Vacation with young children can often feel simply like a change in location, without much of the rest and relaxation we hope vacation provides. Let’s face it: all of the work of parenting is still required. More than once I’ve heard a mom lament, “I need a vacation to recoup after my family vacation!” Here are a few strategies to try to get the R&R all parents deserve during their family travels.
Bring the rules of home with you (well, at least some of them)…
Enjoying family time and activities often leads to abandoning some of the usual expectations and schedules. However, young children who are accustomed to the dependability of their daily routines may become irritable travel companions when the consistency disappears. To keep the peace and your own sanity, notice how flexible your children are and what they can tolerate and where you can (and cannot) bend and break the rules on vacation. It will also make re-entry from vacation a bit smoother for everyone.
Carve out time for the parents
If multiple families are traveling together or extended family (like grandparents) is joining you on the trip, you might be able to have a day-date, a dinner out, or enjoy a special activity just for you. Otherwise, if the parents are the only adults on the trip, carving out individual personal time during the trip will give each parent an opportunity to spend some time how you choose, and hopefully recharge your battery. This is another reason why a consistent kid bedtime is helpful, as it can create some evening time for parents.
Keep your itinerary and your expectations aligned with your travel goers. Depending upon your children’s interests, patience, and other attributes, set yourself up for success, not stress. A long walking tour might be doable if you have a stroller and lots of snacks. A museum might be possible if you focus on the exhibits you most want to see and forgo the rest. Anything might be feasible if you’re willing to pull the plug when needed!
The comforts of home, away from home
Young children need a lot of stuff; packing and traveling with young children can seem to require a U-Haul and a Sherpa. To minimize the stress of managing all the items your family needs, be creative and certainly be prepared. Some reparations can be ordered online and shipped to meet you at your destination. Other items might be worth renting or purchasing second hand from a local consignment shop. Depending on where you are traveling, expanding your children’s culinary pallet with new cuisine (as well as testing their GI system) may be a hit or miss; it might be helpful to tuck some favorite foods in your purse for when the menu doesn’t meet her selective taste buds. Beyond that, if your child falls asleep with the same book or blankie every night, make sure that item makes the trip!
Prioritize continued self-care
What are you doing on a regular basis for your wellbeing? Any of the habits or activities you maintain in your daily life to promote your mental health need to be prioritized on vacation. Don’t just hope there will be the time magically in the day or that someone else will suggest it for you: build the practices that promote and protect your mood into your itinerary. Maintain the thought processes and behaviors that you know contribute to your wellness. You and your family will benefit, and your vacation will be better as a result.
If you need more ideas or ones that are specific to you, please reach out to me!
I'm a mom of four children, a wife, and a Licensed Professional Counselor. My parenting life helps me be a better counselor, and my professional experience helps me be a better mom. Both allow me to be creative, to learn and grow, to make mistakes, and to rarely sleep. I love the beach and gardening, reading if I can stay awake, running (which these days is after my kids and not much else), and using humor through it all!
DISCLAIMER: This site is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice, legal advice, or professional services. If you feel that you have a medical problem, you should seek the advice of your physician or health care practitioner.