Going on a family vacation with kids isn’t always a real vacation. It’s actually a lot of work, especially if you are going with a baby, toddler and/or preschooler.
There are many reasons you may be delaying a vacation while your children are still young. We have a four and a one-year-old currently and let me tell you, traveling with toddlers can be pretty rough at times. I’d be lying if I said we have it all figured out and even so, every child is unique and so is their behavior.
Last year we went on our first family vacation, the four of us together and overall it went pretty well. You can read all about that trip, plus my other awesome family travel tips in this post. We decided that despite the challenges of planning and executing a big family trip on our own, we want to keep doing it on an annual basis. Last year we flew to North Carolina and this year we are traveling again to the East coast, but the Gulf side. We’ll be staying in Clearwater, FL for over a week in October and I can’t wait!
Once again, I booked a vacation rental through VRBO.com. It’s similar in cost for a hotel room and SO much more practical when you are vacationing with kids.
Short trips can be a fun and more simplified way to travel with your children, but since my husband doesn’t always have the time off we like to plan at least one big trip per year. That way we KNOW we are going and have something super exciting to look forward to as well.
Being away from home for several days at a time can really throw off your family’s routine. This is a big deal for little ones as babies, toddlers and preschool-age kids all thrive on having a relatively predictable schedule. Despite the disruption though, I STRONGLY feel that vacationing with your young children is a must-do.
Why should you plan a family vacation with babies or toddlers in tow?
You can go where YOU want to go
France, maybe? Well, that’s a pretty long plane ride, but hey, why not? Having children under five means you don’t have to consider their opinion on the destination because well, they don’t have one yet. Sure, they want to go to DisneyWorld. ALL kids want to go some place like that. But do you? If we only get one vacation a year, you can bet I WILL NOT be spending it in a theme park.
I don’t have anything against Disney or other places like Orlando Studios. I do know though, that these parks are often exhausting and overwhelming for toddlers. Babies, on the other hand, don’t really care where you take them. They also won’t remember any of it. There will be many, many opportunities later in life when my school-aged kids will be able to enjoy this sort of thing and also appreciate it a lot more too.
No, while my kids are young we are going to find excellent places that we can all enjoy together. That may mean Mom and Dad want booze, dockside patios and lazy days in the sun. Window shopping, beach strolling, hiking and generally just taking in the scenery all sound like true vacation to me. This isn’t to say we wouldn’t throw in some kid-friendly activities like an aquarium. That’s part of what vacation is all about! But so often “family trips” can mean you’re constantly jetting to the next big thing or waiting in line for tiny rollercoaster rides all day. I personally think it’s better to keep it simple, uncomplicated and fun.
Babies are extremely portable
Seriously! It’s actually easier to pack for vacation for an infant that it is for older kids. They just plain need less stuff! All their clothes and shoes are tiny, they don’t need tons of toys and you can carry them strapped to your back if need be. We packed our entire one week vacation for all four of us last year in just two suitcases, which we checked. All I needed after that was a diaper bag for the plane.
Traveling while your child is an infant is often one of the best times to get out an explore. Especially if it’s before they are eating solids. If you need nothing but the boob or the bottle, then that’s even less gear to bring along!
You’ll save money with a lap baby
One downfall of my daughter getting older is soon I’ll be having to buy her a plane ticket. Fortunately this year she’s only two, and we will still be able to skimp and just have her sit in our laps.
It encourages exploration
Young children are naturally curious, even to a point where they basically have no boundaries. Take them somewhere new and let them discover an entirely different environment. We love the beach because we live in Colorado and never get a chance to dig our toes into the sand. You could take a trip to Breckenridge for some awesome snowy adventures or explore the lush, gorgeous forests in coastal Oregon. National Parks are always amazing destinations!
My daughter was perfectly entertained on a hiking trip last week purely by throwing sticks into the river. Dig for crabs, collect leaves and twigs, throw pine cones, search for sea treasures. Almost anything at all is fascinating to children at this young age.
They remember more than you think
Watching my three-year-old son completely fall in love with the ocean is something I will never forget. He asks about the beach all the time still and it’s nearly been a year since we’ve been back. It’s actually pretty amazing what children will remember about their experiences. Of course it’s hard to say what babies may or may not remember, but even a child as young as two is likely to recall their favorite part of vacation.
Kids see life differently from us and its essential to involve them by asking questions and having them share their own perspective on the places you go. Encourage creativity by making up silly games or songs about your adventures. These ques will also give them more to remember it by when you can recall the fun times you had together.
Young children sleep quite a bit
One good thing about babies and toddler is that inevitably they will crash. So even if your napping routine is out of wack for a day or two, you’ll still be able to get back into it for the rest of the trips duration (if you want). I’m one of those people who live for nap time, so I have no problem scheduling things around my daughter’s midday nap. It gives us all a break to rest as well. Sure, you may feel a little trapped in the room for a bit, so my husband and I would take turns playing with my son outside while the little one napped indoors. That’s another benefit of vacation rentals over hotels. The kids get their own room with a door to close so they can sleep undisturbed.
Kids this age don’t need a lot to entertain them, but they do need their rest. Putting them to bed early is also a bonus for tired parents. Not only will they be willing, after a long day at the beach or exploring the local zoo, they will probably zonk out immediately. Then it’s Mommy and Daddy time for the rest of the evening. Sit on deck with a cocktail, watch a show, enjoy the sunset – whatever. If you’re lucky to have help for an evening you can head out for a date night. Otherwise, you’ll likely need to get creative for your evening plans since you may be staying in most nights. This is just a part of young parenthood, so were pretty adapted to the quiet night life now.
Traveling teaches them adapt to change and embrace adventure
It’s important to travel when your children are young because it not only teaches them about the world, but how they fit into it. Breaking routine every now and then helps them develop resilience. Eventually they will understand how they are able to adapt to change and be able to manage themselves and their emotions in a better way.
Plus, its such an adventure, going places with children. Like I said before, they see things differently from us and having that other, totally unique perspective is such a blessing. Almost everything is exciting to little kids. Watching kites fly on the beach, tossing stones into a river or just playing tag in a new park is loads of fun.
You’ll make the best memories
Okay I’ll admit it, I pretty much plan our vacations around my kids. But I can’t help it! Seeing the joy in my son’s eyes when he runs into the waves or hearing my baby girl giggle with delight as she hurls another rock into the water, is basically what I live for. Well that and nap time, like I mentioned before.
My point is, if you’re putting your life on hold because your children are young, then you’re going to miss out on some of the best times of parenting. Maybe, also some of these hardest times as well. But fun with littles comes at a price every now and then. And to me, it’s worth it! Going on vacation with kids is all about balance. Finding exciting things for them to enjoy while also planning a few aspects for the adults. Without over complicating things.
I struggled with anxiety even traveling before I had children. I’m not a huge fan of flying, or crowds or waiting in lines. BUT I still make it work because I want to experience new things with my kids outside of the 10 mile radius of our home.
So book that vacation – NOW. You won’t regret it. Sure there will likely be meltdowns, tantrums and some degree of crying – and that’s just the parents! These things are inevitable when you vacation with young children, but it’s SO worth it. Trust me.