You’ve heard that when you have little ones, vacations should just be called trips, right? I mostly agree with that, and the truest Onion article of all time nails why. But, I also believe that with a few adjustments, traveling with your kids can be rewarding and FUN. Your sense of adventure doesn’t have to die the day you become a mom!
There are many benefits to traveling as a family. Taking a step away from your everyday life creates opportunities to bond and create memories. And bonus! It doesn’t take much to impress little kids. Just being in a new location is exciting!
Adjust those expectations!
The most important aspect of traveling with young kids is adjusting your own expectations and attitude. No, this trip won’t be like your honeymoon where you lounged by the pool for hours on end, with a drink in one hand and a book in the other. You need to have realistic expectations for yourself and your family. Sometimes the main reason for meltdowns on trips is because I’ve simply just asked too much of my kids. So, don’t let them get hangry. If they can’t hang after 8:00pm, don’t push it. You know your family. Plan accordingly.
Now, this does not mean you have to be a martyr. Figure out what’s important to you, and what will make you feel like your trip was a success. Are you really looking forward to sleeping in? Trade sleeping in days with your husband. Does date night make the world right? Brainstorm ways to make that happen. Over the years, we’ve made connections with family friends to find babysitters in the area we’re headed. We’ve also been able to bring along babysitters a few times. It is possible! With a little planning, you can ensure your vacation feels like a vacation.
Let the rules slide.
I’m just going to say this: most rules go out the window when we’re traveling. I have mad respect for those who avoid screen time on road trips, but I choose to believe this is why God created DVD players. I will for sure allow my kids to watch 17 straight hours of movies on the way down to Florida. Once we get there, it’s all beach and play. But for those 17 hours? Let your minds turn to fluff, kids.
Same goes with food. It’s vacation! Sure, kid, you might not have a single vegetable cross your lips on this vacation (unless French fries count?), but we are going to enjoy every meal! We’ll get back to our regularly scheduled roasted veggies and green smoothies when we get back home.
Don’t wait until they’re older.
Also, start them young! It’s easy to think, “it’ll be easier when they’re older!” and in many ways, it is. But taking your kids on trips from a young age teaches them to be good travelers. They start to understand your expectations and the patience needed for the trip. Although, let’s be honest, asking, “are we there yet?” is a rite of passage for all kids. You can’t escape that.
When they are older, the schedule becomes more difficult. School and extracurricular activities are trickier to navigate. When they’re young, you’re actively looking up ways to fill your time. Why not travel?
Travel with friends!
Perhaps one reason is that your husband can’t join you due to this work schedule. I get this, but you can do it! I’ve taken many trips without my husband. Because of his work schedule, if I had to wait until we could both go, I’d still be waiting. I know it’s intimidating to travel without back up, but it is worth it! Over the years, we’ve really enjoyed trips to see out-of-state friends and family. Those trips are so nice because you DO have back up once you get there.
For years, my sister-in-law and I have taken a summer road trip during a particularly busy season for both of our husbands’ work. This is a win-win, as it allows my husband to put in crazy hours without feeling guilty because we are off enjoying ourselves! It’s become such a fun tradition and chance for cousins to bond. And I love traveling with another mom, who is constantly thinking about the same things I am, like the next meal, sunscreen reapplication, and bedtime. I love you, husband, but these are not your priorities on a trip.
While I’m on the subject, I highly recommend traveling with other families! Our favorite vacations have been alongside amazing family friends. For us, the benefits are innumerable. It’s a wonderful way to deepen friendships. The kids enjoy playing together, just like we enjoy hanging out after bedtime. We can share meal planning and prep! We can share on costs, like house rental or bringing a babysitter. If the idea of committing a whole week with friends stresses you out, start small. Grab some good friends and take a weekend trip together.
Make vacation a priority in your budget.
Ok, I know I’m leaving out the main deterrent to more adventures: cost! Honestly, this deserves a post all its own, written by someone more knowledgeable than me. But I will say the biggest reason we can do these adventures is that we’ve made it a priority in our budget. It’s easier to say no to that cute throw pillow at Target or another run through Chick-Fil-A if I have a goal in mind, like saving for a trip.
Mostly, I want to encourage you to plan some adventures for you and your’s this summer. Call up your college roommate or your Aunt Sue, and see if they’re up for some visitors! Plan that camping trip you’ve been thinking of. Grab a friend and head to the beach! You will make some wonderful memories and answer that pesky question of, “what are we doing this summer?”