Five Ways to Keep Connection at the Center of Family Travel


We’ve all been there, haven’t we?  

We have set aside vacation time, booked our stays, purchased flights or made the road trips, packed for ourselves and others, planned thoughtful itineraries and ended up on family vacations that are fun in theory, or part of the time, but are also full of moments of disconnection, busyness, and sort of missing each other. 

I often find myself thinking about these types of things before, during, and after our family travel. Is this “time on holiday” actually accomplishing what we want it to accomplish?

Yes, of course, I love the privilege it is to get to travel with my kids and share new places and experiences with them, but I never want that to come at the cost of us getting to connect with and enjoy each other.  

We are in the midst of these young family life years, and so what I want most of our time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life is for it to be a time of connection and play. If a trip causes more disconnection or distraction – it doesn’t feel like it is actually meeting our family’s true needs.

Does that mean I spend every minute of our time on vacation hovering over my children? No! Not at all. It means I try to be reflective about what leads to disconnection and what leads to connection, and how to shape our travel plans accordingly.   

four suitcases, side by side, one of which has a cowboy hat resting on it and another with a teddy bear on it, symbolizing a family vacationHere are some things things to consider if you desire to prioritize Family Connection amidst Family Travel:

Keep your Mind on Regulation

One of the hardest realities of traveling with kids can be the disruption of kids’ everyday schedules, sleep routines, meal rhythms, etc.  It seems like some kids hardly notice the disruption in routine and can roll with it, while others are significantly impacted by the changes. Knowing and keeping your temperament and your kiddos temperament in mind can be super helpful here, as well as adjusting your expectations regarding what you and your kids can tolerate amidst routines and basic rhythms of life being disrupted.

One way to keep regulation in mind is to pack snacks, and have access to food your kids will actually eat. Oftentimes, eating in new, busy or loud places can be hard for kids, so this may require some flexibility on your part. Another way to keep regulation in mind is to be mindful of sleep and making space to catch up on sleep. A great way to do this is balancing late nights with early or more typical nights. Another option is to consider if one parent or caregiver stays back with younger kiddos who need more sleep, while another parent keeps adventure going with older kiddos. What is most important in keeping regulation in mind is seeing our kids behavior as clues to what they need. Are they tired, thirsty, hungry, overwhelmed, or in need of connection or movement?

Be realistic about the Itinerary

As much as possible, try to be realistic about what a day can hold and remember rest. It’s unlikely a day on vacation can fully mimic a day at home, or that anyone actually wants that – but is it possible to allocate time for rest and recovery amidst busier travel moments?

Did you travel late last night and then walk all over the city today? Consider a relaxed dinner in by the pool and get to bed at a decent time. Did you spend all day with a bunch of extended family members? Maybe your immediate family needs to go on a walk before bed and share your favorite parts of the day or plan to start the next day with a family breakfast date before you meet up with everyone else. Are there four places you want to see while you’re in this city for the weekend? Pick the two most important and reconsider what you have capacity for after those excursions. 

Keep some Daily Rituals or Cornerstones from Home Intact

One way to foster continued connection amidst travel is holding on to rituals or rhythms from home. What small moments of nurture and connection are built into your daily life at home that could easily and realistically carry over into this trip?

With younger kiddos, this can look like keeping parts of the bedtime routine intact- maybe you can’t read as many stories as you would at home, but can you read one or two?   Think through meal times, getting ready times, time in the car, etc.

Fit in One-on-One Dates if You Can

Some of my favorite memories from our family vacations have been when I have gotten to sneak away with just one of my kids. I love it when our family of five is together, but I also love having time to focus on just one person.  At times, this has meant taking them on a coffee or ice cream date or to run an errand, and sometimes the date has been something bigger like taking a child on an outing that is specific to their interests.  

This can be especially helpful when you’re feeling disconnected from one of your kids or when they’re having a harder time with a trip for whatever reason.

Remember Repair

Just like at home, there are moments of disconnection and frustration or overwhelm— these moments will happen while traveling. It doesn’t have to mean the day has been ruined or “you’re never going on vacation again”!  After these moments, what kids need is for us as the caregivers to apologize for our part in the mess, and to communicate that we still are so glad to be with them amidst the joys and difficulties of traveling together.  

These moments of disconnection can also be some of our greatest teachers regarding what our kids can and can’t handle, and quite honestly, what we as adults can or can’t handle.  Be gentle with yourself, shake off any shame, and try to learn from what happened!

Here’s to family travel that brings us home, possibly more tired than before, but also having experienced moments of connection, repair, and deep rest.  

Share in the comments what you have found helps your family connect amidst travel!



Previous articleClearing the Air: Vaping, Kids, and “The Talk”
Next articleHow Do I Know If My Child or Teen Needs Help with Mental Health?
Rachel Hodges
Rachel is originally from the Chicagoland area, but has grown deep Saint Louis roots over the last fifteen years. She married her high school sweetheart and they live in the Metro East with their three children and spunky puppy. Rachel is the kind of Mom who loves watching her kids grow and learn new things, and also wishes time would slow down a bit. Rachel and her husband love to travel together, dream together, and enjoy time with friends and family. Rachel loves getting lost in a story and is always up for a book or podcast recommendation. She loves time outside, good questions, long conversations, and a good theme to plan a party or meal around. Rachel works as a Child, Adolescent and Family Therapist who provides counseling, parent coaching and equipping. She loves helping parents strengthen their relationships with their children, and helping parents understand their children through a developmental lens. Rachel believes we were all meant to be heard, feel known and be absolutely delighted in.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here