Keeping the Joy in Family Travel – A Guest Post

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Photo Source: Muha

Today’s guest post is from my friend, Amy, the voice behind Mom’s Tool Box as well as Mom’s Travel Tales. She’s my globe-trotting hero. I can’t wait for her travels to bring her my direction.

Family travel can be filled with wonderful experiences and adventures.

And it can also wear a mom out! While traveling with our three kids near and very far through the years, I’ve learned to make a few adjustments so that  vacation feels like, well… vacation, even for me.

Hope these adjustments help you to get more joy out of your travels, too:

Expect slow motion.

Accept the fact that your children will most likely move as slowly as molasses on a cool fall day, no matter how much of a rush you may be in. And then try to embrace that fact. Slow down, if you can, and watch that caterpillar crawling across the sidewalk if your child wants to do that.

So often in my day-to-day life at home we are rushing from place to place. Try to arrange your daily vacation schedule with lots of padding so you can let your kids lead and you follow. You might want to fit in every tour and scheduled experience. Vacation to them might mean you taking the time to let them show you what they think is exciting, not rushing to fit everything.

Think individually.

Plan at least one thing that really appeals to each individual, rather than only planning things you think everyone might like. Sometimes when you try to please everyone, everyone ends up having a mediocre time.

Instead, try planning an event for each person just for them and let the others tag along. This way everyone gets a moment to really shine… and you might be surprised at who else will love the activity, too.

Break out of the herd.

Consider planning alone time for each spouse or splitting up once or twice with each parent taking a smaller group of children or just one child.

We started doing this pretty early when our first two were one and three and we traveled to Costa Rica so my husband could take a few kayak lessons. He made sure I had time set aside for me and I had a blast taking the kids on a crocodile sighting boatride while he did his thing. Also, we take advantage of vacation time to plan an opportunity for him to take each child individually and do something special since we don’t do that at home as often as we would like.

Include a date.

Plan time after the kids go to bed to reconnect with your spouse. We have spent many a vacation evening sitting in the hotel hallway right outside of our door while our kids slept in the room. Sometimes we share a bottle of wine and some cheese. Sometimes we just talk. This gives us a chance to reconnect and talk without being hurried or interrupted.

Pack some fun.

Bring diversions. On vacation you are bound to have lots of waiting time, whether it is in line for a ride, to get into a venue or at a restaurant waiting for food. Bring a deck of Uno cards, a handful of Legos or a few tiny dolls, or colored pencils and paper to pass the time.

Photo Source: OliverAlex

Enjoy the moment!

Every day try to stop, breathe, and look around and be present. Enjoy your family and enjoy the vacation you worked so hard to plan. Then let ‘em know you love ‘em and are thankful to be with them!

Hope these help you as much as they have helped me. I truly want you to enjoy those family vacations and relish those special moments!

Happy Travels!

— For more on family travel, including packing lists, diversion ideas and Destination Snapshots, check out Amy’s blog, MomsTravelTales.

What do you do to make vacation more fun for everyone?

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  1. When we talk about travel tips, our family always recommends your advice first: plan one activity each day (or every other) each family member really wants to do. Trust me, I’ve had my family declare mutiny when I tried to cram in too much history (my love) and not enough water time. As kids turn teen, adventure peaks and you’ll have to re-adjust and sometimes let the kids try new things w/out you right by their side.

  2. I just loved the perspective of these tips! So true that we have to remind ourselves to really let our kids (and spouse!) know that we are glad to be with them on each vacation, and honor the individual(s) as well as the family.

    I’d add that I also like to remind my family that it’s ok to get grumpy sometimes, that empty stomachs, tiring days, and just being around the varying personalities in our family of 5 will do that to a person! We strive to forgive each other, express apologies, and enjoy the next sight, or activity, or meal together.

  3. Our three children are five years and under. We’ve taken quite a few road trips and have had a great time. We’ve learned that taking less entertainment is actually more in the car. We’ve learned that getting frustrated because our two year old needs a potty break 45 minutes after we stopped is a waste of time. We might as well be happy and stop rather than grumble and make her “hold it.” In addition, we know that sometimes the kids are happiest jumping on the beds in a hotel room and swimming in the pool. It’s all about making memories and growing closer as a family. The sightseeing is secondary. Finally, what we think our kids will like isn’t always what ends up being the favorite. I was hesitant to take our young children up the Gateway Arch on our recent trip to St. Louis. It turns out that is the only thing they all three continue to talk about. Go figure!
    Great post. Thanks for the tips.

  4. What great advice! Although we ony have one, many of your ideas apply no matter how many children you are traveling with. The advice about bringing “fun” with you is one we used for years: never went on a vacation without the Uno cards, a pad of paper and some pens. We habitually played hangman while waiting for our food in restaurants for years….and now, even though daughter is in college, we still share laughs about some of the ridiculous…and very fun…memories we have of those hangman games.