Break the rules on family vacations

Give them dessert for breakfast. Lose the schedule. And have the time of your life.

mom in bohemian dress and sunhat sits on deck with blond son during tropical vacation

My daughters were horrified when I declared our family holiday to Vietnam a screen-free trip. How could they go without Minecraft and YouTube, or whatever else occupies their time, for two whole weeks?

I stood my ground – no tablets were coming on holiday. Phones were allowed but only to take photos and send the occasional message home. I wanted them engaged in the experience, I wanted them looking out the window of the bus and appreciating every tree.

I wanted a lot things on that holiday that I didn’t get, but that’s okay.


Family of four posing for photograph on family vacation in Vietnam


Goodbye screen time rules

It turns out that some of the rules that apply at home can be relaxed on holiday without it resulting in total chaos.

Screen time was the first flag to fall. The tablets didn’t come with us, but the phones quickly took their place. The girls didn’t stare out of the window in awe of their surroundings, they listened to music or watched a Netflix download. In fact, so did I. Because when you’re spending four hours on a bus, the trees all start to look the same.

We didn’t spend every night engaged in lively discussion or reading the history of Vietnam. At the end of a long day, they jumped into bed and logged onto the hotel wi-fi. So did I.


Redhead teenage girl reading in hammock on family vacation in Vietnam


The days were packed with new and different experiences. Everything was different, from the scenery and the food, to the people and the activities… and a little screen time-out actually kept us all sane. As it turned out, they probably ended up with more screen time than they get at home, but it didn’t detract or distract them from the opportunity to explore a new country.


So long schedules

Bedtime also flew out the window. At home, it’s into bed to read (an actual paper book) at 8pm, lights out at 8.30. I wanted to stick to that while we were away – you know, routine and all of that – and no late nights so they weren’t tired and grumpy in the mornings.

On night one, we only got back to the hotel at 9pm. On night three, we were on an overnight train. On night six, they made friends at the hotel and stayed up chatting until late, and on night ten, we were out in the Mekong Delta playing cards on the riverbank until way after the sun went down.

It was virtually impossible to keep any kind of bedtime routine. Bedtime became whenever it happened and they survived quite well.


Young girl in lifejacket in canoe on the water in Vietnam


Sayonara nutrition rules

At home we have dessert once a week, if they’re lucky. Treats are strictly controlled and most meals have veggies or salad.

In Vietnam, it was cheesecake for breakfast (a staple at the hotel buffets), endless deep-fried spring rolls, and dessert most nights. Many of the outings we did included a meal which was always at least seven courses. Portion control, 5-a-day, and minimal treats did not apply.

We survived, we’re still healthy.


Redhead teenager with group of tourists on family vacation in Vietnam


Two weeks in Vietnam was a trip none of us will ever forget. We laughed, we tried new things and made memories that will last forever.


Here’s what I learned: Being on holiday, especially if you have the opportunity to explore a foreign country, should be fun. It should be a complete break from the routines and rules of home (including tidy rooms – I swear their bags literally exploded every time they walked into a new hotel room!).

It’s a chance to see new things and do things differently. Our family vacation in Vietnam was the total break from reality that we all needed. By setting the rules aside, we were all free to have some fun and recharge, including Mom.

So go ahead and break your ‘home’ rules when you’re on holiday. I guarantee that, like us, you’ll have an absolute blast, and make memories that’ll last a lifetime.