Moms - How Do YOU Have Fun on Family Vacations?

Updated on April 02, 2012
S.B. asks from New Braunfels, TX
31 answers

I feel like I've been such a downer lately and DH is mad at me for it. :( We just took a 10 day family trip and the kids had fun and DH had a blast but for me, it was NOT a vacation - it was the same work (or more!) in a different place! My oldest is on a special diet, so it's easier on him if I cook all the meals. I had to pack everything and get it unpacked when we got there (7 bags total, it took me a week to try to get everything to fit and figure out what could/couldn't go through TSA). I had 2x the amount of laundry and still had to clean up (we were renting a condo). I had to deal with the kids the entire time (at least at home, they have school so I get a break!) and since DH insisted on doing all the driving, I had to be the disciplinarian in the car and they fought CONSTANTLY while we were on the road. I don't think I got rid of my headache the entire time we were there!

I really want to enjoy myself on these trips, but everyone else seems to have this "I'm on vacation!!!" attitude and I'm the only one who realizes that there are things that still need to get done! We have a summer vacation coming up in May, so I want to be able to have fun for a change. But I'm not sure how to go about this (other than take a vacation BY MYSELF, which will NEVER happen!). What do you all do that makes family trips fun for you as well?

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all the tips! LOVE the quote about it being a "business trip" - SO true!!! My kids are still young (3 and 6, and the 6 yr old is special needs), so I understand and accept that that's my #1 priority, taking care of them. They'll be able to help out when they're older, I'm sure, but for now, it's on me. I managed to book a condo that has maid service and is only a 2 hour drive, so that should ease some problems.

I think I just need to suck it up and go off on my own while DH watches the kids. I feel weird about it tho, like I'm abandoning them (and I know DH will give me flack about it being a "family" vacation - his folks abandoned him and his brother like that on their family vacations and he's still bitter about it). Now to find something to do - I don't drink or do spas, and it's been a LONG time since I've had free time to do something I enjoy, I don't even know what that is anymore! :)

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answers from Dallas on

I haven't had fun on a family vacation yet. Maybe when my kids are older and can dress, go to the bathroom, choose from the menu and feed themselves. It is work for me. It is work for my hubby. The only ones that seem to have fun are the kids. When ever we go on vacation I need a few days off when we get back to recover. It is not a fun trip.

My husband and I have decided that until the kids are a little older (we are planning a Disney trip for about 3 years from now) we are going to pass on the family vacations. I'd much rather have a staycation until then.

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answers from New York on

Do you do all of these things for them at home too? If so... start having them take responsibility for their own needs to the extent possible!

When we go on vacation, I usually schedule one thing just for me... mani/pedi or a massage. My husband knows in advance and when it's time for my appointment... I kiss them and leave. I am in a better mood when I get back and they manage to feed/dress/entertain themselves while I'm gone.

I remember as a child when we went on vacation, my mother ALWAYS took 30 minutes to herself EACH day. Whether she went for a walk on the beach, grabbed a trashy book and sat on the deck or went to see an exhibit or show on her own... she went without us. My dad was really hands-on (so is my husband), so it wasn't a big deal but she didn't neglect her own relaxation.

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answers from Chicago on

Easy, I vacation alone - that way it is a vacation. As a kid I never liked family vacations too much, we rarely went on them (good thing to me) and we did not do them until we were older, but honestly I would explain to DH what a vacation with the family means and find ways to fix that for the one coming up.

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answers from Atlanta on

I loved the line in Modern Family when everyone was going to Hawaii, and Claire told her husband, "I'm a mom travelling with her kids. It's not a vacation, it's a business trip." That is so true.

I don't know how old your kids are, but if they're too young to pull their own weight around the house, they're probably too young for a fun vacation (for you). If they aren't too young, you need to sit Hubby down and have a long talk about how stressful the last vacation was...and why. He and the kids need to help you out, and if they can't/won't, I recommend a staycation, and a good baby-sitter. Good luck.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Do a cruise. They do all the meals for you (and can accommodate anyone's special dietary needs) and there's no doing laundry, no clean-up, etc. Kids can go do their own activities (where age appropriate) and you and hubby can get the down time you deserve. We did a Disney Cruise last year and it was AMAZING. It was about as close to having magical Harry Potter house elves attending to all your needs as you will ever get.

