How to Plan a Successful Family Vacation

Bring everyone together with these tips.

By Brooke Porter Katz

Americans left a collective 662 million vacation days on the table in 2016, according to Project: Time Off, an organization that encourages Americans to enjoy their hard-earned leave. If you’re hesitating to take time off because you’re intimidated by the prospect of planning a family vacation, you’re not alone—it’s not always easy being in close quarters with loved ones for extended lengths of time or crafting a vacation that appeals to everyone. But when planned properly, traveling with family members can improve relationships between grandparents and grandkids, brothers and sisters, parents and children. Follow these simple guidelines for a getaway that’ll help keep every generation happy.

Plan ahead.

First things first: Set aside your vacation dates early. According to Katie Denis, chief of research and strategy at Project: Time Off, one of the biggest challenges people face is finding the time and committing to it. “The single most important thing you can do is block the calendar, even if you don’t know what you’re going to do yet,” she says. It also gives everyone something to look forward to and plenty of fodder for dinner-table conversations.

Get the kids involved.

The Work Martyr’s Children, a 2015 report by Project: Time Off, showed that including children—particularly older (and more opinionated) ones—in planning is a great way to bond before a vacation. When the time comes to actually participate in the chosen activity, they’re more likely to be engaged. And while theme parks may be on many a dream list, the children surveyed (ages 8 to 14) mentioned enjoying simpler activities, such as going to the zoo.

Pick a destination that’s good for all ages.

You’ve likely heard it before: You can’t please all of the people all of the time. But you can come close by visiting a place that appeals to everyone (and that matches everyone’s physical abilities). Older grandparents and smaller children may not be able to take strenuous hikes or speed down the slopes, for example. Beach getaways can be ideal because you can be as active or as laid-back as you please. Big cities where there are plenty of museums and sights to see are also a great choice because they allow for a great deal of flexibility.

Start a tradition.

Many people have fond memories of renting the same beach house or ski lodge or lake cabin every year—and Denis says there is value in this type of ritual, particularly with children. “If you establish something early, they’re more likely to carry it on into adulthood,” she says. Instill good habits by planning an annual vacation, whether it’s to the same destination year after year or the same type of place, such as always traveling to a beach in January.

  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: October 2017