Independence Day Cookies Billings, MT

July is prime family vacation and road trip season. I’m a people watcher, and since I am often alone on the road I get plenty of opportunities to observe families on vacation.

Eavesdropping on conversations, I notice that the destination and the amount of money parents spend on their vacations has no bearing on whether the kids whine or complain.

Flexibility: The key to a great family vacation

The happiest families on the road are those who allow flexibility into their schedules.

I once heard a mom in a restaurant handle an off-itinerary request beautifully. Her little girl of about ten asked if they could pan for gold at the Black Hills Mining Museum in Lead, SD. The mom said that this would be her daughter’s only chance for the next 24 hours to change the family schedule. “Do you really want to use your chance on this?”

The little girl looked over at her younger brother, who was clearly not interested in panning. Maybe she thought she could get him to use his chance on this instead of her. No dice.

She thought about it, and said, “No, I think I’ll wait and see if something more fun comes along later.”

Set the ground rules

No doubt this family had established ground rules for their vacation. The little girl knew ahead of time that she had one chance in a day to make the vacation just what she wanted it to be.

What a difference in that relationship than the one where a parent just puts the hammer down. Granted, sometimes there simply isn’t time to make a detour, but I bet this family had that contingency factored into their ground rules, too.

Live and learn. I wasn’t that kind of parent either. 

Family vacations on a budget

I was quoted in US News & World Report on the subject of family vacations. Here’s the article, which tells how to take a family vacation on $500/$1,000/$5,000.

graphic of packing a suitcaseIf you’re fretting about what to pack for your vacation, perhaps this article from Bed Bath & Beyond will inspire you to pack LESS. Yours truly was quoted, although the writer went a bit overboard with the product endorsements; I use roll sacks instead of Ziplock bags.

My best advice about packing? Consider your wardrobe like Lego pieces. Everything should go with everything else. You should be able to pick any top and any bottom. Oh, and you don’t need more than three pairs of underwear! More in the article, of course.