By Jaclyn Weidner
Do you love to travel with your kids? Guessing there were a lot of groans and "no's" in response! I've heard a lot of people share the sentiment that traveling with kids makes it a "trip" and not a "vacation." And while I largely agree that it is not quite the same rest and relaxation when you have your entire brood with you, I still think there is room for it to be a great experience for all with a little intentionality.
Also, there are a ton of articles about little hacks and tips for airplane and car travel, and this is not one of them! I want to talk about actually enjoying yourselves and connecting well. So here are a few of the things that have worked well for our family.
Don't feel the need to do #allthethings.
A lot of families make this mistake, trying to accomplish a bucket list of "must see or do" items and burn themselves out trying to get from place to place. Does it really matter if you didn't get to see that final museum? Or you didn't go on every ride at the theme park? It’s easy to lose sight of the main reason behind our trip - to connect as a family - and make it about seeing or doing as much as we can.
2) That being said - before you go on the trip (or en route) try and find out what would be a win for each person.
What does each person have their heart set on? If it is a realistic desire, try and figure out how to accomplish these goals in the early part of the trip. Once that person has done their "thing" they will relax a little and be able to enjoy parts of the trip that aren't as much on their wish list. For example, I love a good family photo, so if we can take one right away at the beginning of the day I can put my phone away and relax because I've already accomplished my "thing."
3) Plan breaks for mom and dad whenever possible.
As much as I want to connect with my crew, I cannot be "on" 24/7 and be my best self. For me, this may look like going for a solo exploration walk, laying on a beach chair by myself, or reading quietly in my room (with the door closed of course.) Even if these activities only last 20 minutes, I am way more able to enjoy my family when I have done something quiet for myself. The same goes for my husband. Whenever we can plan to relieve each other, or encourage each other to do something enjoyable, we are more able to engage well with the family. And if possible, plan breaks for everyone! Especially if your trip includes driving in a cramped vehicle for hours. Is there a playground you could stop at, or if your kids are older, a shopping center or a place in nature they can explore? Everyone benefits from a few minutes of freedom and space.
4) Plan conversations.
Often when we have an upcoming road trip, my husband and I have a note on our phones with topics of conversation we have been "meaning" to have. If we find ourselves on a long stretch of road and the kids are occupied and playing quietly (or watching a show on the iPad more likely!) that is a great time to have some (mostly) uninterrupted conversation. The same goes for when we get the chance to go away without the kids. It can be difficult to remember those important conversations in the moment so having a list stored away helps us move from a good conversation to a great and intentional one. And sometimes this means having difficult conversations. While I don't love having a hard conversation on vacation, I am always so thankful for the time to talk through something to the end…to have the space to be able to hear the other point of view and come through to a place of deeper understanding and connection.
5) And lastly, date your kids!
Don't be afraid to break off into smaller groups. Being in a new environment is exciting for both adults and kids. Take some time to explore one on one with a child. Grab an ice cream, go for a hike, do things that you can both reminisce about later on. When I choose to intentionally spend time with a child one on one, I am planting seeds of connection that will last until long after we are home and the bags are unpacked.
Traveling with kids is not easy - but it is well worth the investment into our families when we take the time to plan not just for the fun, but for the rest and the connection. Happy travels my friend!
Jaclyn is a part-time high school teacher, and full-time mom to 3 energetic and talkative little girls. She loves to dive deep in conversation to get to the good stuff. In the words of her 4 year old she’s “just a little bit funny”. Her and her husband Brendan live just outside of Vancouver, Canada. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook.