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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

7 Tips to Take the Stress Out of Family Vacations

family vacation photo

My family and I recently took a vacation to Chicago. It was partially for me to attend a conference that I was speaking at but we used the opportunity to have a family vacation, as well. We have had many family vacations and, throughout my professional career working with families, I have heard numerous parents talk about their family trips and helped them along the way, as well.

We, as moms, want our families to enjoy our vacations, but we all well know that leaving the house at all, let alone for an official vacation, can result in feelings of overwhelm, stress, and other not so pleasant experiences.

Here are 7 tips for taking the stress (or at least reducing the stress) out of family vacations.

1. Be planful about food

It’s easy to get caught up in buying food here and there and everywhere, but if you want to save some money and also just make sure that hunger does turn people into “hangry” (hungry plus angry) monsters, be sure to plan ahead for food. For instance, bring a bag of apples to munch on throughout the day (if you’re going to be on the road) or have some fresh fruit or vegetables available to munch on wherever you are.

2. Mindfully plan for car ride activities

Kids can easily get bored and act out when they aren’t being occupied. Of course, it would be nice if our kids just sat their quietly and stared out the window the whole trip, but they just don’t do that very often. Before leaving for the trip, have your kids (and help them if they need it) pick out a few small, travel-friendly activities to do in the car (such as coloring, reading, toys, etc.).

3. Separate items

It can be helpful to give everyone their own luggage bags. My family members don’t all have their own official luggage bags, so usually we just grab a random bag from around the house to pack our stuff in. But, no matter what container you and your kids use, it can be helpful to make sure they each keep their own stuff in their own bags/suitcases, so that during the trip everyone knows at least somewhat where to find things and that, at the end of the trip, each person can more easily take care of their own things.

4. Keep up on trash clean up

Put a trash bag in your car or a small plastic bag and have everyone regularly throw trash away so you don’t end up with a bunch of junk in your car at the end of the trip.

5. Plan for potty stops

This is especially true if you have young kids (like under the age of 10 years old). If you are going to be in the car for any length of time, make sure you have everyone go potty before getting into the car. It can also be helpful to plan ahead for where you will take stops for potty breaks to avoid the moments when some has to go potty so bad that they are “about to pee their pants.”

6. Remember to have some down time

Although it’s great to fill vacations with sight-seeing, tourist attractions, and other adventures, it’s also important for everyone’s well-being to remember to have some down time. The amount of down time might be different for everyone based on what your family is used to and how old your kids are. However, any family vacation should include at least some down time, time that isn’t so chaotic and structured, time that involves more relaxation and calming activities.

7. Parents, keep your patience

As parents, especially parents on vacation, we can lose our cool from time to time. It can get frustrating driving in traffic or having cranky kids or for a number of different reasons. However, to make your family vacation less stressful, remind yourself to keep your patience by remembering to take it easy, to react calmly to slight mishaps, and to just breathe and enjoy the moments.

Remember, cherish the opportunity that you have as you are on your family vacation. Take notice of the moment, remember to relax, and just enjoy yourself and help your kids to find the positive in their experiences, as well.

Do you have any other suggestions for taking the stress out of family vacations? Feel free to share in the comments.

7 Tips to Take the Stress Out of Family Vacations

Heather Gilmore

My name is Heather Gilmore. I am so happy to be able to have a space to share helpful insights and resources to other moms out there. Being a parent is hard work and I hope to be able to give you tips and strategies to make it at least a little bit easier and more enjoyable. We love our kids but any mom knows that they can also be exhausting and overwhelming at times, as well. I have a master's degree in social work. I work as a children's therapist. I am also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and work with children with autism spectrum disorder. Additionally, I am a freelance writer specializing in topics related to children and families. I have my own company called Hope Family Resources which provides resources in person and online to help families find greater hope, health, and happiness. See my site and learn more about me at: or email me at I have also published books on Amazon. Search for "Discpline and Parenting Strategies for Kids with ADHD," "Have Peace: How to Have Peace in Your Busy, Chaotic Life," and "Sibling Rivalry: How to Deal with Sibling Rivalry so You Won't Have to Anymore,"

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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2016). 7 Tips to Take the Stress Out of Family Vacations. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 6, 2019, from


Last updated: 31 May 2016
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