The gift of travel is something wonderful we can give our children. Traveling together gives families a chance to get out of their everyday routines and bond over new shared experiences. It’s a time to let go of the hustle and bustle we deal with back home and embrace each moment. That being said, let’s keep things real. Diaper blowouts and toddler meltdowns still happen regardless of how pretty the view is. That pre-kid idea you had of what a vacation looks like (i.e. rest and relaxation)? Yeah. Not so much. Taking care of kids is still just as exhausting when you’re on an island paradise … which is something my husband and I learned the hard way recently: by the end of a recent trip we were feeling ready for a vacation from our vacation!
Here’s why …
1. Packing is a nightmare.
Before having kids, going on a vacation meant throwing the essentials in a duffel bag and flitting off to whichever locale struck our fancy. We could just pick up and go and take whichever flights were cheapest. Now, simply getting to our vacation destination requires ridiculous amounts of forethought. Planning flights and road trips to fall around nap-times and bedtimes requires some definite juggling and gone are the days of packing light. On our most recent vacation, my kids had an entire checked bag plus half of my carry-on filled with diapers and snacks and toys and clothes and sound machines and sleep sacks and 8,000 lollipops for bribery and whatever other crap kids need when you’re traveling.
2. The journey is not as fun as the destination.
Once upon a time, I would look forward to road trips or plane rides with my husband. We would listen to good music in the car or watch a movie or read a book on a flight. Now a road trip means a crap shoot of whether or not my baby will be happy or screaming and it will likely be filled with obnoxious kid music and endless stops for potty breaks. A flight means diaper changes on tables the size of a cutting board and watching Frozen on the iPad for the 8,000th time while bribing my kid with snacks so our flight mates don’t hate us.
3. Nap-time and schedules go out the window.
When I only had one child and traveled, I always tried to maintain a nap schedule. My daughter never napped well on-the-go, so we always planned around her sleep. Now that I have two kids, it pretty much takes a Christmas miracle to get both of them to take a decent nap in the course of the day and getting them to take decent naps at the same time?! Ha! That’s cute. We basically just throw the naps and the schedules out the window and pray for a car nap or two. It’s definitely nice letting go of the schedule at times, but the lack of sleep can lead to grumpy kids, which can be rough.
4. You actually get less sleep.
If you are like most people and share a room with your kids on vacation, then you know this to be true. Having kids in the room with you means that when they wake up, they’ll see you and want to wake you up immediately as well. We’re all one big happy family in this room and we all get to be up with the sun together. Also, if you have more than one child, your odds of getting sleep decrease exponentially, because if one wakes up in the night, odds are the other will follow. I will say we definitely fit in plenty of togetherness this way though!
5. Forget about sex.
One of the best things about vacation pre-kids was vacation sex. Like I said: PRE-kids. Now you’re probably too tired for much boot-knocking action by the end of the day, besides which, having kids in your room (see #4) can make things tricky. Sure there are creativity points to be won and it can be done, but it’s definitely not the relaxing vacation sex of yesteryear.
6. You don’t have all your usual tricks.
At home my daughter is great at independent play and will spend hours entertaining herself by reading books and playing with little figurines. On vacation? Well, unfortunately all the other kid junk takes up too much space and you’re forced to leave many of your usual distractions behind. If you have a tiny baby, this becomes even more apparent when you no longer have your bouncy chair or baby swing to keep them happy while you run to the bathroom. On vacation you are stripped bare to only the essentials and can no longer hide behind those annoying, light-up, singing toys that keep your kids quiet and happy for five-minute stretches of time.
7. Nothing is baby-proofed.
If you happen to be traveling with a pint-sized tasmanian devil of a child (like my son) who loves nothing better than getting into everything they aren’t supposed to, then the fact that nothing is baby-proofed is going to be a problem. Errant cords, open outlets (perfect for poking things into), and furniture not secured to the walls adds up to extra vigilance on the part of the parents. When we’re at home, I know everything is safe and I don’t have to worry about letting him explore, but when we’re on vacation, I have to be attentive at all times. Not exactly the most relaxing scenario ever.
8. Daily outings are a must.
Getting out and exploring as a family is the best part of vacation! The downside is that when you have kids you have to do “mini packing” pretty much every day of your trip. An outing to the beach means packing sunblock and swimsuits and towels and snacks and sand castle gear and a baby carrier and hats and extra underwear and … you get where I’m going with this, right? Everything isn’t as organized as it is when you’re at home, so it all just takes a little more effort.
9. You have to eat out a lot.
I realize that you can go on vacation and cook (at least part of the time), but then what’s the point of vacation? In my mind, the best part of vacation is the fact that I don’t have to cook meals. It’s glorious! But, with kids, eating out isn’t always a magical event. I know eating out with children is possible and our family definitely does it, but it’s never really that relaxing and by the end of the meal I usually end up wishing we had just stayed home to eat leftovers.
10. Kids are still jerks on vacation.
The fact remains: kids are still kids. They don’t care that you’ve whisked them off to a beautiful island paradise. They’re still going to have the occasional meltdown. Sometimes kids are jerks … whether they’re on vacation or not.
It all boils down to expectations. It is definitely a gift to be able to vacation as a family at all and we are thankful for it. But next time, I’ll be going in with more realistic expectations. Just because vacation is different now, doesn’t mean it has to be bad!