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How to plan a stress-free family vacation

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Family travel tips

With limited time in a year for a family to take a vacation, it can feel like pressure to see and do, well, everything possible. There are relatives to see, historic sites to appreciate and scenic vistas to behold. And you may think that with careful planning you'll be able to do it all. And you might... but you might need a vacation after the vacation recuperate from all the stress that causes!

Family on vacation

Stop. Step back and breathe. Yes, I know you want to see and do it all, and when will you have a chance again? You have a point there. But no one is going to see or appreciate anything if the stress level of the schedule is high and your kids are melting down because they've had no downtime in two weeks. Better to match the scheduling and activity level to your kids developmental age than take a "vacation" nobody is actually enjoying.

Consider your kids' ages

As you plan your family vacation, consider your kids ages and personalities. Plan for what the youngest in the family can really and truly handle. Then back off one step further. Yes, that's right. It might seem a little unfair to your older kids, but when their little brother or sister has a major meltdown because they are overtired and overstimulated, it affects everyone's day. Fair is relative and consideration of the big picture counts for a lot.

As your kids get older, you can do the longer car trips and longer museum visits - and engage them in the planning, too. Having influence into your vacation days can help your older kids feel more committed to the trip, and may help them enjoy it more. But when you have younger kids, don't even think about trying to do more than they can handle.

Smaller focus

Keep your vacations focused. Grand plans are, yes, grand - but can quickly become too much. Is it really possible to see and enjoy the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley in two days? And then on to other national parks? Will you really be appreciating what you see or just checking off that you saw it and getting back in the car. More significantly, what will you miss at each place by running through so quickly?

Bigger chunks of time

Whether your vacation is a driving vacation or renting a cottage on a lake or any number of possibilities, add time to whatever amount of time you think you need at any given location or attraction. This is vacation, after all, and why rush? Give yourself and your family to really enjoy several things rather than see and not appreciate many more things.

Family vacations create wonderful memories. Just make sure those memories (and resulting photo albums!) are of true relaxation and fun, not a stressed out family trying to see too much. ?

More family vacation ideas

 


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