traveling_familySpring break is a wonderful time of year when our school age kids get a break and college kids return for a week and everyone gets a little change in the daily schedule.

Here are some tips for having a successful spring break family vacation with your blended or stepfamily.

Keep it Short

In your first five years, I wouldn’t recommend jumping in the van or camper and traveling around the U.S. for three weeks. Your kids will either kill each other, or you’ll want to start tossing them out of the car at the gas stops.  Spring break is usually a week, but you don’t need to devote the entire week to being out of town with your entire blended family. Giving your children some down time after the trip is helpful.  In addition, if you are in close quarters for an entire week, it’s tough for anyone to maintain a great relationship, especially blended or step families.

Keep it Fair

If you have a stepfamily with various scattered spring breaks, then you may not be able to plan a time for everyone to be together.  That’s all right, but you do need to make sure that you treat each child fairly and equally.  If you take your school age kids to the beach, for example, then don’t forget to plan a trip (or for older kids, pay for a trip) to the beach.

Keep it Balanced

If your stepfamily is lucky enough to have similar schedules so you can take the whole family for a vacation, keep it balanced.  There’s no need to spend every waking moment together.  Plan a balance of couple time, alone time, family time and parent/child time.  You can also mix it up and have all girls do an activity while the boys do an alternate activity.

A cruise is great for some family time, and also allows your family to separate and do what interests them during the day. 

Here’s how it went during my stepfamily’s spring break cruise vacation: At breakfast, we would each plan our day, then go our separate ways until lunchtime, when we met again to connect.  After lunch, everyone was on his or her own again until dinner. Each child had a copy of my schedule, so if they needed me, they could find me.

During the day, my kids all gravitated to their individual areas of interest.  My introverted teenage daughter enjoyed curling up in front of a large window, gazing at the water while reading her favorite novel, getting manicures or meeting me for a cooking class.  My teenage boy was much different.  He enjoyed anything that was active — playing ping pong, swimming in the pool, working out and running around the track, while rotating through the buffet line every 30 minutes or so to fill his teenage hunger. 

We all had a wonderful spring break, but each of us returned home with family stories and also tales of our individual experiences.

Keep to the Budget

Prepare a budget and stick to it. Kids truly don’t judge your love by the amount of money you spend.  Saying “no” is OK; it’s more than OK, it’s good parenting.  Life isn’t easy, and our children won’t be able to have everything they want, when they want it when they’re adults.  Talk with your children about the budget and your expectations of what activities you will be able to enjoy, and what might need to wait for another trip.

Keep a record

Take many candid, fun photos.  You are building memories for your family.  Make sure you put them in an album, scrapbook, or even a collage frame.  These family trips will help bond your family, and create a group of people with a shared story, a shared experience in their lives.

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 is the founder of The Blended and Step Family Resource Center and author of Blended Family Advice. She is also the creator of Marriage and Family Online Conferences, which is sponsoring a Blended and Step Family Online Conference March 26th.