I recently returned from our first official family vacation. Official as in, on vacation with just my husband and my kids, with no reason to be on a trip other than to spent time with each other. No other family to visit, no appointments, meetings or even conference calls to participate in.
Sounds delightful doesn’t it? If you said yes, you’ve never been the mom on a family vacation!
Don’t get me wrong, I love family vacation. But it’s a lot of work, takes a lot of patience and planning ahead is really important! So today I thought I’d share what I learned with you with these 10 things I learned while vacationing with my family.
We went to Disney World in Florida. It was the first time visit for my husband and two of my younger kids. It was so much fun! I anticipated the learning curve of experiencing something new as a group with this vacation. There’s 5 of us in my family so there are 5 personalities, 5 lists of needs/wants and 5 sets of emotions to deal with at any given time. I planned for this, I even prepped the family of the importance of working together and making sure we paid attention to what everyone else needed.
However, I did not plan for how I would react to all of it. So, needless to say, I learned a lot.
Here are the top 10 things I learned while on my family vacation:
- There is such a thing as too much planning. I had scheduled where we we go each day and what activities we would try to do. I made a point to be flexible, yet I did not leave much room for “doing nothing”. Turned out we needed a few doing-nothing days so we ended up missing out on two activities I was looking forward to… ultimately no one minded but me.
- Always be realistic. Know your limits on patience, time, traveling, food… everything. Don’t try to over do anything because you think vacation allows for more of anything, it doesn’t and it shouldn’t. If anything, vacation should limit normal limits to even less than usual because the idea is to be stress free.
- Lay your expectations out in the open. I tend to assume my kids (and husband) know my expectations regardless of where we go or what we do. I expect good behavior, respectful attitudes and generally nice human beings. Turns out that the term “vacation” brings out the lazy maybe inconsiderate or even rude in some people when it comes to how to behave. Once I re-established my expecations for these positive behaviors, the issues went away.
- Vacations are not marathons. We had so much fun that some times we forgot we needed to stop and take a break, even if only for an hour or so. Inevitably, someone would have a meltdown and the family mood would go sour.
- Potty trained does not mean pee-resistant. Again, having so much fun, sometimes we’d forget to make sure no one had to go potty… bad thing to forget.
- Divide your time. We are a family that tends to spend a lot of time together. My husband and I both work from home, so we both see the kids often but we do divide our parental duties so one isn’t doing everything and the kids aren’t constantly with everyone. Making sure to continue this time split proves to be a good idea, especially before the sibling nit-picking got ugly.
- Think outside your own bubble. Because we each have our own personal agenda for what a vacation is, it’s often difficult to remember anyone else matters on vacation. This was one of our toughest lessons. I found myself angry because no one was thinking about anyone else, everyone was acting like I was supposed to handle and do everything. My getting angry didn’t make for a happy day for anyone, which made me more angry. Again, ugly.
- It’s not a vacation until you forget you have a job. Usually I bring my laptop on trips and I get some kind of work accomplished. This time I brought my laptop and only used it to check emails briefly and post updates to Facebook. I didn’t worry about work or responsibilities at home because gosh darn-it I was on vacation!
- If you keep your kids up late, they’ll sleep in. A couple nights we were all out until well after 11pm. At home the kids would be up at 7 or 8 no matter when we put them to bed, but somehow the vacation air kept them snoring until 10am or so. THAT is what I call vacation!
- Be patient and enjoy each other. Regardless of your expectations, intentions, plans, irritations or whatever, the whole point of a vacation is to spend some quality time with each other, relax and enjoy just being together. The sooner the agendas and uptight micro-managing can be set aside, the sooner the real vacation can begin.
- Bonus – Unexpected smiles still happen. no matter how old you are, Winnie the Pooh, Goofy, Minnie Mouse or any other smiling character from your childhood can still make you smile in the middle of a gray day if you only stop to notice them.
Our first vacation was 7 days in Orlando visiting Disney World and hanging out at the pool. The first day was bliss. Days 2-4 were rough, but I think we all learned a lot, me especially. Days 5-7 were fantastic. So all in all I think it was a successful trip. We need to go on vacation together more often… really we just need to stop and enjoy each other more often.
One of the most enjoyable discoveries about myself during this trip was realizing how sentimental I really am. I tend to be more of a task master most days. I want things done a certain way in a certain amount of time and I want them done right the first time. I found myself watching my kids experience things for the first time or enjoying a moment and I had to hold tears back. I caught myself off guard feeling this way. I want to cherish more moments like this more often. At first I thought I was being a sap, but then I realized that no, this is what parenting is supposed to feel like… this is the happy side of parenting (as opposed to my usual drill sargent/hall monitor/detention supervisor mentality). I liked it.
Really I just need to learn to relax more every day, stress less, micro-manage far less and do like I tell everyone else… remember to stop and breathe.