By Randi Rubenstein
Recently, my family enjoyed a lush vacation in the Bahamas. The water was crystal-clear, the weather was similar to a perfect day in San Diego, and the adult naps were plentiful.The reason I’m referring to our Bahamian winter getaway as a vacation and not a trip is because my children are 19, 16 and 11. I’m joking! Well, sort of. I will share with you my top 3 best tips for enjoying your next out-of-town family getaway, even if you still have little people tugging on your leg 24/7.First of all, can we establish that there is a big difference between a vacation and a trip? A vacation involves rest and replenishment. A trip involves taking your family to a different geographical location and often includes even more work for the mama than your typical daily routine at home. This is the scenario we want to avoid at all costs. It’s exhausting, not fair, and no fun for anyone. Because as we all know, an overworked and exhausted mom frequently finds herself in the parent gap: the gap between the parent you want to be and the one you currently are when you are exhausted and your kids are getting on your last nerve.
Chances are, you’ve dropped a decent amount of cash on this trip as well as the time it took to plan and travel to the divine destination in hopes of making special memories. So, without further ado, here are my top 3 tips to make the most out of your memorable family getaway:
TIP #1: SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS – “LESS IS MORE.” I know you have that fantasy of filling photo albums with amazing memories doing tons of super cool activities in exotic locations. However, trust me when I tell you that playing Julie, the cruise director from The Loveboat, will never amount to that with little kids. Someone will always have a tummy-ache or a tantrum as you are about to embark on your adventurous day. You will find yourself frustrated, disappointed and maybe even feel downright resentful.
No fun. The memories happen during the in-between moments in life. That $1,000 day of swimming with dolphins usually ends in a hunt for the pharmacy carrying Calamine lotion needed to treat the skin rash your little one with the sensitive skin got from the extra-salty water. Schedule a basic activity like playing on the beach or visiting a pretty park in the morning. In the afternoon, run your lil’ guys like puppies before an early dinner.
TIP #2: PRIORITIZE SLEEP Little people and big people require lots of sleep. Period. Little kids are exhausting to care for, and when they are exhausted, they are simply…No. Fun. At. All. Flexibility regarding naps and bedtime schedules sounds great in theory and is usually a nightmare in reality. Prioritize rest at all costs. Plan a good ol’ fashioned siesta after lunch for the whole familia.
If your teeny ones are beyond the napping phase, this is your green light to hook them up with a great Disney flick while mom and dad read, rest, and regroup. Enjoy an EARLY casual dinner and honor the same nightly ritual as you do at home; bath, books, and bedtime before 8:30 PM. Put yourself to sleep by 10:30 PM as well. I know you don’t want to. Do it anyway.
TIP #3: SAY NO WAY TO MARTYRDOM In our society, there is a phenomenon regarding women doing too much for others and not giving the same love and nurturing to ourselves. This is especially prevalent for women caring for kiddos. We do EVERYTHING. Subconsciously, we think it’s our job to think, plan, and do it all. Stop doing this immediately. Newsflash: There is a better way, and it takes the martyrdom out of motherhood. Creating a family team at home and on vacation is key. Delegate and teach your people how to fish and make meals for life rather than constantly providing a bunch of fish dinners. Yes, it takes more time to teach and encourage your 3-year old to dress herself.
Yes, it is frustrating that you have to spell out the small daily tasks and responsibilities to your partner. Take a deep breath, direct, teach, and ask for what you need. Embrace your role as the pack leader AND support every valuable member of your team by delegating tasks small and large. Allowing each to add to the collective whole builds confidence and connection. This is the final tip that will strengthen your family’s foundation no matter where you find yourself geographically – at home or in an exotic rainforest. Spending time together as a cohesive team will have you vacationing together for years to come and creating precious memories for a lifetime.
Randi Rubenstein helps fed up parents learn tools to raise confident, kind, and self-motivated kids by closing the parent gap – the gap between the parent you want to be and the parent you currently are during the REAL triggered moments with your kiddos. But you never yell at your kids, right? As a parent coach and author, Randi helps parents keep cool and replace old patterns. You can find her at www.randirubenstein.com/