Recently we went away with our three kids, aged 5 (& 3/4 – very important), 4, and almost 2 years. Whilst it was a fabulous holiday, giving us some much needed family bonding time, I was reminded about how logistically hard it can be travelling with young children.
The photos don’t show it; because who takes photos of the hard times, right?! Instead they all look like this:
Amazingly relaxing, right! But not really a true reflection of reality.
Any parent of young children will tell you that holidaying with the whole family isn’t really a “holiday”. It’s just a change of scenery. The same stuff, just in a different place. There’s very little lying-on-a-beach-relaxing that happens when you holiday with young kids.
Here’s a few truths about travelling with a young family:
1. There is no down time
no kindy, no daycare. To get any time alone away from the kids you either have to tag team parent (meaning you’re sacrificing ‘family time’), or wait till the kids are in bed (which might not happen till very late at night as they’re all out of routine). And by then you’re usually too exhausted to speak to your partner.
And don’t get me wrong, I like spending time with my kids, but sometimes I NEED a break from the constant questioning, talking, and feeding (introvert over here).
2. Drives take twice as long
Look on google maps for your estimated drive time. Add about three hours. Accurate representation of travelling with three kids after adding in toilet stops, extended lunch runarounds and emergency “everybody’s crying” stops. Yep. We aim for no more than four hours drive time each day. That usually takes us about 6 1/2 – 7 hours.
3. Wreck the joint
You arrive at your holiday home and you look around and your heart sinks because it’s got brand new covered dining chairs with no stains on them. And then you do a quick round of the house moving any breakables out of reach, artwork off the wall beside the top bunk. Because you just KNOW that it’s likely that your kids are going to wreck the joint.
You ain’t gonna be leaving that house in the same condition you arrived in! You just have to hope that you don’t end up breaking more than a few glasses.
4. Everyone is out of routine
The Home Routine: lunch at midday, toddler naps after lunch, dinner at 5pm: everybody’s happy.
The Holidaying Routine: 10.37am: let’s go put the kayak out! Oh but we better take lunch with us. Pack a lunch. Gather all the things. Transport everyone and everything to the lake/beach. 11.23am get the kayak in the water. Have approximately 17 minutes of fun before “I’m huuungry” starts. Eat lunch. What about the toddler’s nap? Oh, she’ll be ok – let’s just keep having fun down here with the kayak. Oh we’re gonna regret this later!
Throw in a few long days of fun while you’re holidaying, and consistency tends to go out the window. Making for hangry kids and tired Mama. I try so hard to “go with the flow” but sometimes it’s just not worth it.
5. You’re constantly looking for All.The.Things:
Where’s your hat? Where’s the sunscreen? I’m sure I left the bug repellent right here! Have you seen my jandals? Where are the CAR KEYS?!
I like to think we’re a fairly minimalist family when it comes to packing. But only packing the minimal of what you need means that if you misplace stuff, there’s no extra items to fall back on!
Add in an unfamiliar environment, trips in/out of the car, and three kids to get organised and that means you’re constantly looking for things. We even lost a paddle for our kayak 😂
At least we didn’t lose any of the kids!
6. There’s still washing to do:
Every day there’s washing to do. Every day. There is no escape. Even when you’re on holiday. Especially when you pack minimally. It’s either that or they wear dirty clothes. Which mine actually do sometimes. Especially when we’re camping. Because yeah. Who wants to do washing every day when they’re camping?! Not me.
So, what makes it easier?
- Travelling with others; either the grandparents, another family, or extended family. Sharing the load of parenting and supervising kids!
- Having low expectations. If you let go of any preconceived notions of being able to have a fully relaxing holiday (like those distant memories of holidays pre-children), then you won’t be disappointed. Knowing and expecting that you’re unlikely to finish a book, that your kids are probably likely to need you more as their daily routine is disrupted, makes it all the more easier to embrace your new holidaying family vibe.
- Letting go. Try not to get stressed if you’re late to hit the road, or if you can’t find the pocketknife, or if the baby’s nap is late. I’m not so good at this myself, but it’s something I’m working on. It’ll all work out in the end.
- Having a “stay-cation”. We don’t actually travel as much as we’d like to, purely because of the above reasons. Sometimes we just stay put and explore our own region instead.
At the end of the day it’s all about making memories together. Some of those memories are about being tired and having intense hay fever whilst walking in beech forests (who, me?), but hopefully the good ones outweigh the bad.
That’s what the photo book will show, anyway… if I ever get around to making one!