Saturday, 6 August 2016

How we go on a successful family vacation with kids

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We've learned a lot as a family over the years about going on trips with little kids. We've had family vacations where it felt like absolute chaos, where we were absolutely exhausted by the end of it, questioning whether it was worth it and learning the hard way about just about every single part of going away with kids. Because, you see, when we go away with my parents and my sisters family, we have five kids, 5yrs old and under with us--all as close to each other as siblings. So really, let me re-phrase this--we have learned a lot about going on family TRIPS with this many kids...because vacation is a word meant for lazing around, enjoying cocktails on the beach and coming home feeling refreshed and relaxed. A family TRIP still means that we have a good time, but we are definitely not relaxing. So, after a lot of trial and error--after a lot of tears and frustrations, after a lot of absolute exhaustion, I feel like we have finally (somewhat) figured this out. We have figure out how to avoid the meltdowns, how to avoid our kids not wanting to go to bed in strange places, how to avoid the cousins/siblings fighting and how to ultimately just have a good time. 

So, this year, we put all of our trip knowledge into place and packed up all 11 of us, and headed out on the road. And this trip? Well, it was great.

We headed to a family resort on the lake, just over a two hour drive away. And if you've never heard of a place like this, picture the movie Dirty Dancing (minus the Patrick Swayze dance moves, of course). Picture little cabins lined up along the water, equipped with nothing more than a tiny bathroom, a tiny bar fridge and some REALLY out-dated decor.

Picture a dining hall where we all met for breakfast, lunch and dinner and where we were served amazingly delicious meals and where someone else did our dishes for us.

Picture events planned and designed for kids, all day long. So finish up breakfast fast, because at 9am they have a scavenger hunt prepared for all of the kids, so you better get moving.

Then picture water games and relay races happening at the beach for the kids, so get down there to join in the fun {or laze around in the ankle-deep water in a boat, because when the water for a long while out is this shallow, it means that kids can play for hours in the water and although we're still on alert, none of us are freaking out like we would have with this many kids if it was even a bit deeper}.

Picture a games room just beside the dining hall, where you'll find game tables, puzzles in progress, a tuck shop for buying treats, a stage for night time performances and karaoke and toys in a big bucket for any kid who needs some entertainment.

*Mya with the magician/kids performer on stage one night

Picture so much hot sun that the full white shirt and floppy hat look becomes our constant (and SUPER stylish) beach attire. 

And when you're done at the beach? Well, head on over to the pool. Because a slide and a bunch of kids means hours of entertainment. 

And then when you're tired of that, head over to the very very old (and a bit sketchy) mini golf course for some more fun. 

Or play at the crazy plastic playground with tons of tunnels that the kids absolutely loved.

 So with roasting marshmallows after dinner...

 and eating sm'Oreos {marshmallows in between Oreos)

we put the kids to bed and watched the sunset from our cabins each and every night.

 And on that last day, just before we left, we sent Mya to the "spa" (ie. the playroom with a couple extra chairs set up), where she got pampered by a couple of the young staff members. So as the curling iron ran through her hair, and nail polish dried on her nails, she came out feeling fabulous.

 So all in all, a GREAT family trip. So much fun. So many great memories made.

But here's the anyone out there who has also thought that family trips are more work than enjoyable and more exhausting than relaxing, here are the things that we have learned over the years..because this time, we really did come home feeling like it was totally worth it. Feeling like it was so much fun. Feeling like the kids AND the adults had a blast.

But, I fully believe that the reason we felt this way is because we made a few important changes (from learning the hard way on previous trips). We, for example, split the kids up at bedtime--every family had their own cabin, so our 2 big kids shared a room, Sophia was with us, and Jen/Jeff's kids shared a room in another cabin. No more tiny people driving us to drink as they bounced off the walls before bedtime, excited to be sleeping with their cousins. We'll save that for when they're a bit older.

And another thing we changed? We made sure there was a ton of stuff to keep the kids busy during the day, which is why this resort with all of their kid friendly activities was so incredibly appealing. The resort did the work, we sat back and enjoyed it. Perfect.

And naps? You try not to miss them. Everyone is in much better shape after some quiet time for the big kids and naps for babies--adults included.

And finally, chillax about the little things and lower your expectations.

It's not going to go perfectly. The morning that we were leaving, trying to pack up our whole house into our van, trying to wrangle little people, change diapers, get breakfast into them on the run and get out on time, I remember pulling Terry aside. We were both doing okay at that point, but I said to him (in case of a catastrophe or just a stressful situation that morning with the kids), I reminded him that our kids will remember how we're reacting to GETTING there. The process of leaving the house for a trip. The process of getting into the car and taking off. The process of getting stuck in traffic and having squirmy kids eager to get out and get to our destination. They'll associate our reaction to them during this getting there process as a part of our trip--so even when it was easy to get frustrated during those moments before we headed out, we tried to pull ourselves together and make the leaving part as enjoyable as the actual trip itself. Easier said than done, but in reminding Terry of this, I reminded myself of this and we got there with both parents intact. Good news.

So we've learned a lot. We've messed up a lot in order to learn a lot. But I finally feel like we have figured out how to travel with 11 people. So to anyone out there who is about to take their little kids somewhere great, whether you have 3 people in your family or 11--enjoy it! And bring lots of treats. Treats fix almost anything on a trip. And remember, one day they'll grow up and (I think) it will get a lot easier.

Happy summer everyone!

We're a little happy to be home now too.

Erica xo


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