Traveling With Kids: Give Up on Perfection

We are a family who loves to travel. Local or international, weekend getaways or week-long adventures. We’re in for it all. The memories are priceless, and the chance to escape the distractions of day-to-day life can help reset and recharge our family.

As much as I love traveling with my kids, there have been a few times every single trip when I’ve wondered exactly why I bothered to bring them at all. Meltdowns, complaining, and general ungratefulness can be just as common as laughter and picture-perfect memories.

The most “memorable” of moments that shaped the way I approached all future family vacations will forever be known as the Pettus International Incident of 2014.

One our many postcard-worthy images from London.

I had it all planned down to the minute. We only had two days in London, so we’d spend the day going from landmark to landmark, there would be lunch at a traditional English pub (fish and chips required), and our day would end with dinner at a highly recommended, family friendly restaurant touting the best milkshakes around. It was going to be perfect. After all, I’d planned it to be perfect. The fact that we’d flown a sleepless, overnight flight to get to London after a week in Africa with two kids 10 and under was not going to impact my perfect.

Power through kids! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so wipe the sleep from your eyes and appreciate it!”

About an hour before dinner, my son saw a Subway and had to have some. I dug in my heels and said no because you don’t go all the way to London just to eat Subway. After a meltdown of epic proportions, I was convinced the promise of milkshakes and fries would result in cooler heads. I was wrong. Instead, it resulted in the throwing of drinks, a broken restaurant door, and an hour of yelling.

Now, our family laughs about the “London Incident,” and any time things get a little hairy on a trip, someone says “just let them eat Subway” to help reset. That day, however, all I could think about was how we had sacrificed to provide that opportunity for our children, and they ruined it. That’s right. One hour over the course of two days had ruined an entire experience.

As our kids have gotten older, things have shifted. Maybe it’s their age or maybe it’s that I’ve changed my perspective on what constitutes as perfect, but I feel like we’ve found the secret sauce to successful family vacations.

Don’t Overplan

No matter how old your kids get, they still suffer from overstimulation and a lack of downtime. I’m an adult, and I suffer from it. If you don’t make it to that cool restaurant or every landmark in town, that’s okay. Our most successful trips offer lots of random outdoor time and no schedule.

San Fran 2
San Fran 1
Kayaking

Lower Your Expectations

My husband recently said that all we can do is offer our kids experiences, but it’s up to them what they do with those experiences. If they decide to sit and pout while you rock out to a concert or look at amazing sites, so be it.

Take Adults-Only Vacations

I’m a strong believer in leaving the kids with grandma at least once a year. This can sometimes backfire and cause you to wonder why you ever drag them along. I kid… sort of. I love traveling with my family, but some trips are better taken with the kids left at home.

 

Embrace the Chaos

It won’t be perfect. Your kids will act like fools. You might even wonder at some point why you ever decided to have children. I promise it’s worth it. Take it from a mom who’s watched her kid storm out of a London restaurant while everyone looked on in horror. You will look back one day and smile at the memories. Even the rough ones.

Finally, if you are in the middle of what can only be described as the worst vacation moment in family history, for the love of all things, let them eat Subway.

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