worst vacation ever

5 Ways to Avoid the Worst Family Vacation Ever

It’s common knowledge that the crowds around Christmas at Disney are chaotic. For some reason, I felt up to the challenge, so I took my kids to Magic Kingdom two weeks before Christmas on a Saturday. My wife and I had just purchased annual passes and were ambitious about getting our money’s worth. I tend to be spontaneous, so I decided to do it at the last minute without much of a plan while my wife was out of town. When we arrived, we immediately had to fight our way through a crowd to get on the tram in the parking lot. Next, we fought our way through a sea of people to get on the boat to take us to the gate. After waiting in an amazing line at the gate, our passes didn’t work. Apparently, there was a problem with our payment that needed to be resolved at guest relations. The line there was the longest of all the lines that day, and after waiting 10 minutes without moving, I lost it, and so did my kids.

Have you experienced a family vacation like this? There’s a different way. Family vacations don’t have to become disastrous. Here are 5 ways to avoid the worst vacation ever with your family.

1. Don’t be overly ambitious.

Here’s how we tend to think: If one theme park is good, then five must be five times as good. Or, if visiting three national parks in one week is fun, then squeezing in six is better. Don’t do it. Instead, relax. How about a late breakfast every day and taking three days to visit one destination? “Frantic,” “frenetic,” and “fast” inevitably lead to “frustration” and “freaking out.”

2. Don’t overspend.

Work on a vacation budget. Plan it day by day. Then stick to it. The added stress of knowing you’re breaking the bank will usually sap the joy out of anything you do.

3. Leave your work at work.

Remember, dad, the smartphone is your servant, not your lord. Vacation means “I’m here for my family and with my family. Only my family.” People who bring work along on vacation are sending a clearer message to their family than to their boss.

4. Play games together.

The keyword here is “together.” Pull out some of those old board games and keep the electronic ones turned off. Each family member should bring two favorites and be in charge when that game comes around. Make this a vacation FROM family isolation and FOR family togetherness.

5. Divvy up the responsibilities.

Make these age-appropriate, but involve everyone in the planning and the implementation. There are lots of potential jobs: drive-time planner, restaurant finder, treasurer, photographer, chaplain, weather reporter, movie-finder, popcorn popper… (use your imagination). Give kids responsibility, help them plan, and then let them follow through.

Sound off: What helps you experience good vacations?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What would be the top two places you would want to go to on our next family vacation?”