A happy family looking out the rolled down windows of a car.

Joy in the Journey: The Keys to Enjoying Your (Imperfect) Family Vacation

When it comes to creating memories, it’s hard to top a family vacation. Whether you’re flying across the country or simply taking a quick road trip down the highway, the sights you see, activities you enjoy, and time spent together will give you something to smile about long after your vacation is over… as long as everything goes according to plan, right? There’s no denying that planning a drama-free vacation the whole family will enjoy is a tall order, even for the most organized among us. Kids will be kids, vehicles will get flat tires, and flights will be delayed. Perfection is rarely attainable. What is the key to enjoying your imperfect vacation? Learning to find joy in the journey. All it takes is a little bit of planning and the right attitude.

Here are some tips for planning your next family vacation and creating memories you’ll treasure for years to come.

1. Plan for success … and failure
When it comes to planning your destinations and activities, it’s a good idea to ask yourself about the best and worst-case scenarios for every event or attraction you plan to take in. When you can look ahead and identify potential snags, you can plan around them to alleviate pain points. It may mean packing additional clothing, preparing snacks to take with you, or designing the day around your toddler’s nap schedule. Perhaps when you weigh the pros and cons, you might decide a certain activity isn’t right for your family this year but could be more suitable in years to come. The bottom line: when you anticipate potential roadblocks, you can prepare for them.

2. Set reasonable expectations
You’re going to wake up, eat a delicious breakfast with your family, share a few laughs, and enjoy an activity-packed day together, right? Perhaps… but it’s also possible that after a day or two of non-stop togetherness, everyone will need a little bit of a break, and that’s okay. Embrace the possibility of quiet, alone time for your family. It may mean taking a nap, reading a good book, or even a little bit of screen-time (yes, really). Your vacation should be a rejuvenating experience for everyone, so don’t make it more stressful than it needs to be.

3. Give yourself a reason to look forward to the trip home
Anticipation makes your drive or flight to your destination easy to enjoy, right? You’re looking forward to a great trip, your work-brain is turned off, and you’ve got your whole vacation ahead of you. But the drive home? Usually, by the time you pack up to head home, you’re starting to get that Sunday night feeling, thinking about the work that has stacked up for you back at home. If your schedule has room, try adding some fun stops or even breaking up your return travel by finding a destination to stay at on your way home.

4. Focus on togetherness
The main reason you’re vacationing together is to make memories with each other, right? Sometimes all it takes is this little reminder to put things in perspective. It doesn’t matter how many activities you check off your list or how many perfect pictures you take. What matters is the people you’re with. So, when things start to go a little sideways, remember to take a deep breath and smile. Your family will probably laugh about these little snags someday.