10 AWESOME Things About a Vacation With Kids!

eiffel tower funI have a {presumably normal} tendency to get a little sentimental while traveling. Perhaps it’s the jet-lag, the disruption to routine, or maybe even the water, but I find myself thinking profoundly about the meaning of travel and engaging in misty-eyed reminiscing about vacations of the past.

So I found it a bit jarring last week when, as I scanned my Facebook feed after tucking my children into bed in our Paris hotel room, I came across an article entitled “Six Reasons Why Vacationing with Kids Sucks.”

I get that the author is a humor writer, and that she intended the post to be tongue-in-cheek. I get that as parents, we long to write about the many aspects of raising children that do, indeed, suck. {I have written a few of those articles myself}.

But holy buckets, this mother’s article led to a sh!tstorm of scathing comments; in fact, the post has now been removed. Apparently, the family vacation is not safe territory for self-deprecating parental humor. Apparently, we’re all Clark Griswolds at heart, choosing to view the family holiday with a myopic nostalgia, as “the most fun-filled old-fashioned” adventure EVER, despite such disasters as knocking over Stonehenge or setting the Christmas tree on fire.

Perhaps we don’t want to admit the hardships of a trip with our progeny because a “vacation” is associated with rest, freedom, and family harmony. It’s supposed to be a break from work and busy-ness. But as any parent knows, a family trip is not a vacation from parental responsibility, which was essentially the message of the now-deleted article.

I am not trying to add to the vitriol, but that post made me a bit sad. Sure, we had our share of National Lampoon-worthy tantrums and meltdowns on our European journey. In fact, I am certain that the day we visited the Palace of Versailles is now on record as the MOST DISASTROUS DAY AT VERSAILLES SINCE 1919 {when the devastating treaty that would help launch the Second World War was signed. See exhibit A}.

Exhibit A: My Facebook Status Update on June 27

“PSA for parents traveling with children: There is a curse going around.

The curse is likely activated by the following: a slightly self-congratulatory conversation about what a GREAT THING you are doing bringing your kids to Europe and how they have been so WELL-BEHAVED.

The curse could HYPOTHETICALLY induce the following behaviors in children: a 5yo having a boneless meltdown at the MERE SIGHT of the line to enter the Palace of Versailles, a 7yo throwing a tantrum in the King’s antechamber because IT IS SO CROWDED and EVERYONE KEEPS BUDGING, a 5yo screaming next to the Grand Canal in the Jardin because he DOES NOT WANT TO SHARE a foot-long ham sandwich with his sister, leading said 5yo to run off and hide behind a tree until a kind French woman asks him if he is lost, and then looks all judging-ly at his mother wondering WHY THE EFF CAN’T AMERICANS RAISE THEIR BEBES TO BEHAVE RESPONSIBLY, and then, finally, a 7yo freaking out because THE ICE CREAM IS MELTING and flinging her ice cream cone into the meticulously maintained gardens of Versailles.”

This may or may not be my family in the Hall of Mirrors
This may or may not be my family in the Hall of Mirrors

Even though my family’s behavior likely would have landed us in the infamous Bastille prison in the days of Louis XIV, I still can’t say that our day at Versailles “sucked.” Our vacation certainly didn’t suck. While I hesitated when my husband first proposed the trip last year, I can now say that I LOVED taking my five- and seven-year-old children with me to Europe.

Was it the same kind of travel we experienced in the B.C. era {Before Children}? NO. Did we have to bring a lot more stuff? YES. Was it AWESOME? YES!

So for all you parents of little ones who may fear that your family sojourn this summer will suck, I present to you…

Vacation With Kids.jpg

1. Learning cool things about your kids

I knew my son would love the Tower of London and seeing real soldiers and knights and castles. I had no idea how much he would love art museums. The Pompidou Centre {a modern art museum in Paris} enthralled him — he kept pointing to artworks and saying, “Mommy, tell me about that one!” When we saw a portrait of Napoleon at the Louvre, he implored, “Tell me about him – tell me the whole story!” This history-teacher mama’s heart just burst!

2. Sharing a hotel room with your family

Okay, I warned you about my sentimentality… but there was something so comforting and sweet about sleeping each night with my most important people so close to me. Some of my favorite memories from the trip are the whole-family giggling sessions that erupted over my children making up goofy dances for us at night, or over ridiculous things like my son leaving his toothbrush on the toilet.

Goofy kids in a hotel room
Goofy kids in a hotel room

3. Witnessing sibling bonding

Away from friends and playmates for nine days, my children just had each other. They invented wildly fantastic games based on the sites we had visited and the small souvenirs they had purchased — they played “mini Paris” and “mini London” and “knights and dragons” and created museums in our hotel rooms. When my son got tired, his big sister would rub his back or snuggle with him during a subway ride. While there were, inevitably, sibling arguments, these moments of sibling tenderness and affection just overwhelmed me.

