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Keeping kids and parents happy on 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...

The vacation balancing act

When planning a family vacation, it's about the family - not just the kids or just parents. Everyone has to get some of what they need in terms of activity and relaxation. The reality of planning that kind of balanced vacation can be challenging, but it can be done!

Family relaxing on dock

Balancing family vacations is about realistic planning. It's about taking into considerations the ages, stages, and needs of each member of the family and finding at least one point in the vacation to address each. Not every activity, every day will be perfect for everyone, but if everyone gets at least some of what they need and want in a vacation, it will be a very successful vacation, indeed.

1Not all one or the other

Planning a vacation that is all about one family member (or generation) or another doesn't quite work. You and your sweetie may love golf and want to play all day, every day, but where does that leave your toddler? Similarly, a vacation focused solely on kid activities can leave parents yearning for something more. Make sure that one person isn't driving the whole of the vacation, and do enough research on your (potential) destination to understand the different options available for everyone.

2Ask

You can start by simply asking each (verbal) member of the family what they want to do on vacation. And, as the family members rise in age, ask them also what are their happiest memories of previous vacations. The answers may surprise you!

For example, while your adolescent may claim they don't want to go anywhere with the family, their memories of a hike on a beautiful mountain may help you understand that he or she can have fun with the family - as long as it's away from other's eyes so they never have to admit to it. You can then plan an activity on your upcoming vacation that meets some of that same criteria.

3Different parts of the day

As you plan your vacation, you can divide your days up to address different needs. Perhaps your sweetie wants to golf first thing in the morning while you laze back at the hotel with the kids. Mid-day you can go to the water park as a family, and late afternoon you can hit the spa solo while the kids go to the arcade with Dad. If you are vacationing with family or close friends, you can swap off child care so parents get get out alone for dinner a couple nights of vacation. Not every day has to be planned so fully, but thinking about different parts of each day can help identify different times you might be able to address those different needs.

4Don't forget down time

Don't forget to allow plenty of down time for everyone. Whether it's nap time, or just relaxing before dinner, make sure everyone has enough time to just "be" and appreciate being together as a family.

More family travel tips

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