My family just returned from a trip to Branson, Missouri. My kids are 1, 3, and 5, and to say I was filled with dread is an understatement. I’m not sure why. I paid a lot of money for our trip. We booked a stay at a fun resort complete with entertainment, shows, food, games, and more. My kids were excited, but I was just nervous.
My youngest daughter is a bit of a mystery to me most days. The parenting skills I thought I possessed have been thrown out the window with my sweet Audrey. She is just harder, and she continually teaches me how to be a better mom. But, I actually had a great time and didn’t want to come home.
Here are some things I learned about surviving a vacation with little ones.
Plan ahead as much as you can. I am a planner. I constantly am making sure water cups are filled, toys are stocked, and snacks are in my bag. With a vacation, you have to plan ahead. If you have a long trip in the car, bring activities or movies along that will hold their attention. Bring extra snacks, clothes, and some plastic bags in the car. Trust me on this one. When your 3-year-old gets sick on the way home and it’s 100 degrees outside, you will need those bags. Just plan ahead as much as you can. It will help.
Go with the flow. This is so hard for me, but it’s true. Kids are unpredictable. We attempted a nice dinner and on the way, two of my kids fell asleep. So we ended up at Chick-fil-A drive-thru, and that is okay. If you have set plans, be willing to forego them or bend some of the strictness of your schedule. Kids may not nap. Bedtimes will fall apart. But just go with the flow.
Live in the moment. I wanted to take pictures on our trip, but I didn’t want to be tied to my phone. Enjoy the family time. It was amazing to me how much I enjoyed the freedom of not being in my own house. No laundry. No cleaning. Just fun with my kids and husband. Usually at home, I feel like I have to be busy and miss out on some of the fun. Making memories is so much more important.
Focus on memories--not things. With my kids, we try to not over-do the things of life. Too many toys stress me out, but we have lots of fun going places like the park or local coffee shop. We spent time at the water park in Branson and it was so much fun. My youngest was actually great the whole trip, and the kids didn’t bug us for toys. We did let them each get one souvenir, but our time together was precious and focused on each other, not stuff.
Vacations are an amazing blessing and I’m so glad we got to go on ours. Whatever you do, enjoy your time with your littles. Be prepared, but remember there is always Wal-Mart if you forget something. Be flexible. It’s okay to eat cake at 10 pm when you’re a toddler. Right? Make memories and don’t waste your time worrying about your kid’s behavior. Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen. Mom fail.
Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of three in Arkansas where she lives and writes and remembers her vacation time fondly with her three crazy littles.