We travel a fair amount with our five year old. Partly out of necessity, because a big chunk of our family lives several states away. Partly because we’re Disney people. But either way, she’s become quickly familiar with road trips and airports.
Whenever we hit the road, I hear the same thing: “Enjoy your vacation!” But let’s be clear about one thing at this stage of our lives:
It’s not a vacation. It’s a trip. And they’re very different.
Vacation implies rest, relaxation, maybe some uninterrupted time to enjoy a cocktail with a little umbrella in it. Having to parent my child in a different, unfamiliar-to-her location, without the arsenal of tricks I have in our home? That’s hard work.
Very early on, I had to reframe traveling with kids. We took our first road trip when my daughter was about 11 weeks old. Louisiana to West Virginia, so she could meet her great-grandparents, and then down to North Carolina for Thanksgiving with my family. Traveling with an infant was tricky enough. Add in the fact that I was exclusively pumping, and I was over my head very quickly. She and I were thriving on routine in those early days, and that trip definitely threw us for a loop.
And packing for a kid that tiny? Forget it. We packed for every possibility under the sun. I’m still not sure how it all fit in the car.
Our next adventure? A beach trip, when she was about nine months old. I had visions of my pre-baby beach trips, complete with sleeping in and long hours on the beach. I still got time in the sand, but I had a baby monitor by my side while she napped (with other people in the house too, obviously). She was also newly mobile, starting to crawl and pull herself up. You know what’s not baby proofed in the slightest? Rental beach houses.
After that, I changed my perspective.
Was traveling with her challenging? Definitely. But was it overall fun, giving us time with family and friends, and making new memories along the way? Also definitely. And that’s what we decided was the most important. But to keep my sanity intact, I changed the way I thought about things.
Vacations will come around again. Probably around the time my daughter thinks she’s too cool to hang out with mom and dad every second of the day. Then I’ll have my time to sleep in and relax.
So for now, it’s a trip. Time for us to visit old things we love, and explore new places. There might be some time to relax, but with a very active kid, that’s not our priority right now. As long as she wants to explore and grow while we travel, I’ll be right along beside her — with an overly packed backpack with whatever we could possibly need.