Friday, April 27, 2012

How to Enjoy a Trip with Kids

Last week, I shared about my breakthrough vacation with my family, at the time a mom of two.  I promised to share how we not only survive, but thrive on our vacations.  With summer coming, maybe these tips can be of some help to you.

1.  Timing is everything.  The vacation I described last week could've ended up very differently. Two weeks before a baby's due date isn't usually a smart decision! The first vacation I took with my littles was also not the best timing because my baby was just eight weeks old. For me, that was too young. Although babies that young sleep through most anything and are easy to transport in strollers, carriers, and slings, they often have sensitive little tummies and skin, aren't usually sleeping through the night, and can't communicate a lick of what it is that may bother them. If you're only going to see family, these aggrivations might be worth it, but if you hope to get out and about for recreation, it might be more trouble than it's worth to carry a small infant. Our babies of seven or eight months old, however, do really great on family vacations. Sleeping in an odd location might cause for some sleep disturbance, but usually nothing too difficult to deal with by nursing or cuddling for a few minutes.

2. Take whatever "lovey" your children need.  We're Babywise folks, but however hard we might try, our children still end up attached to some blanket or stuffed animal while they're little.  We didn't realize how attached our first baby was to what we dubbed her "blinger" - the wind-up part of her crib mobile until we went somewhere without it.  We learned, unfortunately too late for her Uncle Nate, the man that graciously drove around town hunting a toy that made similar sounds.

3.  Be where the action takes place.  If you want to hike, by all means stay in that cabin and enjoy nature.  For our last vacation, even though we loved our old familiar state park stomping grounds, we decided to stay in the nearest city so that we could very quickly get to restaurants and fun touristy attractions.  I also didn't want to cook or wash dishes (this is vacation we're talking about, after all), which would've happened if we stayed in a cabin.

4. Consider spending a little money in order to save a little money (and sanity). We paid a higher price (though we were still very thrifty) in order to stay at a hotel with a heated indoor pool. It was so worth it! This meant our kids got to swim every day (with it in the mid-50's outside), and we didn't end up spending more money on outside entertainment. We also had a small fridge (for milk-filled sippy cups), a great continental breakfast, and nice exercise facility. My plan had been to take advantage of the treadmill during the kids' naptime, but a really bad cold kept me from it. Sometimes, a suite with a fold-out couch can be found wherever you travel, enabling mom and dad a good place to be once the kids go to bed, not to mention the extra bed a large family may need.

5. Be flexible and train your kids to do the same. An example: All of our three girls share a bedroom, but only the older two share a bad.  In a hotel room, they must all three sleep together.  For now, they're short, and we've found it works nicely to have them sleep across a queen bed rather than lay in the normal positions for their heads and feet.  Our youngest still fits in a pack-n-play.  We'll see what happens in the future, but we'll roll with it.  While sleeping arrangements can be planned ahead of time, unexpected and disappointing circumstances may also come about.  This is part of life, and everyone must learn to "do everything without grumbling and complaining" (Phil. 2:14).

As summer quickly approaches, I hope you'll enjoy vacation time with your family.  Now that we've had our family vacation, it'll be my turn with just my husband, also so important to the entire family's well-being!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Family Vacation

Spring break was phenomenal for my family this year!  Here are my kids at Watauga Lake.  And to think I used to live in fear of traveling with babies and toddlers!

This fear surfaced five years ago when my second child was eight weeks old.  My oldest was not yet nineteen months old.  We decided to go with my in-laws to our regular vacation spot in Roan Mountain, Tennessee.  This was our first trip there with our children.  Before, the distance from town had been pleasant and the loft was a nice place to sleep. 

We traveled a long distance, but the main culprit for our first family vacation to start poorly was my choice of food.  I, a nursing mama, ate raw broccoli, not once but twice at the beginning of the week.  I don't care what all I learn in every lactation class I take for work, where they continually say it doesn't matter what mom eats - my experience tells me that I must now always stay away from raw broccoli while nursing.  My baby girl had the most awful gas all week.  Not fun at all.

That loft where I'd always slept didn't work out so well for my toddler.  She could hear the adults still awake and fought us every night about sleep.  The heat also rose, and with us being newbies at the travel thing, we didn't bring the humidifier she regularly used.  Her big blue eyes got all crusty before we left.

It was a challenge, and one I swore I wouldn't go through again.  And then...

Still with only two kids, but one very nicely warming in the oven and nearly ready for her debut, we needed to take a family vacation.  My husband had been asked to preach a trail sermon in view of a call at a new church.  We were feeling God's leading, so even though I was about two weeks away from my due date, we had to take a little road trip.  I just didn't tell my OB-GYN when she examined me the day before we left.  I praised God I wasn't progressing toward labor.

This time, we only had to drive about three hours.  Our new church was paying for the hotel, but my husband being frugal got us an "okay" hotel.  We did have a continental breakfast and a clean pool.

We had a ball!  Our family made many happy memories.  Ok, my husband and I made those memories, and my oldest daughter (almost three at the time) thinks she remembers some of them.  We played in the pool to our heart's content.  Floating was so nice for my big belly.  We went to the beach and listened to our 18-month-old tell the ocean, "No!" in an angry little voice as the water would touch her toes as we walked along the shore.  We laughed that she thought she could tell the waves to stop!  We enjoyed exploring new places we'd never been before.

My husband and I would put the children to bed at their regular naptime and bedtime, with the exception of the toddler just getting snippets of morning naps on our way somewhere.  He and I napped one day, but then there'd be no way we could go to sleep at 8:00 with the kids.  Instead, we put lawn chairs in front of the door and had a mini-date.  One of us would walk next door to Sonic for drinks while the other stayed with the kids, then we'd visit and/or read books and magazines.

Things went very well with the church, and we were called to serve here.  Now, when we drive by that hotel, it is our "Ebenezer" (read 1 Samuel 7).  We'd had a period of difficulty, but this was the place where God restored us.  That hotel is a visual reminder of God's help and faithfulness to our family.

We've had at least three really great family vacations since that trip, and my husband and I have learned some tricks for traveling with little folks.  I hope to share those with you in the next few days, so stay tuned!