And get hubby on board with helping you out and giving you a break when you need one. I would never put up with my husband having all the fun and not pitching in, regardless of who is the "breadwinner" and who is responsible for the bulk of the child care while at home. He can step in and discipline the kids too, and make it clear that he expects them to take it easy on you by behaving themselves. Make it a point to just leave the kids with him sometimes and take off on your own for a few hours here and there. If he gives you flak for it, just say hey, it's my vacation too, when do I get to take a break?

But seriously. Cruises are awesome!

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answers from Sacramento on

I would talk to DH when you're feeling calm and just explain what happened last time and that you need more help with the next vacation.

Honestly, I would consider NOT getting a condo and staying at a hotel. Then, you can ship off the laundry (or make DH do it at self-serve machines), eat out and have a clean room each day. Get a suite, so you and DH can have your own room. Plan some time for yourself at the hotel spa while DH watches the kids at the pool. Speak up when you need help. I've found if I take care of everything, the family will gladly let me do all the work. You need to insist on some help.

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answers from Chicago on

Mine still doesn't understand no matter how many times I explain it to him- it's not a vacation for me, it's a TRIP. Yes, it's different scenery, but I'm still doing my full-time job without a break! I took an hour off each day to read or wander or do whatever I wanted, but boy, an hour goes quickly and everything all there to do when I got back!
I need more suggestions about relaxing on "vacation" too....

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answers from Los Angeles on

Maybe I'm out of touch with the norm, but I always did my best to make sure vacations were fun for my wife.

When my kids were fighting, I put a stop to it. One of the things I learned to do was to stop at a rest stop and play on the play equipment or have races from one side to the other. After they had a chance to get some exercises they more apt to behave. When we needed gas we'd either give them food about 30 to 60 minutes before I had to get gas so that when we stopped they were ready to go to the bathroom. I often found a MCD or BK with a play area so they could play and exercise while my wife and I ate.

We had 8 kids and one of the things I stumbled on was to let each kid order and get his/her own lunch. Before that I would find out what each kid wanted and order for them. Invaribly, someone changed their mind or ate someone elses hamburger and then there was the whining and pouting. When each kid ordered their own lunch, I would stand by the register and pay for each after they ordered and then gave each kid their receipt. They picked up their own lunch. No arguing. No whining. Just happy mom and dad and "happy campers". We would all order off the 99 cent menu. I had sodas and chips in the van. It worked wonderfully.

My wife generally did the washing, all of the nursing and diaper changing while I did most of the driving and disciplining. The kids and I did all the loading and unloading. We also like to stop and read the historical signs.

BTW, cruise lines cater to families with kids. Go Cruising and you will still have to change the diapers, but the cruise lines take care of the kids during the day and prepare all the meals, and supply most of the entertainment (pools, water slides, shows, and kid programs). If your child or you have special dietary needs or taboos, they will take care of you. My wife and I took a cruise to Alaska with some of our children. They loved the kids program (Princess cruise lines) so much they could hardly wait to finish breakfast so they could go and hated to leave when it was dinner time.

Good luck to you and yours.

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answers from San Francisco on

I feel your pain and I know what you mean! But there ARE ways you can make it better.
If you absolutely must stay in a condo due to your son's dietary needs then book one where they have a daily cleaning service. That way you don't have to worry about the beds and towels every day.
Order out as much as you can afford to. You can still make something special for your son but you shouldn't need to cook every single meal for everyone else.
TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. If you can afford it book a spa treatment. If not, take off for the afternoon and go lay by the pool or take a walk. Your husband can play with the kids for a while. MOMMY NEEDS A BREAK!
Finally, try to loosen up the normal routine when you travel. I keep a very tidy house but our hotel rooms are usually a disaster. But guess what? I don't care, LOL! I'm also less strict about bedtimes and junk food. I don't feel like barking orders when I'm trying to relax :)
You need to discuss these issues with your husband BEFORE you take your next trip, not in a harsh way, just explain that you want to relax too. Hopefully he understands and steps up.
As far as vacationing by yourself, why not? My husband takes a four day golf trip every summer with his brothers and buddies, and I usually do a long girlfriend's weekend either at the beach or in the wine country. It's amazing what good a few days away can do. Try it!

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answers from Dallas on

Do you watch Modern Family? They went on a trip to Hawaii and Phil was all loosey goosey, lets have fun. Claire said - "I'm a full time mom travelling with kids. I'm not on vacation, I'm on a business trip!!" I thought that was genius and soooo true!