Big sister cuddling little brother on the Tube
Big sister cuddling little brother on the Tube

4. Disconnecting from the digital world

While we could access wi-fi in the hotel at night, my husband and I had no data access on our cell phones during the day. It was a wonderful break from social media and blogging — and it meant that during times when, at home, I would have been tempted to check my email {while waiting at a restaurant or riding the Tube}, I talked and laughed and engaged with my children instead. Funny how it’s when the phone is turned OFF that we get the wake-up call.

5. Enjoying quiet time in the evening

With my young children in bed by 8pm each night, needing a quiet room with no TV shows to disturb them, I got to lie in bed and read and truly unwind at the end of each day.

6. Escaping domestic duties

Need I say more about a nine-day break from laundry, cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping?

Impressing the Parisians with our table manners
Impressing the Parisians with our table manners

7. Suspending {some of} the rules

While certain rules still need to be enforced while on vacation {e.g., don’t hit your sister; don’t talk about, or engage in, farting at the dinner table}, others can be dropped. You can have dessert every night, and ice cream in the afternoon. You can eat pain au chocolat for breakfast. You can stay up past bedtime. Even this rule-following mama loves a rule-breaking week!

8. Seeing the world as your kids do

My husband and I have been to Europe several times, and we thought we knew what would fascinate our children — the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, big cities. And while those did delight our children, so did things like:

  • chasing pigeons
  • figuring out how toilets flush in different countries {and learning that other countries call it “the toilet” and not “the restroom” — oh, the giggles!}
  • discovering that sometimes you have to PAY to go to the bathroom
  • watching familiar cartoons dubbed in French
  • learning what a “phone booth” is

When I asked my son what the most amazing part of the trip was, he said, “Riding the subway.” A family vacation {like any part of parenting, really} allows you to see the world with new eyes, and discover the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Say cheese!
Say cheese!

9. Discovering what your children are capable of

I’ll admit, I was terrified of the 8-hour flight home during the middle of the day. Could my children sit still and behave for that long? The answer, I discovered, was YES. I didn’t even need the surprise toys and coloring books I had packed for the flight! They spent some of the time watching movies, and also reading, chatting, napping, and playing.

I was worried about what they would eat, as Europeans don’t really have a “children’s menu.” While my son pretty much lived on ham sandwiches for nine days, my daughter impressed me with her culinary adventurousness – she ate fish and chips, croque madames, pasta with an unpronounceable sauce and pancetta… all of which were new to her!

My children walked for hours each day {with lots of breaks}, waited in lines, and navigated big cities. Though the trip wasn’t flawless, I am amazed at what great little travelers I have!

And finally, the MOST AWESOME moments were…

10. Experiencing this…

Kisses from my son along the Champs-Elysees
Kisses from my son along the Champs-Elysees

and this…

Modeling the Crown Jewels* {*not the real Crown Jewels}
Modeling the Crown Jewels*
{*not the real Crown Jewels}

and this…

My son sleeping on my lap on the airplane
My son sleeping on my lap on the airplane

A vacation with kids won’t be the same as the leisurely trips that you took as a young married couple, or your backpacking adventures as a college grad. It will be different. But it can be AWESOME.

And if you DO encounter a Griswold-style, “full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency,” let it go and throw your ice cream into the air. Soon this will be one of your “hap-hap-happiest” memories with “the jolliest bunch of [cool kids] of this side of the nuthouse.” :)

Safe travels and bon voyage!

Sarah Rudell Beach
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Sarah Rudell Beach

Sarah is a writer, teacher, and mother. At Left Brain Buddha, she writes about her journey to live and parent mindfully, joyfully, and thought-fully in her left-brain analytical life. When not working, she enjoys dancing, reading, and hanging out with her little Buddhas.
Sarah Rudell Beach
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  1. says

    Well I have to agree with all of your reasons why it’s wonderful and important to go away with your kids, but I will stand by what I put on my Facebook page today, going away with your kids is not a vacation, it’s a change of location! So glad you had a wonderful time and I loved seeing your pictures on your FB page! xo
    Kathy Radigan recently posted…Mom and Dad Go to the MoviesMy Profile

    • Sarah Rudell Beach says

      Thanks Kathy — I suppose it’s all in how we define “vacation” and what it is we are getting a break from!

