How To Ruin & Repair A Family Vacation


Peaceful living with family members of different ages, lifestyles and sleep habits is a challenge on a good day. When you take your show on the road, you are presented with myriad opportunities to ruin your time together. Just as often, however, you have the chance to repair it. Often, such moments happen before you even leave the house.

RUIN: On FaceTime with your college daughter, you dig her clothes out of the closet, scolding her choices. You listen to your spouse having a similar exchange with your son. You hear your son say, “Shut up, you are so judgy.”

REPAIR: Follow your son’s advice. Know your kids are forming their own identity and don’t need to worry about what you or anyone else thinks of what they wear.

RUIN: With your 3:30 a.m. wake up in mind, you foolishly allow your most feral teen to meet his friends at a party. He promises to be home by 9:00 pm. Once out the door, he turns off location services on his phone preventing you from hunting him down before his arrival, an hour and 20 minutes late. He blames Uber.

REPAIR: Do not kill the vacation vibe before it even starts by yelling at him. Be happy he’s home safe. Understand he is desperate to control anything in his life even if it’s just having the choice to buy junkie airplane snacks. Daydream about when he listened to you, said please and thank you, and even ate a banana before sampling a single piece of Halloween candy.



RUIN: Your spouse scolds your teens for being glued to their phones, failing to promptly respond to the boarding call on your full flight. They roll their eyes for the first of what may be countless times on this trip, then go back to insta-scrolling and TikTok respectively.


REPAIR: Savor the memory of your weekly library runs when your kids read anywhere and everywhere. Know that those years are stored up in their teenage bodies and will someday form a stack of wonderful books on their nightstands.

RUIN: On the first morning of vacation, your spouse attempts to cattle prod everyone out the door and onto the slopes. You protest on your tired teenagers’ behalf, attempting to slow the operation, adding to the stress of mobilizing five people.

REPAIR: Recognize your possibly wrong assumption that your spouse is being dismissive of the family’s needs. Check in with him. Acknowledge that he also feels dismissed. Realize your tendency to deny your own needs in effort to spare your kids the slightest discomfort. This creates resentment. Resolve to do things differently. Suggest that whomever is up and ready can leave and everyone else can meet up later. Recognize that there is nothing wrong with meeting your own needs as a parent. Modeling self-care for your kids will prevent them from continuing this co-dependent craziness with their own families.

RUIN: On the first run of the first day of your ski vacation, your two sons race down the mountain, smash into each other and land in a pile of limbs, poles and skis. At the well-equipped mini ER at the base of the mountain, a kind doctor delivers the bad news: a buckle fracture just above the wrist. No more skiing.


REPAIR: Resist the urge to join your son’s grief. Agree that it sucks and sit with him while he feels awful. Do not fill the silence with BS platitudes like suggesting he look on the bright side. Find the gratitude that he is able to experience such disappointment and practice resilience with you for support. When he asks to cash in his lift tickets and ski rentals and figure out something cool to do with the money, smile. Look for ways to spend time together and do not pressure him to do anything. Except for visit the elk because they are awesome.


RUIN: You observe your daughter’s tired, faraway expression and wish she could just relax and stop ruminating on all she has going on at college. You worry about her and feel responsible.

REPAIR: Stop making stuff up in your head and ask her. She tells you she is exhausted from final exams and needs some time to relax. Suggest an early exit from the lift lines, and head to apres ski with a live band. Grab some beverages and listen to what life has been like for her. Laugh, bond and enjoy each other’s company.

RUIN: By mid-trip on an active vacation, everyone is grumpy, sore and tired. The morning starts off with mild bickering and escalates to venting in the gondola. You learn, once again, that holding in the feelings you had about your kids mistreating each other in the preceding days is never a good idea.

REPAIR: Apologize. Hit the terrain park and do ski jumps together. Crash land and feel grateful you broke nothing. Laugh and feel better. Be reminded once again that nature and movement can reset the vibe instantaneously. Even the crankiest.

RUIN: On your last day on the slopes, wobbly legs motivate you to find the good snow on actual blue runs.* You tell everyone the plan. Your youngest son heads in the opposite direction, leading you down a hideously steep slope of slushy bumps during which you envision plummeting to your death. Your spouse offers helpful tips on your form while you are simply trying not to die. You curse him out and order him to move on and leave you to your fate. When you reach the bottom, you loudly reiterate your displeasure. Your son laughs and says with a smirk, “get better.” The others frown and wish you would just be happy you are alive.


REPAIR: You apologize and apologize some more. You may not stop apologizing until you see the bright green front door of your home a few thousand miles away.

All in all, you end the trip on a happy note. When you do your best to repair what breaks in your family, you get the sense that it’s all going to be okay.



WRITING PROMPT:  How do you reset the vibe when things go wrong? How does it work out? Do you feel responsible for everyone’s good time?

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*Next year you will suggest Park City or Steamboat where the blue runs are ACTUALLY blue, not double blacks disguised as blue runs. Some know-it-all local informs you that the runs are rated relative to the mountain. The sweeping views high up in the Grand Tetons, however, are glorious.