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Family Vacation Tips

Family Vacation Tips

Three crucial tips for going away with your children.


My family recently took a trip and I recalled the many lessons I’ve learned about traveling with my children. Here are my top three pointers.

1. Don’t Check Your Manners at the Door

We spend half our lives teaching our children to be polite. “Say please, sweetie.” “Be sure to say thank you, honey.” But more powerful than any instructions are the words and tone we use while dealing with others. Our children observe through watchful eyes and listening ears.

There will be times that the rooms we reserved will not be ready upon arrival, connecting rooms are really across the hall, the hotel doesn’t meet our expectations, and cribs or rollaways are not readily available.

Do we put up a big fuss when the inevitable disappointment occurs?

What do we do? Do we put up a big fuss and scream? Do we have a temper tantrum and lose it with the hotel staff? How do we deal with the disappointments?

Once, while we were waiting to check in, the family in front of us was informed that the ocean front rooms they had requested would not be available. Instead they would have a view of the parking lot. Not a pretty sight, I admit. But you would not believe the anger and foul language that spewed forth.

As the discussion heated up, so did the sense of entitlement that these parents displayed.

The feeling that came across to all who heard the conversation was clear: How dare you not have what we want! How could it be that we ordered something and it is not here? We want it and we want it now!

Think of the arrogance these children now possess after absorbing their parents attitude and words. All the discussions these parents may have had with them about manners, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ mean nothing.

Imagine the scene when these children return home from school and dinner is not ready or not to their liking:

“What do you mean, supper’s not ready? I’m starving!”

“Uch, that’s for supper? You know I hate chicken with sauce!”

Why are we so puzzled with our children’s attitude? Let’s maintain our sense of self respect and dignity when dealing with disappointments. Let’s remain calm, in manner and tone, so that our children learn from us. Especially while we’re on the road handling our frustrations.

2. Maintain Your Standards of Discipline

Vacation time is supposed to be fun. We want to take it easy, laugh a lot, and just have a relaxing good time together. We wake up late and may stay out way past bedtime. It becomes easy then to lose control as we try so hard to make our children (and ourselves) happy. Along with dropping our daily routine, we may find our standards of discipline misplaced along the way.

The main purpose of discipline is to teach our children boundaries. They learn which behaviors are acceptable and which are never allowed. Discipline helps us maintain control before a situation gets frustratingly out of hand.

Many parents mistakenly believe that vacation time means a vacation from discipline. Anything goes till we get home. That’s what fun is all about anyway, isn’t it?

Though I love fun and good times just as much as any mom, certain standards should not be compromised, even while on vacation. Children who are given confusing signals do not understand if parents are serious about their boundaries. We also end up disciplining out of anger and frustration when are buttons are pushed to the limit. Often we are so exasperated; we speak without control of emotions and thoughts.

I was sitting with my toddler granddaughter at a kiddie pool. She was making her way down the steps when a little boy decided to splash her.

“Stop it!” his mother said.

The child laughed. He slapped the water even harder and the glanced over at his mother. After giving him a stern look she went back to reading her glossy magazine.

Splash. Now some children began to cry.

"I mean it! Cut it out! Do that again and we’re going back to the room."

Empty threats and never-happening consequences lead children to disrespect us.

The toddler stopped splashing. As soon as his mother became engrossed in her magazine, he threw water on all the children once again. Finally, after 20 minutes of "we’re going back to the room," splashing and more threats, the child left the pool. But it was lunch being served, not discipline, that did the job. This child learned that it’s okay to cross the line, especially when mommy isn’t serious about her consequences, anyway.

If we say something, we must mean it. Empty threats and never-happening consequences lead children to disrespect us. Behaviors that are unacceptable at home must be unacceptable on vacation also.

Hitting, leaving wrappers and soda cans all over the property, trashing rooms and screaming through the halls cannot be tolerated in the name of fun. Good times can be had while maintaining fine character and acting as a mensch.

3. Wake Up with an Attitude of Gratitude

The first day everything seems new and exciting. You explore the grounds, unpack your things, find out about nearby attractions and hopefully enjoy a delicious meal. You appreciate the scenery and newness of it all. But what happens when you stop noticing the glorious sunset? When your family sits down to a meal and it feels like ‘here we go again?’

We were once on a family trip and as we were sitting at dinner the first evening, we saw dazzling colors fill the night sky. There were incredible booms as magnificent fireworks burst forth. Sparkles of gold and silver seemed to fall; shimmering, to the ground. People jumped up from their tables to watch the sight. The next night, the same display brought people to their feet. You heard ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhs’ with each boom. By the third night, no one moved. We all took it for granted. Another fireworks display? Big deal.

Family is one of the greatest blessings we have. If we are fortunate enough to get away and have time together, let’s be sure to appreciate the joy and never take it for granted.

Safe travels!

May 1, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) linda, May 7, 2010 2:11 AM

so true........

So true you really opened my eyes. i only started thinking about that now. That is a very tipical story. I can just imagine it with my own kids. Anyways those tips are really going to be useful. Thank you!

(3) Sharon W, May 3, 2010 5:46 PM

There is a proper way for everything...

Sharon, you make a good point on a good point, but I agree with the author that there is no place for yelling and foul language, even if a hotel (or anyone for that matter) was not good on their word. I agree with you that children also need to learn to stand up for what they deserve, and not be push-overs, but I don't think treating staff like dogs to be given orders is called for. And believe me, I have seen staff at hotels being treated even worse than that. What does it teach a child when you act like the receptionist is not a human being. How will our kids then treat cleaning ladies, bus drivers, garbage men...all the people who "work for us." So, I think you should discuss it with the hotel in a calm manner, state your reasons for being dissapointed and try to get a discount, but never ever lose it, and for sure not in front of the kids. I recently read an article that said flight attendents are most likely to give you an upgrade if you are polite to them and call them by their name. So take the advice...don't forget your manners at the door. Just one more thing...I took the time to write this, because recently I took a vacation with my family, aand these exact scenarios of people screaming and complaining pretty much ruined the whole atmosphere for us.

(2) Anonymous, May 3, 2010 4:54 PM

So true! Great advice for families!

Thanks for a short, sweet article that should be required reading on all plane, train and bus tickets!

(1) Sharon, May 2, 2010 7:24 PM

good point but..

I just wondered what would be the appropriate response if the hotel did not keep its promise. If you understand that you have no choice, then raising a fuss is a waste of energy. But if the hotel management has been dishonest, it's wrong to allow them to continue cheat and fool other clients. So expressing dissatisfaction would be in place, I think. This is not Mom preparing spaghetti instead of meatball. If I paid for an ocean view room, I should not accept a parking lot view without an apology or explanation and maybe a discount.

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