So, you may or may not know that I'm a single mom.... with six kids. Two bio (11 & 14), one adopted (3), one foster almost adopted (2), two relative foster sweethearts (17 & 18).
And we love to travel!
We've taken cruises, camping trips, float trips, road trips using Airbnb, beach trips, RV trips.... you name it, we've probably tried it.
If you hear nothing else from me today (or you have to stop reading because someone poops, vomits, or you just remembered you should've been somewhere 5 minutes ago) hear this:
Whatever you've planned to do, make a new plan to do 25% of that. Or less.
Kids don't remember what you do on vacations. They remember how they feel.
Read that again.
Chances are, you're taking vacations not because it's so fun to change diapers on the beach or referee who's breathing on whom in the back seat.
You're taking vacations because you want to have a great experience and have those Hallmarky moments with your little people.
Here's what I've learned from traveling with kids and botching it for 14 years:
1. Avoid anything that will make you stressed out or angry.
This is the numero uno reason for reducing your schedule by at LEAST 75%. When you're on a time sensitive schedule from morning to night, you might see more stuff, but you'll likely be miserable doing it.
Who wants to spend their vacation saying "we don't have time for you to pee now because we need to make the tour in FIVE MINUTES!!" or yelling at everyone to put on their shoes because WE HAVE TO GO RIGHT NOW OR WE WILL GET IN TRAFFIC AND THEN WE WILL MISS THE THING.
Who cares about the thing. You're yelling. On vacation. Stop it.
2. Allow time to savor.
One of the most painful and greatest life lessons I learned was from my 2 yr old daughter. It's been 12 years now, but I've literally sat here a few minutes staring at the screen with a lump in my throat because it hurts my heart to talk about.
We were rushing to get in the car one morning and I had one arm full of work stuff and the other arm full of her stuff and we needed to start on our 90 min drive to daycare/work or I was going to be late for the morning meeting again.
[I was the only girl boss in a manufacturing company and some of the guys loved to give me mean grief about being late. They would make a huge deal about writing another mark next to my name on the white board that I owed $1 for being late. Again.]
That particular morning, with my arms full of stuff and in a HUGE HURRY, my little one was reaching for something and I was trying to pull her to the car and I got so angry at her for not hurrying up. Finally, I let go of her hand and set evvvvvverythinggggg down to make her get in her car seat and.... do you know what she wanted? She was reaching for a flower growing along our driveway ....
to give to me.
It changed my life. We oooh'd and ahh'd over the yellow pansy and she squished it in her little sweaty hand all the way to daycare.
I walked into the meeting a full 15 minutes late.
And I laid a check on the table for my entire balance plus another dollar for every work day for the rest of the year. I looked the guy at the white board dead in the eye and said "my daughter comes first".
Think about what you're going to do on your trip.
Do you want to see it, or do you want to enjoy it?
Give yourselves time to stand there and look at it, to walk around some, to stop for a coffee/ice cream, to play tag along the way, to watch them belly laugh. Those are the moments, not the things.
3. Something for Everyone
I would not personally choose bouncy houses, adventure parks, or Legoland as a primo desinationo for a vacay. However; my kids love them! Some like to ride rides, others are 100% down for the face paint, and a few just like to observe all the interesting things to see.
I would, however; choose hiking, museums, antique malls, and bookstores. SO FUN FOR KIDS, right? Ha.
When you're planning each day, try to include a little something for everyone, and
at least once on the trip, do one thing that each traveler TOTALLY LOVES.
Here's how that might look for our family:
Monday: Travel day, but we stop at Mc Donald's play place for the three littlest to romp. We make homemade pizza for supper at the Airbnb which then makes the middle two happy, and the oldest gets a room to himself to have some quiet.
Tuesday: We grab a bite and go hike and climb to somewhere fun, then a picnic lunch and I get to get coffee and wander in Barnes & Noble or a flea market while the big kids relax in the car with phones and napping babies.
Wednesday: Theme park! We grab a good breakfast and head into the park. We stay together and while the riders are in line, the rest of us wander around to see things, get some face paint, and tell each other all about our adventures at the end of the ride!
Thursday: Relaxing Day. Pack some snacks, head to the pool or beach, zero agenda. I fall in love with their little noses and eyelashes all over again. We build some sand castles, the big kids swim, the babies and I try to keep sand out of all their everythings, we go back to the hotel/airbnb tired and ready for some homemade Tacos.
Friday: Travel home. Slow breakfast at IHOP or Crackerbarrel, stop somewhere along the way to get our wiggles out, carry everything in and dump it in the dining room, crash.
I hope this is helpful! I'd love to hear about your adventures and dreams you have for trips you'd like to take!