Putting the “break” back in Spring Break: Making Family Vacations Fun for Parents Too!
By Brittany Carlson
As any parent will attest, a vacation with children is usually more of a “trip” than vacation. For me, the hardest part is trying to keep track of all of the logistics: Did I remember sunscreen? Do I have enough diapers? How do I get the kids to nap? It can be exhausting.
However, I’ve found that taking a vacation with kids can be relaxing and fun for parents too.
If you’re planning a family trip for spring break (as we are), here are some ways you can make it more fun (read: less work) for the adults!
-Choose an all-inclusive resort (think cruise, beach resort, anywhere where everything is in one place). My family’s favorite, and this year’s spring break destination, is Camelback Lodge in the Poconos (Pennsylvania). There are others like it, such as Great Wolf Lodge. The hotel includes an indoor waterpark (included in the room price), an outdoor water park, alpine coaster and slide, ropes courses, an arcade, bowling alley, and several different restaurants, all in the hotel or within walking distance. We love eliminating the need to drive, and being able to get back to the room quickly for naptime (or whenever anyone just needs down time).
-Give parents and kids a degree of separation at night. This includes parents! When we book a hotel, my husband and I spring for suites that have a door between the living room (where the kids sleep) and the master bedroom. This way we don’t have to whisper and tiptoe around once the kids are in bed (and we can turn on the TV if we want).
When we do need to share a room with our sons, we like to use a lightweight dividing wall to put between the kids and our bed. These are available at home good stores like TJ Maxx and fairly inexpensive.
-Don’t skip nap time. Whether you’re visiting family or Disney World, there will be times on vacation when you’re tempted to skip naps and do more activities. In my experience, this just leads to cranky, overtired and overstimulated kids (and adults). We enjoy our vacations much more if we take time in the afternoon to go back to the room and rest, whether we actually sleep or just do something quiet, like read or sit outside in the sun (or by the pool).
-Trade off. My husband and I try to give each other breaks to be alone as well. While one parent stays with the kids, the other can go to the gym or spa, or even just take a nap. The best time for this is during the kids’ nap time or after they’re asleep.
-Stock the mini-fridge/cooler. Kids (and adults) get hungry at the drop of a hat. Rather than needing to go find food (and pay top dollar for it) every time someone needs a snack, we try to bring as many snacks and light meals to our room as we can, such as bringing dry cereal, protein bars, fruits and veggies, etc. As a kid, my mom gave my sisters and I fanny packs during vacations, and each day we had enough snacks to ourselves to stay happy between meals. It’s also a great idea to buy cases of water to have in a hotel room.
-Bring lots of activities for the kids. It might seem counterintuitive, but extra activities on vacation help my kids settle down in the room when everyone needs a break from stimulation. They’re also great for travel time or waiting time (such as for a hotel shuttle, etc). For my two boys (ages 4 and nearly 2), I pack a backpack with items such as activity books (wipe-clean, magic ink, scratch-off and magic painting books are a huge hit with my older son), coloring books, crayons, stickers (reusable sticker books are even better), race cars, Play-Doh and action figures.
-Set reasonable expectations. Meltdowns and bad days happen on vacations too. My husband and I try not to cram too many activities into a day and always be willing to stop and rest or go back to the hotel as needed. Sometimes days when we don’t have an agenda are the most fun because there is no pressure to see or do anything.
Of course, the most important thing you can do on vacation is have fun! Kids pick up on their parents’ mood and emotions. If you’re able to laugh off a mishap and have fun even when plans change, they will learn to do the same.
Wherever your spring break plans take you, I hope your family gets the chance to relax: even the adults!
Brittany Carlson is a lifelong lover of words and all things chocolate. She is an Army wife and now has two sons, Adam (4) and James (18 months). She has written for several Army community newspapers, including the Stuttgart Citizen (Germany), Fort Leonard Wood Guidon (Missouri) and Fort Belvoir Eagle (Virginia). Brittany holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She and her family live in upstate NY.
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