Too many family vacations end in disaster because of unrealistic expectations or poor planning according to Barbara Bartlein, author of Why Did I Marry You Anyway? 12.5 Strategies for a Successful Marriage (Cumberland House Press). “The family vacation is an annual tradition for many Americans and can have a significant bonding effect for couples and children. Careful planning makes all the difference.” She recommends:
*Identify activities that all family members can enjoy. There should be something for everyone. From petting zoos to shopping malls, identify the must-do activity for everyone involved. Some clans use a family meeting to pre-plan the trip. This is also a great time to obtain agreement that vacations are give and take and involve compromise. It is usually impossible to please everyone all the time.
*Make plans that are age-appropriate. It is unrealistic to embark on a long car trip with very young children. They will be miserable and so will you. Small children do much better with short trips that include plenty of opportunities to play. Likewise, most teenagers will be bored with stops at museums and areas of historical interest; they prefer the shopping mall. You will save yourself a lot of misery if you understand the attention span and interests of your children.
*Be prepared to wait. Whether by plane, train, or automobile, travel can involve delays and waiting. Bring games, books, and other time fillers in case there is time to kill. Make “getting there,” half the fun with all understanding that some glitches while traveling are the norm, not the exception.
*Beware of too much togetherness. You don’t have to spend every minute of every day together. Part of a great vacation is also getting some time alone to reflect and think. You can also team up with different family members based on interests. It allows an opportunity to reconnect in new ways.
*Expect the unexpected. While annoying at the time, some of the best memories and funniest stories are the things that aren’t expected. Like adjusting the motor on the boat and watching as it falls to the bottom of the lake or raccoons lose in the cabin. These events are the fodder for stories around the campfire for years.
*Keep a sense of humor. Try to enjoy the special moments of just being together taking time to laugh and play. It’s a funny thing. I have worked since I was 16 years old and can barely remember one workday from another. But I can tell you the details of every vacation from the last twenty years.