The Truth About Family “Vacations” with Young Kids
Tuesday June 24, 2014see more by jen
That photo above was taken as I was setting the self-timer on my camera in an attempt to capture a family photo of the four of us on our recent El Capitan Canyon glamping trip.
Every time we tried to take a photo, someone was not looking or doing something stupid, and I got to the point where I said, “We will do this as many times as it takes to get ONE good photo of our family together on this vacation!!!!!!”
Note their enthusiastic faces. Husband included.
Which inspired this post: the truth about family “vacations” with young kids.
Yes, we had the most amazing trip overall, but there are definitely moments within a family “vacation” that are not so pleasant.
So here are my tips on how to make the most out of your family “vacation” with little ones.
First off, traveling with young kids is not a “vacation”
I think we would all be better off banning the word “vacation” when it comes to traveling with young kids. Trip, yes. Vacation, no.
When I think of a vacation, I think of relaxation. Me by a pool with a cocktail, good book and a snooze. Vacationing with small kids is anything but.
Let go of the dream
When traveling with young kids, I have found it is best to not set unrealistic expectations.
It is easy to romanticize the family vacation. You plan for it, dream about it, and envision your happy family splashing in a pool together or enjoying a theme park all day with grateful, happy children.
Now let’s talk about reality.
Traveling with young children can cause nightmarish moments. Whining, tantrums, what have you.
This can lead to disappointment if you have a romantic family vacation vision in your head, because damnit, we are on VACATION people, you WILL have fun if it KILLS me!!!!
As fun as it might be, traveling does throw kids off their regularly scheduled program. Factor in a few hours less sleep per night, spotty naps, extra sugar and exhausting activities, and you will likely have full on CRANK-sters on your hands at times.
What is a parent to do?
First off, recognize these facts and give them a break. If someone is on meltdown mode, get them back to the room with an iPad, TV show, or anything it takes to bring them down. Chill out time has to be factored in. It’s okay. You might need a chill out moment too.
If a kid is burnt out at the theme park – I give you permission to abort mission before hitting everything you had planned.
Pushing on when kids have hit the limit can have less than favorable results.
Laugh at the bad moments
On this particular El Capitan trip, we got all packed up and headed down to Refugio Beach for a beach day. We get there, get unpacked, schlep up the beach to find a perfect spot, unpack our beach gear and not five minutes later my 7-year-old gets stung by a bee.
By her reaction, those on the beach might have thought she got bitten by a shark.
As I am carrying a child too big to be carried, screaming up the beach to the car, I start to laugh because it really is, funny. The vision of my trying to carry her on the beach made me crack up.
My laughter distracted her from the trauma of it all, and she asked why I am laughing. I tell her, “We will NEVER forget this beach trip.” Which makes her laugh too.
And we won’t. We will always remember the time she got stung by a bee at Refugio beach.
Don’t set yourself up for disaster
On another family trip, we found ourselves having a blast at the pool and leaving later than expected to go back to shower and get ready for dinner.
Kids swam all day. They were sun-kissed and exhausted, and even though it was 7:30pm, we thought we should head up to the hotel restaurant for dinner. I had a romantic family vacation vision of us sitting up on the beautiful outdoor patio enjoying a lovely al fresco dinner together. Deep down I knew it would end in disaster.
Mother’s instinct is always right. Trust IT ladies!
We get to the restaurant, and it is another full hour before we get our food. My kids were a hot mess.
We should have called for a pizza or I should have sent hubby to run out to a local place for take out.
Carve out a little time for your own sanity
Family trips are a lot of together time.
And yes, we love each other so very much, but dear God, we also need a little break so I urge you to carve out an hour here and there to have to yourself. Take a walk by yourself, go and sit and get a coffee alone somewhere, just get away for an hour if you feel you need it.
Even if working out is not your idea of vacation – well, it just might have to be on your trip! An hour at the fitness center alone or participating in a resort yoga class might be what the doctor ordered.
Don’t do yoga? Yes, you do. Fake it.
Hour on, hour off
When my kids were too young to swim on their own, my husband and I would switch hours when we were off and on kid duty. When we were on, we were responsible for watching the kids in the pool. When we were off, we could read and feel free to sit in the lounge chair and watch from the sidelines.
This gave us both a break so we could find a little relaxation.
Even better, ask your hubby to treat you to a morning at the spa and trade him for a round of golf!
This summer my girls are 5 and 8. They are not little kids anymore, so we are taking our first family trip with older kids. Note I still do not use the word vacation just in case. We are are going away for a week, including plane ride and six nights in a hotel.
It will be my girls first time on an airplane and the first time we have gone away for more than a few nights.
I have high hopes that I might be able to use the word vacation for this upcoming trip. But that remains to be seen. Stay tuned.
Embrace the good moments
In any family trip, you will come away with moments that you will remember forever (and some you might want to forget), but, those moments you remember will be SO worth it. It just won’t be EVERY moment. Go in with that mindset, and you will be ahead of the game. Happy summer mamas!