Holidays are supposed to be all about rest and relaxation for the whole family, but do parents of small children ever really get a break?
I’m sure most people would agree that vacations with kids are very different from the vacations they had with their kids,” said Georgina Durrant, author of 100 Ways Your Child Can Learn Through Play.
“If you don’t have the luxury of a live-in nanny or hands-on grandparents who can come over to help, then it’s unlikely you’ll be able to spend hours on a lounger in the sun.”
But there are ways to make sure moms, dads and caregivers get some “me-time” on vacation too, and don’t come home more tired than when they left.
“Once you embrace this new vacation reality,” says Georgina, “a trip with the kids can be just as fun, if not more fun — just in a slightly noisier and more chaotic way!”
Traveling with toddlers
Even a short flight means a lot of waiting time at the airport, while long car journeys can leave children feeling bored and cranky.
“It’s going to be a tough time, but you have a lot of activities in store to make it fun for everyone,” Georgina suggests.
“Pack in your carry-on activities that they can do during the flight (coloring, cards, drawing, reading) and think in advance what game-based activities/games they can do while sitting still.
“For example, playing ‘sound bingo’, where you write or draw six things on a piece of paper that you could hear on the plane. It could be ‘talking people’, ‘some music’, ‘the food truck’ etc and you all have to listen very carefully and tick all of them when you hear it. The first person to check off all six of their victories.”
Share the load
For couples, tag team parenting is a great way to divide daycare care and ensure that every parent gets some chill time.
“Don’t make a schedule,” Georgina says, “but plan loosely that you might alternate between you and your partner who does and doesn’t lie every day, or when you both have an afternoon to yourself while the other takes the kids.”
Picture it for the kids as “special time” with one parent — that way, they don’t feel like you want a break from them, she adds.
Bliss before bedtime
“Sleep and the change in routine is another aspect that can be tricky on vacation,” says Georgina. “Often children find it more difficult to go to bed early in warm weather and the change in routine and environment can mean that a toddler who normally takes another nap may skip it for the holidays.”
If you can stick to your usual bedtime ritual with the kids, fine — but don’t worry too much if it’s all going out the window when you’re gone.
Georgina recommends, “It can help to bring home comforts, such as their favorite blanket or stuffed animal, and make sure they are cool enough before bed, too. But remember that you are on vacation, don’t worry too much about their official bedtime. A few nights later on vacation probably won’t hurt them.”
Sun, sea and swimming pools present additional safety risks, which can increase the stress for parents.
“Keep a good sunscreen routine so you know when you’ve applied it and when they need more — make it a bit of a game with them and not a chore,” says Georgina.
“Always make sure you supervise them and have them within easy reach by the pool or open water and make sure they are aware of the rules around being near the water.”