Before having a child, vacation felt like…. vacation – It was filled with relaxation, rest, and the whole “go with the flow” concept.  I always thought the idea of traveling with kids sounded terrible.  Not only is there the whole getting there part, there’s the lack of sleep (as adorable as it is to see little Jonas’s face staring at us from the pack and play in the wee hours of the morning), navigating nap time, and the loss of flexibility.  Packing takes ten hours and the chaos truly ensues when you stay at a place that isn’t completely child proofed. Sounds like fun, right?  Well, I’m here to tell you why we really do love traveling with our toddler (remind me to read this if I change my mind when we expand our family).

We recently got back from a ten day vacation to Florida where we visited my mother and father in law.  My strategy when traveling with Jonas is always to make a packing checklist several days prior to departure because I KNOW we’ll forget something (still kicking myself for packing one piece of the monitor and forgetting the other).  Once we’re packed and in the air (for tips and tricks on flying with a kiddo, see my “Flying with a Feisty Friend” blog post) my husband and I start talking about how we think vacation with Jonas will go as we stick a ring pop in his mouth and a screen in his face.  As life in general with kids goes, you never know.

As I reflect on our trip to Florida, it honestly couldn’t have gone better.  Despite Jonas not sleeping as much and being in an unfamiliar environment, he did awesome.  But here’s the thing, even if things didn’t go as well as we hoped, my husband and I would still say we love traveling with him and here’s why:

  • Adaptability – traveling with kids involves adaptability for ALL parties involved.  This is such a challenge for me personally so it’s really good for me to be in situations as a parent that force me to be adaptable.  For my child, he’s forced to be adaptable by sleeping in conditions that are not what he’s used to (lot’s of noise, sharing a room with mom and dad, etc.) which is SO good for him!  Even though we mostly followed his usual schedule, on travel days he didn’t nap at all which I know sounds like we set ourselves up for disaster, but he did really well at powering through until bedtime.
  • Sharing new experiences as a family – let me tell you something, there is NOTHING that compares to seeing your child experience new things.  Watching the joy on Jonas’s face as he ran through the sand and splashed in the ocean literally made my heart melt.  It’s so so SO fun and we wouldn’t trade doing things like this as a family for anything.  I want to quickly acknowledge that we wouldn’t be able to afford vacationing right now without our parents so we are so thankful that they invite us along!  If that wasn’t an option though and we had the choice to either buy Jonas fun toys and name brand clothes or go on a vacation, we would choose the experience of vacation every time!
  • Great memories – I don’t know about you but when I think back on my childhood and reminisce on all the amazing memories, probably 75% of them happened on a trip.  I think a big part of that being that when you’re on vacation, you’re more intentional with how you spend your time.  For example, if you’re at a beach, you probably will spend time talking and playing with your family instead of watching TV.  It really creates a sense of togetherness! Escaping the real world and leaving the distractions of life back home can do wonders for a family.
  • Bad memories – Here’s what I mean by this: my parents always share the stories of trips they took my sister and I that were not exactly enjoyable (think locking the keys in the car, one kid having diarrhea, and the other getting stung by a bee all at the same time).  Every time they share these stories, we laugh HARD.  Memories are memories and hey, if your trip involves a 30 minute tantrum on the plane, it’s something you will never forget and will talk about for years to come.

So the next time you have an opportunity to go on a trip as a family and it’s possible financially, DO IT.  It may not be like vacation before kids, but it will be even better!  Now let me emphasize something: my husband and I also love traveling without the little one. We went on our first trip without him a few months ago and it was so life giving and refreshing (not to mention relaxing!). There is value in both traveling together as a family and leaving the kiddos behind.

I would love to hear what your favorite family vacation memories are!