Five Tips to Enjoy a Stress-Free Family Spring Break Vacation

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Y’all, we made it. Dark and dreary February is over, and depending on where you live, spring break may be launching as early as today. We actually got a jump start, and are heading to our Caribbean spring break destination as we speak. As exciting (and necessary) as a family spring break adventure can be, there is also often an element of stress, because anytime you move an entire family, it isn’t as simple as throwing your own toothbrush and swimsuit into a bag.


At this point, I’m going to assume you have already planned out your spring break adventure, so we’ll skip over most of the planning tips, and instead focus on enjoying the journey with as little stress as possible. Here are my five best tips for having a stress-free family spring break.

Don’t stress the stress. You can close the browser and exit the article now if you want, but I’ll break it to you right up front and say you can’t avoid some stress on a family spring break trip. Unless you have super human zen-like skills, there will be at least a moment or two that you are stressed out. The key is to not kick yourself for stressing out on a vacation, because when a whole family of people are involved, the laws of physics necessitate some level chaos or conflict. It’s just a fact of life, or science, or something. However, what you can do is try to resolve whatever is causing the stress as quickly as possible and then firmly put the incident behind you.

Yeah, some parts are a little stressful.

Plan a little, but not a lot. One of the biggest hallmarks of a successful family trip is having a few things outlined that you want to do, but not over-stuff the agenda. An over-stuffed agenda will probably only lead to an exhausted (and stressed out) family that is running around all over the place, or a feeling of disappointment that you didn’t get to everything you hoped. With a young family, I would not schedule more than one structured activity per day, and even then, you may want some down days that are left completely open for spontaneity or just relaxing and playing.

On our four-night spring break beach adventure we have two days with something planned for part of the day, and the other days have intentionally been left 100% open for swimming and playing. We can always add an excursion or activity once we land if we feel like it, but we can also choose to embrace vacation mode and just enjoy where we are and each other. I will say that this is something that does not come naturally to me and that I have had to work at over the years. My natural inclination is to see and do as much as possible wherever we are, but that mixes with a family vacation about as well as oil on a hot fire.

Put the internet away. Yes, I know, do as I say and not as I do. Seriously though, the internet itself can be a stressful place. Whether it is a work email popping up, or another Facebook post from that extremist cousin of yours, or a depressing news headline, don’t let the easy accessibility of the good, bad, and ugly on the internet diminish your few days of vacation fun with your family. If you do need to stay connected, try to structure certain times at the beginning and/or end of the day to catch up online instead of always bringing the world around with you in your pocket. The world really can wait, this is your spring break, and you will never get another one just like it. 

Take the easy street. You’ve already hunted down travel deals, used your points, stretched your miles, planned for months, and now you are on vacation. I’m not saying go crazy blowing money at every turn, but if a few extra bucks here and there can help make life easier, then this is the time to spend. For example, if you have tired little kids and the free hotel shuttle is going to take 25 minutes before the next round of airport pick-ups, consider loading the family in a cab or take an Uber, skipping the extra wait and hopefully preventing some avoidable meltdowns.

Another example would be splurging on hotel food when the family is tired and hungry. There may be authentic and very affordable food just a few blocks down the road, but when energy levels are low and hangry barometers are high, take the easy way out and eat what is close and available, even it if isn’t the best deal on the block. You can always head down the street for tasty and affordable eats at the next meal.

Let kids be kids. Finally, let kids be kids and don’t stress out if they aren’t acting like miniature adults. They are not miniature adults, and while there are of course some rules to be followed, especially while in tight quarters somewhere like an airplane, hopefully most of the trip is spent in a place where they can have fun in their own child-like ways. Being a polite and respectful kid doesn’t mean that they can’t laugh, sing, run, jump, play, splash, and goof around. In fact, if your kids aren’t doing those things on their spring break, that may be something to stress out about and change the environment as soon as possible. Get them to a park, arcade, family-friendly pool, or anywhere that increases the fun factor and lets them be kids without you stressing out over ever giggle and leap.

Soon enough they will be grown and then you can do ‘boring’ grown-up things while traveling together, but for now, embrace the moment, don’t stress the stress, take the easy street when you can, turn off the rest of the world, and enjoy an (almost) stress-free family spring break.

What are your favorite family travel tips to keep stress levels low and fun levels high?

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  1. Great article. We had a lovely spring break (it was presidents weekend but it was a 4 day weekend from school that we took advantage of) and the best part about it was that we had nothing planned but pool and beach time and being together. I completely turned off my work e-mail, barely looked at social media and we had a lovely time. Thanks to miles and points, we spent out of pocket about $300 on some lovely dinners (served at 5 pm!) and 4 days away felt like a lifetime. Enjoy this time with your family. Hope you don’t read this until you come back!

  2. One easy and free tip that really us helped reduce vacation stress for me in the past is to be sure and sign up for the Rental car rewards program (it’s free) for whoever you are renting from, and preselect your preferences and even check-in in advance if possible. Some places let you skip the line and go right to the car. If there is a long line (Hawaii I’m looking at you) it can save 45 min or more of stressful time in line after a very long flight. We arrived at the Budget line in Lihue a few minutes after the grandparents in a very long line and having set up my Budget rewards in advance let us skip the line and be on our way 45 min ahead of the grandparents.

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