Summer is likely the time when you and your new spouse are wondering what to do about a family holiday with your stepfamilies. Do you take your newly blended family on a three-week road trip around the United States? Opt for separate vacations, each parent with his or her own children? Nope. Neither is the right answer.

Here are five tips for saving your family holiday, getting to know your step children and maybe even encouraging a little stepfamily bonding.

1. Keep it simple

It is really wrong to take a three-week road trip across the United States with your newly blended family?  No, not really.  If your stepfamily has been together for more than a year, the kids are small, or you have a large recreational vehicle then it could be a wonderful adventure.  But, if you’re just starting out as a blended family, I don’t recommend it. That would be too much togetherness in very close quarters and require a lot of patience on the part of both the adults and the children for a very long time.

2. Keep it Fair

Taking vacations separately is not completely wrong either, just a little difficult.  When families blend in a new marriage, the kids are watching to see if everyone is going to be treated the same.  The kids may expect to receive special treatment from their biological parent, but this sort of behavior just leads to parental conflicts and a sense of instability, insecurity and uncertainty in your household. 

I don’t recommend separate vacations except under these circumstances:

  • The school breaks are different (i.e. Spring Break) and the kids are out at different times.  Take each group of kids on similar vacations, but at different times.
  • You want to take one child on a vacation, alone, to celebrate an accomplishment (i.e. graduation from high school or college.)  This is fine, but realize that the other kids are already anticipating their trip!

3. Keep It Short: Weekend Getaways

The best vacations for a newly blended family are weekend getaways, but not more than four nights.  These are trial adventures, for your family to get to know each other.  Examples of these types of trips:

  • Weekend in the mountains
  • Weekend at the beach
  • Weekend at a historical city/location
  • A three- or four-night cruise

4. Keep It Equal

You don’t spend the entire weekend as a blended family. Mix it up a bit.  Let older teenagers take younger children on a short outing, while the adults have some time alone.  Split up with your biological children for a couple of hours, but make sure you do similar/equal activities.  Or, husband takes the boys and wife takes the girls on separate outings.

5. Keep the Memory

Take informal, candid photos of your group.  Every now and then, when things are going well, take some group shots.  When you get home, put these photos in a family album or scrapbook, and frame your favorite photo of the group to hang on the wall or sit on the counter- for all to see and remember.

This excerpt was taken from Shirley Cress Dudley’s ebook, Fun Blended Family Vacations.  Shirley Cress Dudley is a licensed professional counselor with a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling, and a master’s degree in Education. She has a passion for helping blended families grow strong and be successful. Visit her Web site BlendedFamilyAdvice for more help with blended family issues.