Today, the Real Talk Real Mom series is back and we’re sharing all about vacationing with kids. I wrote about traveling with kids here (a year and a half ago) and our first airplane adventure here (last summer). We haven’t left the country yet with our kids (I’ve actually never left the country yet either…) but we’ve taken them across the country, away for a week every summer over labor day, to upstate NY, a few more local weekend trips, and we’re headed up to Bar Harbor later this summer (yay for 7-month-preggo-12-hour-roadtrip). So while we’re certainly not vacation-to-faraway-places professionals, we have a bit of experience. I have compiled a few thoughts and tips to share with you below! Can’t wait to read all the other posts (linked below) as we prepare for summer travel!
1. Is it worth it to vacation with kids? We think YES!! Taking the kids along for a time away from home can be a challenge and feel unnecessary, but I think it stretches us and our kids and exposes them to more real life. It takes them outside of their normal routine, exposes them to new families (especially if we’re traveling with friends), and opens up their minds. These are all such good things! We’ve had some of our best family memories together as a family while vacationing, and I’m thankful for these opportunities. We vacation every summer with a group of Joe’s college friends and their families (now the kids outnumber the adults…we’re missing this year’s excursion because #babynumber3). These experiences and memories will last a lifetime (once they start remembering) and help to shape our children into adult humans with a vast array of experiences! And now they’re starting to look forward to seeing these folks every year, and are starting to form attachments and relationships! Definitely worth it!
2. The goal of vacation might change for the parents. In the olden days (pre-kids), vacation was all about having fun, going out, seeing as much as possible, staying up late, etc. It was all about us, because it could be. Now, with kids, the goal of our vacations has changed. And that’s ok. It’s not about us having fun (although we certainly can still have fun), but doing things together as a family, making it interesting for our girls, and making sure everyone eats and drinks enough. On our yearly college friend vacation, the guys always plan fun activities that involve parents and kids (beach scavenger hunts, sand castle building, etc.). I think we visit more playgrounds while on vacation than when we’re home in Virginia. But that’s ok.
3. If possible, travel with friends for family. This way, even when you’re “staying in” the kids can have more fun. We love vacationing alone, but there’s a fun, busyness when you’re with friends, and it makes every moment active and enjoyable.
4. Find the right place to stay, and research your surroundings. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it took us a few tries before figuring this one out. We love staying in Airbnb homes if possible. They’re so much cozier, roomier, and one word: KITCHENS! With kids, it’s so incredibly nice to not have to eat out every single meal. And you can easily store snacks. And with Airbnbs the kids can [sometimes] be in a separate room. Finding a home that’s kid-friendly (having a separate “play room” is awesome, too) is a must, in our opinion!
And right along with finding the perfect accommodations, make sure you’re looking at the home/hotel on a map before booking. We’ve found that if we’re staying at the beach, it’s worth it to pay a bit extra for the convenience of being on the beach. No crossing the busy highway to get to beach. No packing all the things for 1 hour on the beach, only to have a potty emergency or to take naps or because you forgot the sunscreen or any reason, and have to pack everything back up and head back to the house across the highway. Staying right on the beach has been a lifesaver…Joe and I can easily sneak to the beach for a bit while the girls are napping (with other adults still in the house)! While we’re in Bar Harbor this summer, we’ll be staying right in town for easy access to stores and restaurants without having to pack into the car to make little trips. Stay in the center of it all (grocery store access is also key) so you can easily have kids nap, or so a few people can easily adventure after the kids go down to bed.
5. Make meals ahead of time. This works if you’re staying in a place with a kitchen and if you’re driving. We love to go out to eat while on vacation, but sometimes it’s nice to stay in, too. And for those times, it’s nice to have a meal or two prepped so you’re not working in the kitchen all day. Or at least have a basic plan for some meals and do your grocery shopping once you’ve arrived so you don’t have to bring a huge cooler full of perishables.
6. As always, be flexible. Life with kids is never completely predictable, so just go with the flow. Don’t worry if they aren’t napping according to schedule (they are in a strange place, after all). Don’t worry if you have to cancel dinner reservations. Just make the most of it and you’ll be a lot happier.
7. If possible, bring along a nanny (or at least someone willing to help with the kids). Earlier this year, I traveled with the girls (without Joe) to California to spend a week with my sister and her family. Thankfully, my mom drove down from New Jersey to take the flight with me (she was going to CA anyway, but not necessarily from VA). Having her along for the airport navigation AND the entire trip was just so wonderful. She helped with everything, and made it bearable for me to be traveling without Joe.
For our yearly college friend vacation, one of Joe’s friends has brought along his younger sister to help out with the kids. This has been so awesome, and I highly recommend it! This way, each set of parents is able to – if they want to – sneak off for a night away. And in general, the extra set of hands is a God-send; if you’re able to swing it, do it!
That’s it for my vacationing-with-the-kiddos tips! Don’t forget to read the other mamas’ stories today:
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