Family vacations sure are a ton of fun, but calling family vacation a “vacation” may seem like a bit of a stretch.
VACATION vs. FAMILY VACATION?
#1 Planning a trip
Pick wherever it is you want to go and as far as your budget allows. Done.
Suddenly, traveling becomes a lot more expensive.
It can also get confusing because some places are off-limits now that you bring kids. Or you can’t get certain rooms. Like the ones you may have wanted.
#2 Getting ready for a vacation – packing
Gather everything you need, match and color-code all clothing, pack and re-pack a few times, sip some wine in between. Don’t forget to throw some heels in the luggage because why not?
Start the mental countdown with a dreamy smile on your face.
“Holy crap we’re leaving in two days! I have to do laundry, pack, take a shower, and where are we going again? I did book the plane tickets, right? Car rental?!”
For the reference, telling kids about the trip ahead of time = cardinal mistake.
If possible, keep your family vacation a secret for as long as you can because too much excitement and sudden disobedience are directly related.
It doesn’t matter what super special movie you let the kids watch just this once or which particularly messy activity you’ve saved for this very special day. Your kids have just sworn an oath to drive you bonkers, and peaceful packing isn’t in the cards.
How much stuff do you need to bring, anyway?
For you, a pair of clean underpants and an extra shirt will do.
For the kids? Well, there are weather varieties. Accidents. Spills. All kinds of spills during all kinds of imaginable and unthinkable but guaranteed-to-happen scenarios.
Getting constantly interrupted and with a ball bouncing on your back, try to set a number of outfits per day for each child. Now multiply that by the number of days you’re staying. Then, multiply all by two just in case. Because kids.
You now have two choices: 1) purchase additional pieces of luggage; or 2) lower your standards.
#3 Woohoo, the vacation starts! – Getting out the door
Have a cup of coffee, watch TV, take a long shower, check and re-check your luggage, get on your way. Your biggest problem? Traffic.
The kids have been wired since a few days prior, but this day is different. They’re so wound up you may be tempted to threaten them with limitless bans on fun at this point, but save your energy and resist. They’re now immune to all logical reasoning.
Then there’s the sheer amount of luggage that you’ve managed to produce. After you’d lowered your standards. Twice. Traveling with kids is no joke.
You may be bringing car seats and a stroller as well. Plus this one precious special toy per each child which, despite the chaos, will undoubtedly need full time surveillance and a keen eye because should it get left behind or stolen, the nearest law enforcement agency, NamUs, and Interpol will have to be promptly contacted or your whole trip is ruined.
#4 Getting to your destination
Travelling can be tiring, right? But at least you get to close your eyes on the plane, assuming you’re flying. Unless Johnny, the pint-sized stranger parked next to you, says out loud his tummy hurts.
Traveling has the potential to become a nightmare requiring an immediate intravenous wine therapy.
Have your snacks ready, keep your bribes hidden until needed, and make sure kids don’t go through all brand new activities before even setting foot on the plane or during the first two hours of your road trip.
If you’re flying or driving with toddlers especially, good luck. The odds of relaxing are slim.
#5 Vacation time!!!
Tired? Take a nap. Jet lag? Take a nap. Lazy? Take a nap.
Stay up late, sleep in; it’s YOUR call. Explore, admire the sights, live the adventures, or relax on the beach with an umbrella drink in one hand and a book in the other.
Getting there – and finding out – WHAT VACATION?!?
You WILL experience all of the above – just in a slightly altered reality.
— THE SLEEPING
If your kids have their own room, by all means go for it. It’s great until a spooky sound startles them. Like the sound of the fridge running, a car honking outside, a bird singing, the flush of a toilet, or just your happy voice in the other room.
As soon as the kids are comfy in your – equally strange – but YOUR – bed, they might only demand 85 times that you come and keep them company.
Don’t worry about them staying up too long and sleeping too late the next day and missing out on all the fun. They’ll work extra hard at waking up early the next day, perhaps even before the sun comes up, to really prove their commitment to the oath they took earlier.
— THE ACTION
Oh there WILL be action!
The new place is just way too exciting for the kids to not jump on everything bouncy, touch every breakable object, and run back and forth like crazy and shriek with an unfamiliar expression on their overstimulated little faces. If your kids are too small to run, they’ll try to eat half the hotel room.
If your building has room card keys, elevators, or just buttons, and you have more than 1 small child, brace yourself.
It’s kind of funny the first couple of days to watch them argue over who gets to do what, who gets to push which button, who first and who next, how many times, who gets no turn and why, and why it’s not fair.
And then they start hurting each other and you’re done and decide to handle card keys, elevators, and buttons all by yourself while your kids scream and scare other people almost every time you leave your room.
Your children always need something from you. Which wouldn’t be so bad if you weren’t so exhausted. On your second day. They’re always hungry, at least until you sit down at a restaurant. They spill stuff on themselves, presumably just for fun. They always need to go to the bathroom. Or they’re thirsty.
Where is the leisure you were hoping for? I’ll tell you where. Not here.
— THE DRINKING
Want to relax with a glass of wine or a pint of beer at dinner? (God knows you deserve it.)
You should know that a shot of hard liquor may be more on par with your fast-paced dinner on the beach now that you travel with kids.
Your other option is to squeeze adult drinks into the very short window that opens up right after the kids actually fall asleep and before you pass out. Out of exhaustion. Good luck with that.
— THE SIGHTS
They’re definitely there. There just seems to be close to zero appreciation for your efforts, and very little acknowledgement of the beautiful scenery, unique sights, and life-changing experiences. “Look at this natural beauty,” you announce to the kids, and they’re like, “I need to poop.”
To be fair, some situations and sights might have a huge impact and your children will remember them. Perhaps even for a full few days.
— THE BEACH
Trips to the beach or any body of water become drastically different with kids in tow. What was once a romantic stroll over a stretch of soft sand is now a full-body workout session.
Have you ever looked around as you walk down the beach?
You can’t miss the childless people lounging on their beach chairs. They’re resting, reading, or just looking around, fully absorbing the relaxing blissful atmosphere. They have a beach towel, a beach bag, and maybe a cooler. That’s about it.
That’s you. Embrace it.
Just like them, you’ll need enough beach towels for everyone, an oversized blanket or two, a large beach umbrella, a ton of snacks, plenty of drinks, noodles, boogie boards, beach toys, and a significant amount of other necessities. Forget beach chairs. Your chances of actually using one are slim to none. Like a book, a beach chair becomes just another dead weight in this beach boot camp experience.
You ARE going to have fun though. Just a different kind of fun. The kind of fun that turns the heads of many beach chair loungers. The kind they need and crave; one that will let them reminisce about those days.
The circle of life, my friends. Enjoy the chaos while it lasts.
#6 Coming back home
Tired? Take a nap. Jet lag? Take a nap. Headache? Take a nap.
Just make yourself comfortable, will you?
You’re back in your home sweet home. You’re exhausted, and your kids are hungry. They want to go to the park even though it’s 4 a.m. and pouring.
You make a deal with them and put on a long movie while they jump on the sofa with excitement. Which would have worked out really well if they didn’t pass out right before the story line started rolling and as soon as you’ve finished your second cup of Black Insomnia.
Makes you wonder if you should go lay down with your eyes wide open next to your already sleeping husband, stab him, or start unpacking and meet and greet the Mt. Everest Of Laundry.
Let’s be honest here. You need another vacation. A real vacation this time…
But then some time later after you’ll have fully recovered, you’re going to put your rose-colored glasses back on and start planning the next family vacation.
Because even though a family vacation is no vacation, it’s a heck of a great time and totally worth the extra sweat.