Guest Blog: “Vacationing” family style

happy family portrait having funThis week’s guest blog is by Mindy:

After I had my first baby my neighbor told me that I can no longer call it “going on vacation” if kids are involved, and that she refers to it as traveling or taking a trip.  It took me a couple years and many attempts at vacationing with kids to fully grasp what she meant.

A vacation implies a break, and traveling with young kids, especially more than one, is anything but that.  In fact, in nearly every way it is more difficult, more work, and more exhausting than staying home .  Labeling the trip as a vacation is really just setting yourself up for disappointment as it seems even more painful to be up in the middle of the night with a crying baby or time-zone-wacked toddler when you’re paying $200 a night for the “experience” in lodging alone.

Here are some things that have helped add a little vacation to our trips:

Travel with extended family

Of course, this only works if you have family you like enough to be around AND they are good with your kids.  But if you really think about it, you probably have at least someone who qualifies.  Maybe a niece who likes kids and would love a free place to stay by the beach?

BK (before kids) I never would have considered bringing my mother along for a beach vacation with my husband as it would completely cramp the intimacy and probably drive me crazy, but now she’s the only hope we have of intimacy and I’m making it an annual thing!

If you’re inviting relatives, it’s best to be clear about everyone’s expectations up front (before booking the trip) including the financial side.  If you are want help with the kids you need to make a clear request, such as “My husband and I can really use some alone time to reconnect, would you be willing to you watch the kids for two afternoons and one evening while we go out?”

Other Help

If you really can’t fathom the idea of vacationing with ANYONE you have a blood relationship with, seriously consider forking out the money to take along a babysitter or nanny.  Some people will be happy to come along and provide a certain number of childcare hours as a trade if you are paying for part or all of their trip, especially if they can bring a friend or significant other.  For us, it means we take far less vacations because they are more expensive when we’re paying for additional people, but since it’s so much more of a vacation WITH the help it’s worth it.

The holy grail of help is traveling where there are other kids for your kids to play with, so if there is any way to orchestrate this by traveling with another family (and perhaps bringing and splitting the cost of a nanny) go for it!

Minimize changing locations

Everyone will probably be happier if you stay at one place for 9 days than 3 places for 3 days.   Kids need a couple days to get in a rhythm at a new place and figure out how and what to play, what the sleeping arrangements are, and really feel comfortable.  If you are changing locations every couple days the kids are more likely to act out.

Multiple rooms

You’ll want at least two rooms and at least one of them to get pretty dark so your child doesn’t wake up at the crack of dawn local time just because it’s too bright in the room.  The multiple rooms is worth the extra cash, even if everyone is sharing one bed, because you will need a place to hang out with your mate while the kids are (hopefully) napping or down early.

Kitchen or Kitchenette

You’ll probably more than save the money you pay for this extra in not having to eat out for every meal.  You’ll also have much more relaxed dining experiences and less hunger related meltdowns if you can just eat-on-demand in.

Family Friendly Resorts

I’ve found various resorts that cater to kids & families by offering activities for kids, childcare (either babysitters or daycare “kids clubs”, or both), kids pools with slides, kids food options, and so on.  I haven’t stayed at any of the places I’ve researched because we prefer smaller, B&B type places and our kids generally don’t go for being watched by people they don’t know, but these could be a godsend.

And… possibly most importantly…. Do Less

Getting everyone fed, dressed, and down the to beach or pool expends more than enough effort, why try to pack in that amusement park that they are probably too young  or old for anyway or is much too crowded? (Unless of course Grandma is taking them!)

It can take a day or two for the kids to adjust to having you around so much and so much unstructured time, but they’ll adjust and probably thrive on having endless open afternoons at the same beach, woods, park or just yard day after day.

Please share your wisdom and stories of how you have traveled with kids.

Mindy Ranney


we camped with our kids and one of the things they remember best were the books I read to them while we drove for those long stretches from camp site to camp site. They were not, however, under 6 years old. For trip when they were very young, we often just went to a relative's home and that afforded cheap housing, other children to play with and the occasional built-in babysitter. My parents, however, camped with me and my 3 siblings across country (Illinois to California and back in two weeks) in one car, without air conditioning, and my mother cooked/prepared every meal along the way. She still swears it was a vacation for her! And, since she was one of the first working-outside-the home mom's I knew, I'll bet it was. It all depends on our expectations, but there's no beating the extra time with our kids when deadlines can be thrown out the window (no one has to hurry up to get to daycare) and some of the daily rules can be broken - like having only dessert for a meal sometimes. This is what great memories are made of!


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