I distinctly remember the first time my husband and I did a mini-getaway with our first baby.
Gone were the relaxing dinners out, the go-where-we-want-when-we-want attitude.
Instead, we had naps to adhere to, bottles to heat, and an overtired one-year-old to appease.
I remember lying next to my husband in the early darkness, listening to our boy finish his bottle in the hotel’s portable crib, gently clanging it against the slats as he drifted off.
I remember my husband’s shrug beside me—his body language conveying, “I guess we’ll go to sleep too.”
The historic hotel we were staying in had thin walls, and as new parents, we were afraid to risk a single sound that might set off our baby and disturb the guests on the other side of our walls.
So we—even my night owl of a husband—went to sleep at 8pm.
This, we learned, was vacation with a kid.
Since then, we’ve added two more kids to the mix and done dozens of “vacations” with them, from quick trips to the lake to frequent 12-hour road trips to a 10-day, 3-country trek in Europe when our youngest was 5.
Vacationing with Kids?
Vacations with kids aren’t vacations; they’re trips.
Trips are incredible. They’re filled with learning experiences, magical moments, and memories your family will talk about for decades.
AND they’re filled with complaints, eye rolls, arguments, and meltdowns. Not to mention the colossal amount of work it is to pack for the kids, keep track of their stuff, and schlep beach bags and towels across loose sand for days and daysssss. 😉
But mentally calling it a “trip” instead of a vacation and accepting (rather than resisting) the many bumps along the way can go a long way in improving your experience.
When you take the idea of “vacation” off the table, you no longer picture yourself lounging with a book in front of the pool, reading chapter after chapter with no more interruption than a member of hotel staff bringing you a piña colada. 😉
You can accept the time you’ll spend trying to rub sunscreen onto little bodies as those little bodies try desperately to scramble out of your reach.
You can accept the unanticipated diaper blowouts, the out-of-nowhere toddler tantrums, and the complaints from kids who would rather eat McDonald’s than try the local cuisine.
This simple mental shift can also open your eyes to the beautiful moments that come in between all of your WORK.
Like the time you and your kids spotted a sea turtle while snorkeling and followed it all the way down the beach.
Or the time you and your family belly laughed on the side of the road while you waited for Triple A. 😉
Those moments are there, decorating your trip like stars in the sky.
The key—as with so many things in life—is managing our own expectations.
Wishing you all the best on any trips you take this summer and beyond!
PS. When it comes to traveling as a family, what’s one thing that helps you manage your expectations and find joy along the way?
Like you said, changing my expectations of a trip has helped greatly. My “why” for vacations needed to be re-examined. I don’t go on trips now to “escape” my work life (since my work is my kids and they come with me). 😂 I go on trips now to experience the world with my family. And really, that makes my trips way more meaningful and interesting anyways.
Loooooove that you took some time to examine your why – and that it has helped you appreciate the experiences. <3
I once heard from a mom of seven, who was a few years ahead of me with children, call one of their family “trips” a “business trip”. She said she did the same things she did at home, just in a different location. Once I made the mind shift, I was able to enjoy the little moments that were restful even more. I love your article!
Haha, a business trip! But man, if you had seven kids, I can’t imagine that being any more true!
Yes! There was an excellent and hilarious HuffPost article on this topic several years ago, and it was a huge help in managing my expectations early on.
I love this! As a mom of 9, 7 of whom are still under 18, this is an amazing thought shift 😊 We will be going away a few days in early December and I’m going to think on this..and the comment from the mom of 7 below about the ” business trip” 😆