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  • Writer's pictureKwincy Smith

3 Steps to Make the Most of Your Family Vacation! |traveling with kids|

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

With all the mess going on in the world mixed in with the stress of everyday life, it’s understandable to feel the need for a vacation. We all need a little break now and then. But how often do we come home from our vacation just to feel more stressed and more drained than when we left? We're welcomed back home to the monotonous, endless loads of laundry, a pile of bills, potty training regression, catching up on school and work. Sometimes leading us to even wonder whether it was really a vacation at all.

I've heard a lot of moms lately say when you have kids you don’t have vacations anymore they are trips. The idea of a trip includes work and excludes relaxation. As moms, we know our work never really ends. Even when we sleep we are on call! But just because you are a mom does not mean vacations are dead.

Here are some tips to help keep vacations alive, enjoy your family, and come back refreshed.


My pastor once said the best way to not be disappointed is to not expect everything to go our way. Before having kids I would plan out trips to a T! I knew exactly what we were going to do each day and had a list of recommended restaurants over a month out! I'm that planning freak. It’s a weird obsession, to say the least. So to say that adjusting to having kids and marrying into a family that now has 12 kids within our in-laws, was a learning curve; is an understatement.

I went from being able to decide what I want to do when I want to do it ALL THE TIME. On one of my first full family trips left San Francisco a little disappointed. I was only able to do one thing on my list. I’m a huge foodie and eating at the same crappy place twice was just … not my ideal situation.

But what I had yet to learn and what you might be struggling with as well is that IT IS NOT ABOUT US. Sad to say it but yes IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU. Yeah just take that in for a second. Family vacations are not about our bucket lists. It is all about spending time with the ones we love! Making memories. Letting go of our desires and expectations and literally just going with the flow will make for a much better vacation.

Even if you only get to do one thing on your list you will leave a lot happier if you start with the right mindset. This took some practice. I had to literally hype myself up and tell myself “Do not expect everything to go your way. It is great to have ideas and suggestions of what to do, but if we aren't able to get to them that is ok too. You can enjoy your time with your family no matter what we are doing! Have fun, be patient and open-minded.”

Making this mental shift from me to we, relaxing your expectations, and loosening your grip on your bucket list, will allow you to enjoy your vacation; instead of leaving disappointed that you didn’t conquer it all.

Actually , Relax:

Duh right! But it’s really hard to do this sometimes!! We are conditioned to think that if you are doing nothing you are wasting time. So yes the idea of relaxing can sound like a fantasy. Kids grow up so fast. With everyday life, time seems to just fly by. I feel like I miss out on so much time with my kids and I work from home. But even as a stay-at-home moms we have to make a conscious effort to make time for our kids. It’s easy to get caught up in cleaning and laundry, computer work, or even just your phone! The whole point of vacations for me is to make memories! But if you don’t slow down and relax you will miss all those moments.

So turn off your phone, get off of Instagram, and play with your kids. Get down and dirty in the sand with them. Soak in the excitement on their face every time they see the ocean. Soak it all up. Move your focus away from your to-do list and your schedule and enjoy your children. Take a deep breath and just relax. There is that moment in Soul where 22 is sitting on the porch and feeling the breeze, taking in the beauty of the tree, and listening to the sound of the street. Do that! Take it all in!

Everyday life is already so go go go. The reason your vacation feels like a trip is because we are making it go go go as well. We often try to fit every activity available into our stay and then we wonder why we are tired when we get home. If you are a planner like I am then you can literally plan to relax. I have always loved that part in The Cat and the Hat Movie where the little girl is going over her schedule and she has written down: be spontaneous! Sometimes you have to do that! Pick a day or two out of your trip where you have zero plans. Relax, explore! Some of my favorite weekends with my family are actually when we have nothing planned and we get in the car to just go and have zero idea where we are headed but we end up finding amazing new things that we would have never discovered.

Understand Your Children:

This is geared more towards the preschool age and younger. Partly because I have toddlers and also because part of my degree was focused on child development.

Put yourself in the mind of your child. They do not understand that you spent months planning this vacation. They do not understand that you spent so much money on flights and hotels, new clothes, activities, etc. They do not care that you took off work to go on a vacation. They don’t care about any of that. Their brain is not wired that way. What they do understand is, that my schedule is off, it’s hot, this is not my bed, this is not my car, where are all my toys, this airport is loud, why are we in the car so long! EVERYTHING IS OFF.

We are told schedules are key for children. Routine is Gold. But when we go on vacation we throw them off completely and expect no tears. Instead, put yourself in their shoes and give them a little grace. Try to incorporate as much normalcy into the vacation as possible. Whether that is bringing their blankets and a few toys to going back to the hotel for nap time.

You know your kids more than anyone and you know their limits. On a regular basis, I know that 2 stores for my 3 kids 3 and under is our limit. If we have to go to a third store I can expect a slip in behavior. What are your kids' limits? How long are they used to being in the car on a daily basis? When you are on vacation do you give them time to wind down or rest? When those limits are reached instead of acting out of frustration be understanding and comforting. And do your best to work around your children's limits. Know that when those limits are met and your child is crying in the Disney store after being in Disneyland all day and missing their nap you are not alone and it happens to everyone! Understanding those limits and giving your children some grace will make your vacation much more enjoyable for both you and them! Because we all know if the kids are fussy no one is going to be happy!

So let’s do it! Let’s put these steps into action and leave the trips for work and let the family have vacations again! I wish you all a relaxing, joyous, memory-making vacation!



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