Summer Vacation: Top 7 Tips For Divorcing Parents

By: Carla Schiff Donnelly

Custody conflict does not have to ruin the fun of summer vacation.  It would be impossible to decide which vacations dates you will want for every year until your children go to college.  At the same time, you do not want to turn each summer into a fight over vacation dates.  The key is to set parameters that allow both parents to enjoy a summer vacation with the kids.

Here are my tips:

1)    First, decide how long the vacations should be

How many vacation weeks or days should each parent should receive for vacation?  That depends on the ages of your children and how long you think they should go on vacation away from the other parent.  For example, with really young children, we may give each parent one week each summer.  When they are a little older, that can expand to two nonconsecutive weeks each summer.  With pre-teens and teens, consider allowing uninterrupted weeks for vacation.  Another consideration is whether extended family live further away.  Travel to Europe or Asia, for example, is difficult with only 7 days to travel.

2)    Alternate first choice 

I usually alternate on an odd/even year basis which parent gets first pick of summer weeks.  There should be a deadline for the parent with first choice so that the other parent can begin to book their plans.

3)    Consider rules about days

Choosing your week to begin on the Friday of the other parent’s weekend.  It is the oldest trick in the book that turns a 7-day vacation into a 10-day one.  This is why I like the “no tacking rule.”  The rule is that your week must include your own weekend and not the other party’s.

4)    Preserve Family Traditions

If the other parent’s family takes a vacation the last week in July each year, consider agreeing to let the tradition continue.  In exchange, you can either preserve a week that is important to you or another holiday or tradition that is meaningful.  This is about your children and creating family memories and traditions for them.

5)    Exclude July 4th as a “holiday”  

I have a pet peeve about including July 4th on the holiday schedule.  When you factor in Father’s Day and vacations, the available weeks in the summer start become scarce.  Earmarking July 4th for one parent each year burns another week that could otherwise be used for summer vacation.  If you alternate first choice of weeks (see Tip #2), you can always select the week of July 4th at least every other year.

6)    Consider alternating weeks the whole summer

If you already have a 50/50 custody schedule, consider alternating weeks in the summer.  The advantages are week-long camps are easier to schedule, 7-day vacations are built in, and there is less back and forth.  The disadvantages are if your children are young and need to see both parents more frequently and you cannot take a two-week vacation without throwing the entire schedule into turmoil.  If you do decide to do week-on/week-off only for the summer, establish how it is decided who gets the first week.  Also, resume the regular schedule at least a week before school resumes to allow for readjustment

7)    Plan the summer schedule before summer begins  

Vacation rentals book up.  Graduation parties and other family events get planned.  Early planning will allow you to enjoy your summer with as few hiccups as possible.   Write out the schedule and share it with the other parent to make sure you are on the same page.

I hope you found these tips helpful.  These tips are meant to be general.  Your situation may vary based on the needs of your family.

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