From Hell to Paradise: Vacationing with Children

Coming back from our very first, incredible family vacation with Alyssa age 3, and Emma age 7 months, I found myself kind of slumped, missing our destination in Jamaica terribly. Since then, we have all been experiencing what appears to be Jamaica withdrawal, and refuse to acknowledge reality.  We were gone for one week, and sincerly wish we had stayed for another few days.  The kids were well behaved. We enjoyed the beach, the sun, and the fact that we had managed to squeeze in 6-8 hours of sleep a night, made this trip all the more worth while.  Having said all that, traveling with children is an ordeal and can be a challenge. Worrying about changes and adjustments, the endless packing of absolutely everything, and that something, anything may go wrong can be enough to make a parent rethink their decision to go.

Our flight to Jamaica was at ten in the morning and we had arrived to Jamaica around two in the afternoon (Toronto time).  By the time we had arrived at our hotel, we were exhausted, covered in food and pee stains, hungry and hot. Michael and I exchanged glances and he whispered to me ”having fun yet?” and I smiled, suggesting it’ll get better and it certainly did.  We went from pure hell, to absolute paradise, but getting to paradise did not happen by fluke. I think we made good choices and had a positive attitude that really helped us along the way. Due to our amazing trip, I was inspired to write this weeks blog and to share a few tips that made it so wonderful for us, for those parents who decide to bite the bullet and go for it.

First and foremost I’d like to point out that not everyone gets to go on a vacation, so if you are one of the lucky ones that does, you must admit that even a vacation with routy kids is still better than a hard day at home/work, so therefore having a good attitude about the experience would probably be one the of the first pieces of advise that I would give.

Have a positive attitude – This is not a honeymoon or your typical couple getaway, this is a family vacation with kids, meaning unfortunately we will not be touring, partying it up, or enjoying much of romantic alone time. This is a different type of a vacation. For me, the idea that I didn’t have to cook, clean, or do the laundry was enough to put me into vacation mode.  Focusing on the positive side of things and not fixating on all the negative could be’s, gave us the confidence to make the decision to go and enjoy our time there. The fact was, this trip was about enjoying the sunny, warm, beach weather and spending lots of time with our children, together as a family, which we don’t get to do as much at home.

Choosing your destination – Once we had decided to go with the kids, we made sure to find a destination that was kid/family friendly, with activities, kid programs and even baby sitting services.  It was also a good idea to read reviews about some of our concerns including the food and the beach water.  In general doing some research to find our perfect destination helped us feel comfortable about where we were going with the kids and how comfortable they would be in this new atmosphere.  As well, asking for special accomidations helped us all the more.  We asked for a crib (which was on wheels and was quite easy to rock), rather than having to have Emma sleeping between us.  Also, we asked to be put on the first floor, therefore we didn’t have to worry about getting around with a stroller, and had easy access from our balcony onto the beach (our backyard was the beach).

Packing  – It is what it is, unfortunately going for one week with two kids, doesn’t mean you will pack light.  We had to be prepared for all weather and all what-if possibilities. Our last getaway had began with Alyssa throwing up and skyrocking a fever, which we were not prepared for, so you can imagine that I definitely had packed extra medicine and clothes this time around.  The only regret that I had was not thinking so much about our own clothes. Kids can be messy and we may fall into the fireline of food and washroom accidents.  Hence, packing a little more than enough for the adults on the trip may not be a bad idea either.

The Plane Ride – Plane rides can be long and difficult on little children. Having to keep in mind that take offs and landings can be intense and that in between all that, children need to be fed, changed and entertained.  Hence, we picked our flight around nap time and meal time to shed off some of the hours on the plan. For take offs and landings we offered Alyssa a lollypop and Emma the breast, which helped them in case of the air pressure. For entertainment we had the airplane movie, the Ipad, books, activity books with markers and crayons, playdow and toys.  The main things was to keep them busy and away from boredome which would cause them to become anxious, routy, cranky and misbehaved.

Keeping a schedual and having a good routine -  Kids LOVE routine.  It makes them feel safe and they adjust to them  very quickly. Having to put one in place even if it’s on vacation can make a difference in how they behave and adapt to a new place.  At the same time, we are both flexible to change so we’re not extremely rigid.  Even though we were in Jamaica, we still had maintained a schedual as at home, but obviously a much more flexible one. One of the greatest things we did was keep a schedualed nap time, but rather than putting them down inside of our room, we had them sleeping outside on the beach, in the open air while we ourselves would do the same, and occasionally be caught drinking a cocktail (or two) or reading a book.  This way, we would all relax and enjoy the beach just as we would if my husband and I had gone away on our own.

Find time to yourselves  – Although I did mention that this was not a couple getaway, nonetheless we are a couple that had gotten away, and despite it being a family trip, still needed to have the time to ourselves. Having a resort that had a kids program and babysitting services was an excellent accomodation, although we didn’t take much advantage of it (we put Alyssa into the program for one day), nonetheless if we needed to, we knew that it was available for us.  As well, sharing moments and spending quiet time together, on our balcony after the kids were asleep, with yet another cocktail :) , helped to soothe the day and reconnect us as a couple.

All good things must come to an end – sadly reality becomes an adjustment too.  We are all very groggy and cranky from having to come back to reality, and reality is no holiday.  Even though it was only one week, the kids had to completely readjust to life at home again.  The weather climate, Day Care, sleeping in a different room, eating home food, etc.  All things that Alyssa was used to, had been away from, and now had to get used to again, has been hard on her.  Although it is easy to get trapped and give in to her demands, being strong and having to continue reinforcing the rules on her, has helped her to readjust to home life much quicker.  Also, coming home from a holiday created more stress for the adults who have to now catch up with work and house duties, causing once again a lack of sleep and stress to reappear.  Having to talk things over and support each others bad moods, may help to cope with the anxiety of reality.

I hope that the fears and anxieties around vacationing with children will subside as the possibilities start to turn into a reality. And I would like to wish everyone who gets to go away a wonderful holiday and lots of great memories to be made!

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About Malvina Beker

Malvina Beker is a Mom, a teacher, a writer, and a sociologist. She has a Masters degree in Sociology, a Bachelor of Education, and a background in child psychology and development. She has taught high school Family Studies, Parenting and Music courses, and has research experience through interviewing as well as surveys. She is a mother of two little girls that inspire her the most, and is always excited to share and exchange experiences and opinions with others.
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