How do I have fun? Hmmm, brief moments when the kids are in the pool and I can relax on a deck chair while dad plays with them, or time spent in the hottub. I take joy in watching thier joy. I take happiness from being able to sit and play with them and not have to be anywhere. I love to shop, so I drag the family into every little shop we walk past! I make them stop so I can read all the history and trivia and historical markers. I take a million pictures and really enjoy that.

For your dilemma, I would suggest seperating kids = put one of the kids in the front seat and you sit in the back. The air bags turn off now when it's under weight. Assign dad some duties - dads on laundry duty and all heavy lifting. If the kids are big enough, assign them duties too. Don't overplan activities. Leave space for naps and sleeping in. Give the kids to dad for an hour each day so that you can go shop or sightsee or nap or whatever it is that makes you happy.

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answers from Chicago on

I have a friend who always says "It's not a vacation, it's a family trip!" and that is so true.
One day, our kids will be older and out of the house and we'll be wishing for one last family vacation.
They're only young once and we have to do the best to make the most of it. It's easier said then done, and I have to remind myself daily!

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answers from Erie on

My family tries to vacation once or twice a year, We have figured out little things to help make these more relaxing for us.

Never stay anywhere without cleaning service. Not having to worry about cleaning is very nice and we have found condos with maid\cleaning services.
Stay somewhere where you can dine out at least once a day and not feel guilty or hate the food. This may be harder for you, but if it can be done it is worth it.
Finally, Get away form the kids. Once every vacation my hubby and I find o babysitter, or leave kids in care of eldest child and go to spa\out to eat\theatre\somewhere we can relax with out the worry of the kids.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I enjoy them a lot more now knowing that we also take a non-kid vacation another time soon. Some of our family vacations have been so crazy I feel like I could use a solo vacation immediately following the family vacation! I have learned to lower my expectations and go with the flow. It's seriously hard to please 4 people every moment of the vacation. Some compromise has to happen. The adults have to be really good about that because that is so much harder for kids, especially young kids. When our kids are at each other throats we just try to break off a little and I take one for some time and DH takes the other.

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answers from Austin on

You have to stop. If they are old enough to be in school, they are old enough to have some responsibilities. And don't even get me started on your husband. Ideally you would talk this through with your husband and you both give your children some ownership over getting ready, cleaning up, etc. If he's uncooperative, though, it will be up to you. The key part is that you don't fill in the gap. Decide what they should be able to handle and then don't do it for them - no matter what. Let them see what happens when it doesn't get done. Be nice, but firm. It won't be comfortable, but you are actually doing them all a disservice now by taking care of everything. And that includes your husband.

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answers from Portland on

The only way for me to really feel like I'm on vacation is when I go with a girlfriend with kids. Then the moms share the work and the kids play the whole time. Even if it's for a few days away, it's blissful. If I travel with the immediate family, I don't even call it a vacation. The kids are too young to not need me and with all the packing and planning, it's not vacation. I am happy to do it for them though. I just have to keep it in perspective and remember all the fabulous trips that my parents planned for us when I was little. My mom worked for weeks for our trips and they were awesome! Maybe if you think of these times as "learning activities" it will help. lol

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answers from Washington DC on

Ah, the joys of being a mom - it's a 24-7 job. Someone should tell us that prior to having them :).

On vacation, we all take it easy. I guess because we are all in routine to pick up after ourselves, it never gets too bad. We have a routine for toys, dishes, cooking, laundry, etc. We normally do a timeshare thing to, so it is pretty easy to just keep up with the normal stuff there.

My husband is great at being hands on when we are on vacation - and not too bad when we're at home either :). The only time I get annoyed with him not helping more on vacation is when we go to the National Harbor and the kids and I take full advantage of the resort while he wants to stay in the room. But that's his loss IMHO.

So talk to your husband and get him on board with the fact that he's a dad 24-7 also and vacationing is better for everyone if he pitches in with the work that still needs done.

Also, you didn't mention how old the kids are, but they can certainly pitch in too.

Good luck!

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answers from Chicago on

Hubby and I are planning a getaway with out the kids. I figure my two nights away a year is my vacation. Sad, but true.

I would just like a week without laundry or dirty dishes. It's N*E*V*E*R going to happen. It's like washing the floors, until my kids are old enough to do it, it's my job.

