Life Lessons from the Sea #11: Ten Tips for Surviving Family Vacations


The ocean is a great place to build unity and trust. Even vacationers, swimming in the surf, keep an eye out for those around them. On a recent trip to Mexico with several families, we watched each other’s kids in the sea and along shorelines, always aware of the risks involved in water play.
Early in the morning, when the ocean receded, my youngest daughter and I explored tide pools. We shared our treasures—hermit crabs and a sea star, with perfect strangers who, likewise, showed us their finds. Later, my nephews and sons caught larger crabs. It took the greater part of the afternoon, but together, they finally triumphed. Then the cousins dug huge holes together and built sand castles that would inspire any budding architect.
In the spirit of togetherness, my eldest daughter gathered and borrowed shells to create a love note for her sweetheart back home. Our families shared goggles, a paddleboard, food, sunscreen and more. We enjoyed the wild freedom of the ocean while alert for the dangers that lurk beneath its surface, ready to act should the need arise.
It’s easy to make this idyllic setting sound like a dream, full of smiles, pleasant surprises, and only the happiest feelings. But, like in the ocean, dangers lurk in even the most delightful family vacations, rearing up to spoil the fun. A little friction here, a cross voice there, a touch of impatience. Not by coincidence, then, did all of our group family lessons focus on controlling anger and getting along.
One of my favorite of the suggestions given, was to agree with your adversary, then add your gentle comments afterward. I tried this out on my kids (they’re never adversarial, are they?) when they complained about our watermelon having seeds.
“I know, honey, I like seedless watermelons better, too. But we’re in Mexico, and the store here doesn’t have them. Plus, now you have seeds to spit at your brothers.”
To my delight, I found that this approach worked much better than snapping at my darlings about trying to have a better attitude! So here’s a few more tips about managing the trouble that comes from close contact with your loved ones, especially on family vacation.
1.      Count to ten before responding to people’s outrageously rude comments. They probably didn’t really mean it. All right, maybe they did, but don’t let them ruin your vacation!
2.      Make a concerted effort to be cheerful. You’ve been looking forward to this chance to torture, I mean, enjoy each other for a long time.
3.      Shake off little irritations that will probably be forgotten in a few minutes anyway.
4.      Keep snacks handy to avoid those nasty little dips in blood sugar that tend to bring out the grumpies in everybody.
5.      Try not to lose it when security lets you know your hellions are loading trash bins into the elevator and spitting off balconies at unsuspecting strangers. (How not to lose it? Laugh. It’s the only option. But wait until after the security guards leave.)
6.      Plan portable activities to keep the crew occupied in down time, so they aren’t at each other’s throats: card games, small puzzles, coloring books, reading books…ipad
7.      Spend a few minutes every day with the whole family, sharing in positive ways, whether through storytelling, worship time, or just sharing favorite experiences from the day. It sets an upbeat tone that carries over  into the rest of the trip.
8.      Squeeze in a little time by yourself, to unwind—a quiet jog, swim in the surf, hide out on the balcony, put in your earphones during a long drive.
9.      Feed the kids well, then wear them out with fun activities, like swimming and hiking, so they’ll sleep well at night (maybe even early—peace for the grown-ups!)
10.  If all else fails, spit watermelon seeds at them. (Just don’t tell security.)
How do you fend off fights that crop up during family time?

  • I love this Aunt Renee. You are an incredible mom.

  • Thanks so much, Ben! And thanks for reading my blog! I can’t wait to see your new son. You and Callista will be awesome parents 🙂