Family Vacation Agreement

Every vacation has three stages to enjoy: planning and waiting for a trip to come, the actual traveling time and, finally, reflection and recounting after you are back to the normal daily routine.

Planning and looking ahead is a critical stage because the success of a trip with kids depends heavily on the research, planning and organizing that you have done before the trip. A family vacation is something we always dream of, plan well in advance, look forward to by reading and watching documentary movies about the place we are going to visit, and count the days with great excitement. This process is so enjoyable and reassuring. It gives so much pleasure, in many cases, not less than the trip itself.

However, sometimes, the joy of the family vacation is solely in this planning and waiting phase but not in the actual traveling time. Try to count how many smiles in family holiday photos hide a big fight between siblings, arguing about the toy each wanted, tears because of the mean brother and many more unpleasant things that happened just moments before the photo was taken. Usually a lot. We are lucky our brain blocks the majority of the unpleasant memories, and later in life, we tend to remember only the smiles that we see in photos. But, how do we make the actual present time really enjoyable and feel relaxed and happy in experiencing the moments of being together and exploring the world?

Vacation success highly depends on the success of the first stage, and the first stage should include not only planning the accommodation, places to visit, and things to do but also planning the limits of every family member, as well.

Before our recent family trip to London, my husband had an excellent idea – it was to not only to talk about the limits but also set them in writing as a family vacation agreement. He had read in one of the brilliant books that children, who are engaged in family situations that facilitate clarity of goals and commitment, feel happier, confident, and satisfied and behave better.

Kids who know what they can and cannot do, who do not have to argue about plans and rules regularly, are less demanding and disagreeing and more cooperative during everyday life situations, while in less well-ordered families, a great deal of energy is expended in constant negotiations and strife. So, we thought of applying this practice into our planned family vacation. This is how the idea of the “Family Vacation Agreement” came in.

We tried to set the limits positively with “dos” whenever was possible, adding “don’ts” as exceptions of the rule. We decided to include all of the main daily routines and aspects of the trip. This is what we came up with:

London Family Vacation Agreement

  1. We are going to London to experience the city, learn, and have fun strolling in the streets and parks, watching shows in the theatres, and learning at the museums.

  2. We start and finish the day on time:

  • 5:00am wake-up

  • 6:30am breakfast

  • 7pm go to sleep

  1. We are going to eat healthy foods: no carbs, no sweets, no snacks. We will drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Only adults will choose and order food; kids can state their preferences if asked. During coffee or tea breaks, kids drink water. Every evening after dinner, everyone is entitled to have a dessert — chocolate or a cookie. We are not going to eat desserts during the daytime.

  2. TV time is 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening after one hour of reading.

  3. The holiday is device free—no IPads and no iPhones. Exceptions to the rule:

  • reading on IPad Kindle or KidsAZ reading app is allowed

  • IXL school education app on IPad is allowed

  • Not more than one hour of free play on IPads is permitted in the airport while waiting for the flight.

  1. Inflight entertainment is only for movies, not for games. You can choose kids’ or age-appropriate family movies, get approval from an adult, and watch it until the end. During the flight, we are going to read and watch movies. Everyone is going to drink not less than 5 cups of water. Everyone gets to use the toilet every hour.

  2. We are going to be polite, helpful, caring, and balanced. We will be inquirers, thinkers, communicators, and risk takers. There will be no arguing, fighting, and complaints.

  3. We will use kind words with each other and others. We will say “Hello,” “Thank you,” and “Goodbye” to everyone, according to the situation. We will practice good manners.

  4. Every day, everyone needs to carry his own bag or backpack with his personal things, water, tissue, book, and wallet.

  5. Each kid has 50 pounds (241 DHS) worth of allowance for buying a keepsake from London.



We printed it out, handed to everyone, and talked about every clause in detail a day before the trip. We also explained the itinerary of the journey; everyone should be aware of what we were going to do next and stick to the plan.

This strategy has proven to be very successful and made family time during our stay in London more enjoyable and experiences more pleasant. We were delighted with the results and decided to implement this strategy for every family holiday.

Let me know what you think about this idea and how you make your family holidays more joyful and whine-free.

♥ Aurora

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