Vacations are supposed to be an opportunity to relax, experience new things, and just get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. However, family vacations have earned the reputation of being almost the exact opposite of all those things. Family members in close proximity to one another for extended periods of time; exhausted kids (and adults) throwing temper tantrums over the smallest things; the general stress that comes from being away from home and familiar resources; none of these things sound like the recipe for relaxation. Recently my family went on a vacation to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl, and we learned that family vacations involve all of the pitfalls I previously mentioned, and more. But we also learned that they are worth all of the struggle and then some.
I want to share some of the things that made our family vacation particularly special as well as some advice from all parties involved that might make others’ family vacations more successful.
There is strength in numbers.
My husband and I have two kids, so normally it’s a one-to-one ratio in our house. I cannot possibly overstate how awesome it was to have an extra two pairs of hands when my parents came along on our family vacation. I realized the boon we had on one of our first bathroom stops. My four-year-old instigated the break with his cry of “I have to go potty!” By the time we made it to a Cracker Barrel to stop, he was doing the sit down version of the pee pee dance. I jumped out of the car, unbuckled him, and bustled him into the bathroom. As Leon and I were washing our hands, my mom came in the door carrying my ten-month-old son with a diaper and a pack of wipes. She had already gone to the bathroom, come out, and intercepted my husband to grab Ramsey. This gave my husband and dad time to go to the bathroom, and they were both in the store area waiting as we emerged. My dad walked with Leon around the store, and my husband and I had a moment or two to actually talk and walk around. It was awesome.
And this happened over and over and over again on our trip. In lines for rides, while getting food in buffet lines, on shoulders during shows — we passed around kids like it was going out of style. And as a result, we all managed to get to do lots of fun stuff. Trust me, on vacation, a 2:1 adult to kid ratio is the only way to go.
Always have a contingency plan.
This was my husband’s main takeaway from our trip, mainly because our entire trip was a series of contingency plans. I can’t think of a single thing that actually worked out the way we planned. Our eight-hour drive took ten hours. We made it to Magic Kingdom at 10 instead of 8. We booked two nights at the resort hotel instead of three (that was totally my bad).
When Leon got a stomach bug halfway through our day at Hollywood Studios, we had to figure out a way to take care of him and salvage the vacation for everyone else. This was probably our biggest punt of the trip because we were absolutely not expecting our boy to throw up for 12 hours straight. But being flexible and willing to resort to plan B (and C and D) made it doable. After a terrible night, Leon experienced a miraculous recovery. My husband and I stayed at the hotel with him and Ramsey while my parents went to EPCOT (for the first time since their honeymoon 35 years ago). Leon got to swim in the pool and play in the arcade, which was actually what he wanted to do even more than going to the parks. My parents took second shift with the kids, and Keith and I got to have a little impromptu date night in EPCOT. Everyone was happy, even though it wasn’t what we had planned.
Take one day at a time.
Wise and apt words from Pawpaw (my dad), who is one of the most laid back individuals on this planet. His ability to stay calm and chill in the thickest of weeds, and to calm and chill those of us around him, made the trip more enjoyable for sure.
Really it is so easy to get overwhelmed with planning a vacation. There is so much to think about and so much to do every single day. Add kids to the mix, and who wouldn’t be stressed? But taking it a day at a time really does help to make the trip more enjoyable. It allows you to be in the moment and to experience everything that day has to offer. And tomorrow? As a dear friend of mine likes to say, “That is a problem for future me.”
Don’t miss the special moments by looking for the special moments.
This is the advice shared by my Mom, the Mawmaw in the party. She shared several small moments that stick out to her: my dad bringing her waters, finding places to sit and rest in Hollywood Studios, barricading Ramsey out of Leon’s sickroom. None of these moments will make the vacation brochures, but they certainly made the trip memorable for her.
I think my favorite special moment of the trip came at Magic Kingdom in front of the Crystal Palace. Leon had tried my patience all day with his behavior, and I had lost my temper with him (rightly so a few times) more than I care to admit. A nap that afternoon had done us both good, but I was still carrying some frustration from earlier that day. A show was going on outside of Cinderella’s Castle, and Leon wanted to see it better. So we left the rest of the family on the porch, and he and I perched on a railing to watch the show. We couldn’t have been there more than five minutes, but it was long enough for me to soak in his laughter at the exchange between Clarabelle the Cow and Donald Duck and to melt as he hugged me tight and rubbed his face against mine. As I leaned against that rail, cheek to cheek with my baby boy who doesn’t seem to have an ounce of baby left in him, all of the annoyances of the day faded away because I was so thankful for that moment with him. It doesn’t get much more magical than that. And I didn’t even need a fastpass to experience it.
I think I could write a book about the adventures (and misadventures) we had on this trip. But what I remember most is laughing a lot with five of the people I love most in this world. So, family vacations definitely come with their own set of challenges, but done with the right people and with the right attitude, I can’t recommend them enough.