Changing your Vacation Expectations
When I talk to parents who have a difficult time travelling with their kids, I’m often struck by how much of their unhappiness comes from having expectations based on their pre-child travel and trying to get the kids to conform. That’s like expecting to spend a day at the mall doing some carefree shopping & have the kids go along with it. Guess what, you’re the grown up, you’re the one who needs to adapt and help the kids have a fun and meaningful trip.
Here’s what changed most for us
- Pace. We just cannot move as quickly through different destinations. In retrospect, this has been a good change. The extra time has afforded us the opportunity to drink in the local culture instead of just hitting the top points on someone elses list of things to do in a city.
- We appreciate different things. Don’t expect your kids to appreciate the Eiffel tower. They’ll get caught up about the butterflies, or the traffic signals or something else. If you take time to join them, you might too. Remember, the reason you are doing this is to build perspective that the entire world doesn’t work and think and look exactly the way they do
- We don’t expect everything to be perfect. You might be going to your dream destination, but having kids along almost guarantees that there will be challenging moments. It’s ok. Just go with the flow. It’s worth it.
- It’s harder to follow an exact plan or itinerary. Usually when we find that the kids are having a tough time, we take a step back and realize that we’ve been pushing too hard to make a particular plan work instead of respecting their needs. Just like at home, we needed to learn to be flexible and we needed to learn to prioritize which activities are most important to us.
Most of all, don’t expect the kids to be grateful for a fancy trip. They don’t care that you had to wait 35 years to live out your dreams on the cote d’azur, and they probably didn’t ask to go there any more than they asked to get born. Kids just care about experiencing travel in a way that makes sense and is enjoyable for them and they care about having time and attention from their parents. If you keep the trip fun, they’ll absorb more than you realize and they might even thank you later, when they’re old enough to have perspective about what you did for them.
Finally, try not to get hung up on the things that go wrong or are different from your ideals and expectations. The goal is to have some new experiences and connect in a new way as a family. Appreciate the fun moments that you will remember for a lifetime rather than focusing on the short term difficulties that crop up.