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​“I’m tired. Let’s go back to the hotel.”

“I’m thirsty. Can’t we have something to drink?”

“My feet hurt. Let’s find a place to sit down.”

We were experiencing what many view as the ultimate vacation, but everyone was miserable. How could we be in the midst of one of America’s most frequented family vacation spots and have everyone so unhappy? Had other families had dismal Disney World experiences, or were we the only ones?

​The subject of family vacations stirs up mixed emotions in people. It is one thing to look forward to time away from work and routine responsibilities. It is quite another to negotiate and tolerate the tension that constant togetherness often inspires. Given the energy expenditure involved, as well as the financial commitment required, some might even wonder whether vacations are worth the effort. What makes a vacation worthwhile, anyway? Consider the following factors.

Perhaps the first thing to remember is that all family vacations do not require hours together in an automobile. Some of the best “vacations” may occur in the backyard or close to home. They allow uninterrupted family time apart from regular routine. When children are young, these briefer, less-expensive outings often provide the most enjoyable memories.

One family made a habit of taking picnic lunches to the park in a neighboring community. Their preschool children enjoyed the novelty of eating outdoors, as well as the adventure of using unfamiliar playground equipment. The parents enjoyed a relaxed meal without worries about spilled milk and food on the floor.

As children grow, and finances allow, longer vacations may be possible and more enjoyable. These need to be planned carefully and take into account the energy levels and interests of the whole family. Whatever you decide to do, remember that stress-relief is important for both children and parents. Consider the following guidelines when planning enjoyable time together with people you love, including children:

  • Remind yourself and your child to slow down
  • Plan “media free times” to play games, read and talk with each other.
  • Create “quiet times” for yourself and other family members.

Plan some activities that involve the whole family and focus on process, not goals. Some of my favorite memories involve lying on my back, looking up at the stars and talking to my brother and sister. It didn’t cost anything, but the memories are priceless. Make sure you create some time for these kind of experiences to occur, as well, for your children and yourself.

About the author

Dr. Jennifer Baker is the founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two, grandmother of eight, and a licensed clinical psychologist. She can be reached for comment at [email protected]

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