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How to Make Dad Happy on Family Vacation

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A good dad reads bedtime stories, does his share of the household chores, works hard to pay the bills, and always puts his family first. All he really wants is for his kids and his wife (or partner) to be happy. But what about dear ol’ dad’s happiness? Here are five travel tips that are sure to make dad, and the rest of the family, happy on vacation.

Dad and child digging on sand on beach

Keep dad content while traveling with these vacation tips!

1. Set realistic expectations.

Talk about what everyone expects to get out of your family vacation BEFORE leaving home. The kids may think the trip will be non-stop amusement park rides and cotton candy. Meanwhile, mom might want every day to be filled with art museums and historical sites. And then dad might think he’ll spend every day riding jet skis and lazing on the beach. If that’s the case, then everyone will be disappointed. Instead, sit down with a calendar and come up with a rough schedule of each day’s activities, taking into consideration everyone’s vacation wishes. That way every member of the family will be heard and know what to expect.

Before our first vacation as new parents, as a stay-at-home-mom, I felt 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 how you and your partner plan to split childcare duties before leaving home.

Family planning a vacation together

Creating a vacation schedule keeps the whole family happy (Photo credit: DragonImages, Depositphotos.com)

2. Don’t over do it.

Children and adults alike can become over-stimulated and grumpy if every vacation day is too jam-packed with activities. To avoid overwhelm, plan a down day after every busy exploration day to recharge your family’s batteries. Parents should also plan to take turns playing with the kids. For example, one parent can build sandcastles with the kids while the other gets a chance to read a book on the beach. And don’t make dad shop too much. With rare exception, it seems most men find constant souvenir-shopping and gallery-perusing exhausting.

man playing golf solo

Give dad free time to do what he loves (Photo credit: Daxiao_Productions, Depositphotos.com)

3. Give dad some free-time.

Dads want to spend quality time with their children splashing in the hotel pool, exploring sites, riding 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 insisting he takes a free day during your trip. This could mean a day of golf, a solo excursion, or some kid-free beach-time. Or, encourage dad to get up early to squeeze in a workout, or let him sneak off after the kids are in bed to the local sports bar to watch the game. A little reprieve from the kiddos will make a happier dad (and mom!).

Vacation date night in tropical destination

Vacation date night (Photo credit: apid, Depositphotos.com)

4. Plan a date.

Couples traveling together with their kids should plan a date during your family vacation. 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, sign up for a snorkeling adventure, or hit the links together if you both like golf.

A hotel suite with separate rooms for family vacation

A hotel suite with separate rooms will keep dad happy while traveling with kids (Photo credit: MalkovKosta, Depositphotos.com)

5. Book more than one room.

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

Dad and child swimming together on vacation

Family vacation fun! (Photo credit: Yaruta, Depositphotos.com)

Learn more family travel tips

Family vacations should be a time for connection and relaxation. For additional ways to maximize the fun factor on your trips, take a look at my tips for finding romance while traveling with kids.

Let’s not forget moms! Here’s how to keep mom happy on vacation, too.

Everybody is happier when well-rested. Be sure to read these expert tips for getting good sleep on family vacation.

5 Dad Vacation Tips for Happy Family Travel

Save these dad vacation ideas!

Whether you’re planning a special trip for Father’s Day, or anytime other time of the year — save these tips for keeping dad content on vacation. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Do you have any dad vacation tips? Let us know in the comments below!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. 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, NBCNews.com, 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.

Comments
  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.

  12. Awesome article, your tips is great to me the number 5 is so true, I always uncomfortable when family trip have only one room. Thank you.

  13. Travel Mama is correct of course on all counts. However, having a down-day in-between busy days is key advice, and not just for Dad. Sometimes we try to cram too much in order to get the most out of precious vacation time, but the enjoyment, attitudes, and memories will be stronger with a good overall pace. Great advice!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      You are so right. This is a lesson that we’ve had to learn the hard way…over and over! 😂

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