How Taking Separate Vacations Really Affects a Family

How Taking Separate Vacations Really Affects a Family

When your brood can’t agree on one getaway, is it OK to split up?

By Kelly Bryant

Ah, the great family vacation. It conjures up sepia-toned images of smiling people building sandcastles, screaming on an amusement park thrill ride, or sharing warm hugs in ski gear before hitting the bunny slope. And while those idyllic moments may actually occur, the reality is that it’s not always easy getting the whole gang to happily agree on the same destination.

So, when you’re dead set on hitting up a sandy beach, but your significant other longs for a camping trip, is it OK to split up to make everyone happy?

“Most definitely, and for a variety of reasons,” says Megan Bearce, a marriage and family therapist and author of Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When a Job Keeps You Apart. “The time apart gives each parent quality time with the respective child. Often, siblings have different interests and personalities, so each could spend the time doing something they really enjoy.”

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There are a couple of factors to consider when deciding whether separate vacations are right for your crew.

“The amount of time typically spent together as a family would impact how the kids and parents experience the vacation,” says Erica Wollerman, a clinical psychologist. “If there is a lot of family time typically spent together, it is more likely the vacation could be a positive experience. If less time is spent together, and the kids and adults are wanting more time with each other, a separate vacation would likely increase dissatisfaction.”

It’s also important to identify whether your family has the temperament to weather split getaways.

“I think if the children and adults in the family are fairly independent, yet feel confident and secure in their relationships, this would be a positive experience,” says Wollerman. “However, if they are anxious, struggle with change, or are struggling with their attachment, this could be negative.”

And if either you or your spouse want to get away for a solo trip with friends? That’s OK, too.

“I think it's a great way to strengthen a relationship,” says Bearce. “Often, after kids arrive, parents age, work demands increase, people stop doing things they used to enjoy, and so, taking a few days away to recharge and reconnect can be a great thing, as long as it's done respectfully, meaning the parent left behind has an opportunity to travel as well, child care demands are sorted out ahead of time, and it makes sense financially.”


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Before you start booking those travel plans, make sure you have an honest conversation with your spouse and your kids about going your separate ways to ensure everyone is on the same page.

“It’s important to discuss at length how each person feels about the experience and their reasons for it prior to planning the vacation,” says Wollerman. “The best way to avoid hurt feelings is to be authentic and honest with yourself about why this is something you are interested in, and then, to communicate this to your partner in a non-judgmental, supportive, and loving way.”

Bearce notes that when explaining the setup to children, highlight the benefits of being able to do something that’s specific to their interests and getting solo time with Mom or Dad.

“I think it also models that you can have independence within a relationship and not have it be at the expense of the relationship,” she says. “You could have the kids be sure to take pictures or keep a journal they can share with the family about their favorite parts of the trip.”

So, there you have it: If you’re up front with your family about separate vacations, no one should walk away from the experience scarred. Now if only someone could find a way to fit a family’s worth of packing into a single carry-on bag.

How do you feel about the idea of separate family vacations?

Kelly Bryant is a freelance writer and pop culture junkie. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband and their two sons. Follow her on Twitter @MsKellyBryant.

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