To start, let’s say:
A “family trip” is where the parent and the children travel together to a destination. The parents are with the kids for the entirety of the trip.
A “vacation” is where a family travels to a destination, but where the parents get to take breaks in between spending time with their children; or the parents are traveling on their own without the children.
A “family trip” can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work for both parents, who are now taking care of their children 100% of the time. Without the regular routines and familiarities of home, the parents need to be on heightened alert for their children’s safety, emotional wellbeing, or just basic survival (making sure they’re fed and slept).
Some ideas to build a good partnership with your spouse, and not to drive each other crazy. :)
Before the trip, have a conversation and agree to broad child care responsibilities and how to split things. For example, when the baby naps, mom stays in the room with the baby and dad goes out with the older kid, or both parents take turns staying in the room while the baby naps. Either parents can change their minds at some point, but establishing a basic agreement will eliminate some of the back-and-forth confusion between you and your spouse - example: why do *I* always have to stay back with the baby?
Before the trip, have a conversation and come to a general agreement about what the “early birds” of the family will do. If one parent always wakes up before another, maybe one parent always takes the kids to breakfast without waiting for the sleepy spouse (and bring back coffee). OR, if neither parents particularly enjoy early wake-ups, agree to alternate who gets up early with the kids each day.
Before the trip, share an itinerary of the trip with your partner. When they ask, “what time is the flight?” The answer is always, “check the doc!”
During the trip, if one parent is going to be “off-duty '' for a while, double-confirm with your partner that s/he is aware that they will be watching the kids for an extended period of time. There is a difference between “I’m going to the bathroom for a bit,” and “I’m going to go to the bathroom…. for A BIT.”
Check-in each day about your priorities for the day. Is it to relax? Is it to do as much as possible? Make sure you agree what the common goals are before embarking on the day. Also, do you like to keep a general schedule? For example: breakfast, fun activity, lunch, nap, fun activity, dinner. If so, keep that in mind when planning for your day. Getting a nap in may not seem like a big deal at 1:00 pm, but it will be at 4:00 pm when your child is overtired and upset.
When setting a vacation schedule, buffer in breaks throughout the day. Expect meals to take longer than usual - your child is not home and may be confused by his/her surroundings, or distracted by the new environment.
While on the trip. Try to keep a general “mise en place” for you and your children. Jackets always go on the hooks by the door, books go on the coffee table, and so on. This way, you don’t spend a lot of time looking for jackets and shoes in the morning when it’s time to go.
As much as possible, maintain the same rules and regulations you keep at home. For example: In our house we sit and eat and the children don’t run around during meal times -- same is true when we’re on vacation. By keeping consistent rules and enforcements, the children will understand that trips are not a “free for all.” Consistency can mean comfort to small children, especially in strange settings.
Don’t forget to compliment/thank your spouse (and ask your partner to do the same) A LOT MORE while you’re traveling together. Being “on duty” all the time is a lot of work, and acknowledging the other person’s efforts can go a long way.
Where possible, book a babysitter at your destination! We’ve used urbansitter.com and found great sitters almost everywhere in the US. If you’re staying at a fancy hotel, chances are they work with an agency who can help you find local babysitters. Email your friends, ask on a moms’ forum/group! I’ve found the best babysitters through the most random connections. This way, you and your partner can enjoy a nice dinner out, or get a massage! With a little help, you’ll both feel refreshed and re-energized after and it’ll be a nicer, more relaxing experience for everyone.
Finally, take ALL the family photos! This is true especially for moms, who are often the photographer, but not IN the photos. Every day, ask your spouse to take at least ONE photo of you with the kids; or ask a by-stander for a family photo. If you’re staying at a nice hotel, the staff is always happy to take photos of you! If you’re staying at an Airbnb, family selfies are great too! Your family and children will enjoy seeing the photos long after the vacation is done. I try to turn the photos into photo books (Google Photos will make a book automatically) so the kids can look through them and remember the good times they had.
Or, let Be Merry create the perfect itinerary for your family trip! Personalized suggestions, well-vetted sitters, customized dinner reservations…. We’ll do it all so you don’t have to!
I wish you happy travels!
For our trip over Christmas break, our long-time babysitter Becca came and stayed with us at the Airbnb and we were able to split childcare time with her. We paid her for hours worked (including travel time), provided her with a room and shared food. This was our Christmas dinner
At the Sonoma Garden Park. Gardens are GREAT places to visit with kids. It's usually not very busy (especially early in the morning), there's usually plenty of space to run around, and in this case, there were chickens! The boys ended up coming back each day with food scraps to feed the chickens
We went on a family trip over Christmas Break. It was during the most severe lockdown and there was no outdoor dining. We stayed at a little Airbnb right off of Sonoma Plaza and visited the plaza everyday (there's a great playground!). We got takeout from local restaurants and had Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner in our Airbnb. It was certainly a different kind of "vacation," but still memorable and the kids loved exploring new places
For Thanksgiving we stayed at Charminade Resort in the Santa Cruz Mountains and ate our Thanksgiving dinner outside. It was FREEZING but we all had fun anyway
When it comes to crowd-pleasers, nothing is as good as a good ol' fashioned beach day!
For our trip to Santa Cruz, we snuck in a date night at a local favorite, Laili
Beach day! This little stretch of beach kept them occupied for over an hour!
In Southern California, over the 4th of July holidays
At Seascape Resort, which is AMAZING for families
We did our first-ever family road trip this past summer and drove down to Orange County for the 4th of July holidays. Road trips are never *that* fun but with plenty of tablet time, everyone survived :-)