Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Family Vacation - The Importance, Fantasy & Reality

We usually take a vacation with the kids twice a year... and one is coming up this weekend.  Firstly, I'd like to say YEAH, YEAH, YEAH!  We're heading down to Florida for a week to celebrate Passover with our families.  Secondly, I'd like to talk about why I think the family vacation is so important and how to make it a good one.

When I look back to when I was growing up, the one thing I always remember are the family trips we took with my parents.  For some reason, those memories stick more than any others.  I think the family vacation is even more important for my kids because as working parents, it's the only opportunity we get to spend any length of quality time together.  Even on weekends, there are errands to do, people to see or things to do, so vacation time is truly, truly special.  I cherish every second of it - there are no responsibilities, no schedules, nothing to do but concentrate on having fun together.  I can't wait to wake up each day and not have to rush the kids out of the house... to just be. 

You might remember that I wrote two posts about our weekend trip to Ottawa - the first was my anticipation of spending a fun weekend together as a family by taking a spur of the moment trip, and the second was post-trip detailing the actual reality of that trip.  I can't stress enough the importance of having a realistic view of what your family vacation is going to be, as well as knowing how to make the most of it.  Part of that is knowing what to expect when you get there, including the quality of the hotel or place where you are staying, what the activities will be, and what resources are available to you.  The weekend get-away to Ottawa was a first for us and we had never been to the specific hotel in question - this definitely led to some disappointment.  At Christmas time, we usually go to the same resort and know exactly what the vacation will be, and same goes for our trip to Florida... which means less chance for disappointment.

When we go on vacation, here's what I expect... and how I will plan in advance to make the most of it...
  • my kids will probably whine and give us some sort of challenge both in the airport and on the flights to and from.  In preparation, I usually go to the dollar store and get some crafts and new things for them to play with.  This is usually a distraction for part of the trip.  I also pack their favorite toys and the portable DVD player to help pass the time. 
  • one of them will most likely have some type of accident i.e. spill their juice on themselves, so in preparation, I always pack an extra outfit.  And it doesn't hurt to pack some band-aids, tempra, gravol... you just never know!
  • my kids will probably fight while we are away and I and/or my husband will be driven nuts and want to kill them.  In preparation... hmm... not much one can do except maybe have a glass of wine at lunch... it is vacation after all.
  • while at the beach/pool they will invariably need to pee or be hungry.  In preparation, I will bring snacks & juice boxes and locate the nearest restroom in advance (and when desperate, there is always the ocean).
  • 7:30pm bedtime will probably not happen every night so I will be prepared for some crankiness.  In preparation... another glass of wine at dinner?
  • should we enter a store of any kind, the kids will definitely "have to have" something.  In preparation... either leave them with their grandparents or tell them in advance that we are absolutely NOT buying anything for them (that doesn't seem to work but we still need to say it)
  • things just move slower when you have kids in tow... so I remind myself to just relax and have fun - no agendas required!
As the kids get older, it does seem to get easier.  We've done the family vacation enough over the last few years that I think we no longer have any false expectations.  The fantasy is pretty much the reality.  I love to get the kids excited in advance (we are now counting do do's - 3 more to go) so that they are prepared not only for the travel, but also for the fun.  And most importantly, when we are actually there, I will tell them several times how great it is to be with them and how special the time is... given that they are young, I want to make sure that they take a mental note of the time together and that it shouldn't be taken for granted.  These moments are to be cherished and remembered (and the 100+ pictures I'll take should help in that regard).  Hopefully they'll look back as fondly on their family vacations as I do on mine.

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