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Family Vacation Survival Guide

We are well into the summer season and if you haven’t gone on a family vacation yet then perhaps you have one coming up. The hubs and I recently took our youngest and her friend on a week-long holiday to a rustic cottage resort near Deep River, Ontario.


The word “ holiday “ is used loosely in this post because in actuality when travelling with your offspring, as my father inlaw always says "it's a trip not a vacation". There typically isn't much in the way of relaxation involved when traveling with your family and therefore it shouldn’t be classified as anything more then a trip. However in an effort to make our lives seem more glamorous than it actually is we will call the week away a holiday for the duration of this post.

Typically when travelling with teenagers you will be met with constant complaining, rolling eyes and reminders of how much they hate everything that isn’t exactly what they want to do. It’s frustrating and often leaves you feeling like you are raising ungrateful, wretched children who don’t appreciate all that you do for them. Every year it starts out the same, the hubs expertly pack the car and you take off with romantic ideas about how much fun you’re all going to have and the memories that you and your family will cherish forever and ever.

Fast forward 2 hours, you’re asking your kids to turn their headphones down for the 100th time, your coffee is sitting forgotten on the counter at home and you’ve had to make ten different stops for everything you failed to pack and you’re starting to ask yourself why you put everyone through this just to have a miserable trip where you need to bribe or threaten you crotch goblins within an inch of their lives to smile for one goddamn family photo.

Well, friends if you are reading this post in hopes that I have some magical 6-step guide to the perfect family holiday then you are reading the wrong blog. If you are looking for some tips to make it slightly less dramatic and marginally more enjoyable then read on.


1. Ease up on cell phones. We didn’t grow up with one, for us it’s an extra, something we can step away from. For our kids, it’s something that has been heavily ingrained in their childhood, so as much as it drives us crazy it’s not their fault, despite how problematic it can be at times. Set up boundaries, boundaries are your best friends. Where the phone is concerned, decide as a family what the rules will be. I suggest no phones during meals, or when you are doing a family activity, but during downtime or riding in the car just let them be.

2. When it comes to outings and activities, decide together what you want to explore. Come up with a plan as a family, and ask each member of the family what they what to do on your trip. Have them make suggestions on things they'd like to see and do,and try remember this trip is as much about them as it is about you. We finished our trip in Ottawa and together explored the National Art Gallery and Parliament for the morning but then we split up for a few hours so the girls could mallrat. This allowed the hubs and I to wander the Byward Market and have a nice lunch without the death stars from our dalring daughter. This way everyone got to spend some time together as a group but also got to see the parts of the city they were excited to see and I didn't eat my young.

3. When it comes to actual family activities be warned they are absolutely going to hate most of what you want to do and if by some miracle you catch them having fun when they said they wouldn’t don’t throw it in their faces, that never ends well for anyone. I assure you if your teen tells you they are going to hate something, they are NEVER going to admit they were wrong. Thank them for trying new things and then try to engage them in something they want to do.

4. When it comes to togetherness quality is often better than quality. They don’t want to spend hours hanging out talking with you as much as you want that from them. Teens spend so much of their lives being talked to, they just want to be heard, and they get that from their friends. Cut them some slack, negotiate times that are reasonable for family and time for them to connect with their peers. Stay focused on the word negotiate, dropping rules down like a hammer will not get you anywhere with your teen in regards to boundaries during a trip. Fact, telling your teens what to do never goes smoothly. They are going to hate what you suggest no matter what, but giving them some control over situations will make them marginally more agreeable.

5. Manage your expectations, and do your best to let go of the emotional tether that tells you you can’t have fun while your teenager is standing in the back, arms crossed with a scowl on their face. I assure you, in fact, that I implore you to give yourself permission to have a fun, fulfilling vacation despite the fact that your womb gremlin is acting like an ungrateful troll. Don’t let it ruin your day, let that shit go.

6. When your teen is following agreed-upon boundaries in regards to tech, and participating in family activities say thank you. You will be so shocked to find that simply letting them know you appreciate that they are trying will go such a long way. Letting go of the need to make your trip Insta-perfect and allowing yourself to enjoy the experience will make for far better memories than the ones you post on social media.

7. lastly, don't forget to pack a bottle of wine. A glass at the end of the day will help melt those frustrations away.

Get out there, have a good time, and let them have a good time. We all experience life differently, so try not to expect what brings you joy to do the same for your teen.

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