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Window Seat or Aisle Seat: How to Plan Harmonious Family Travel

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Families can thrive on diversity, but family vacations can tank if different perspectives aren’t respected. Family travel expert Kerri Zane offers tips for managing personalities to create successful family trips.

Traveling as a family can create lasting memories or it can be a hellish nightmare. As a single mom, my challenge is to balance the interests of my two daughters, who have vastly different ideas of what a holiday excursion means to them. I set out to find the best resolution strategies from seasoned professionals. I ended up discovering family conflict management skills that work both off and on vacation.

Choosing the Destination

Overall, the experts I consulted suggested that everyone in the family, including the children, should have a hand in the planning the vacation when possible. Trip planning becomes a one-for-all and all-for-one deal, in which everyone knows that their voice has been heard. To that end, before choosing a getaway spot, encourage your kids to go on the Internet and research possible destinations. Depending on how much time you’ll have to travel and taking into consideration budget constraints, allow each family member to make a list of three places they most want to see. Then it’s time for a family meeting.

Monica Elder, of and a parenting coach with 40 years of experience told me, “Family meetings are a wonderful way of deepening the family connection.”

Talking Stick. Credit Harinder Kaur via Wikimedia Commons

The vacation can be posed to the children as a problem stated, “where shall we go on vacation, mom and dad are stuck and we need some help.’” Monica suggests using a traditional counsel tool like a “talking piece” to conduct the family meeting. A talking piece can be either a rock or piece of driftwood that everyone in the family has attached something to so it is representative of everyone in the household (the attachments can be charms or simply a painted mark). Whoever holds the talking piece has the floor.

The rules are that everybody must listen kindly to the person holding the piece no matter how old or how young. This means no eye rolling and no out of order comments, that way everyone has a chance to say what they want without interruptions. “This is a very empowering process for everyone involved and every family member knows that their solution ie. travel destination suggestions are considered valuable,” said Elder.

After all voices are heard and opinions expressed then a majority vote wins. The possibilities are endless.

If one person’s trip isn’t chosen it is important to assure them that this is not the last family vacation. You are not excluding their idea but rather embracing the possibility that it is a choice for a holiday at some point in the future.

Finally, Elder suggests, “the person with the winning destination, should be voted the travel guide for that location.”