Vacation with Toddlers

How old was I when vacations became relaxing again? 

I asked my parents that very question on the second day of our vacation. The truth is, I was exhausted and longing for my routine. The kids had pushed my husband and me to the brink of our sanity. We almost started to turn on each other. Almost.

Luckily my parents were there and helped us a lot. Otherwise I don’t think we would be planning a trip again in the foreseeable future.

So, how old do the kids have to be when it’s relaxing again? How old will they be when we can look forward to a family trip and actually enjoy it when the time comes?

And why do we put ourselves through the trouble of a vacation with toddlers?

How to vacation with toddlers.

The trip from our point of view-

1. Plan a fun trip for the family.

-Pay a bunch of money with plans to spend a lot more once you get there.

-A few days ahead of time, start talking to the kids about the upcoming trip to inspire intrigue.

Plan what you need to take and what you can do without. Make list upon list on what you have and what you’ll get when you arrive.

-Pack everything you own into your SUV and head out for a fun family adventure.

2. Time to Relax!

-Slather sunscreen all over everybody, and don’t forget yourself!!

-Carry water/sand toys, a cooler, a backpack or two, and a child to the lake.

-Now that you’re exhausted, its time to “suit up” each kid and take them in the lake. If the heat doesn’t drain you, playing in the water will. I promise.

-Be sure to follow each kid around with a bottle of water to help avoid dehydration.

3. Time to Sleep.

-Nap time. We lucked out. Two out of three days, the kids napped beautifully. Nap time is when we actually got to relax.

Aaaaaaahhhhhh…..there’s a pretty lake……Lake Chelan-Bedtime.

The first night away I didn’t put too much stock in the kids’ craziness. It was the first night after all and we were in a strange place. My daughter wanted to sleep with me and the little guy was close by in his pack and play. They fell asleep two and a half hours past their bedtime. Once they were both asleep, my husband and I went to sleep too. We didn’t want to risk waking the kids up by moving near them.

The second and third nights were as bad as the first, with a similar ending. They both fell asleep way past bedtime and we weren’t about to make any noise near them. Besides that, we were both too exhausted to stay up anyway.

I have a sneaky suspicion one of the reasons our nights away were so tough is this little guy. We forgot him at home. Do not make the same mistake. Vacation With Toddlers4. Time for Food.

-Snacks at the lake. We always go to the grocery store as soon as we arrive. For some reason, we didn’t this time. My parents had a bunch of veggies and PB&J’s, but with the energy the kids were burning through, they needed more food more often. Next time, we’ll go to the store and load up as if we’re staying a week.

-Main meals. We ate out the whole time. Eating out is fun at first, but then you quickly realize how unhealthy it is. Next time we’re going to cook more meals in our room and we’ll have more snacks!!

5. Pack up and go home.

-Pack everything up being careful to keep the clean and dirty clothes separate.

-Load up the car.

-Close your eyes for a moment and imagine how nice it would be if you could blink and be home. You’re so wiped out from your “vacation” you can’t fathom a five hour drive (with stops along the way).

So. Why do we do it? Why go through all that trouble just to end up feeling like we got hit by a bus?

In short, the memories.

My girl has fond memories from last year’s vacation playing in the sand. This year both kids swam the entire time. They each had a floating device of some sort so they were pretty free to test out the water themselves (with someone close by). They haven’t had such freedom around water before.

My youngest was amazed! He chattered away to my mom as he practiced treading water for the first time. Vacation with ToddlersHe swallowed a bit too much of the lake for his liking, but he learned a lesson or two. By the last day, he was staying quite a bit closer to the shore.

My girl spent a little bit of time in the sand, but the water was much more exciting. The gigantic sting ray float daddy got may have lured her into the cold water as well.Father daughterEven though we kept asking ourselves, “why are we putting ourselves through this?” my husband and I agreed, it was all worth it because the kids will have some great memories. We do too. It was an exhausting trip but it has some fantastic highlights. I’m already wishing I was back in the lake swimming with the kids. It took me less than 24 hours to forget how done with vacation I was.

