How to Make a Trip with Small Children Feel Like a True Vacation

It’s no secret that traveling with small children is not the same as traveling alone or with other adults. There is work involved that you never had to do before, and your kids don’t stop having needs that need to be met just because you are on vacation.


If you compare vacation with kids to vacation without kids, you’re bound to think that traveling with kids is never truly a vacation. But all it takes is a little change of perception to see that traveling with children can be magical and even relaxing, just as vacation is meant to be.

Here’s how I changed the way I thought about vacation and adjusted our travel plans so that all of us could truly enjoy ourselves.

What I found is that it was very important that I did not compare our vacation to the best vacations I had when I was single or without kids. Instead, I compare vacation to normal life, just the way I did when I traveled before kids. Before kids, vacation meant that I was getting away from my usual life, not having as much work and as many responsibilities, and getting to see and do things that I wouldn’t normally get to see and do. Vacation with kids is just the same if I look at it this way. I’m getting away from home, seeing and doing things I don’t normally get to do, and I am free from many of my usual responsibilities. To do this, however, I did have to plan ahead a bit.

First, I made sure that I got all my work done ahead of time so that I would not have to sneak in any work while on vacation. Because I am a work at home mom, the way life usually works is that I tend to my children’s needs during the weekdays and do work after they are in bed or when my husband is home to help on the weekends. I am always thinking of ways to fit in the work and make sure I get everything done and done well. Not having any work to do allowed me to enjoy all my evenings and weekends. I got to stay up late and just read a book if I wanted, and the internet was just for fun. I love what I do for work, but it was nice to remove that responsibility completely for the time we were away. I got to focus on my family and on myself.

Second, we chose destinations and accommodations that were family friendly. Both London and Nice have plenty of low key things to do as a family. In London, our favorite thing was feeding squirrels at the park. Elvie never actually fed any, but she loved pointed them out and saying hi, as well as making friends with ducks, geese, and pigeons. We also saw an incredible amount of interesting things and interesting people, and we got to go both to an art museum and a historic landmark that were stroller friendly. In Nice, we could just stroll around the city, stopping to relax in parks that had fountains or popping into a shop for a special snack. We had picnics on the beach and ate on the balcony of the apartment we rented.

Finally, I adjusted my expectations of how much we would be able to do on vacation in terms of sightseeing and activities. I decided ahead of time that this vacation was about being together and enjoying one another, about not having to cook every meal or get anywhere at a certain time (aside from our flights). We just did what we felt capable of doing each day. We left it open to get back to our hotel or apartment early if we needed to, to sleep in if we all wanted to, to stay up a bit late if we were having fun and wanted another scoop of ice cream. The pressure was completely off, and so while we still had to care for our children and their needs, there was no outside pressure to do anything else. Add to that the fact that we were all together for more than two weeks, enjoying one another’s company, and it truly made it a vacation, a break from the normal, a breath of fresh air in the middle of a busy season of life.

So is traveling with kids a vacation? Yes. Yes, it is.

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