The Rule of Three |

The Rule of Three

Posted on

19 August 2015

Last updated on 8 December 2015

The Rule of Three

Planning a holiday or vacation? For something that is meant to be a relaxing getaway can turn into a one of lifes most stressful events! Experienced expat, Courtney Brandt has a simple solution to avoid the stress that comes along with planning a holiday. 

You’ve booked the tickets and requested the time off work, now comes the anticipation...or dread of planning your upcoming vacation. Depending on previous holiday experiences, you may not be looking forward to your well-earned week away. Fortunately, with the difficult part completed, you can now take steps to ensure everyone in your family has an excellent time and one of the most memorable vacations ever. No matter the size of your family or how long you have to get away, the Rule of Three is a win-win scenario that you will want to use for all future holidays.

family holiday

How to Get Started?

Simple. Each family member (no matter what their age) has a say in how the vacation will go. Each individual chooses three things they would like to see, do, experience, or visit during the time away. Sometimes, this will take advance planning and research, other times, it will be easy to accommodate. Furthermore, there might be overlap with another individual – that’s fine – the key is that each person’s request is respected and taken seriously. For younger members of the family, their involvement allows active participation, builds self-esteem, and reinforces positive communication. Knowing times are difficult for extras, if the family is traveling within a budget, parents and children can still explore creative and unique things to do.

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The main function of this trip planning idea is so that no one is disappointed. So many times when we go to a new place or destination, we build up unrealistic expectations for how the trip will go, only to have these ideals get tossed away like unapproved liquids at security. With the Rule of Three, when each person is allowed and encouraged to complete their personal list, then all additional experiences on the trip are a bonus! Rather than try and cram as many activities as possible within a week’s time, these Rules encourage slowing down and taking the vacation so that each person will benefit equally.

The best part of all? There are absolutely no wrong answers. What is interesting to one person might be completely different for another. In any relationship, you should trust, respect, and support the other person’s opinion. Who knows? You might end up doing something truly fascinating!

For examples, let’s break down a few trip ideas.

A Couple

My husband and I traveled to Paris last winter. It was a third trip to the City of Lights for me, and the first visit for him. After our airline tickets were paid for, and accommodation sorted out (a good friend lent us her charming one bedroom in the Seventh), I asked, “What are the top three things you would like to do or see?” My husband has different interests than me, and I love him for this. I respect his choices, and through him, we were able to see something we might not have seen if we had stuck to the usual tourist traps.


  • Get a tattoo from a local artist (he ‘collects’ them from around the world)
  • Get a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower
  • Visit Notre Dame


  • Visit the Musee D’Orsay
  • Have dinner with University friend who lives in the Latin Quarter
  • Go to the Louis Vuitton flagship store on the Champs-Elysees

The friend who lent us her apartment insisted we visit the eclectic wine bar she used to work at for a meal.

As I am usually the planner of our trips, and excel at these responsibilities, I enjoyed researching and studying what could be done in advance. I printed maps, looked through different online forums, and checked the best times to visit our above destinations. When possible, I booked tickets in advance. In addition to the above list, we visited many of Paris’s other destination attractions, but those were all extras! We returned from the French capital excited and delighted to have gone above and beyond our original list.

family activity


A Family

The below list could be applied to a family traveling to a theme park. By involving children from a young age parents can give respect and a ‘voice’ in the family.

  • Ride a fast paced roller coaster
  • Go out for one ‘adult’ evening
  • Visit a water park


  • Enjoy some uninterrupted time by the pool
  • Buy a nice family souvenir portrait
  • Visit the nearby outlet malls

Son (age 7)

  • Ride a specific movie related attraction
  • Eat a funnel cake
  • See one of the parades up close

Daughter (age 5)

  • Get a princess makeover
  • Buy a costume and wear in the park
  • Ride a separate movie related attraction

Naturally, this trip will be supplemented by other experiences and adventures, however, with a starting point for each person to have a ‘fair share,’ even a short visit should be able to accommodate each of the family members choices.

Feeling ambitious? There’s always bumping the list to four or five, however, remember to take time to enjoy, relax and make the most of your precious vacation days!

The Rule of ThreeMeet Courtney Brandt, American, 35, GCC expat from 2007. She moved  from Los Angeles to Dubai in late 2007, then to Doha in 2011 and to Abu Dhabi in early 2014. She is in her 9th Year in the Middle East and wouldnt have it any other way.