“Are we there yet?” asks one impatient child. “How much further?” chimes another. Family vacations, like many life experiences, are ripe with expectations. From how long it takes and how much longer it will take to get there to the quality of the interactions with family members, our expectations shape our family vacations.

Family vacations can be an opportunity for at least one person in the family to learn more about a hobby of interest to them. You may have a son who is interested in baseball and wants to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. Perhaps you have a daughter who is interested in nature and wants to visit Yellowstone National Park. You may want to go to the beach and spend your days watching sunrises or sunsets.

Each person should have the chance to voice their opinion about what they would like from the vacation. Notice I didn’t say they should get to pick where they go but really have the chance to talk about how they would like the vacation to go and where they would like to go.

Expectations must be clearly communicated to one another. It is not uncommon to have unspoken expectations, believing the other person(s) ought to know what would be a good vacation to you. Be careful assuming anyone knows what you would like. Focus on sharing what each has in mind for the vacation and becoming aware of what a vacation means to you. Communicating the expectations is crucial to helping avoid disappointment.

When my husband and I first vacationed with family members, we were struck at the contrast between our families. My husband’s family would plan to go exploring based on their interests and coordinate a time to meet up for dinner. As my husband noted, when we were on vacation with my family, we would schedule ALL our time together. (Note: I use the word “all” very conscientiously.)

To have your vacation be what you expect, you need to be aware of your expectations. Expectations need to be realistic. A common mistake in vacation planning is to underestimate how much time will be spent in a particular activity. Be clear about your expectations. Focus on what you want your vacation to be like; avoid focusing on what you don’t want for a vacation. Create a mental picture of how you will spend your vacation time and communicate that picture as clearly as you can to others traveling with you.

As vacations are planned, several questions should be considered:
• What is the focus of our vacation? Are we planning opportunities together as a family?
• What steps do we need to follow to ensure each person’s expectations are being met?
• What would be an ideal day spent on our vacation? Do you picture yourself reading on a beach or trying your hand at snow skiing? Are you relaxing to enjoy a rejuvenating vacation or are you physically engaged in a productive activity?
• Are the timeframes estimated for activities realistic?

Being aware of our expectations, being clear what we desire, and ensuring our expectations are realistic are all keys to effective vacation planning. Communicating our expectations to others is another key step in the process. Don’t assume another person knows what you mean; paint a clear picture of your ideal and be open to hearing others’ points of view.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Susan Meyerle is a Licensed Mental Health Practitioner and Certified Family Life Educator. She has been working with individuals and families for nearly twenty years to help them create the life they desire. Look for her book on expectations later this summer! For more resources on relationships and your expectations, visit www.2liferesources.com and subscribe to our newsletter.