We are doing a week beach holiday again this summer. It's nice to get away, and I try to forget that I am just doing the same work in a different location. ;-)

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answers from Houston on

For vacations when kids were little...took enough clothes that we didn't do laundry. As they got older...we ALL made the trip to the laundry mat. (even if staying in condo with w/d)'s all done at one time and doesn't monopolize vacation time. We do pool towels at the condo. There was one vacation where everyone took turns doing a round of laundry but that was when kids were older.
As for traveling...we traveled at night when we could. (keeps the fighting down). And...we had a van with a TV etc. in it so we could keep them entertained with that kind of stuff. We also played games where the first one to find the alphabet on license plates or road signs wins. and the first one to find license plates from the lower 48 wins.
As far as meals went...we had cereal (quick stuff for b'fast), sandwiches for lunch (each made their own), and we went out for dinner or grilled out for dinner. This way the kitchen doesn't monopolize time either. Oh, and everyone had to help clean up!
In between these times, we had things to do as a family! That's why they call it "family vacation".
Good luck with your next vacation. Like the others said...make a plan, communicate it and stick to it!!! You will ALL have a BLAST!!!!

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answers from Santa Fe on

Ugh. Your vacation sounds terrible. Well, I have to insist that I drive half the time so I get that break in the car. You need to do this too! Don't be a doormat! It is SO much more relaxing to be the one driving. Also, I pretty much tell my hubby, ok, this day at this time you do this (get this meal cooked, or get the little one down for a nap, or watch the kids and give them their baths) while I go out and take a run, or relax and read, or go for a kayak. We take turns. If your husband does not automatically think to give you equal time off, you need to talk to him about this and teach him what needs to be done. Otherwise that is NOT at all fair. For your next vacation, plan out x number of relaxing things YOU want to do and you and your husband work together to figure out how to make time for you to get in some relaxing time too. If my husband expected me to do everything on vacation I would go seriously insane and I'd get pretty darn angry with him.

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answers from Providence on

Depending on what you do and where you go on vacation. Renting a condo is probably the same as being at home. Which probably is why you didn't feel like you even had a vacation. You still had to cook, clean, and wash clothes, dishes,etc. So not fun for you. Your hubby should have taken on half of the duties so you could enjoy yourself too!

Cruises I hear are the way to go when traveling with a lot of children. I enjoy staying in hotels, to be honest. Or if I am near family, I stay with them. It's easier, and I can relax more.

I remember my parents took my brother and I on a 6 week out-west trip. We spent the majority of time in the car, or in bed and breakfast places. I love bed/breakfast places. You can find some that are kid friendly. You have a breakfast provided for you( usually it's quite filling), a clean room, and a decent rate.

Other places have packages , especially touristy places. I know we used those for attractions from time to time.

Whenever I do take a family trip, i make sure to block out time for myself. Usually this is done by telling my husband that I need a break, and then I am able to go read a book, sit by a pool, or go for a walk. Sometimes a nap helps too. You should take some time for yourself, and relax. Let everyone know it!

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answers from Denver on

How old are your kids? Can they help with the packing/unpacking and some laundry/clean up?

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answers from Los Angeles on

Oh honey. I feel your pain.
We only go where hubby wants to vacation (we camp where his family picks. Period. There is never a discussion of where I want to vacation. He
leaves me w/the work or leaves me alone & last trip even had the nerve to go off w/this married woman who was nasty to me off on a boat).
Here's what I do to cope:
-ask him "can you please watch the kids so I can go do something?". Then I usually disappear for a walk (the only time I get away alone & think).
-I always bring a book and magazines
-I retire to bed early w/my little one

How about if next trip you:
get your kids to help w/the laundry or packing (depending upon their ages
-book a massage for yourself
-go for a 30 min walk alone
-bring a DVD player & rent a movie YOU want to watch
-try to do some shopping at your destination & buy yourself an inexpensive trinket, silver charm etc to remind you of your trip
-also, know one thing: one of my fondest memories as a kid were all the trip we took. Oh my word...they were quite magical
-ask to drive. even for an hour of the trip to give you a break (my hubby flat out refuses to let me drive. Makes me feel like a hostage sometimes, I swear. ha ha)
-next time see if you can stay in a hotel w/a small kitchen or at the very least a fridge
-see if said hotel has a gym, salon for a pedicure
Hang in there, make a few minor changes, do little things for yourself & it will get better .
p.s. not sure how old the kids are but depending upon age, they can help get their clothes out & ready to pack (you oversee that they are bringing all the right things), help unpack & d help do laundry
-when you get home, don't set off on the task to do all the laundry. only do
what is absolutely necessary
-take a book, some magazines



answers from Houston on

Whatever rules you have at home, keep on vacation i.e. cleaning up toys, putting clothes in laundry, etc.

