We just recently went on our first family vacation as a family of FOUR (plus 2 grandparents ) and it was exhausting and wonderful. Before Elma was born, Ena had been on 12 airplanes by the time she was 1 year old! But adding another baby to the mix was a complete game changer. My husband and I vowed that we would continue traveling after we had children because we truly believe that it is important to show children the world at an early age to help build their sense of curiosity and to open their eyes to the many, many wonderful sights that the world has to offer. In addition, we were in need of a family vacation...BAD. It's been an awful winter here on the North Pole and quite frankly, we were sick of it all! I am in no way an expert, but here is what we learned about traveling with young children:
1. Research In Advance
Before kids, we never planned our vacations. We usually booked the flight and hotel/air bnb and then decided to wander around the city aimlessly. That doesn't work too well with young babies, so planning ahead was key. This means imagining crazy scenarios in your head and understanding how you will deal with them if the issues would arise. What if the kids drank the water and had stomach issues? Buy Pedialite and pack. Is 4 tubes of sunscreen enough for 7 days? Better buy another one. Needless to say, we did not travel light. Which leads me to...
2. Adjust Your Expectations
Gone are the days where you can pack only a carry on for a week long vacation. Gone are the days where you can lounge on the beach, even dozing off for a well deserved nap. But that doesn't mean that your vacation will not be enjoyable - it will be..but in different ways. I can't explain to you how happy I was when I saw Ena's reaction to seeing the ocean. Or Elma's face the first time we brought her swimming with us. Or seeing the girls play together with sand (and sometimes eating it). Moments like this make everything so worthwhile.
3. Be Gentle With Yourself
I'm type A, and there's nothing I can do about it. I have exceptionally high expectations of myself and others, so I put a lot of pressure on myself (and others). But learning that you cannot control everything, especially when traveling with young kids is absolutely necessary. I felt a lot of pressure to make sure that my kids didn't make noise on the airplane, because let's be honest - it sometimes feels as though you're the center of attention there because as soon as you walk in you get two types of reactions - smiles or eye rolls. But you know what? It's PUBLIC transportation and they are children. Overall, both girls were great on the plane going both ways, but even if they didn't, it's important to remember that you have every right to be on that plane - as much as all others. And even if they cried the entire way there and back, it's only ONE day, and it too shall pass.
4. Take ALL Of The Help
I'm a proud person, sometimes too proud and I think I can do it all. And I can - but why should I? It is so important to take ALL of the help that is offered to you. So this means, if someone offers to help you set up your beach chairs, take it. If someone offers to hold your baby while you use the washroom on the airplane, let them (if you feel comfortable of course). Better yet, BRING THE GRANDPARENTS if you can. We did, it was wonderful because it let the girls build amazing lifelong memories with their grandparents, while giving us the break. And basic math tells us 4 vs 2 is much easier than 2 vs 2!
5. Unplug and Enjoy
I think that one of the most attractive things that many of us consider when booking a holiday ensuring that the hotel/airbnb/resort has good wifi and connections to the outside world. But there's something so amazing with unplugging and enjoying yourself in the moment. Of course I still took about a billion photos, but it was nice to put my phone away avoid all of the distractions of the outside world. I think that so many of us feel like we need to capture every moment (and I am DEFINITELY) guilty of that, but losing yourself in the moment is so special - and if you weren't able to capture the "perfect" moment in photos - that's absolutely okay.
Overall our first trip as a family of four was a great success - we came back more tired than when we left but much much happier!