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How to Keep Mom Happy on Family Vacation

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You’ve heard the saying, “Ain’t nobody happy if Mama ain’t happy.” This is never truer than when on family vacation. Moms are typically the mastermind of the family’s activities, whether at home or on the road. If Mom is overtired and stressed out, Dad and the kids are going to feel that tension, which will decrease everyone’s fun. I shared tips for things Dad and the kids can do to keep Mom happy on family vacation during a recent segment with Kimberly King on CBS News San Diego.

How to keep Mom happy on family vacation on CBS News San Diego

Help Mom Plan

I know you think Mom likes to be in charge, and she does, to a certain degree. When she asks for input on where to go, when to eat, and what attractions to see, she truly wants to know. Leaving it all up to her can feel overwhelming, as though everyone’s happiness rests on her already tired shoulders.

Dads can help by offering to take over one portion of the planning duties, whether it’s reserving the flights, researching restaurants online before leaving home, or scheduling one entire day’s activities.

Older children can relieve Mom’s burden by taking over some of the planning too. My sister, Karen, is a Travel Mama of teen triplets. She and her husband assigned their trio the task of investigating their choice of attractions or aspects of French culture to present to the rest of the family via PowerPoint presentations before their vacation to France. My nephew, Ryan, for example, researched French cheeses as well as the medieval town of Carcassonne. Karen says, “We asked them to do it so that they would have ownership of that part of the trip and not just be ‘guests.’ They acted as tour guides for their selected destinations and loved being in the spotlight.”

Take Turns Being Tired

Mothers don’t get a break from non-stop mom-duties just because they’re on vacation. In my household, my husband and I try to take turns being crazy. If one parent is sleep-deprived and cranky, it is manageable because one of us is able to maintain a sense of calm. If both of us are grouchy, it can poison the whole day for everyone. If one child is sick or for whatever reason is not sleeping well, we take turns getting up with that child. One night I’m on duty, the next my husband is. For parents of babies who still need nighttime feedings, if possible, have Dad give a bottle for one of the feedings so Mom can get more rest.

Let Mom Shower First

Let’s face it; Mom takes a long time to get ready in the morning. If Dad can take over some of the morning child-care duties (changing diapers or overseeing potty time, getting children dressed, brushing their teeth, etc.), Mom can take a nice, long shower. This will help her to start off the day in a good mood, and, as we’ve already discussed, this is in the family’s best interest. Plus, then Mom can have a good hair day, which leads to my next suggestion…

Take Photos of Mom

Mom is probably the one behind the camera, taking nearly all of the family photos. This means she is often absent from the vacation photos, unless Dad happens to snap a picture of her booty as she leads her brood to the next destination (this does not please Mom). Offer to take Mom’s photo, preferably soon after her morning shower when her hair is looking its best!

Give Mom a Break

Mom loves spending time with her children splashing in the ocean, exploring museums, riding roller coasters, and making lasting memories while on vacation. But she needs some me-time too! Keep Mom happy by not just allowing, but insisting she take a day (or at least an afternoon) to herself. Better yet, book a spa treatment for her and tell her it was paid for in advance, no refunds allowed (even if that’s not true).

Plan a Date

Plan a date one evening during your vacation to allow for some couple-time. Hire a sitter or leave your children in the resort’s kids camp and head out for a romantic dinner and drinks. This will assure some special private time after your date (especially if you book a suite with a separate bedroom)!

Say Thank You

Mom does so much for the family, usually without any recognition. Say, “thank you” and say it often. “Thanks for planning this trip,” and “I appreciate you packing for the whole family,” and, of course, “Thank you for being such a great mom.”

Do you have any additional tips for how to keep mom happy while on family vacation? Tell us in the comments!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show,, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. Damian Tysdal says

    Great tips Colleen, especially helping in the planning. Even control-freaks like to take a break from the planning and decisions and just go along for the ride. I try to help by making plans for activities and meals, and then have a backup in mind in case things go off track.

  2. Great trips, Travel Mama!!

  3. Where was this wonderful advice when our family was traveling many, many years ago?!?!

  4. Nice job, mama – you looked & sounded fantastic! Honestly, I’d love to have dad do the packing for even just one part of our trip – be it the kid’s clothes, the food (for road trips) or the kid’s goodies. 🙂

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Thank you so much, Debi! Help with packing would be grand, wouldn’t it? Of course, I’m not sure I’d trust my husband with such a task. The last time we traveled, he forgot to bring SHORTS or a SWIMSUIT for himself on a trip to PALM SPRINGS during the SPRING. Yeah…I’d better keep the packing duties.

  5. Colleen,

    Thanks for sharing these great tips on how to keep mom happy on a family vacation. Moms do a lot for families and deserve a break, even when they’re on vacation.

    Another tip is to allow mom to ‘sleep in’ while everyone else showers and goes to breakfast. Mom can order room service or the family can bring her back something from the continental breakfast (if hotel/resort offers it). This way mom can relax in the morning and not feel rushed.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Amandah – Good idea! My family has done just that on more than one occassion!

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