Summer is here, and while we’re all excited for a vacation, traveling with family isn’t always the relaxing experience you’re looking for. Summer family travel can be stressful, but with these 11 tips, you’ll stay cool as a cucumber.
1. Family Travel Should Be Fun Travel
Have a social media-obsessed teen? They might not love the camping trip you’re planning, but they could be super into a city vacation with tons of insta-worthy photo spots. Rambunctious little ones? Rethink those museum tours. Just because something is a typical vacation doesn’t mean it should be typical vacation for your family. Ask your family members what they would do on their ideal vacation, and try to incorporate aspects of what everyone wants to do.
2. Don’t Insist on the Photos
Photo by Ryan Franco
We all want to look back on our vacation photos with fond memories, but forcing everyone to pose next to state signs on your epic road trip, or making a sulky teenager pose with Mickey Mouse might not be the way to do it. Remember, if people aren’t naturally smiling for the photos, it might be for a reason.
3. Pack Extra Phone Chargers
Photo by Steve Johnson
And headphones. And snacks. And anything else that has to get shared among family members. There’s nothing worse than when people start squabbling over whose phone has a lower battery charge during your family travels. You can even get a multi-charge port that plugs into a cigarette lighter. We like this one.
4. Take Physical Abilities into Account
Traveling with your older parents or grandparents? Remember that everyone moves at different speeds, and planning a challenging hike that might be fun for you might not be fun for them. Granny with the new knees may not love your plan to see the top of Angel’s Landing. Maybe try a horse packing trip so less physically-inclined family members can take a load off, or a canoeing trip instead.
5. Take Your Own Space
Photo by Emily Taylor
Everyone needs their own space, and knowing when to take it is critical. Don’t feel bad if you need to go on a run or walk during your week-long family trip. Taking time for yourself can help you decompress, and enjoy the time you have together more, rather than forcing non-stop family fun. If you feel tensions starting to rise, make an excuse to have some “you time.” Go on, you deserve it.
6. Know Your Liquor Laws
Alcohol laws vary across the United States, from “dry counties” where no alcohol is allowed to be sold, to areas with open container laws (like Las Vegas). Some places you can’t buy alcohol on Sundays, or only beer and wine. If you’re heading somewhere new, and you’re planning on drinking, do some research on your liquor laws so you won’t be left stranded.
7. Let it Go
Photo by S&B Vonlanthen
We’re not talking about the movie Frozen, unless you’re traveling with kids, in which case DO NOT LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT. Aunt Petunia made a passive aggressive comment about your weight gain? Your grandmother wants to know when you’re getting married? Your brother is letting his kid run wild? Let. It. Go. Go for that walk we were talking about, remind yourself that you are having fun, and that hurtful comments may not be meant that way. Call a friend to vent, and then rejoin the group with a clear head.
8. Expect Technological Breakdown
We always recommend having a backup plan in case the technology we depend on goes awry. Have a hard copy map of where you’re headed, and write down phone numbers (we know, crazy) you might need if your phone dies and you need to get in touch. Many vacation spots have spotty service, for good reason, but it can make logistics stressful if you don’t having any way of navigating the old fashioned way.
9. Take Your Family Travel Outside
Photo courtesy of Flaming Gorge Country
When people have more room to breathe, they’re less likely to get into arguments. Endorphins + majestic views = fun family time. Try out a rock climbing class together, hike through a national park, or check out a botanical garden. Being outside tends to put people in a better mood and alleviates the occasional stress that comes with family travel.
10. Pack Your Sense of Humor
Be prepared to laugh off stressful family travel with a joke. Be the family member who can take the heat, and deflect those jokes away from the family members who can’t handle it as well. Having an easy-going mentality isn’t always easy, but it will definitely make your next family trip easier.
11. ABS: Always Be Snackin’
When my mom and I had to go on those dreaded middle school shopping trips, her solution to staving off the exhaustion tears was simple: snacks on snacks on snacks. That woman packed snacks like we were headed into the Canadian wilderness for the next year. Intensive emotional family time can drain you, and sometimes a snack boost can help you handle your sister’s new vegan diet (and her need to tell you about it) all the better.
No matter what happens, remember that you love these people. What are your favorite family travel tips? Let us know!
This article was created in partnership with the Wind River Visitors' Council.
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