I have some extremely fond memories from vacations that my family went on while I was growing up. I remember swimming, playing, sunshine, laughter, pranks between siblings, and pure joy.
Vacation as a parent, however, is quite a different story. I’ve got half a dozen years of traveling with small children under my belt now, and I’ve learned a lot from our “vacation” experiences. Truth be told, it’s not very fun. At least…not in the same way.
Traveling is stressful. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a waste of time (Family trips are an integral part of memory making, are they not?). To me, it simply means that I just have to adjust my expectations. I have to accept that there are a seperate set of rules that apply when traveling with kids. These rules are the unspoken truths of vacation. Once you understand and accept these truths, travling will feel a little easier because you know exactly what’s coming.
Truth #1: Half of your trip will be terrible
If the car ride/plane ride to your destination goes well, then chances are your return trip will not go well. For every easygoing moment of minimal line waits and great attitudes there will alternatively be traffic jams, fighting, and poop blowouts. Every smooth meal time will be balanced out by hangry public tantrums. Half the nights everyone will sleep well and the other half no one will. Good and bad, easy and difficult; these are on the flip sides of the coin of vacation. You’ve got a 50/50 chance. Those are your odds. It’s science.
Truth #2: Someone will barf
Between motion sickness, potential illness, and (heaven forbid) food poisoning, chances are good that someone in the family will barf at some point. A tip my mother-in-law gave me is to travel with a bowl and a towel. I usually bring these and sometimes a roll of paper towels and I am always glad I did. When it comes to children and bodily fluids, you just never know what will happen. Be prepared!
Truth #3: Everyone will cry
One child will fall, one child will become so overtired that they completely lose it, and babies will BE SO OVER their car seats. Mom will be stressed to tears and who knows what Dad will be doing. But yes…the tears will come. Just accept it. It’ll be over soon.
Truth #4: Everyone will look back and say they had fun
Just like how I seem to only remember the good times from my childhood family vacations, once everyone is home and settled back into normal life, you really will look back at your vacation and feel good about it. Even the painful moments will somehow become endearing or funny.
Now that you know what to expect, I hope you will find a tiny bit of peace during the hard moments of your family vacation. The last time our family traveled together, I remember my husband saying, “They’re in such awful moods! Why are we even doing this?” And I answered, “This is just how it is. It’s going to be hard and not very fun most of the time, but we are doing it anyway. We have to just keep going.” Because there are magical moments in the midst of it all. Our children do feel that pure joy the same way that I did as a child. They will remember these moments and the way it felt when we were together. And those moments shape their lives and fill my mother’s heart. Brick by brick these special yet crazy family experiences will build a wall of memories to last a lifetime.