If there is one area of life where the presence of children radically changes the experience, it has to be vacationing. I’m wondering if any of you feel the way I do about taking vacations with kids: THEY AREN’T VACATIONS FOR THE PARENTS!!!
Now, to be fair, we have only taken a few “vacations” that weren’t actually just trips to see family members. But on those few “just for fun” trips, we have learned some very important lessons that I’d love to share with you, just in case you are long overdue for relaxation time but leaving the kids behind just isn’t an option.
1. Set the bar low. I’m a complete type-A person, and I LOVE to create to do lists and schedules. I will plan a vacation itinerary in 15 minute increments if you give me the chance. But trust me, having a rigid schedule is a sure-fire way to be stressed out and disappointed if you have kids, because kids don’t care one bit about the agenda. If you are going to be staying somewhere for 5 days, for example, can I recommend that you choose 10 things that you most want to do/see/eat while you are there. And then cut that list in half. Then rank those 5. Sound crazy? Maybe, but it is the best way to make sure that the very most important things happen, and everything else is just a bonus. That mental shift can make all the difference between your vacation feeling like a lot of fun, and feeling like you didn’t get to do anything.
2. Think VERY carefully about your hotel choice. When we visited Atlanta last summer, we stayed in a super chic hotel in midtown. It seemed so posh and fun online, and we booked it probably imagining what vacations used to be like. But it took all of 5 minutes in that hotel with our young infant and our then 2 year old to realize that we were NOT in the right place. The furniture in the room was sleek and slightly uncomfortable, the hotel restaurant was a place you wouldn’t dare bring children because the death stares of other patrons would be sufficient to actually kill you. The pool was crowded with beautiful people in their 20s who were puzzled and most definitely not amused to see a toddler splashing about. And of course, there was no complimentary breakfast, which meant Tim and I had to scramble for 3 meals a day instead of just 2. If I had to do it over again, I would have picked a hotel room that had a kitchenette and I wouldn’t have been lured in by the swanky appeal. Let’s be real, this is not a “swanky” season of life we are in right now!
3. Travel abroad in a herd. Tim and I have been dreaming about a trip to Australia and New Zealand for years. We actually had tentative plans to go for our 10th wedding anniversary. Well, those plans were squelched when we realized that I’d be in labor right around that time (Layah was born 2 days before our anniversary!). When we think about traveling abroad again, whether it be to Australia or over to Europe to see Tim’s sister and her family, this much I know: we will do everything in our power to bring Tim’s parents with us. They are big travelers, and more importantly, they are really helpful. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of a long plane trip with little ones, but I have seen how moms and dads who brave it age years in just a matter of hours. We are going to need back up when we go. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a small herd to shuttle them all over the world and not lose your mind.
What about you? What have you learned about vacationing with small children? Any tips to make it actually feel a bit relaxing and not like really expensive work for the parents???