With Covid on the wane, families are on the go again. After a year of staying home, everyone wants a vacation. We hope that any trip we take will give us the chance to bond, laugh and make memories. But when was the last time your vacation lived up to its hype? The kids argue, the hotel is less than five star and the weather doesn’t cooperate. It’s so disappointing!

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are six foolproof ways to make your vacation great:

1. Realistic expectations:

This is key. If we go into our vacation with unrealistic expectations, we'll spend most of our time feeling frustration and anger. Going away with kids is not a vacation, it’s a trip. There usually isn’t a whole lot of time to relax. So change your mindset.

Here are some other unrealistic expectations:

Everyone will appreciate all the hard work that we put into planning the vacation.

Everyone will enjoy all the activities that we so painstakingly scheduled.

The kids will understand how much effort and money we put into this and they will magically get along with each other.

Who are you kidding? Instead, expect the following:

Kids will fight.

Not everyone in the family will enjoy every activity

Your hotel room will have a weird smell.

Your accommodations will not look like the picture on their website.

At some point, every day, someone will get cranky (including you).

Your toddler will at some point have a tantrum (probably more than one).

You will probably spend more money than you thought you would.

You'll have to remind your kids to say thank you for taking them on the vacation (and ignore the comments about their friends' annual cruise vacation).

The weather will not cooperate for at least one day, usually more.

When you're forewarned, you're forearmed. Now you're ready for your trip.

2. Factor in downtime:

If your vacation is one where you are constantly on the go, make sure to schedule in some downtime. This will help you prevent and manage the inevitable, whining, crying and squabbling. It’s helpful to say,  “Vacation is fun, but it’s also tiring. Let’s get a drink, cool off and take a break, maybe that will help.”

It’s helpful to bring along books, legos, puzzles, coloring stuff or journals so you have what you need to make downtime work for you.

3. Plan for the fighting:

Vacation lends itself to a lack of routine, personal space and the need to share their stuff, (room, toys, and even clothes). This can exacerbate the sibling tension.

Raise the issue with your kids and ask for solutions: “Ok guys, when we go on vacation, we need to be extra respectful and kind. We have to share a lot of things that we are not used to sharing. Any ideas on how we can keep the peace?”

When kids fight you can reiterate this idea, “I know, I know, he is using your toys, he took your sweatshirt- the sharing that has to be done on vacation is tough. What can we do to help you manage?”

Acknowledging children’s difficult feelings may not stop the fighting, but it can do a lot to reduce it.

4. Teach Gratefulness:

As we mentioned above, kids will get cranky. We so often misinterpret it as entitlement. But it’s not, it is what it is: crankiness, from the lack of routine, the hot weather and perhaps the inevitable sunburn and mosquito bites.

We can use this as an opportunity to practice gratefulness ourselves and role model this for kids.

On vacation, whenever we would get into the car in the morning, my husband would turn to the kids and say, “Let’s give a round of applause for Mommy, for putting together all the lunches for today.”

And I would say, “Let’s give a big thank you to Daddy for planning this trip and being our designated driver.”

We even would start thanking the kids, “Eli, I saw you were so upset this morning because I forgot your favorite shirt at home. Thank you for putting on the shirt that you didn’t like so much, so we could get on the way.”

You get the point! Gratefulness needs to be taught and modeled. Vacation time is a good time to do that.

5. Snacks and drinks:

So much of kid’s misbehavior is simply because they are hungry or thirsty. Always have snacks, (preferably non-sugary and healthy ones) and drinks on hand. This one thing can prevent most tantrums from ever occurring.

6. Spending money:

Parents may spend a lot of time on vacation having to say, “No, we don’t have money for that.” “No, we are not going into the gift shop.” “Yes, we can go into the gift shop just to look, but we are not buying anything!”

It is exhausting and unpleasant.

My friend suggested this to me before our family went to Disneyworld for the first time. Give your kids a set amount of money and let them know that they can spend it on anything they want, but that's all they have for the time you are there.

This was brilliant advice. Our kids spent less time on bargaining and negotiations and more time on developing their math skills. “How much does this cost?” “How much money will I have left over?” “Do I have enough money to buy these two toys.”

Have a great vacation (I mean trip)!