How To Design A Summer You’ll Actually Enjoy In 6 Easy Steps


Summer: The excitement, the optimism, the dread.

We start off summer dreaming of lazy days on the beaches, movie nights in the backyard, no alarm clocks to set, no school lunches to be made, or homework arguments to be had….

Then reality quickly sets in and we find ourselves schlepping a million things to the beach, only to have the one snack our child said not to pack the focus of a mid-beach meltdown. The sunburned kids conk out in the backseat on the way home and are thus wide awake at bedtime – we are not.

We get home and attempt to corral our children for a bath; there is sand in unimaginable places – and in the car, and the house… It’s hours after we have gotten home and we still haven’t showered ourselves…and we’re starting to get itchy.

The doubt, resentment, and pity party start to sweep over us.

“What a lousy day. I should have enjoyed it. I planned a nice day for us and they didn’t appreciate it. Why do I bother? I should be grateful for the time I have with my kids but all I could think about was getting them to bed so I can have a glass of wine. What’s wrong with me?”

Did you design a summer for everyone else to enjoy but yourself?


We feel so much pressure to give our kids a memorable summer that we often make ourselves miserable with a long list of “shoulds” instead:

  • I should take my kids on a summer vacation.
  • I should make a summer bucket list.
  • I should buy new toys for the backyard.
  • I should do school enrichment activities.
  • I should invite friends over for a swim party.
  • I should take the kids to the zoo.
  • I should _____ (fill in the blank)

We have so many ideas and expectations about what a “perfect” summer looks like. How we “should” do our summer. But really, there is no right or wrong way to do your summer.

Here’s the truth. Not all parents enjoy the beach, theme parks, crowds, sun, 4th of July parades and fireworks, and that is 100 percent OK (and some kids don’t enjoy all this either!). Your children will have the best memories of their summer if their parents are enjoying it along with them.

So let’s design a summer that you can get excited about.

One that has balance, is light on the guilt, and heavy on contentment. Here are some tips for getting started:


TIP #1 – Create a summer intention.

What do you want most out of your summer? Quality time with kids? A photo album of cool things you did this summer? Building memories? Downtime from the crazy school year? There is no right or wrong answer. Think about what matters to YOU the most. How do YOU define a successful summer?


TIP #2 – Create a vision for your summer intention that makes you happy.

For example – if your summer intention is to “build memories” – this doesn’t necessarily mean fighting the crowds at a theme park. It could mean baking cookies together or running through the sprinklers. Let go of the outside expectations of what “build summer memories” looks like. The only thing that matters is what that looks like to you.

TIP #3 – Adjust your summer bucket list.

Review your list and make sure it 1) reflects what you really, truly want for the summer and 2) has things you actually want to do vs. things you think you should do.

TIP #4 – Let go of the thoughts holding you back from adjusting your summer bucket list.

Are you feeling stressed out because you felt compelled to put “lemonade stand” on your list because it’s a “classic” way to “build memories” in the summer? But you’re feeling like a “bad mom” for taking it off? Let it gooooooo!!! There are so many other ways to accomplish your summer goals without adding in something that is only there to check a box.


TIP#5 – Use your village.

Don’t enjoy the beach, but your kids really want to go?  Send them with a beach-loving friend. You don’t have to do ALL things with your kids. Skipping a beach playdate does not make you a bad mom. Repeat: Skipping a beach playdate does not make you a bad mom.

TIP #6 – Prioritize self-care.

Given that many kids are now home 24/7, it’s even more critical that parents prioritize our own self-care. If you work, it’s OK to keep your exercise routine. If you’re at home, it’s OK to have a pajama day if the thought of leaving the house makes you want to cry. It’s OK to not entertain your kids every minute of every day. It’s OK if the kids watch some TV so you can have some time to yourself. It’s OK to send your kids off with a friend and stay home and take a nap. It’s ALL good.

Just remember, your summer is about you and your family – not about anyone else. There is no right or wrong way to design your summer. So be intentional about how you spend your summer and design one that brings you and your family joy – whatever that looks like. 

how to plan a summer you'll actually enjoy in 6 easy steps PIN

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Janell is a mom of two teenage girls and a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator and Parent/Life Coach. She is passionate about helping parents learn new ways to address their ongoing parenting challenges through her business, Parent2Parent ( Janell grew up in Los Angeles and received a BA in Sociology from UC San Diego. After college she moved (with no job!) to Boston where she began a career in public relations and met her future husband on the T (the subway). Now a resident of Mission Viejo, and a few years away from being a full-time empty-nester, Janell keeps busy with her family, her business and as a volunteer for various groups including Lion’s Heart Teen Service organization and Capistrano Valley High School. Janell is an avid traveler, enjoys cooking (more specifically eating), reading, photography, dance and is a musical theater geek. You can follow her at: and


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