Family Vacation

Set appropriate expectations for vacations with kids for a better experience for everyone.

A few years ago, a friend of mine went on vacation with her extended family. Each summer for most of her life, they’d rented a beach house and spent the week on the beach. It was a much anticipated relaxing annual time away for their family. As a brand new mom, she had been excited to bring her infant daughter on the trip for the first time, but when she returned home she called me so tired and disappointed.

“I needed a vacation, but I didn’t get one,” she said. She learned, for the first time, a lesson most parents learn eventually: vacations with small children can be more taxing than staying home. 

With babies, in particular, the stress of being away from home, traveling with so much gear, feeding and napping schedules, diapers and all the other curveballs that come with early childhood can feel hardly worth the effort. 

When you need and expect a vacation and don’t get one, it feels wildly disappointing. Many people have limited amounts of time they’re able to take away from work or other responsibilities, so having to wait until you can try again feels disheartening, to say the least. 

That’s not to say that you can’t have an incredible time on a family trip. But, it’s critical to enter it with accurate expectations. (Actually, it’s pretty important to enter most things with appropriate expectations). Family trips are about spending intentional time as a family to create memories and deepen bonds. 

As adults, we are constantly pulled in a million directions, whether we’re home with our children or working a day job. There are drop-offs and pickups, housekeeping tasks, activities and sports, social events, volunteering, professional commitments, homework, school schedules, family commitments and so much more angling for our time. But, when we take a trip away from our day-to-day, we can put away many of those responsibilities and commitments and invest in each other.

When I go on a vacation, I’m looking to shut down all responsibilities, including the needs of my children for at least a little while. So, if I want to take a vacation with my children, I need to bring along someone to help with the childcare while we’re on vacation. However, on a family trip, I’m shutting down my professional and personal responsibilities and focusing inward. I’m looking for ways to create fun and make memories. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t find pockets of rest and retreat for yourself on a family trip, but it won’t be the dominant theme of the time away. So, when they come, soak it up and enjoy in order to fill your vessel in order to pour into your family. Find fun things to do, make your kids laugh, connect with your partner and relax the rules a bit for a time.

Kids won’t be kids for long. So, while you have them, get away if you can and make memories. Whether it’s a week at the beach or a day trip to a children’s museum, remember that the time flies by and, before you know it, you’ll be wishing you had more. 

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Colleen Cook works full-time as the Director of Operations at Vinyl Marketing in Ashland, where she resides with her husband Mike and three young daughters. She's an insatiable extrovert who enjoys finding reasons to gather people.

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