Is a vacation really a vacation if the kids are with you?
You might be getting away, but is that a bad thing if it means schedules are turned upside down and unfamiliar sights, smells, tastes and sounds result in all-too-familiar tantrums?
Or do the benefits of adventure, no distractions and unparalleled quality family time win out in the end?
Here are 5 pros and 5 cons of taking the kids with you on vacation:
Con #1: Sleep schedules get turned upside down 1 of 10Even if you're a parent who is not guilty of overscheduling the family when you go on vacation, no one ever seems to get enough rest anyway. Whether you've traveled to a different time zone or need to be somewhere early in the morning or later in the evening for a tour or reservation, or the excitement of what lies ahead means the children are simply too excited to fall asleep or sleep in, routines from home go by the wayside, which usually means the number of hours of sleep banked each night also falls down by a few precious and critical hours.
Con #2: New food and experiences can mean new kinds of meltdowns 2 of 10Thought it was hard to try and get your toddler to try new foods at home? You know, that place where you stock the cupboards and refrigerator and always have back-ups on hand in the event of a total food emergency meltdown?
Unless you're staying somewhere with a kitchen and a well-stocked grocery store nearby, you'll probably spend the bulk of your meals on vacation in restaurants, which means your little ones will be expected to eat what's put before them and like it and behave when they don't. Three times a day. Plus snacks.
Good luck with that.
Con #3: Unfamiliarity can breed uncertainty and unease 3 of 10Lots of little kids are totally adventurous. But even the best of â€˜em get a little rattled when they're hit with lots of change all at once. Between airports, planes, taxis, hotels, museums, zoos, beaches and sightseeing, it's a lot of new and potentially overwhelming stuff.
Chances are you don't need to be told how your kids can react when they get overwhelmed.
Con #4: Traveling can suck the life out of you 4 of 10If you thought it was hard to be the Mom-In-Chief of your household, try adding Tour Guide to your job description. Not only do little kids want to be entertained constantly, they kind of need to be. Which means you have to figure out activities to occupy your days and nights, as well as the location of all nearby restrooms and soft-serve ice cream shops.
Oh, and when your kids inevitably get diarrhea because of something they ate (one too many soft-serve ice cream cones, perhaps?) or drank, you'll also need to locate a pediatrician/pharmacy/plunger.
Con #5: You need a vacation from your vacation 5 of 10Even if you manage not to get woken up 19 times a night while sharing a hotel room with your kids, they end up thriving on all of the new sights, smells and tastes they experience, and don't collapse into a heap of tantrums roughly every two hours, you are probably ready to sleep for the next four weeks following a vacation with your children.
It's a rare toddler who will let you nap and read on the beach for a few hours of downtime each day. It's a common toddler, however, who acts like a shark that needs to move forward and constantly, never stopping. And that means a vacation is like a sprint and marathon wrapped into one.
Oh, and then there's all that laundry once you get back home.
Pro #1: Your kids will learn to experience the joys of travel from a young age 6 of 10Some great travelers are born, but others are made. If you start traveling with your children when they're very little, enduring long plane rides becomes less of a hassle and more of a passageway to something new and potentially thrilling.
Get them to enjoy travel early in life and it's as if you've given them a passport to keep exploring for the rest of their lives.
Pro #2: Carefree family time is spent without any work distractions 7 of 10When was the last time you sat down to a family meal without the home phone ringing, iPhone vibrating or doorbell ringing? OK, when was the last time you had a few consecutive meals without any of that happening?
It's the miracle of getting away from it all: You can really get away from it all. And no matter where you go, that's a vacation in and of itself.
Pro #3: Kids get to test out their more adventurous side 8 of 10Whether you can manage to get your children to try Blue Point oysters in Great South Bay or Rocky Mountain oysters in Colorado, if they go parasailing in Mexico or rock climbing in the Gunks, they might relish the opportunity to show you what they're made of, and you'll relish witnessing how well they do outside of their comfort zone.
Pro #4: Tremendous family memories are being created 9 of 10That time they swam with dolphins. That time you bought that colorful blanket from a beach vendor. That time you got stuck in a chair lift. That time there was a spider in the bed.
OK, maybe that last one was a Brady Bunch vacation memory. But the point is that the shared experiences away from home have a way of seeping into everyone's consciousness and popping up in a dream or story even long after the trip has ended and etching a permanent place in the Fond Recollections section of the brain.
Pro #5: More miles mean more stories 10 of 10Not only do family vacations create fond memories, but traveling can do wonders for a child's imagination. They'll have more to write about, more to draw about, more to look forward to, more to think about, and more to visualize. Keep stamping pages in their passport as often as you can and watch the creative juices flow freely.
Photo credits: iStock