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Ground Rules for Family Vacation Planning

Updated: Oct 27, 2019

Essential tools for ensuring vacation planning with your family is fun, civil and productive.

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As planning a family vacation elicits contrasting opinions that can trigger arguments, it's helpful to set ground rules before your family's travel preferences converge. After numerous travel-induced battle of the wills, we decided to create guidelines we utilize each time we plan a vacation. These guidelines helped our trip planning end in bookings and a celebratory drink, instead of passive aggressive sighs.

But because each family is different, we recommend using these guidelines as a starting off point, editing them or building upon them to create your own. As you do this, think about your family’s communication style - or the communication style you’re striving for - and the circumstances that seem to produce the most conducive environment for communication. For example, maybe your family members are at their most relaxed and cooperative on Sunday mornings.

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When you first come together, start with a...

Communication style reminder.

We like to begin family travel discussions with reminders for how to practice nonviolent communication. For us, this includes no name-calling or judgments of others' ideas, practicing active listening, using “I” messages to communicate our feelings, then clearly asking for what we need. For example, “I’m feeling like my ideas aren’t being considered. Would you all be willing to talk about my ideas?”

Utilizing guidelines for communication may initially feel forced and unnatural, but will help to keep the conversation productive and cordial. If non-violent communication doesn’t resonate with you, select another communication structure, or make up your own.

Keep all comments kind, even if you’re disagreeing.

Practicing kindness while planning a family vacation

Being intentional about using kind language with our loved ones prevents hurt feelings and the potential dissolution of the vacation.

When you're triggered, pause before responding.

It's easy to get irritated when someone's opposing your ideas. If this happens, and you feel the urge to say something unproductive, pause for at least 90 seconds before responding, as research has shown it takes 90 seconds for an emotion to move through and out the body. Initially, it can be tricky to have the willpower to count to 90 instead of unleashing our frustrations, but with practice this strategy can save you from saying something you later regret.

No idea will be dismissed without discussion.

Planning travel with the family

Having a “no bad ideas” rule gives family members freedom to be creative and honest about the types of adventures they’re yearning for. Even if you know a certain idea isn’t practical, fantasizing about what it would look like to carry it out helps your family member feel heard and respected.

Everyone has an equal say, regardless of age.

When we give little ones the space to share their travel opinions, they often offer up creative and inspiring ideas. This also helps them find their voice, and the courage to use it.

Remember why you’re having this travel-talk.

A family on vacation

Set a loving tone for your vacation discussion with a reminder that the core goal is to plan an adventure that supports your family in connecting and growing.

Final Note: When you’re in the beginning stages of planning a trip, we recommend having a family travel talk once a week until many of the big decisions have been made. This regular meeting of minds will keep your momentum going, helping to ensure the trip gets off the ground.

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