How to Make a Family Trip a Vacation

I recently read an article on Huffington Post about how holidays with kids were actually less of “vacations” and more simply “trips”, because parents don’t really have a shot at the elusive R&R when they travel with their children.
I have been traveling with my 4 and 6 year olds since they were born and find myself disagreeing with the author on many points. Certainly, traveling with kids is a lot harder than traveling alone or with another adult (one that is presumably a fully functioning human being) and requires a great deal more patience and navigation. But the good news is: the more you do it, the easier it gets. I am neither a masochist nor a martyr and I am ferociously protective of vacation time. I promise you, it can be done.

As I write this, I am on a return flight home after eight days with my husband and 2 kids (still 4 and 6) in Sicily, and I can truly say it was one of the best trips of my life. As traveling parents, we’ve nailed the manipulation of two key elements responsible for happy family trips: time and attitude.

I’ll address them one at a time:
Time is the art of making sure that you balance things that kids won’t want to do with things that they do. Sightseeing and long car rides would fall into the first category on our particular trip, and in Sicily’s 34 degrees the carrot at the end of the stick was always time in the pool or at the beach. The kids were troopers through baroque cathedrals and Greek ruins in the morning, and by four pm the whole family would descend on the pool with water guns and goggles (them) and cocktails and books (us). If something didn’t get seen that day, we would just have to live without. Respecting everyone’s needs (yes, underwater scavenger hunts are a need) is critical for combatting dinner-time tantrums and next-day resistance.

Attitude adjustment means expecting travel with kids to be hard and not letting it get to you. I strongly believe that if parents are calm, kids find a way to deal. Sure, three barf stops on the 30 minute ride to Mount Etna were a tad inconvenient, but it made a lot more room for the delicious Sicilian lunch that followed. In fact, it was a downright breeze compared to the time in Rajasthan when our then 3-year old barfed up breakfast on her first change, spilled lunch on her second, and peed (on a camel no less) on her third. Shit (and other bodily fluids) happen, but it’s nothing a whole lot of wet wipes and some laundry can’t fix. If you believe that, they will too, and everyone gets over themselves a lot faster.

Time and attitude fluidity yields flexibility, which is the key to successful and happy family trips. It means tossing out routines, letting the kids sit on the iPad so you can sleep in a bit, reading by the pool instead of working on their backstroke, and just giving in to the very experience of being a whole and it’s highly dynamic parts.  Simplify the schedule, slow life down, and you will find yourself experiencing what feels an awful lot like a vacation. Even with the little monsters in tow.

Favorites from our few recent trips:

 

family trip ideas
Post-vomit exploration of the craters around Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy.
family trip ideas
Sunsets and sand dunes in Jaisalmer, India
 family trip ideas
The Sound of Music Tour, Salzburg, Austria.
family trip ideas
Getting wild in Marrakesh, Morocco

 

What do you think of family trips? Share your experiences below.