Before having a toddler, vacations were the perfect opportunity to relax. This summer, my partner and I took a five-day vacation with my step-daughter and our 2-year old son. Last month we went on a three-day weekend to Lake Arrowhead here in Southern California.
These two trips taught me a couple of things about traveling—and relaxing—with a toddler. Here are the lessons I learned along the way.
1. Manage expectations
This is not a vacation. I repeat, this is not a vacation. You will not come back refreshed and reinvigorated. If your kids are young, you will not lounge poolside (unless you brought the nanny along, which? Yeah, didn't happen for us.) However, I promise, you will create many great memories so there's that.
Does your baby usually nap at noon? Do not plan your day around that. Have a loose plan that incorporates your baby's nap, sure. But too much regimentation and you'll kill the fun. Here's a tip that worked for my toddler: we planned the bulk of our physical activity in the early to late morning. This upped the chances that he would nap around his regular time even though he wasn't in his normal environment.
If you're still out and about and the nap doesn't happen, don't fret. Your child will resume a normal schedule once you're back home.
3. Leave room to be pleasantly surprised
We assumed that going to bed would be the hard part, but our son actually slept fine both nights. For similar results, just bring security blankets and objects, and a sound machine if your child is used to it or a light sleeper. We enjoyed his sleep time by playing games and catching up on shows.
You can have a pleasant trip if you anticipate your child's needs and savor the small quiet moments.
4. Get your rest
Normally, vacations are a time when you stay up late and have a few extra drinks, knowing you can sleep in and go out for a late breakfast. Again, this is probably not that kind of vacation. Make sure you go to sleep at a sensible time. This way you won't be upset if the kids decide to wake-up extra early. Which they will. It's vacation! This is what happened to us one morning—our son woke up at 6 a.m. ready to take on the day.
5. Go all-inclusive
Camping and being outdoors was fantastic, but I must admit that having a hotel for our last night was very relaxing. Our weekend getaway in a cabin was also great, but it required cooking and cleaning. For our next family trip, we are saving up extra dollars to go somewhere that doesn't involve cooking or cleaning.
Because, honestly? We came back from our vacation ready for a vacation, so we booked a weekend trip for ourselves for the following month. Vacationing with kids is all about them and building memories as a family.