5 Keys to a Peaceful Family Vacation

No trip is smooth sailing all the time. There are jellyfish stings. Bad weather. Bad moods. But with a few adjustments—some logistical, some attitudinal—you can at least set course in the right direction.

1

Make sacrifices.

mother-son-mountain-flower
Photo by Shout

My daughter, 29, and I travel a lot together. I finally figured how to make the most of it with less conflict: Do what you hate for love and shut up about it. My daughter is very adventurous, and I never leave my office. A few years ago, we went to Hawaii, and Francesca wanted to ride horses down into a volcano. I wanted to sit on the beach with an umbrella drink. But I forced myself to get on the damn horse and shut up. It was really, really steep, and I just closed my eyes. Afterwards, I got a lot of hugs and my daughter said, “I know you were really scared, and I love you forever for doing that.” What’s the goal of your life? For me, it’s to make the people I love happy and have a good time with them. —Lisa Scottoline

2

Eat in.

Restaurants can be stressful on vacation. You have to agree where to go and get a reservation or wait for a table. Plus, if you have little kids, they’re tired at the end of the day, so the meal isn’t pleasant anyway. It makes a big difference to rent a house or an apartment or at least get a hotel room with a kitchenette. Last summer, we got a beach house close enough to the ocean that we could even come back for lunch. (And my then three-year-old could have his usual, a cheese sandwich.) Many families have picky eaters—of all ages. A kitchen allows everyone to eat what he wants. And you save money. —Liz Borod Wright

3

Know your limits.

You have to go at the speed of the slowest common denominator. If that’s your toddler or your great-aunt, that’s how fast you’re going to go. You should head into the vacation knowing that. Be realistic. Say, “This is what we’re going to be able to accomplish.” And then give yourself ample time to do each activity and enjoy it. If you overshoot, you’re only going to end up frustrated. —Wendy Perrin



4

Escape each other.

On family vacations, people who don’t normally spend 24 hours a day together are suddenly doing just that. Plan breaks every three or four hours. Find time to read a book, or—even better—walk on the beach alone. Doing something physical will help reset your focus. And attention, parents of teenagers: They can make the entire family miserable if forced to stay close at all times. Give them some freedom. I remember that age. When we feel like we have to be together, we want to rebel. Once it’s not required, we want to stick around. —Jeannie Bertoli

5

Plan for late afternoon crankiness.

There’s always the point in the day when you’ve been to the beach but it’s not time for dinner yet. The kids want phones or iPads, you say no, and everyone’s upset. Have activities for that in-between time, even if it’s just a card game. On a recent trip, I created a scavenger hunt every day at 5 p.m. The kids had to follow clues, and the winner got a prize. Another evening I buried a box filled with candy in the sand. They had to search the whole beach for it, which was great, because it exhausted them and it took forever. Meanwhile, the adults watched with a cocktail. —Ali Wentworth

The Experts

  • Lisa Scottoline coauthored, with her daughter, Francesca Serritella, the essay collection Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat? She lives near Philadelphia.
  • Jeannie Bertoli, PH.D., is a relationship and divorce trainer. She lives in Los Angeles.
  • Liz Borod Wright is a blogger at Travelogged.com. She lives in New York City.
  • Ali Wentworth is an actress and a comedian and the author of Happily Ali After: And More Fairly True Tales. She lives in New York.
  • Wendy Perrin is TripAdvisor’s travel advocate. She lives in suburban New Jersey.