Against the odds we managed to take a vacation after 5 years and with 2 kids! All the excuses for why we couldn’t take a vacation earlier were just that – excuses. So late last year (Dec 2012) when the opportunity presented itself for a holiday and the stars lined up so to speak, we decided we’re going to go, come what may.
And stuff certainly came! My younger daughter (4 months old) was hospitalized 1 week before our departure date with an acute chest infection. So we didn’t actually know if we were even going to make the trip until 2 days before departure. Obviously it was too late by then to cancel bookings (all done online via Agoda < btw highly recommend them!)
But (with the all-clear from the baby’s doctor) we gritted our teeth and went for it! And it was one of the best decisions we have made in the recent past. Because we realized that:
- we could do this, and
- travel with kids was not nearly as difficult as we’d assumed it would be
Obviously there are some caveats to this. They are:
- We didn’t go in with huge expectations, but with acutely lowered ones.
- We didn’t intend for there to be a goal – just the journey itself was holiday enough.
- And we didn’t make a list of must-do activities, just one of nice-to-do-if-everything-works-out-but-we-won’t-feel-bad-if-it-doesn’t.
So here’s my quick list of DOs and DONTs for a stress-free, hassle-free trip with your family!
1. Book everything in advance.
It was so nice to be greeted in the hotel’s foyer by name with a welcome drink and cool serviette. It was even nicer to be escorted to our asked-for room with an extra bed (for the 5 year old) and a cot (for the 4 month old) already placed and turned down. The fact that both kids ended up sleeping in the (huge) king-size bed with me is besides the fact!
I know, right? You’ve always heard the opposite advice, haven’t you? The pack light mantra is for hitchhikers, businessmen and those traveling on budget airlines, not for families with young kids! We were allowed 30kgs per person and we put it to good use! We packed everything we could possibly think of to use for the kids and were quite thankful for some of it – including the ORS sachets, probiotics and bandages (for when my 5year old decided to play a game of swim tag in the pool)
3. Lower expectations.
This oughta be a known fact, but in reality many of us have very high expectations from a vacation – any vacation. And this is natural. We obviously want the trip to go well, we obviously want to have fun and want our kids to enjoy, yada yada yada. But in the midst of all these expectations, we fail to “just be”. This time we went with the mindset that whatever happens, we’ll deal with it. We went expecting all sorts of foreseen and unforeseen problems to arise. And since we were mentally prepared to deal with it, none actually arose! Mysterious how the mind works, eh?
4. Plan only 1 outing/activity per day.
Another gem that I’m so glad we adhered to. Just made planning easier since we had ample time before and after an activity to prepare and unwind respectively. Also added to the no-pressure tactic we employed during this trip.
5. Ask for extra help. We asked – and got – everything from airline bassinets, hotel cots, extra diapers, non-spicy food for the kids, super-late checkouts, etc etc. People are remarkably flexible where babies are concerned!
1. Don’t try to cram in too much road/travel time between destinations.
Our maximum road time was 3 hours and that was probably the most we could have handled. I wouldn’t advise anything more than that unless you want to hear “are we there yet” every nanosecond. Also, and this should go without saying where kids are concerned, keep an arsenal of toys, gadgets, books etc on hand to beat the road boredom.
2. Don’t expect kids to eat at your mealtimes & keep snacks handy.
You can tell I’m the parent of a finicky eater, can’t you? But even if she wasn’t so fickle with food, it’s still advisable to keep snacks – both for the kids and yourself – while on vacation since a grumpy tummy makes for a grumpy mood.
3. Don’t expect perfection.
This ties in with lowered expectations above. Just accept that nothing is going to be perfect – the weather, the accommodation the food, etc all could possibly be better but if you don’t expect it to, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when it is.
4. Don’t plan activities where kids will get bored.
With a baby in tow, we quickly checked off what we definitely won’t be doing – temple visits, bird watching or anything that required a baby to stay still or quiet for longer than 3 minutes.
5. Don’t have any rigid plans. Be flexible and manage expectations on a need basis.
Since we didn’t have any must-do items, our “like-to-do” stuff was flexible and open to change. It made it so much easier to make decisions on the fly given the current circumstances rather than feel that we had to do something even if no one really wanted to. This came in real handy when it started raining heavily and we changed our plans last minute to something more convenient.
Thanks to the above pointers, this vacation helped us unwind, relax, spend some awesome family time and return home not just refreshed but also more confident, secure in the knowledge that we can pull this off. We CAN take a vacation with the kids that’s actually pretty damn perfect!
Are you a parent? I bet you have some super travel tips to share that keep your little ones happy and busy. Do share please!