So many of you are traveling right now for your children’s Spring Break. Hopefully, this article will come to you as a blessing! For the last few weeks, I’ve been telling you how to plan for travel with kids and how to prep/ pack for travel with kids. This week we are going to address the “execution” and “recovery” phases of your travel mission. (Sorry, former military intelligence officer here. Sometimes my vernacular just can’t stray from my Army background!) I sure hope you got a chance to read those two articles because they are the most time-intense part of the family travel process.
Once you are actually doing the traveling and you’ve taken the time to plan and prepare sufficiently, the rest is all about flexibility and mindset. What do I mean? Once you’ve taken care of all the travel arrangements to ensure a kid-friendly vacation and packed/prepped for meltdowns and travel delays, the rest should be easy as pie… as long as you are flexible and have the right mindset.
What do I mean by “flexible”? I’ll give you a personal example. While flying solo with my three-year-old last month from Seattle to Newport News, VA via Atlanta, I planned on taking advantage of my American Express Delta Sky Lounge benefit during our three-hour layover in Atlanta. We got there and quickly realized a few things:
- They were going to charge me $29 for my daughter to access the facilities. They don’t always do this, though it is a policy. A nice man had an extra pass and gave it to me to use. Lovely bit of karma, but not sure we would’ve gone in at that rate for about two hours.
- It was Thursday afternoon – primetime for business travelers, i.e., consultants flying home for the weekend. The place was packed!
- Some people don’t appreciate young kids in such places, whether or not they are behaving well and keeping quiet. We got some lovely glares from middle-aged men in business attire.
After about one hour and sufficient access to the complimentary food and clean restrooms, my daughter was reaching her limit with quiet time on her Kindle Fire. She began to act up and eventually spilled her apple juice. I had two choices at that point: (1) Get mad at her and let it ruin our afternoon; or (2) Remember she is three and maybe move on to something else, like taking a walk through the airport.
The point is…I had planned to chill out in the Sky Club for most of our layover time, but that just was not in the cards for us, so we changed course and went for a walk. It may sound silly, but once you allow yourself to get in a bad mood on a travel day, there are too many variables that can compound your bad mood and make it just miserable. This is why people are always so crabby on planes and in airports. One bad thing happened and they let it ruin their whole day, by allowing every other mishap (which always happens when you travel, BTW) snowball.
Earlier I mentioned having the right “mindset.” This is pretty much the same concept. Go into any travel day expecting hiccups and be ready to roll with the punches and have faith that you will get to where you need to go on time regardless of the route you take.
Here is another personal example. I was traveling in Washington State recently to attend a memorial service. I had flown in the night before to Seattle with my daughter. We arrived at our hotel and finally got into bed around 1:30am. The next morning I had to pack, check out, take an Uber to a rental car place, rent the car, and drive three hours south to the location of the memorial activities. Of course, that morning my daughter was not cooperating at all and we got to the rental car place late. However, because we were late, the rental car fee was far less (24 hours less) – so there was a little sign from the Universe that it was ok and we would still get where we were going on time.
I knew that this was going to be a stressful trip for many reasons, but I just kept telling myself that hiccups happen and we would get there when we are supposed to get there. We eventually made it to the Celebration of Life for my friend’s son but missed the burial. I had told my friend that we might not be able to attend the burial the week prior, so it was understood beforehand; however, I still felt bad that I missed it. At the Life Celebration, I was able to talk to my friend who told me that it was most important for him to have family and friends at the Life Celebration, rather than the burial. If there was ever any confirmation needed that you must have faith that you will get to where you need to be (where you are supposed to be) regardless of the challenges of the journey, this moment was it.
Maybe this article has gotten a bit more philosophical than practical, but honestly, to me, that is what travel is about. I love the idea of enjoying the journey, not just the destination. I love the art of slow travel – where one goes where the road takes them and really savors the moments they are in rather than just rushing from one attraction to the next. In my previous articles about traveling with kids, I offered some really practical steps to make it a better journey, now that you are on the journey, let it take you where you are supposed to go. Be open-minded to experience it.
Kids are really good at forcing us to stop and smell the roses. For goodness sakes, smell the roses with them. You’re on vacation, you have no reason not to!
Finally, for two bits of practical advice to recover from your vacation with small kids:
- Schedule at least one day off after you get back to “vacation from your vacation.” In all seriousness, use this day to catch up on laundry, sleep in, readjust to the time zone, and perhaps even send the kids to school so you and your partner can spend some time alone without the kids before you go back to the real world.
- Order pizza that first night home. Don’t fuss with making dinner; you’re going to be too exhausted to do it. (Bonus: If you’re one of my clients, I send you a gift card to do just that.)
Well, that is all I have for you this week. I hope this series on traveling with kids helped to alleviate some of your anxiety about traveling with your kids. I think it is really important to incorporate travel into our kid’s lives when they are young, because it teaches them so many important life lessons, namely how to be a citizen of the world and how the world is so much bigger than their immediate community. Also, I am a firm believer that we simply cannot wait until our kids are older to take them on trips, because not everyone gets a “later.” Time flies by so quickly. Don’t wait to spend quality time with the ones you love.
P.S. If you are tired of waiting to spend quality time with your children, start by filling out our trip planning form and we’ll work together to create a trip that will bring you and your loved ones together in an unforgettable way.
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