounter before you go to the airport. Here are some other tips that will help make the trip to the airport a bit smoother:
When You Get There
It is wise to plan extra time for all activities. If one activity does not take as long, you can always opt to go somewhere else or just stay and relax a bit. However, if you are constantly aware of the time and feel pressured to make it to the next destination, you are not truly vacationing.
When you make your plans, create some free time each day so each member of your family can enjoy some activities they may want to do. It is okay to split up and meet later on. Then you can talk about your daily adventures over breakfast or dinner.
Planning ahead for packing is a great idea. When you do, keep these tips in mind:
One of the greatest stresses of a family vacation is spending too much money. Decide ahead of time how much money you can comfortably spend on the vacation. You may need to postpone some activities for another vacation.
Rest stops, gift shops, restaurants, and hotel lobbies can be tempting places to spend money. Set aside a certain amount of money for different categories, such as hotel, food, gas, entertainment, and miscellaneous.
It is natural for children to want to buy things that will remind them of their vacation. Give your children a certain amount of money to spend. This works well for children over 5 years old. In addition to taking the pressure off every time you pass a souvenir display, your child is learning the value of money and wise decision-making.
Make Wise Food Choices
It is easy to resort to an unhealthy diet on vacation. Try to maintain good eating habits, allowing some opportunities to splurge. Here are some ways to keep you eating right:
Pack healthy snacks and keep them handy. They are also useful if there is a long wait to be seated at a restaurant.
Deal With Health Issues
If you travel with a chronic disease, make sure you know what you need so you do not have any health-related setbacks.
This is probably the most important rule for enjoying your vacation. Your sense of humor may be the most valuable item you bring along. Do not let the vacation be the time you discuss all the things that irritate you about the other family members. This is a time for you to enjoy your family, so take advantage of the relaxed schedule to talk, play, and laugh.
American Society of Travel Agents
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Public Health Agency of Canada
Family. Travel Channel website. Available at:
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Accessed October 12, 2016.
Planning your greatest family vacation. Travel Sense website. Available at:
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Accessed October 13, 2016.
Travel. Transportation Security Administration website. Available at: https://www.tsa.gov/travel. Accessed October 13, 2016.
Last reviewed October 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 10/27/2014
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