What does going on a vacation mean to you?
Determining what this means for each member of a family or group before you head out can make the going smoother. Because you may just learn that it means very different things for each person.
A Personal Example
As I begin writing this, we are traveling on a train leaving London to the Airbnb home where we are staying. It’s not a particularly long trip, but it does take about one hour of walking + train and subway travel – with some occasional moments of disorientation – to finally make it to the city center.
Of course, this means catching several trains and subways. Some members in our group are more time conscious than others. This has created some intriguing dynamics.
There were nine of us in our group. Then eight. Tomorrow will be six. And occasionally we get down to four, when my oldest son and his new wife take off on their own. So the dynamics are always changing – as are the moods.
Two of my brother-in-laws have been with our group. They are both single. We have already said goodbye to the younger one (he’s headed on to his own travels in Tunisia, Turkey and who knows where else – a real traveler). The older brother is hanging with us on two stretches of our summer travels.
He’s an architect and works quite hard while at home. And he’s telling us, whenever we get in this sense of rush – like we can’t miss that train, we can’t wait for the next one –he spends enough time rushing at home when he’s at work. So why should he rush on his vacation?
There’s a lot of wisdom in his words, especially for those who get too stressed about being timely. But I realize there’s something also at work in me in those potential rush moments. It’s called competition and adrenaline. I actually see it as a personal challenge to make the 8:12 pm train when it’s already 8:08, as long as it’s not an unrealistic stretch.
I cannot run since I’ve had some issues with my knees. But I can walk a brisk pace. In fact, I like to do that.
So I’ll just take off. I don’t find it particularly stressful. Just, in a weird way, a challenge. And even fun.
Not to mention, I like the calories I burn when I walk briskly. It’s the primary exercise I’ll get on this trip. So I view it as fun to move quickly through the various transportation challenges. But I need to recognize we all have our ideas about this issue called “rush.”
Traveling with Small Kids
No question, though. It is a challenge traveling with a larger group. And, of course, the composition of the group matters. If it’s parents with small kids, there are a few options:
· Travel all together, always;
· Split the kids up among you to go have different experiences;
· Give your spouse a break and take (all) the kids yourself.
Usually a combination of these three is the best way to manage a longer trip. It's important, when possible, to give each adult at least a little alone time, some space to reflect, whenever possible. Doing some preplanning for this can be a timesaver – and a lifesaver!
But, of course, the best “currency” in any travel is flexibility. You can plan and then find you need to alter or scrap those “well-laid plans” for something to work better with the health conditions and moods of your kids – or even yourself.
Making it Work With All Parties Involved
In our case, with older kids (+ uncles!), we’ve been finding a lot of value in splitting off in groups of two, three or four, doing our own things, and then reconvening for various events – visits to major sites, meals, etc.
This has worked out well because it gives us opportunity to move from place to place at whatever pace we want to as well as share our experiences with the other people when we come together. Moving as a larger group often becomes an exercise in frustration. Nobody wants that!
Years ago, without the advantage of smart phones and Google maps, this was more of a challenge. But we have tremendous tools in our pockets now. It makes it all so simple.
Two Vital Ingredients
For this all to work, though, two ingredients are necessary: flexibility (as I mentioned earlier) and grace. Giving that grace to others as much as you’d want it yourself.
For, when the temperature rises or the unexpected occurs, moods can swing and tempers can flare. If you catch yourself in a funk while traveling (which, I’ll admit, I occasionally have myself), stop, take a breath and ask yourself, “Why I am feeling this way?” And then, perhaps more importantly, “Does X even matter?” Most times, it doesn’t.
I’ve stopped myself in my tracks at least a half dozen times over the last couple weeks by doing this, and it’s helped.
Then, apply that flexible mindset and slather on grace to your fellow travelers – and even, at times, to yourself.
That’s the best recipe I’ve found for an awesome family trip, no matter how old the kids are, who you’re traveling with, and where you go.
Now, get out and enjoy!
What are some tips and tricks you've learned when you travel as a family? Share here!
Image credit: stencil
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