There is nothing as exciting as knowing you have a holiday coming up. Looking forward to making memories, enjoying quality time with the kids and getting to explore new places..... Holidays can be magical.
But the reality of traveling with children can also be an overwhelming proposition —long packing lists - making sure all the kids essentials are remembered, and cranky kids who struggle with changes to routine can have parents feeling like going on holidays with kids is actually a LOT of work.
It may sound obvious but it’s quite a different thing travelling with a baby or toddler to what it’s like with school age kids, and it’s different again for teens. Planning realistically according to what is going to be enjoyable within each age group really helps.
If you have very young kids make sure the accommodation you book is accessible for you. (For example, isn’t up three flights of stairs which can be extremely challenging with tired kids post pool or beach!)
Kids love routine and go best with lots of preparation. When it comes to planning, don’t overlook filling our kids in on what’s going to happen or even getting their input. The more you get kids involved and show them pictures of where they will be going and what they can expect – the better things go.
While one of the big aims of a having a family holiday is about family time as a group, when the kids are at different stages, it can be fantastic to divide up a bit to make sure everyone has fun apart as well as having time together.
So one of you might take a younger child to the park or an easy beach, while an older child has a surf lesson, goes on a hike, or goes to a movie for older kids. This gives each child some one-on-one time and can really mean everyone is refreshed when you all come back together. My extended family went to Uluru last year and while older kids and adults did big 8km hikes, younger kids and their grandparents opted for walks that were less challenging. This worked so well for everyone.
Rules around snacks, sleeps or screen can provide structure at home, but some flexibility on these things can make holidays feel like more fun. Naps may be missed, and the kids may live on nuggets alone for 5 days… but honestly, you can right the ship once you get home and it’s nice for everyone (including us) to get a break from the rules sometimes.
While holidays are often all about the kids, making memories, enjoying time with them, it’s important to remember it’s your holiday too! Pre-plan some time to do fun things that don’t involve the kids, think about using the kids club, booking a local sitter, or bringing grandparents to help with this. An activity, meal, or just free time to explore without the kids can be great fun. Trust me you won’t know yourself when you reconnect with the kids again later, and it makes the time you do have together go so much better
Take the most perfectly planned holiday, add a toddler and stir….. the first few holidays as a parent can be an adjustment as you realise that if anything, the work on a holiday can increase as kids are out of routine and this can mean more meltdowns, less sleep and more scrambling to meet needs on the go.
On one of our recent trips despite all planning and prep, one of my boys had a huge meltdown in an airport. There really wasn't a lot we could have done to prevent it, and it made sense as he really hadn't had much sleep on a big overnight flight. Smiles from kind strangers and a lovely flight attendant got us though, and it's worth remembering these moments do make sense when kids are so tired and out of their comfort zone.
When we know that despite the best preparation, things are likely to be a little chaotic but that despite these chaotic moments holidays with kids are so worth it. When you can laugh at the unpredictability of life with young kids it can help us cope better when it all goes a bit pear shaped.
Travel with children can take some getting used to. Planning, prepping and ensuring all needs are met so that a good time can be had. Then it’s about surrendering to the present and allowing it to unfold:
- Finding the delight in the tiny moments
- watching your child explore a new place
- slowing down and having more time to rumble and play.
These moments are often what we (and our kids) remember most fondly from holidays.
Holidays with little kids can be hard but when we lower our expectations, they are a chance to rally appreciate the family you have created and the joy that comes from tiny moments when life slows down.
Genevieve Muir is a Parenting Coach and Obstetric Social Worker at the Mater hospital in Sydney and also a mother to four beautiful boys, Genevieve is passionate about working with families around connection, emotions and boundaries with their children from birth to eight years.
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