Why the Family Vacation Is Overrated (and What You Can Do About It)

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family vacation

It’s that time of year . . . our social media feeds are blowing up with images of smiling families on tropical beaches, at amusement parks, and on epic adventures, right?  Unpopular opinion: I don’t LOVE the big family vacation.

*GASP?!*

Wait, hear me out before you write me off as the Summertime Grinch! I love the idea of them. I want the countless memories, the sweet photos, and the silly souvenirs. But the annual summer trip is just overhyped and there are other options.  

If you have more than one child, you’ve probably felt like you needed a vacation after your family trip because it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I’m letting you know: YOU AREN’T ALONE!

The Work

Think about it, as a mom, all the family fun responsibility usually falls on us—the planning, packing, organizing, anticipating, the cleaning up. I typically end up packing for my family at least a week leading up to our trips. Ensuring everyone has their swimsuits, enough outfits, snacks, chargers, and sunscreen is important for a successful trip. Even with teenagers, I find myself packing and repacking their things because if they forget their contact solution or swimsuit, it means a costly trip to a hotel gift shop.  

If you have younger kids and are traveling near any water, full-time lifeguard duty is exhausting. And keeping sunscreen on everyone to avoid nasty sunburns is a solid second side hustle that doesn’t pay well. There isn’t a lot of opportunity for relaxing as a mom when traveling with a family. 

The Money

The average cost of a vacation for a family of four is $4,580! And trust me, it only goes up for a family of six. If you have more than one child, chances are it is very costly to create those once-in-a-lifetime memories. That is a lot of financial pressure every year! Enter credit cards and interest rates . . .  

Of course, we as parents want to give our families the best and make those magical memories. And usually, those things come with a hefty price tag. When you travel with your family everything multiplies quickly. In our case, it’s souvenirs x4, kids meals x4, hotel rooms x2, and XL rental cars.   

The Stress

It’s not much of a vacation, to be honest–we’re just taking our regularly scheduled show on the road with some very tricky additions. Missing nap times, long stretches in the car or on the plane with siblings arguing and fighting can be a recipe for disaster. And I sure hope you didn’t forget the favorite stuffed animal or bedtime book. 

Don’t even get me started on teenagers! I love them, but Lord knows they are impossible to please. They eat more food than a swarm of prehistoric locusts and leave disaster in their wake. This doesn’t exactly change on vacation, except now they are annoyed on their phones with headphones while you are trying hopelessly to point out the beautiful scenery. Wait, did I mention the kids fighting in confined spaces? Well, it deserves mentioning again. 

The Family Vacation Alternative(s)

Now I’m not saying I won’t take family vacations, I just think it is over-hyped and honestly pretty exhausting. Here is what I like to do regularly instead.

I like taking mini-vacations one on one with kids. Two or three days at a time, sneak off somewhere that is important and special to them. With our children in different age groups, what appeals to the youngest isn’t likely going to get the teens as excited. These little trips won’t break the bank and still create such tender, special memories. 

I recently took our youngest on a quick surprise trip to Disneyland. I got to watch her expressions closely, bond, and experience every little bit of it along with her–things that probably wouldn’t have happened if we were traveling as a party of six.

family vacation

Taking your teen or preteen on an outing to a nearby city for a concert or sporting event is a great opportunity to connect with them. This allows you the opportunity to connect with them one on one while doing something special they enjoy. 

Another way to go is the staycation. Find a local hotel (preferably one with a great pool) and book a couple of nights. Order room service, lounge around, watch movies, and most importantly, spend time together without the hassle or expense of leaving town. Become a tourist in our city and eat somewhere you never have. 

The Family Vacation Isn’t CANCELLED

This isn’t to say we won’t do a big family vacation again. I’m looking at scheduling one this summer because it has been a few years since we’ve all taken a trip together. I just don’t want us to feel pressured to plan and execute a monumental trip every single year. We can stay home with our families during the summer and create memories in other ways.

And just remember, there is always a lot more going on behind the scenes of the family curated vacation photos in the Facebook feeds.



The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.

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