With the summer coming up, Mamapedia ran the perfect article about family vacations. Sorry, you must subscribe to get the link, so I will run a clip that resonated with me:
A family vacation is not just about the parents getting away and relaxing. Some parents never realize this and end up hating family vacations because kids ruin this expectation for them. They resent their kids being there. Tensions run high the duration of the trip. Parents fuss. Kids argue. There may be glimmers of enjoyment, but overall everyone wonders why they did the vacation in the first place. Everyone comes home needing a vacation from their vacation.
Other parents decide that they are just parents, let go of all parts of who they are outside of parenthood, and make their family vacation all about the kids. All activities, locations, and food choices are all decided based on what will make the kids happy. The vacation is really an entertainment package for the kids, and while Mom and Dad may feel some joy in giving their kids a great vacation, parents get little or any opportunity to rejuvenate their own souls, connect with each other, and still may end up secretly resenting their kids for robbing them of their vacation time. Parents come home still needing a vacation from their vacation.
Families will enjoy their vacation when they change their expectations. A family vacation is about enjoying each other as a family. Not just making sure the parents are happy. Not just making sure the kids are happy. It’s about doing something together as a family to create new experiences together and forming lasting memories. It’s about getting the kids to try new foods or go to the local museum because they know it’s something important to Mom or to Dad. It’s about enduring the crowds and going to the festival because it’s something the kids really want to do. And most importantly, it’s about understanding that a family vacation does not take the place of a” parents only” vacation that needs to happen periodically as well.
This article touched a nerve with me in so many ways. First of all, it did make me realize that I need an attitude adjustment when it comes to family vacations. I admit, that on more than one occasion, I have felt resentful at not having alone time with my husband. Our last trip (to my MIL’s in El Salvador) involved having at least one child sleeping in the bedroom with us, and one of us still had to tend to his or her needs in the morning. I will come out and say it. This was hardly as enjoyable as the pre-child vacations DH and I took that, at minimum, included sleeping in the mornings and not having to take anyone to the potty.
OTOH, I thought the author of the article was way too nonchalant about mixing up family vacations and “‘parents only’ vacation that needs to happen periodically as well.” As NJmom and others pointed out in her diary recently, many of us live far away from our families and must use up our vacation time to visit them.
DH and I are fortunate in that his job requires travel to not so bad places, and in the last two years, we have been able to tack on some alone time on those business trips. Our next trip together will be to Las Vegas for Netroots Nation. My MIL will come to California to stay with the kids, while we go for a week. We will have to do some work, but we will have a few days to enjoy ourselves.
As for family trips, I would say they are getting more enjoyable as the kids become more independent. Ari is actually easy to take on a plane ride, and he enjoys everywhere we take him. But Eli is still throwing tantrums typical of a three-year-old. She does need to be entertained, and when she is up, an adult has to be up with her. Nonetheless, I do recognize she — and Ari — are beyond the infant phase, which means we don’t have to get up every hour in the middle of the night on a “vacation.”
As for the rest, I did think the author of this piece, Tara Wood, had some nuggets of wisdom:
We just came back from one of many family vacations we have taken since that trip to Vail. We were very thoughtful in how we planned the week to make sure that it was enjoyable for everyone. This time, we rented a house instead of staying at a hotel so that we could put the kids to bed at night and still stay up to sit outside drinking wine by the pool instead of feeling trapped every night in a hotel room once the kids went to bed. This also allowed us to not only save money on food, but be more flexible in making sure there was good food choices for everyone. Once we were at our destination, we had a family discussion about what each family member wanted to make sure they did during the trip and planned out together when and how we would make sure those things got accomplished. And when our nine-month-old woke up almost every night at 1:00 am for an hour-long cry fest, my husband and I would joke that at least we’re up in the middle of the night feeling the ocean breeze.
What other tips do you have to enjoy a family vacation? As always, our expert traveling mom, Mara, is full of wisdom at the Mother of All Trips. It’s a good blog if you haven’t read it!