Separate or joint—which is the best type of vacation for a blended family? When it comes to vacations, opinions can be divided on whether blended families should take separate vacations or joint vacations.
So should blended families take separate vacations?
It’s a tricky question; it might seem easier to split into your familiar, comfortable groups, but a vacation can be a great way to bond and spend some really fun time together.
Benefits of a joint vacation for blended families
- Children get to spend more time with each other
- Children get the opportunity to know their stepparent
- It gives the whole family opportunities to enjoy new experiences together
- Being outside their home environment allows everyone to see their new family members in a different light
- It allows the family to create new memories together
Overall, there are far more benefits to a joint vacation. A split vacation will give everyone the feeling that although the family lives together, they do not have the same status. It reinforces the ‘yours/mine’ distinction and may create resentment between stepsiblings.
Benefits of a separate vacation for blended families
- The children (and adults!) might find it easier to relax with their biological family
- There are fewer disagreements since there are fewer people involved
- Can be more affordable
There may be times when a separate vacation is necessary, such as scheduling issues, different interests, financial considerations, or age differences. We’ve heard that separate vacations sometimes work best if the stepparent can also join the holiday—perhaps while their children are with their previous spouse. This avoids the ‘yours/mine’ feeling, even if not everyone in the family is on the holiday. Of course, you’ll know what works best for your family; just make sure the idea of a separate vacation is genuinely embraced by everyone involved.
Planning for blended family vacations
A joint vacation for a blended family will not be without its stresses (although don’t forget, the same often goes for traditional family vacations too!), but planning will help. Here’s our step-by-step guide to a successful blended family vacation.
Decide on the budget of the vacation with your spouse before discussing ideas with the kids. This should include a total budget, plus a breakdown of what you expect to spend on accommodation, dining, and any spending money.
This is possibly the trickiest step!. Going with the preferences of any one family member or child can make the others disgruntled. The easiest option is that you and your spouse agree on a destination and inform the kids. Simple! But if you want to involve the family in the decision, here are some of our suggestions for making this part as painless as possible.
- Ask everyone for their favorite vacation spot and why they want to vacation in that spot. Every suggestion is valid and important, listen to all their suggestions carefully.
- List out all the venues that are within your budget. Venues outside the budget will have to wait for another day.
- If you are planning a vacation every year then you can rotate the list. Each holiday you can vacation at one family member’s favorite spot.
- If you are not planning another vacation for some time then you can decide the venue by doing a lucky draw and pick one at random from the list of appropriate suggestions.
Whatever you do keep the venue selection process logical. Avoid any bias and don’t succumb to any emotional blackmail.
Preparing the kids for the vacation
It will probably be necessary to prepare your children for the first blended family vacation. Emphasize the fact that since you are now a family, your vacations are going to be together. If the children have separate bedrooms at home but you expect them to share a room with their stepsiblings, inform them in advance. If there will be an opportunity for separate outings for parts of the family (such as the biological families) then raise this before you go.
Flexibility on vacation
It is not necessary that the blended family spends every minute of their vacation together. Enforced time together is not the measure of a successful vacation. Perhaps the children will go off together while the adults relax, or the older kids will go hiking while the younger ones swim. Don’t schedule things too much, allow for some flexibility, and give the kids some space to have input and take the lead when it comes to activities.
Enjoying your blended family vacation
So should blended families take separate vacations? Planning a blended family vacation can seem tough but the benefits are worth it, and it should become easier each time. Don’t let concerns or fears prevent you from taking a chance on a holiday together— you likely have a wonderful experience waiting for you. Traveling and letting go of your daily routine will, and creating brand new memories together is a great way to forge new and stronger bonds. When you return ask children what they liked most about the trip, their answers might surprise you. (And if they are ungracious, don’t take it to heart; what may seem like a problem for them today may turn into a funny memory some years down the line.) Lastly, frame some vacation photos as a reminder of good times spent together—and start planning for your next vacation, it’ll be even better!
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