If they do not do what is expected, let it go while you are on vacation.

If you cook be sure it is in the crockpot and do not clean up after anyone but yourself. It might be dirty but oh well.

Do not go anywhere that will stress you out i.e. if your kids cannot swim, do not take them to the beach.



answers from Pittsburgh on

When we go away I don't have to worry about cooking or cleaning so that is a vacation in itself! I always hate coming home to reality.

As for a special diet, my daughter has food allergies which makes it difficult to eat on the road. Typically we drive so I make meals ahead of time (make an extra serving with regular dinners then freeze it in a microwavable container) and take it with us. That way it can be easily reheated even if we stop somewhere for dinner.

Take something with you that you enjoy doing and carve out some time to do it.



answers from Bellingham on

Go to a resort with a kids' club. They take the kids for fun sessions, and let mom and dad relax.



answers from Tulsa on

I thought I had to work double time on vacation because my husband was disabled. I am glad I am not the only one. I will come back and read all the great tips you get! i need a vacation from my vacation(no kids, no hubby) after my vacation.



answers from Los Angeles on

Do you drink? I haven't read the other responses... but on my vacataions, a little cocktail here and there (and everywhere) always helps ;)



answers from Victoria on

liquor?? j/k. I would do some major me time and pampering that friday relaxing sleeping, nails, movies what ever it is that helps you relax. another family member takes a baby sitter along with her. she puts the spin on it as "we will take you with us"(like free trip/vaca) so she dosent have to pay them. before i was married she tried to get me to join her disney trip. which i realized quickly it was a babysitting job and said no ty. but you could be honest and hire a young person to watch the kids while you went out or take a mil along with you so you could have a break. join vacations with another family and take every other day to go out and have adult time too. let your husband know that your going out for a little window shopping and need a little break. even if you go sit in a park to wind down. its ok and needed for you to have a break from the kids. some people think its aweful tosay or actually do but really its very healthy for you to be gone. it helps the kids relationship with your husband as well. i would plan for daily escapes or even every other day "recharge time".


answers from Los Angeles on

vacations are a lot of work with kids, for starters I would lower your expectations. Secondly, unless you really really need a kitchen for your kids special diet, don't rent condos, or houses. I have done this and it is so much work to pack, cook, and clean! If you're cooking, its not a vacation for you, but an adventure at best. If I want to relax we go to a resort, I schedule a message, and we put our kids in a kids program for a few hours and a take an hour here and a few hours here for my and my husbands vacation. We also vacation at grandmas house, where she takes kids and we relax! Otherwise, traveling with kids is really about living vicariously through them, and giving them memories and adventures. Last time we did a house rental I told my husband, its just not that fun for me. In fact its more work than if we'd just stayed home. My father used to speak of the work to fun ratio. I guess thats why we did a lot more hotels, pools and restaurants than camping/ hiking/ house rentals growing up.


answers from San Francisco on

We've gone on trips where Grandparents came along and helped out with my son. Of course, this puts more family to deal with in the mix, but it did take some of the work off me and give my husband and I some time alone.


answers from Dallas on

Wow, that sounds awful. My husband is like 8kidsdad. My kids get along, too, so we don't have to discipline in the car, so that helps a lot, also.

I love family vacations! It takes a lot of planning, but we all pitch in. My kids each pack a bag to keep in the back seat with them, so they have things to entertain themselves with (they're 8 and 14 now), and they consult with each other so that they can do things together.

My husband and I love road trips because it gives us a long stretch of time to visit - really catch up with each other. Once we get to our destination, we all totally let loose and relax. We're all very neat, organized people (except for my youngest, and he tries), so we're good about keeping our own belongings put away. If we're in a beach house or condo, my husband usually takes over laundry duty, and my oldest son loves to cook, so he joins my husband and I in cooking duties. We eat out a lot on vacation, too.

We don't plan too much once we've reached our destination. We like to have mostly free time to see what looks interesting at any given moment. I can honestly say that I've loved every single vacation we've taken.

I hope you are able to enjoy future vacations.

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