Sunday, April 20, 2014

Luggage, Camera & A Child In Tow

Summer is rapidly approaching and with that comes our long awaited vacation. We're still working on the details but it looks like this year we'll be spending a month back in the United States visiting family and friends, introducing Sidney to our old East Coast haunts and simply relaxing. Yes, relaxing. Because vacations are supposed to be stress free breaks from the every day. But as any parent knows the responsibilities of parenthood are with you whether you are at home, in a hotel, or on the road meaning vacations really aren't time off from work.

Sidney is a seasoned traveler, having racked up thousands of miles through train, plane, boat, and automobile travel since he was a newborn.  I know that we are extremely lucky since, with the exception of one (horribly) memorable transatlantic flight that I'd rather forget, he travels well. Buckle him into his seat on our selected mode of transportation and we are good to go. But the ease of travel doesn't just happen; it takes work. So how do I keep stress to a minimum when vacationing with a four year old? By involving the entire family in the planning process and by being realistic about all of our expectations. It isn't always easy but with a little bit of planning vacations really can be stress free and enjoyable for the entire family. So in anticipation of the upcoming travel season, here are some of my tried and true hints for having a stress free family vacation.

  • Involve the entire family in the preparations:  
When I hear about harried moms doing all of the packing for their entire family I just shudder. My husband is a grown man who knows how to dress himself so he can pack his own suitcase. I mean, when we are at home he picks out his own clothes each morning so why should being on vacation be any different? I pack my own clothes, Glenn packs his, and Sidney now packs his own little red suitcase (with adult supervision of course). This allows Sidney to be an active part of the planning process. He also chooses which clothing, toys, and entertainment he wants to bring. And he carries all of his own entertainment in his red backpack. Involving Sidney at this level means he is excited about the process of getting to our destination. And as any parent knows, a happy child on the airplane makes for more relaxed parents. Its a win-win!

  • Set realistic expectations:
It is easy to visit a new city and want to see everything. After all, when most of us are on vacation we have a limited amount of time and want to cram the most into our stay. Pre-child my idea of a vacation was cramming in as much sight seeing in any given location as possible. This also meant returning home exhausted and needing a vacation from my vacation. Now I take a different approach to trips. We pick a few key sites, museums, memorials, etc. we want to see in each city we travel to. We include a balance of indoor activities and more active pursuits and schedule in lots of down time whether it be back in the hotel room or lounging at a sidewalk cafe. Many of Europe's great cities have fantastic main squares and wide pedestrian zones that are sites unto themselves. They also have plenty of safe spaces for little legs to burn off energy. I've lost track of the number of hours we've spent simply roaming through one city after another. We may miss out on some famous sites (and sometimes we make new unexpected discoveries) but we are able to fully enjoy those that we do visit without being rushed.  (Besides, if we don't see everything we will just have to plan a return visit). 


  • Take a one day (or more) stay-cation at home before returning to work:
It may mean having one less day to spend at your vacation destination, but having a day to relax, unpack, and settle into your everyday routine improves the vacation experience. Returning home means suitcases needing to be unpacked, mountains of laundry needing to be washed, and a refrigerator to be restocked. If you return home late on a Sunday night and have to head off to work and school early the next morning, there simply isn't enough time to get re acclimated to home life. We now return home at least a day early meaning we have a full day to settle back into our routines. This means I can start off the new week with less stress and only fond memories of vacation.

So with summer just around the corner start making your plans now. Then each of you pack your own bags, grab your cameras and hit the road to see as little or as much as you feel like. Happy travels!

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with the one day staycation after the vacation. There's nothing worse than getting home and basking in the glory of your vacation and then having reality in the form of your alarm clock slap you in the face the next morning!