How to Enjoy Summer Vacation Without Losing Your Mind, Part 1

The new Mighty Mommy has 5 expert tips on how to keep your kids happy and busy during their summer vacation, while keeping your sanity.

Cheryl Butler
4-minute read
Episode #188

How to Enjoy Summer Vacation Without Losing Your Mind, Part 1

Summer vacation should be a relaxing time for families. After months of heavily-filled schedules, stressful school days, and hardly any time to connect as a family, the 10 weeks of summer should bring lots of carefree fun. Instead, however, those carefree days usually turn into a free-for-all, especially when routines go out the window and kids rely on their parents to keep them entertained all day long.

Before you take your beach chairs out for the season, take the time to put a few strategies in place so that you and your family can focus on enjoying the lazy days of summer rather than trying to survive them.

Here are 5 tips to help you have a lot more fun in the sun during summer vacation:

Tip # 1: Outline Your Summer Expectations

School-aged kids are used to following rules throughout the day. They know what is expected of them from their teachers and coaches. By setting up some straight-forward guidelines for your family at the beginning of summer vacation, you can save yourself a lot of grief when things don’t go your child’s way. Successful summer expectations can be simple and tailored for each child.  Emphasize in writing how your kids are expected to contribute to the household during the summer months and what the consequences will be if they don’t do their part.  

These contributions can include household chores, summer reading, how much electronics time will be allowed, and how much money they can expect you to contribute to outings like the movies or the mall. Ask for their input so they will feel that they have a say in how they spend free time. For example: If you expect your son to take care of his own laundry this summer, let him decide the day and time of this chore. Print the list of expectations, have your child sign it, and keep it posted in a high-traffic area as a constant reminder.  

Tip # 2: Establish Firm Summer Bedtimes

Depending on your children’s ages, bedtimes will vary. But just because school is out for summer doesn’t mean bedtimes have to be extended. Kids still need their sleep even when their days consist of going to the beach or playing at the park. They also need consistency with a non-school bedtime routine. Decide what your new bedtime will be for the summer and discuss it with your kids right away. Just as you have your list of summer expectations from Tip #1, your summer bedtime routine should be set and non-negotiable, preferably in writing. After all, overtired and cranky kids are just no fun!

See also: How Routines Will Simplify Your Life

Tip #3: Create a Summer “To Do” List

During the last week of school, my family creates our Summer “To Do” List. I design a page on the computer with seashells, beach umbrellas, and anything else that means summer.

Then everyone in the family (including Mom and Dad) list at least two fun things that they’d like to do. Items this year include white-water rafting, strawberry picking, and repainting bedroom walls. The object of the list is to make sure each family member gets to do a couple of things that they really want besides the usual going to the beach or pool, seeing movies, etc. 


See also: How to Pick Paint Colors


Tip #4: Prepare “There’s Nothing To Do” Activity Bins

What parent hasn’t heard their child say “I’m bored! There’s nothing to do around here.” This summer, be prepared with a solution instead of yelling at them to stop bugging you. Gather up a few plastic bins or large shoeboxes and stash away some arts and crafts materials, comic books, Lego kits, crossword puzzles, coloring books, and new board games. I actually keep my eye out for anything interesting that might be on sale throughout the year and use these for “rainy day” bins. Next time your child insists she has nothing to do, you can pull out one of the bins and lovingly tell her that now she does.

Tip #5: Plan Regular “Lazy Offs”

It’s not unusual for parents and caregivers to feel obligated to make sure their children are entertained on a regular basis when they’re not in school. Not only is this unrealistic, it is also doing children a disservice by not allowing them to find ways to entertain themselves. We love to have unplanned “Lazy Offs” during the summer and throughout the school year. We all need days to unwind and do nothing. During a “Lazy Off,” we lay around in our pajamas reading, watching movies, baking cookies, or even cat napping for as much of the day as we want. It’s often just enough to re-energize us to take on a big job or two the following day.

See also: How Selfish Parenting Can Improve Your Life


Believe it or not, summer vacations really do go by much too quickly, so if you can implement some of the strategies I just shared, you will help your family ease into a relaxing summer mode rather than a stressful one. Tune in next week for 5 more tips for having the best summer ever!

If you have a question or have a suggestion for a future Mighty Mommy episode, please e-mail me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.    Check out the Mighty Mommy Facebook page where I share lots of quick parenting tips all week long.   You can also follow me on Twitter @MightyMommy or join Mighty Mommy on Pinterest.com where you can visit all of my family-friendly boards.

Enjoy a wonderful summer with your family and as always—Happy Parenting!

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.