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Surviving the stepfamily vacation

Fun times on vacation
Fun times on vacation

Vacations, like holidays, can be fraught with tension even in the most “functional”, intact families. Add the layer of “step” and the idea of a vacation can fill many step-parents with conflict and sometimes even dread or fear. But why? Vacations are supposed to be fun and relaxing, aren’t they? Well, in theory, yes – but as Karon Goodman says on SmartStepfamilies, sometimes “we end up feeling about as relaxed as an air traffic controller.”

The reasons for this stress are many and they differ depending on how new the stepfamily is, how old the children are and most importantly, how everyone gets along at home. The problems we have at home do not disappear when we’re on vacation. On the contrary, they can be magnified when we have no choice but to be together 24/7. One of the best ways to alleviate this challenge is to plan a vacation where you are not necessarily together all the time. There are a number of family resorts that have activities for children of all ages, separate activities for adults and then time, often mealtime, when you can all come together as a family and share your individual experiences. As hard as it is to make everyone happy, these often all-inclusive vacations help us come pretty darned close in achieving that goal. Some top-rated ones that are easy to get to from the Tri-State area include Club Getaway in the Berkshires in Kent, CT and The Rocking Horse Ranch in Ulster County, NY. If you are looking to travel internationally and are will to spend a bit more, Club Med has various locations around the world that are specifically geared towards families.

If you are not a fan of the all-inclusive options, try to find something that offers a variety of things to do and places to go. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the Disney Parks. You might also want to consider Williamsburg, VA where you can not only have fun at Busch Gardens and WaterCountry, USA, but you can soak in a little bit of American history in Colonial Williamsburg.

There are endless options. Do your research and make the plans as a family. The more buy-in you get from the kids ahead of time, the more likely it is to be a successful trip. If they have a hand in planning it, it won’t feel like something they are forced to do. Keep in mind that the family vacation will mostly likely not be the romance-filled vacation you dream of, but there are other times for that. If your situation allows, make sure that you plan periodic kid-free vacations for just you and your spouse or partner, even if it’s just a weekend. That one-on-one bonding time is a critical component to your marital and stepfamily success.

In Stepfamily Vacations – Deal Breaker or Connection Maker, Susan Wisdom (great name!) shares some key pieces of advice, including two of the most important things we must remember throughout our step-parenting journey: “Check your attitude along the way” and “Lighten up and use your sense of humor.”

Whether you have already survived this summer’s vacation and are already thinking about next year’s, or if you are planning an upcoming winter vacation, one thing is for sure: there will be other vacations. Find a way to make the best of them.

In Tips for a Peaceful Stepfamily Vacation, we are reminded that, “Stepfamily vacations play an important role in creating family identity and a sense of belonging with stepchildren. As relationships bond, it’s easier to spend extended time together. Don’t give up on a peaceful vacation, even if you experience tension-filled days. Try again next year and the year after that. The memories you’re creating with your stepfamily are meaningful, even if they’re not perfect!”

If you would like to share you own concerns, tips, and vacation stories or if you would like to hear others share their stories so that you can be better prepared for your next stepfamily vacation, sign up for the Stepfamily Solutions of NYC Meetup Group and attend the “Vacationing and the Stepfamily” event on Monday, September 8th.


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