So, when will we be able to relax on our vacation again? It doesn’t really matter, does it? Family vacations are about the kids learning and experiencing fun new things. And if we do it right, we’ll figure out how to enjoy it all right along with them!

Are you able to relax on vacation with the kiddos? What age were they when you were able to really start enjoying the time away?

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25 Comments

  • Reply twitchetts.com

    Vacations can be exhausting with young kiddos, but the memories are Well worth it. You have some great tips to be well prepared so that it can go as smooth as possible!!

    July 24, 2015 at 7:41 am
    • Reply mamabyfire@gmail.com

      Thanks! Two days later and I’m still recovering. LOL!

      July 24, 2015 at 8:08 am
  • Reply Kimberly

    LOL…love this post! I have SO been there (and still am)! How I long for a “relaxing” family vacation. I think I have a few more years to go before we get there! It seems to be getting easier each year though 🙂

    July 24, 2015 at 7:53 am
    • Reply mamabyfire@gmail.com

      Thanks! Good to know I’m not alone! 😀 I’m fairly certain next year will be easier. This year was the most difficult, so it can only get better from here, right?

      July 24, 2015 at 8:16 am
  • Reply Lissette

    Oh yes!! Traveling with toddlers is not meant to be relaxing! I’m a Disney annual pass holder and I’ve taken my 2 year old 3 times now with 2 more trips planned before the year is out. It gets easier the more you travel with the kids.

    I’ve realized that I really need to keep to our sleep/eat routines and give him plenty of opportunities to be independent (walking on his own, take him to playgrounds/splash pads, give him plenty of down time).

    You’re right about the memories. I love the excitement I get to see on my son’s face when he realizes where we are and what we’re doing. I love to hear his giggles when we’re riding the rides or how he runs up to hug Mickey and then tries to have an elaborate conversation with him in toddler speak. It really is great!

    July 24, 2015 at 8:48 am
    • Reply mamabyfire@gmail.com

      Oh man! An annual pass to Disney sounds fabulous!! You’re probably right, the more we do it, the easier it will get. As it is, we only do something “major” once a year. We halfway tried to stick to their routines, but we were way too laid back with it. Next time I will follow your advice and stick to the sleeping and eating routines. Thanks so much for your great tips!

      July 24, 2015 at 8:54 am
  • Reply Tamara

    We’ve learned to just go with the flow as best we can. Our toddler one trip refused to sleep in her packnplay in the hotel… we were all up til 4am or so every night. It sucked. But we made the most of it, slept in and had a late brunch. She is getting better about traveling now, and sleeping.

    I am so with you on the spend lots of money thing, and then spend a crap load more. Especially with how the Canadian dollar is now. We are not going anywhere away from home any time soon.

    July 24, 2015 at 9:18 am
    • Reply mamabyfire@gmail.com

      Up until 4am every night? Yikes! I keep thinking the more we travel with them, the easier it will get. Only time will tell…

      July 24, 2015 at 9:20 am
  • Reply Melissa

    My kids always go to bed two hours later when we are traveling. You’re right though, it’s worth it for the memories.

    July 24, 2015 at 4:38 pm
    • Reply mamabyfire@gmail.com

      We always try to stick with our normal routine, but it never works out that way.

      July 26, 2015 at 8:49 pm
  • Reply Tricia

    Vacations are a whole different ball game with little ones. haha Sometimes you need a vacation from the vacation! I agree with you that they are so worth it though. It really helps to go with grandparents or someone who can help out with the kids. We’ve gone on vacation with my parents and it really makes such a difference. They’ll take my son when he gets up too early and they always let us have a night or two out by ourselves.

