Family Vacation Essentials
This last week we took our whole family on our FIRST official vacation together! We’ve gone on plenty of road trips together, but this week was the first time that all five of us packed up, got on an airplane together, and explored a new place. It was busy and tiring and chaotic and so, so fun. Taking all three on a week-long trip was a lot. We spent two LONG days at LegoLand and a few more exploring San Diego. We kept ourselves busy and skipped naptimes and rallied all day every day for a week!
I’ve learned that one of my BIG values is having fun. It’s a huge priority for me in my marriage and family. When you look back on your childhood the main things you remember are vacations and holidays. So it’s really important to me to create memories with my kids that are fun. And that’s exactly what this vacation was. I loved watching them run for hours on the beach – laughing and digging in the sand and splashing in the waves. They didn’t have a care in the world. I loved taking them to LegoLand - they are in a HUGE Lego phase right now! They loved to see all their favorite characters and go on the rides. It was so fun to share it with them.
And for the first time we have three kids. Not just two kids, not two kids and a baby, three full-blown kids. I can't even believe I’m writing that. Our littlest is completely consumed with being just like the big kids, and besides the fact that she couldn’t stay awake for more than five hours at a time, she works that big kid persona well!
Even though I’m pretty new to this family of five travel thing, I discovered some travel secrets that made our trip SO much easier. So here's your cheat sheet for a low-stress family vacation. Doesn't that sound nice?!
God bless the Babysitter.
You guys. I’m starting with the end of the vacation because it’s feeling the most fresh right now and I can't even believe that I have never thought of this one before. Hire a babysitter to take the kids the day after you get home. All day. We did it this time and had a whole day to get unpacked, caught up on work, and back to a routine. (and some time away from the kids was VERY welcome!)
Want your toddler to stay happy on exhausting travel days? Use all the lollipops. Anytime she gets that look on her face, that "about to lose my mind and become a monster" face, whip out a Dum-Dum. I think she went through four on each flight. Pretty sure she chucked one across the aisle too. But it worked! And I even started spreading the love and giving lollipops to other frazzled mommas around me. It’s a miracle worker!
Say goodbye to a diaper bag full of snacks and toys and everyone’s JUNK. For this trip every kid brought their own backpack that they could carry all their own things in. They threw all the things they wanted in there, as well as a gallon bag full of healthy(ish) foods (not trying to be supermom here!). They were in charge of their own airplane snacks and they were responsible to gather every one of their toys after the plane ride. They knew that Mommy wasn’t going to pick up after them so if the toys got left on the plane – too bad! They did awesome with managing their own things and I loved not having to deal with all the junk.
Set clear expectations for souvenirs.
You know how it goes. You take the kids to a theme park and the second they walk in they are instantly overtaken by the gimmes. So we told the kids before we walked in: at the end of the second day they can each buy ONE thing (with a dollar limit). Every time they would beg for another dumb Lego thing, balloon animals, face painting, caramel apple, piece of gum off the floor (not even kidding) we would just say, “Keep it on your mind for tomorrow!”. Conversation over. No meltdowns. No arguing. Clear expectations. We want our kids to get to take special things home from our trips but don’t want to be controlled by all the begging. So this was our life saver. It totally worked and saved us a lot of tears!
Sharpies are your friend.
Before you walk into the park, write your phone number in Sharpie on your kids’ wrists. Tell them that if they get lost and can't find you, to find another mommy or a nice worker and ask them to call the number on their wrist. We seem to be a magnet for lost kids (no joke!) We have seen frantic moms lose their kids at Disney, local parades and even the children's museum so this is the real deal. Set them up for success in scary situations. You never know what could happen! It’s never happened to us but now our kids know what to do.
Don’t be a slave to the schedule.
If we had all the time in the world and everything went my way, we would make sure the kids got naps and rest times in every day. This time it just wasn’t going to happen. There was too much to do and it would have eaten too much of our time. So we made it work. Our toddler took a lot of naps on our shoulders and the kids were absolutely spent at the end of every day but it was worth it. Naps can resume after vacation!
I’ve always been into that wardrobe capsule packing thing. I always pack in the same color scheme and with coordinating pieces so that everything goes together. More outfits, less clothes. This time I tried it out with the kids. I spent a little more time packing them and made sure that everything matched. This way I could send my kids to their suitcases in the morning and have them dress themselves. And everything matched. (Can you hear the angels singing?)
Build in downtime.
Last time we took our big kids to Disneyland, we spent a few days at the parks and flew straight home the day after. It was so hectic and exhausting and took us a few days to recover once we got home. This time we planned differently. We spent two days at LegoLand (long, exhausting days), and then another two days exploring San Diego. It’s my old college town so it was so fun to take my kids to the beaches and local spots that I went to years ago. We were still tired when we got home but our time there was much more balanced. We loved our quieter days.
And the last one, the big one. Disconnect.
Tune out all the noise and be there. Let the emails and customer questions and issues stay at home, and just be there. I decided a long time ago that I wanted my kids to experience the benefits of parents who double as entrepreneurs. I love what I get to do for work, but it’s a lot. My kids don’t get a stay at home mommy that they get to spend all day every day with. So I really care about sharing the perks with them. At the end of the day, pillows are pillows and these are years that I will never get back with my kids. So I make myself push work aside and really engage with them, even when I’m tempted to scroll through my phone while sitting in line or waiting for food. It’s a struggle when it’s just me and the family together 24/7. There’s no babysitter coming, no school, no built-in time to disconnect. So it takes a conscious decision to tune in and engage. It’s the most worthwhile decision I could ever make. I don’t want them to grow up and remember Mommy on the computer all the time. I want them to remember the fun, the laughs, the memories we shared.
It was a long few days but with these tools we had so much fun together. We had the best time exploring my old college town and doing the crazy theme park thing. It’s a lot, but building in these things can save you a lot of stress and overwhelm during vacation!
Let me know what you think! Would these tricks work for you? What are your travel secrets?
Sounds like you’ve got it “all” together, Mama Kendra! You and Ryan also work together well, which, sadly, isn’t always the case for many families! I like all your travel ideas; thanks for sharing!
Leave a comment
Comments will be approved before showing up.
February 28, 2017
Great advice! We are heading to San Diego/LA area with the kids for spring break. Would love to hear your top fav things to do, places to eat, hidden gems, must visit, etc…kids are age 9 and 12. Thanks!!!