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Family Vacations: One Child at a Time

family vacation tips

Many of you likely read the August article in the Wall Street Journal regarding a new trend in family vacations. Parents who have the resources have begun taking their children on vacations, one at a time. These holidays allow the parents to have quality time with each child individually. They also provide an opportunity to tailor trip destinations to best reflect each child’s specific interests, which leads to less stress and more fun for both parents and children. Some parents choose to vacation separately with their children for cost purposes, as a reward for good grades or behavior, or simply to offset the exhaustion of traveling with multiple children.

Such vacations can take the form of a single parent taking one child on holiday while the other parent holds down the fort with the rest of the kids, or both parents accompanying each child on separate trips. Many families cite a “different level of intimacy” with their children on solo travels. The experience can take the form of the child’s dream vacation—a South African surfing expedition, shopping in Paris, and a tour of Hawaiian volcanoes were just a few trips cited in the article. Alternatively, they can serve as lower-key bonding experiences such as a hiking or camping expedition at a nearby campground or a sightseeing weekend in a city within driving distance of the family’s home.

Should a family have the means, these vacations can provide a chance to make each individual child feel special—something that can be hard to do when you have multiple kids all vying for parental attention for each of their disparate interests and activities. Some experts warn, however, that by taking one child on a magical vacation, the others may feel left out, and it may exacerbate instances of sibling rivalries or even spousal jealousy.

To avoid negative repercussions, we suggest planning such holidays strategically. For instance, one family took their younger son on his solo trip while the older son was at a sleepaway camp that the younger son was not yet old enough to attend. When a vacation is undertaken this way, both children get to have memorable—and oftentimes formative—experiences.

Other parents make the vacation a ceremony to celebrate their children’s achievements or rites of passage; one father took each of his children on a one-on-one holiday after their high school graduations. This gave the family the perfect opportunity to make the experience into something each child knew he or she could look forward to in the future and allowed the father a chance to bond with his children before they left to begin their adult lives.

But how can a family juggle taking care of the kids at home while one or both parents are away on vacation? Many parents will enlist the support of a full-time live-in nanny. If you schedule a solo vacation in such a way that the children left at home feel as though they are being trusted with more grown-up responsibility, there is less potential for hurt feelings. By leaving the other kids in the care of a professional nanny, they can feel as though they have more independence and free rein over their time, even though the nanny is there to keep a careful eye on them. Even if only one parent accompanies a child on a trip, the parent left home can often benefit from the help of a nanny to pick up the slack.

Before leaving on a vacation with one child, parents should outline the nanny’s duties and responsibilities in their absence. They can do this by making up a separate contract that lists his or her day-to-day schedule and exactly what tasks he or she will be responsible for. If you hire your nanny through a reputable agency, the counselor who work with you can help you tailor such contracts. To lessen any lingering resentments between siblings, consider allowing more leniency in the nanny contract than you otherwise would; that way, every child will feel as though they are getting something out of the trip—even if it’s just an extra hour of screen time at night.