On a recent family vacation, I texted a friend the following question:
Have you ever contemplated coming home early from a family vacation
or have you actually ever done it?
I couldn’t believe I was feeling this way, but truly by the end of the second day into our little spring break escape, my husband and I were LOSING OUR MINDS!!!! Our children usually get along shockingly well (please don’t hate me for admitting that), but for whatever reason from the moment we left the house they just couldn’t stop annoying the heck out of each other, and us for that matter. The weather turned crummy, my allergies were bothering me, and we were all biting each others heads off. Overall – it felt like one big epic fail. While we did stick it out and stayed almost the fully planned on amount of time, we were more than ready to load up and come home.
As we were driving back though, I began to realize that things really hadn’t been as bad as they seemed. We did actually have some fun in-between the fights and the complaints. We even managed a couple of those FB worthy pictures, along with a few like the one above where I think my daughter is about to strangle her brother – But he’s still smiling. In the end, I would bet the memories that my children have about this trip will be good ones. Maybe someday we will even look back and have a few laughs about it all. In the meantime, the experience also helped remind me about a few very important lessons that will come in handy when we undertake the next family trip (many, many months from now).
1. A Family Trip is NOT a Vacation
When my friend replied back to my text above, she so wisely reminded me that I was not on a V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N. No, what I was actually taking part in was a Family Trip. These are two very different things, with two very different sets of expectations and experiences. A vacation is what you need when you get back from a family trip or what you do once the kids go to college.
2. Despite What Disney Tries to Tell Us, All Trips as a Family will not be “Magical”
All those great tourism commercials on TV and most people’s Facebook posts try to convince you that family trips are filled with nothing but picture perfect moments of smiling kids and exuberant parents enjoying every second of their time together. Let’s remember that those commercials feature actors who are NOT related to each other, and those FB posts are most likely a split second of calm in an otherwise tear filled fest of yelling, screaming, and meltdowns.
3. Always Have Snacks Available
I’ve heard numerous people use the term “HANGRY” (Hungry + Angry), which is basically what happens to both kids and parents when hunger sets it. Even if you just ate ten minutes ago, it doesn’t matter, as soon as someone gets into a full on “hangry” mode, good luck salvaging the rest of the day. So, be sure to start off in the morning with a solid breakfast, don’t try to push off other meal times too long and throw in some granola bars or a few small packs of raisins for emergencies. (My college roommate and my husband actually used to hide snickers bars for me as a back up plan to deal with my “hangry” episodes. They were NOT pretty)
4. Schedule in Downtime
There is the temptation on a family trip to try and cram in seeing and doing everything, especially if you are on one of those once in a lifetime getaways. However, I’m sure we’ve all seen (and most likely been) one of those families where the parents are screaming at each other while the kids are splayed out tantrum style on the pavement of some amusement park or attraction parking lot to know what happens if you go, go,go. As much as our kids can seem to have endless amounts of energy, if we skip naps or put them in a situation where they are over-stimulated from dawn to dusk, it just isn’t going to end well.
5. Too Much Togetherness is Just Too Much
As parents in today’s child centric culture, we have become obsessed with making every moment with our kids count. When we travel with them, we feel an even more acute need to be creating life long memories. No matter how awesome we are, we need to face facts that our kids need a break from us (not to mention we definitely need one from them). The guilt needs to go and we need to be willing to do a little time trade off with our spouses on trips with younger kids or be willing to let older kids go off and do their own thing now and then.