Preparing for your blended family vacation

Family vacations are good for helping your blended family grow closer and to create memories together. Whether you and your blended family can arrange to leave town for a few days or a few weeks, or can only manage only day trips to fun destinations, take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy each other in a new environment…  doing something different. Planning a vacation that will satisfy all members of your blended family can be a challenge.  Communication, cooperation, negotiation, and sensitivity are needed to accommodate step family partners and step kids or step siblings.

How to plan a blended family vacation

  • First, set a budget and a time frame.
  • Second:  know what interests everyone in your blended family, and what kinds of activities they consider to be fun. As managing partners of your blended family, you and your spouse may want to take charge of all vacation decisions; you may also wish to ask your kids for suggestions within prescribed parameters, or to choose between two or three options you present to them.

Be prepared for conflict and other issues in your step family

If it is appropriate to your kids, discuss behavioral expectations before leaving home, including limits on cellphone and digital game usage, suitable clothing, allowable purchases, and how, where, and with whom they may spend personal time. Many parents of teenagers find that permitting earphone use at certain times, but not during meals or group activities, is a reasonable compromise that allows a little private time for the kids but makes sure they are engaged when you want them to be.  If you feel rules and expectations need to be a bit tighter on vacation than at home, explain your reasoning and your concerns. Traveling can be stressful for some blended family members, so be sympathetic and generous, but be sure to stick to family guidelines about acceptable behavior toward each other. Discuss possible consequences for breaking family rules, outlining penalties to be imposed on the spot, and then once everyone returns home.

Your blended family vacation is for family time

Here is a quick rule of thumb about vacations: if you and your spouse take a vacation together and leave the kids at home, the vacation is all about you two.  If the kids accompany you on a vacation- then the vacation is primarily focused on the kids. Your family vacation is not a honeymoon, or even time for romance. Save adult alone time for when you are alone. Even if you go to a resort that provides babysitting and daycare, make sure your kids spend more time with you than with strangers. Look for opportunities for step parent and step kids to do something together or share an experience.  Also, use blended family vacations for some one-on-one time with your own bio kids; if this is not workable, plan some special alone time later in the school break. Make sure kids call their at-home parent while they are vacationing with you.

Take lots of photographs on your blended family vacation, and create a website, photo album, or scrap book, or print photographs to hang in a growing family picture gallery at home. Mail souvenir postcards to friends, family, and to each other. Buy each other silly and inexpensive gifts that suggest an inside joke. Family outings are all about memories, and memories are the glue that holds blended families together. Go off together, and have a great time.