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How to Make Dad Happy on Family Vacation

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A good dad takes out the garbage, slogs away at his job day after day, and always puts his family first. All he really wants is for his kids and his wife to be happy. But what about dear ol’ dad’s happiness? Here are five tips that are sure to make dad happy on family vacation.

How to Make Dad Happy on Family Vacation - Five tips for keeping dear ol' dad happy while traveling with kids

Set Realistic Expectations

Talk about what everyone expects to get out of your family vacation BEFORE leaving home. If the kids think the trip will be non-stop amusement park rides and cotton candy, mom thinks every day will be filled with visiting museums and historical monuments, and dad thinks he will spend each day listening to the tide roll in while he sips a cold beer — everyone is going to be disappointed. Instead, sit down with a calendar and come up with a rough schedule of each day’s activities so everyone’s needs are met and each member of the family knows what to expect.

Before our first vacation as new parents, as a stay-at-home-mom I felt relaxed and relieved to have another set of hands to help with diaper changes, feedings, and naps. My husband, however, felt stressed out. He envisioned a vacation filled with relaxation, relaxation, and more relaxation. If traveling with a new dad, be sure to discuss childcare duties before leaving home.

Don’t Over Schedule

Children and adults alike can become over-stimulated and grumpy if every day is too jam-packed with activities. Schedule some down-time during your stay to recharge the kids’ (and dad’s!) batteries. Take turns playing with the kids in the ocean so each parent gets a chance to read a book or take a nap on the beach. Unwind after meals with a leisurely walk. And don’t make dad shop too much. With rare exception, most men find constant souvenir-shopping and gallery-perusing exhausting.

Make Dad Happy with a Free Day

Parents love their children and want to spend quality time with them splashing in the hotel pool, exploring the sites, riding the roller coasters, and making lasting memories while on vacation. There is, however, such thing as TOO much together-time. Keep dad happy by not just allowing, but encouraging him to take a free day during your trip. On your Hawaiian vacation, this could mean taking a surf lesson in Oahu, booking a helicopter tour of Kauai, or playing a round of golf on one of the many golf courses in Hawaii. A little reprieve from the kiddos makes for a happier dad.

Go On a Date

Plan a date one night during your vacation to allow for some couple-time. Hire a sitter and head out for a romantic dinner and drinks. Or, leave your children in the resort kids camp and escape for a daytime date. Head to the spa for a couple’s massage or if you both like to golf, hit the links together.

Book More Than One Room

If at all possible, book more than one room via a suite, connecting rooms, a vacation rental, or a home exchange. Dads with too little sleep are cranky dads. And no man’s vacation is complete without a little privacy (ahem!) after bedtime.

Do you have any additional tips for keeping dads happy while on vacation? Tell us in the  comments below!

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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. Jen Untermeyer says

    It is important to give dad a day off but make sure mom gets one too! Maybe even split the day – dad golfs in the morning and mom plays tennis in the afternoon.

  2. “And don’t make dad shop too much” – possibly the most important piece of advice you’ve ever given on this site!
    I’m kidding of course. I’ve learned far more than I could recite here from your site, but thank you for bringing up the shopping.
    The date night tip is a great one too. We didn’t do it while our kids were little, but now that they’re old enough to stay on their own we have dates while on vacation all the time, and I can’t imagine why we didn’t do it before.
    “And no man’s vacation is complete without a little privacy (ahem!) after bedtime.” – I stand corrected. THAT may be the most important piece of advice you’ve ever given. Thank you again!

  3. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

    Jen – So true! Mom needs a break too!

  4. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

    Steve – LOL! I’m just looking out for you, Travel Daddy!

  5. Amandah says

    So true. Dads are just as important as moms!

    I’d add how important it is NOT to ‘rub it in’ if dad gets lost during a road trip. While a GPS system can be helpful, they’re not always 100% accurate. Bring maps with you and print out a AAA Trip Tik if necessary. Thank dad for driving and remain calm. You’ll get to your destination. In the meantime, enjoy being together as a family.

  6. Jolanta | Casual Traveler says

    Having a separate room is crucial for my husband’s happiness. We hardly ever stay in regular hotel rooms anymore. We usually try to find either hotels that have full suites, with one or two bedrooms and a living room, or full apartments through vacation rental sites. Sometimes I take the kids to the pool, or to the beach, so that he can just hang out at the apartment, alone, and relax.

  7. These are great tips! I’ve been on many family trips and Dad can get grumpy pretty easily. Thanks for the advice!

  8. Booking a private hotel room for daddy dearest is the best suggestion that I liked the most. Thanks for the share!

  9. Great and original article.. my husband is always happiest if he gets a day or some mornings to cycle or go for a run.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Thank you, Tikva! Good point – my husband is always happier when he can blow off some steam with exercise whether we’re on vacation or at home!

  10. These are great tips! Especially when you’re travelling for a long time I think it is important that everyone books in a day off or just a day with one of the kids. We’re on a nine month trip and sometimes there is just too much together time! Also, I’ve found some simple positive reinforcement helps too. Remind him that he’s doing a great job.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Hi Rachael – So true! My family just got back from an 8-day trip to San Diego and Disneyland; we found that everyone was a lot happier when we split up the kids for a bit at Disneyland. There was less fighting and it was easier to be able to say “yes!” and to talk/enjoy each other when it was one-on-one instead of all four of us always together.

  11. Michael Mc Carthy says

    Our Family always avoids Hotels, We always rent holiday homes. It’s less expensive, for a large family.

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