How to Plan a Great Family Vacation

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

– St. Augustine of Hippo


Summer is (basically) here! School is wrapping up and we’re looking forward to some free time this summer to relax, hang out with our kids and get a few projects done around the house.

The other thing we’re excited about this summer is our family vacation!

Like us, you might have already planned your family vacation or maybe you’re late to the game and are still thinking about it.

Either way, family vacations are a staple for many families’ summer breaks. The thing is, thinking about how to plan a great family vacation, we can get tripped up so quickly.

It’s easy to over- or under-book your vacation, to be too busy or too relaxed, to feel like you wasted that time off and to come home stressed rather than refreshed.

So how do we plan a great family vacation that has a great balance of leisure and adventure? It’s simpler than it sounds!

So here is the Hernon family formula for how to plan a great family vacation!

Values + Family Culture + Needs = Family Vacation!

Let us explain…


The Truth About Family Vacations

First, let’s dispel a little myth we’ve noticed many couples believe about vacationing with children: it’s not going to be relaxing. It’ll be stressful, it might be fun, it may not be relaxing but it will definitely be an adventure!

Taking little ones out of their routine, to a place they aren’t familiar with and potentially with sleep-disrupting activities doesn’t sound like a fun time but we’re going to tell you to do it anyway! Why?

Because you need it. Your family needs it. And believe it or not, your kids need it!

It’s so good to get out of your regular routine, to see new places and to go on adventures with our kids. Vacations give us all time to take a break from the normal stressors of our lives and that includes your children!

Statistics show that kids are more stressed than adults. With school, activities and peer pressure, this doesn’t surprise us at all! That’s one of the reasons we look forward to family vacations: to allow our kids to take a break from phones, social media and their friends. Family time only.

And despite how they feel about it, we know that’s exactly what they need!


Step 1: Find the Why of Your Family Vacation

When planning your vacation, check-in with yourself, your spouse and your kids. What are your needs right now?

Do your children have specific emotional or physical things they’re working on right now? Do you need to focus on a relationship with any of the children specifically?

Maybe a theme park with tons of people would be way too stressful in your current season so a lake house or quiet trip to the mountains might be the right choice.

Or maybe you see the need to reconnect with your older children so a venue that allows for lots of leisure time around a bonfire or with board games would be the perfect thing!

When you pair these needs with the things that are most important to your family (your family values and culture) then you have the “why” of your family vacation.

Once you have the “why” of your family vacation identified, then you’re ready to book the trip and get down to the details!


Practical Vacation Advice

You have your why. You have the trip booked. Now what? How do you make sure you don’t leave your vacation feeling like it was wasted time but also come home refreshed as a family?

The best advice we can give here is to craft a united but simple plan.

You and your spouse (and older children, if applicable!) should sit down and plan each day or your vacation. Depending on where you’re going, there might be more (or less!) to plan. But we suggest having one big event that you’ll do and allow for lots of casual (screen-free!) time.

For example, maybe you’re going to a lake house or to the beach. Have one bigger thing like parasailing or jet skiing planned.

Have an idea of what you’d like to do each day but remember to be flexible! Weather (and life) happens. Just because it rains during your beach trip doesn’t mean that the trip is ruined! Go back to your family values and adjust your plan.

Plan for indoor activities like board games, read-alouds or competitions to build togetherness and to make memories! Sometimes, these are the things your children will remember years later!

And finally, embrace your vacation! At some point, you’ll need to switch from planning mode and just go with the flow. Embrace things as they come and just enjoy the company of the most important people in your world!

These experiences and adventures are things you and your family will remember for years to come!


When planning your family’s summer vacation, it’s important to remember to check in with your family’s needs, to have realistic expectations and to have fun!

And embrace things as they come! The best stories we have of our family vacations are about when things didn’t go as planned. Those are the adventures that your children will remember (and tell their own kids about someday!).

If you’d like to hear more about this topic, then head over to our podcast and listen to our most recent episode.

Not sure about your family’s culture? Check out our free resource to help you and your spouse figure it out!