    July 24, 2015 at 5:16 pm
    • Reply mamabyfire@gmail.com

      No kidding! It took us three days to recover! It was so nice having my parents. Last year my husband and I went on a date night or two, but this year we were always too exhausted by the time the kids got to bed. Next year will be quite a bit different, I think. 😀

      July 26, 2015 at 8:46 pm
  • Reply Shaina Braun

    Hahaha this post has me cracking up! So incredibly true! And sometimes, even just a trip to the beach or park can feel this exhausting! We have a trip to Europe coming up and I am NOT looking forward to it with a 6-month-old! A 17 hour flight with him is going to be..well..interesting to say the least. I am sort of thinking that anything I prepare won’t be enough so I should just not prepare at all and save the time and energy 🙂

    July 25, 2015 at 10:53 pm
    • Reply mamabyfire@gmail.com

      Oh, wow!!! Europe with a 6mo?! I would love to hear how it goes. Hopefully they sleep a lot-during the plane ride and during the trip. I would do the same-no amount of preparation can prepare you completely so just do what you can and save your energy for the trip. I hope you have a wonderful time!!

      July 25, 2015 at 11:21 pm
  • Reply Jennifer Corter

    It is so true, the memories are priceless, even for what us parents do go through just to go on vacation. 😛

    July 26, 2015 at 9:13 am
    • Reply mamabyfire@gmail.com

      Exactly!! 😀

      July 26, 2015 at 8:44 pm
  • Reply Shann Eva

    We’re definitely not to the relaxation vacation part yet either. Our road trips have also made great memories, but they are hard on us adults. I’m hoping in maybe 2 years?

    July 26, 2015 at 12:07 pm
    • Reply mamabyfire@gmail.com

      2 years is do-able I suppose. I think that’s about where we’re at too.

      July 26, 2015 at 8:42 pm
  • Reply Jenny

    Now that Z is 4 it is a bit easier to relax on vacation. Though usually I like the “let’s do so much that she falls asleep and sleeps in” type of vacation. The sleeping in part hasn’t happened yet, but I am still sticking with that goal. 🙂

    July 26, 2015 at 9:31 pm
    • Reply mamabyfire@gmail.com

      My Z was pretty easy going this year. It was the little guy that was wearing us out like crazy. She would have slept in if her brother would have let her. We’re lucky because she likes her sleep-we’re waiting for him to get on board.

      July 26, 2015 at 11:24 pm
  • Reply CourtneyLynne

    Hehehehe I’m the biggest traveler ever but haven’t really traveled that much in the past 2 years because of this! I know vacations will never be exactly relaxing with kiddos…. But I’m waiting for my daughter to Atleast be alittle bit more self sufficient and not as clingy.

    July 27, 2015 at 6:49 am
  • Reply Shelah

    Vacations with toddlers is a whole new experience. We are lucky with our daughter. She has been a good traveler since she was a baby.

    July 27, 2015 at 6:56 am
  • Reply Alana

    Seriously, this summed up my feelings about so many endeavours with toddlers. The gear, the wardrobe changes, the sunscreens, the snacks, water, toys, schedules you need to orchestrate around, and on and on and on…. It’s just sooooo much. But as you said, it’s totally worth the memories and the experiences!
    When do vacations get relaxing again? I’d love to know…
    So sorry you left his bear at home. Been there done that with my daughter’s cat. It was ROUGH!

    July 27, 2015 at 6:34 pm
    • Reply mamabyfire@gmail.com

      One day we’ll be able to look forward to a vacation knowing we’ll return rejuvenated! One day. The bear was very sad. I just wish I got a picture of the look on his face when they were reunited. Priceless!

      July 27, 2015 at 6:40 pm
  • Reply Vilma

    I think the key is not to try to pack too much in the holiday, not to have too many exact times to keep and just do what everyone in the family feels like! This summer, as we were camping around northern Finland, we truly enjoyed it as sometimes we booked a hotel and just relaxed in the bed in watching kids movies, sometimes we got out and about, played and cooked together, but it was FUN as we could change the plan if someone was too tired or cranky or the weather was bad (which was most of the time 😉 ).

    August 23, 2015 at 4:24 am
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