Don’t look now the holidays are HERE!


One moment we’re celebrating the arrival of cooler temperatures and pumpkin spice lattes, and before you can even wipe the whipped cream from your lips the store décor has changed to peppermint stripes and inflatable Santas proudly announcing that you have 5 weekends left to shop for Christmas. Ack!

To be honest, Christmas shopping is the last thing on this momma’s mind right now. We are planning a family vacation to Florida for the week of Thanksgiving. That’s right, our blended family with 5 kids ranging from 11 to 22 will be loading up to drive across the country. Yes, Christmas can wait. This endeavor is going to take every ounce of planning, strength and budgeting I can handle for the next few weeks.

Related: 10 from GEM: De-Stressing During the Holidays

My husband and I are not great planners. We have lots of great ideas, sure, but planning out the step-by-step process is not a strength either of us possess. That’s why I’m so encouraged that we actually sat down and did just that. I’m sharing what we tackled because I want to show you that even impossibly complex families can successfully navigate a family holiday vacation. Here are a few of the key points we came up with…

  • Take 2 Vehicles. When we booked our condo 6 months ago we expected to rent one large vehicle and travel together. But despite our best efforts to block out 8 days for 7 people, some conflicts just couldn’t be avoided. Three of our five kids are involved in activities that complicate their schedules. One has the lead in a play that overlaps our trip. One is in the college marching band and there’s a game the day we leave. And the third has to be back early for a mandatory competitive cheer practice. (Blended Family Bonus TIP: The cheer practice took extra care because this child doesn’t live with us full time and was signed up for cheer without our being included in the process. Our first instinct was to dig in and demand she miss the practice or that her mother pay to fly her home early. But once we discussed it and learned that she has a cheer competition the following week, we realized that being stubborn was an immature reaction that would only hurt our daughter) So we will divide and conquer by having one carload go a day early and the other stay a day late, and be thankful that we have 5 drivers to share the Dallas to Orlando haul.
  • Skip the Turkey.  With all the planning and scheduling that goes in to making the most of theme parks and sight seeing, the last thing this mom wants to worry about is providing a traditional meal right smack in the middle of vacation.  To be honest, we’ve never been traditionalists when it comes to Thanksgiving.  Most years our tradition is pizza and a movie.  So this is one easy target to eliminate from our list.  We’ll eat whatever we want on Thanksgiving Day… and we’ll be thankful for not stressing over it.
  • Plan down time. Looking at all the things to do and see and eat and experience it’s easy to see that we could fill every second with sensory overload. However, the goal here is to have fun and spend time together as a family. We have chosen 2 theme parks to visit, and we’ll go see my parents who live in the area. Other than that we’re leaving our schedule open to go with the flow. Trying to over plan or over-control everyone’s experience is a trap that I’ve seen many well-meaning parents fall into, resulting in added stress, unnecessary expense and exhaustion.
  • Let the kids be kids. One of the things I’ve been struggling with in planning this trip is the fact that a couple of our “kids” are grown. I’ve wondered if it makes sense for us to bring these grown kids along as if they were still children. Do we still pay for everything? Then I remembered the family vacations my own blended parents took me on, even well into my 20’s. These were experiences I could never have afforded at the time, and are now priceless memories. I realized that these kids may no longer be children, but we’re all children at heart.  As their parents we will enjoy providing this experience for them. I was surprised to learn how excited grown boys would get about going to Disney World, but again I’m reminded that deep down few of us ever really feel like a grown-up.

Related: Pixie Dust Central: 6 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Disney Vacation

I’m sure more lessons will be learned as we roll out this adventure. For me the goal will be to embrace each lesson as a way to learn to love our family well. I tend to stress out a bit whenever we try to plan things for all of us, but whenever I look back I see how much these adventures strengthen our bonds. It’s tough, it’s expensive, but it’s worth it.

What have you learned from your blended family vacations?  Got any tips to share?  Comment and let me know!

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