It’s no secret that vacationing with kids is actually no vacation at all. You have to pack all of their precious belongings, and well, they’re even more work while traveling. You’re basically just parenting in a foreign place now — which makes it more stressful altogether. But after traveling (or at least attempting to) with kids for seven years now, I think I’ve finally nailed how to do it successfully.
You see, as parents, we do our best to keep our children content. I mean, if we make their lives easier, then ours become easier, too — right? Most kids, for example, live their life more at ease if they stick to their routine. So, as moms, we try to mimic this routine even while on vacation. Only, this is tough business because there are actually so many different routines to think about: What the kids eat, what time they eat, how they sleep, when they sleep, bath time, books, what they wear, and more are all things parents take into account before they even start packing for their trip. And this can all feel pretty mind-numbing.
So what’s the one hack I can count on to ensure travel is a breeze? I choose one aspect of the kids’ routine to stick with — whether that’s bathtime, regular naptime, favorite healthy foods, or something else — and chill out about the rest.
Most often, for me, it’s important that my children get good rest — even on vacation. Yep, I’m that mom — and I don’t care. Family and friends alike joke about my strictness on this, but it’s something I always try to adhere to. As plenty of parents learn the hard way: Just because we put our kids to bed later because of vacation or a summertime schedule, it sure as hell doesn’t mean that they’ll sleep in later. Actually, I’ve found that it often means the opposite, which pretty much always results in overtired kids and awful behavior. So, while on vacation, I do my best to put my kids down for a nap and bedtime around their regular (and early) bedtimes. I’m not always a fan favorite because I’m strict about this one thing, but I make sure I’m consistent.
Of course, when we travel with family or friends, they don’t like that my kids still “have” to go to bed early. But I remind them that they won’t be the ones getting up with my cranky kids in the morning — and thus, they learn to deal with it. I make sure that we go out to eat early enough that my kids can hit the hay at their 7:30 bedtimes. And if they want to go to the zoo the following day, it’ll have to be before or after their mid-day snooze — because skipping a nap is just something that I’m not willing to gamble on.
And yes, this plan works just fine. It works because I’m consistent with my kids’ schedule, so they (and their jetlagged bodies) know what to expect. They don’t fight bedtime while traveling, because it’s the same routine that we follow at home. But your travel-routine key doesn’t have to be sleep-specific; instead, before heading on your next family vacation, simply choose one routine aspect that’s important to you. Then, cling to it for dear life.
Maybe you really feel strongly about your children’s diet. You want them to continue to eat healthy even while traveling. Well, you can pack them all of the organic food your heart desires or do your grocery shopping once you get to your vacation hot spot. And because this is your one thing you want to stick to, maybe you’ll let them stay up late swimming in the pool. For me, because I’m so strict on their sleep schedule, I let the kids eat “vacation junk food” as they call it, so as not to crowd the entire vacation with rules to be followed.
Just last week, my family packed up and headed to a cottage in Michigan. And every single day after nap time, the kids got out their chosen chip bag (something we never buy at home) and a popsicle. They sat on the dock of the lake licking their popsicles and shoving chips in their mouths. And after dinner each night, they had a gooey s’more around the bonfire, too. As for me? I had to just let it go — and boy did that feel good. Because the bottom line is: We don’t indulge like that at home, and sticking to our eating routine isn’t as important to me as sleep is, so that’s where I bend the rules. Because vacation is meant to be a little more fun, isn’t it?
So on your next family vacation, try sticking to just one part of your children’s routine — the one that is most important to you. And even though I know it can be hard, just take a deep breath and let the rest slide. I know, easier said than done. But remember that this vacation is for you, too. If you’re worrying about every little detail and every section of your children’s schedule, well, you’re not leaving much room for you to chill. And while vacationing with kids is often a lot of work, if you leave a bit of wiggle room to just unwind, you’ll also get to watch your children create some irreplaceable childhood memories.