  2. says

    We had a taste of this on a recent road trip/camping trip with our one year old. Some things were really hard but every day we had wonderful experiences that made it so worth it. I am looking forward to doing more traveling with him as he gets older and your thoughts remind me that we will definitely be able to do it.
    Anna recently posted…Campfire PizzaMy Profile

    • Sarah Rudell Beach says

      I’m so glad you had a good trip! It definitely gets easier to travel with them as they get older {and potty-trained!} :)

  3. says

    All you’ve said it so true. Well, except for the hotel part. I’ve never liked sharing a hotel with my little kids, and now with 6 kids, we have to get two rooms. The logistics can be painful. We now rent a house whenever possible.
    I absolutely love vacationing with my kids. I have even taken them on spring break most years without my husband. The way I see it, there will be tantrums regardless of where we are. Might as well have them someplace new, where I’m not cooking or doing laundry or yard work.
    It was so much fun to follow you on your trip while we were visiting the same places at almost the exact same time.
    christine recently posted…M-O-R-A-T-O-R-I-U-M! What’s That Spell? (TToT #55)My Profile

    • Sarah Rudell Beach says

      Indeed it was, Christine! And I love how you put that — the tantrums will always be there… so better to endure one in Paris than in the same old basement! Glad you had a great trip!

  4. says

    Love this list and still jealous of your trip! Since going to Paris with my hubby for the first time a couple years ago, I have wanted to go back and take our girls. I have hesitated because of their ages and concerns about plane rides, time differences, walking, and eating. So great to hear that yours did well – gives me hope that mine might be o.k. too!
    Lisa @ The Golden Spoons recently posted…Piña Colada Cheesecake Bars (Gluten Free Option)My Profile

    • Sarah Rudell Beach says

      The concerns that I had ended up being fine… there was enough familiar food for the kids to survive (and we knew there was McDonalds if we ever got too desperate, but that never happened!) The time difference wasn’t that bad for them (I think it’s harder for us old people). I hope you can take that trip with your girls — it would be memorable!

  5. Bree says

    This was a delightful post. I very much enjoyed reading about the experiences you and your family had. Though we used to take frequent spontaneous road trips, my husband and I have not traveled (except driving once a year to see relatives) since we had our first child over a decade ago. Traveling with two autistic kids increases the challenges and the costs (in more ways than monetarily), so at least for now it’s too difficult. I do hope we can manage it someday.

    Your trip sounds like it was very much worth the hassle, and I know the memories you made are priceless. I loved the photos. The one of your kids in front of the Eiffel Tower shows just how much they were enjoying their European adventure (at least at that point). I’m sure in years to come, even (or especially) the sad and pouty photo in the mirror will be a source of many smiles. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and for pointing out that traveling with kids, while different and sometimes hard, can also be meaningful and fun.

    • Sarah Rudell Beach says

      Thanks, Bree — it was such a meaningful trip and such a great experience. It’s been fun watching the Tour de France in London today and seeing the kids get all excited about seeing the places we had been! I can understand the challenges of traveling with autistic children, though I know a friend of mine took her 5yo autistic son to DisneyWorld last year and she mentioned a lot of special needs accommodations that DW provides and how traveling with noise-cancelling headphones helped. I’m sure there’s a lot more out there now for special needs travel than there was even a decade ago.

      And yes, I already laugh at our terrible day at Versailles!

  6. says

    What a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful post! I enjoyed this so much and got slightly sentimental along with you! Somehow I think I’ve missed that hilarious FB update and the accompanying photograph is just priceless, but I do love the list that you came up with. It made me long to travel with my kids to some of my favourite places in Europe. I would be the happiest mom on earth if my kids asked me art-related questions. And the toothbrush on the toilet? Loved it.
    Katia recently posted…On Trees and WritingMy Profile

  7. says

    I love this Sarah! I, too, really enjoy traveling with my son and he always surprises me by how well he does (hopefully, I am not jinxing our next trip by typing that out loud). How amazingly cool that your little boy said “tell me about him!” at the art museum — that would most definitely make every mama proud. I love your photos, too. And EU toilets! I’d forgotten how fascinating they can be in themselves! Did you have any of the ones that are just a hole in the cement?
    So happy that your family vacation was so wonderful!
    Kristi Campbell recently posted…My Listen to Your Mother Video: Being a Special Needs MomMy Profile

  8. says

    This may be my favorite vacation post ever! I love Paris and I LOVE pain au chocolat and I simply cannot wait to take my children there to see it and taste it all. I am so impressed and appreciate your sharing this amazing experience!

    Also, thank you for keeping your eye on the positive. I so, SO appreciate this about you, Sarah.
    Much Love.
    Chris K. (Disquisitive Mama) recently posted…Vacation MourningMy Profile

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