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One Simple Strategy for a GREAT Family Vacation

Vacation PlanningNext week is vacation. If your house runs anything like mine you will understand that Shawna’s “to-do list” will have about 146 items on it. My list will have 1: pack my clothes. Typically, I will also choose one other last minute task that is totally unrelated to our vacation, tends to make us late, increases her stress even more, and in no way adds anything to the vacation preparation. I’m not sure why I do this. The chore seems relevant and urgent at the time:)

Here are some tips from my wise and super organized wife that may help you prep in a stress-reduced fashion this vacation season. Enjoy!

Dr. Craig and I are in the process of planning the details of our family vacation next week. Whenever we go away as a family, we want to make sure we have a ton of fun, create some awesome family memories, and we don’t go so far off track with our habits that we have to spend weeks getting back on track.

People often ask us how to fully enjoy the vacation but not have to pay for it, for example by having to lose 5 pounds, for the next many months. The trick is found in 1 simple word.


As the mom, I take the responsibility for our meals and the kids micro-activities, meaning colouring sheets, board games, cards, books, videos, etc. Craig typically thinks about what fun ways we can get the kids moving and having fun in “macro-activities” like Cottage Olympics, boat trips with rock jumping, pull up competitions, and that kind of thing. It’s a “keep them doggies moving” mindset so they have fun, aren’t trying to be on their devices, are getting along and are tired enough to have a long sleep at the end of the day.

Meals are probably the biggest deal in the planning process. The last thing I want to do is spend my week in the kitchen preparing meals and cleaning up. I can stay home and do that. But I also don’t want to be eating out all the time.

I actually create a meal plan for the week with the help of each person in the family. Everyone gets to choose a dinner and a lunch. We keep the food as simple as possible. Leading up to our week off, I make sure I’m storing dinners away in the freezer in casserole dishes to take up (to the cottage) with us. I am also planning on raiding Costco’s amazing prepared food aisle for some dinner options – not super healthy but pretty good for vacation food and ultra easy.

Planning meals is probably the single most important way we ensure we don’t come home several pounds heavier than we left. Following a plan is easy. If we don’t have a plan, we eat without thinking, and that never plays out well. We definitely factor lots of fun snack foods and drinks into our week, but there’s a reasonable limit.

Clean up is also planned in advance. The kids are put on rotation for washing, drying and putting away dishes so there’s no fighting.

Finally, we try to make a list of all the cool things we want to do during our week – inside and outside. That way if the weather is rainy, we can just go to the list and get ideas for inside fun. And in nice weather, we can check a few things off the list or stay put at the cottage with friends if that’s what everyone wants to do. Again, it comes back to not hearing bickering, or the dreaded “I’m bored!”

A successful family vacation, like almost anything in life, is so much more likely when we sit down and take the time to plan in advance. It’s taken many years to put these systems together, and the enjoyable moments we have with the kids are so much easier to come by with a little teamwork and intention.

Good Luck!

Dr. Shawna

PS. If you have some great vacation planning ideas, let us know in the comments.  If you’d like to learn more about healthy eating and meal prepping, be sure to visit us at our next Eat By Design workshop on Monday, August 14th at 6:30pm. You can register by clicking the button below:


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