This was our very first family vacation… Ever. We’ve crammed a lot of living and a lot of kids and a lot of crises into the last eight years. A family vacation never seemed to fit into that. We’ve traveled, of course. But not for the purpose of Vacationing with Kids.
After the last two years of adoption and bed rest and new baby, we felt the whole family was ready to for a break. So we took a vacation and we had a ball. We did some things right and we learned what we need to do better next time. For example:
Take Some Help – Look, it wouldn’t be a vacation if we simply moved our family circus to a different location. I can stay home and manage us a lot better than on the road. So if we’re going to leave our safe little nest AND try to relax, we’re gonna need an extra set of hands.
We are lucky in that I have three lovely sisters who were eager to score a free vacation in exchange for being their usual helpful selves. I never dreamed we would need all three sets of hands but HAVE MERCY we were glad to have them. I don’t think any of us were prepared for the level of work it took to get our gang some R & R.
That being said, I know not everybody has siblings handy. However, it can’t hurt to ask a teen or college student you love if they’d like a free trip to the beach. We had the room, we fed them well, and we made sure they got plenty of time off to do their own thing.
The key with this? Communication. After a few days, it started to feel like nobody was getting enough rest so we sat and pow-wowed about how to make it better. We broke our day up into smaller sections and made sure that everyone knew when they were Responsible and when they were Free To Relax.
(This was especially key for me because as The Mom I felt guilty that someone else was doing my job. Once we all had appointed times for helping and for resting, I could truly relax during my breaks.)
Pack Less Clothes, Pack More Food – I only took two outfits per child, plus their swim stuff. This worked just fine. Doing laundry is like breathing for me, so it was no big whoop to do a load or two a day to keep us all relatively covered.
Oh sure, Willa wandered around wearing Sam’s shirt and no underwear for a day or two, but she was on vacation! I had no problem letting her be breezy.
I did discover, though: we eat more on vacation. We play harder, we burn more calories, and everyone feels peckish all the time. Even though most of our packing space in the van was dedicated to food, we were at the store by Day 2 completely restocking.
I used the crockpot to handle most of the cooking and we avoided eating out the entire week. I think Andrew was a little sad not to get some fried seafood, but his wallet was happier.
Easy Sun Protection Is Key – Spray-on sunscreen is a must. We went through a can a day. It was the difference between thirty minutes of smearing stuff on kids and ten minutes.
Also, next year, I’m buying the long-sleeved sun shirts for the twins. They had major reactions to the sun. They didn’t burn exactly, but they had funky rashes. I did buy them hats, which they look adorable in, so everybody wins.
Make A Plan – We knew we wouldn’t want to spend the hottest part of the days out in the sun, but we neglected to plan properly for how to fill those long stretches indoors. It occurred to us, oh, about two days before the vacation was over, that we could have easily prepared a few things besides Wii Party and some board games.
On our last day, we held the First Annual Vitafam Variety Show. Everyone demonstrated a talent, a dance, acted out a Lone Ranger scene, or showed us some fancy dives in the pool. There was even a grand finale that involved a Newsies sing-along. (That footage is going in the vault for blackmail purposes.) The kids had a ball and now have a whole year to plan their talent for next time.
Pools Are Great – Because we didn’t really know how everyone would feel about the ocean, we spent extra to make sure we had pool access. Good Decision. A pool made it super easy to rinse all the sand and salt off of the kids. They loved being able to play in closer proximity to each other without being beaten up by the waves. And it was in the shade some of the time, which was nice relief from the intense beach sun.
For the next few years at least, we’ll use some extra pennies on a pool. It made it a lot more fun for everyone. And it proved our efforts to make this The Year We Learn To Swim were totally worth it.
Pile Some Stones – We took some time to talk about all that God has done for us in the past few years and to set some goals for the year ahead. The kids aren’t really used to retrospective navel-gazing, but this was a good chance to teach them. We also collected some seashells to put in a jar that we can point to and remember our beach trip.
Vacations are always a great time to make a stone pile like the Israelites did, to look at where we’ve been and to pray for grace as we go forward.
And as long as we’re going together, we’ll be just fine.
All the pretty pictures were provided by Southern Rose Photography. The rest of the pictures are courtesy of my iPhone.