Traveling with Kids – Is this really a vacation?

Four years ago the Husband and I took Rhys, almost two, and Theo, six, to Whistler, British Columbia for a short family vacation. Theo was in kindergarten and had battled respiratory infections for weeks leading up to our trip. Less than a week before we were scheduled to make the five hour drive north Rhys caught the crud and we had two kids diagnosed with walking pneumonia.

Our pediatrician assured us that after a couple days of antibiotics and steroids they would both be fine to travel and the cold, clean air of the mountain resort would be good for them. So we packed everything into our Subaru, double checked we had their medications along with plenty of kleenex and hit the road.

The Husband loves and I mean LOVES to ski. Swooshing down the mountain at breakneck speed is when he feels most free and alive. He was looking forward to a couple of days of world class skiing and I was looking forward to being away from work and playing in the snow with the kids. With a winter wonderland and a hotel with a pool there would be plenty to keep us busy while the Husband hit the slopes. Who couldn’t have fun with that combination right? Um, yeah, not so much.

The Husband had a great time skiing that vacation. I found myself stressed out, tired and resentful. It was hard trying to carry one kid while holding up the other as he battled his way through knee deep snow. At one point we had just returned to the hotel, snot running into the mouths of both the kids, only to have to head back outside when the fire alarm went off. I didn’t even have time to grab more Kleenex, so as we quickly trudged down the stairs to the lobby, both kids crying, I wiped their noses with the front of my sweatshirt.

Then there was the trip down to the pool, when just after Theo got in and started playing I had to haul him out because Rhys had just vomited all over me. As we stood waiting for the elevator Theo declared “I’m NOT getting in that elevator. She stinks!” I couldn’t blame him, she did reek of sour milk. But I also couldn’t leave a six year old in the hotel lobby to wait for the next elevator to arrive and hope he got off on the right floor.

As we drove back home from that “vacation” I was guilt ridden. I had a terrible time, was exhausted and grumpy. The Husband did all he could to help with the kids, but I resented his day and a half up on the slopes doing what he loved to do. By the time we arrived home, I’d decided I was a terrible mom and ungrateful person. (Yes, I tend to get a bit dramatic when stressed out and tired.)

A few days after we returned home, I read a blogpost about traveling with young kids. The author wrote that after a couple of trips with her oldest children, she had something like twenty kids (okay it was probably four), she decided to stop calling it a vacation. They went on family trips instead.

Her words resonated and gave me hope, dragging me out of my funk and self-loathing. Wasn’t vacation supposed to be fun, relaxing and care free? If I went on vacation and came back feeling exhausted, annoyed and resentful was I a vacation flunky? Who wants to be a flunky …. especially a vacation flunky!

What if we went on a trip. All a trip meant was that you spent at least a night away from home and returned alive. So, I figured if we all arrived home still breathing we’d succeeded. From Flunky to Success with the change of a word. From that day forward, when we decided to go somewhere overnight a family trip it was.

Speed forward four years and several family trips later. This past week we once again traveled to Whistler. This time with good friends who also have kids the same age as ours, sons 10 and daughters 6-ish. Our friends are amazing and super easy to travel with. They’re easy going, active and just plain fun to hang out with. When not outside enjoying all the activities Whistler has to offer, the boys were happy to hang out watching tv, playing on their electronics or swimming in the pool. The girls played with their stuffed animals, drew, cut and glued paper, and also swam in the pool.

While we were away, our family had our moments, like the one where Rhys lost it, screamed “I hate skiing!” at the top of her lungs and threw her mittens onto the ground. As skiers walked past on their way to the ski lifts, I once again felt like I had four years ago.

But for the first time, it also included moments like at the tube park when the boys took off together to enjoy themselves and the moms got to race our daughters down the mountain. Where at the bottom we were greeted with smiles and “That was AWESOME, Mom!” That made it feel like a vacation.

If you find yourself on a family trip, hang in there and I hope you can at least find the humor in it (and don’t worry, finding the humor may take days, weeks or even a couple years).

If you’re enjoying a family vacation, we can’t wait to join you. I’m looking forward to it and intend to savor each and every moment.

And to our friends who travelled with us to Whistler this year, thanks for joining us.

We had a blast!

Can't help but feel like champions when posing in front of the Olympic rings in Whistler Village, BC.
Can’t help but feel like champions when posing in front of the Olympic rings in Whistler Village.

3 thoughts on “Traveling with Kids – Is this really a vacation?

  1. Perhaps a ladies-only trip is in order in your future, like the NEAR future. Family vacations can be fun, but everything always falls on the mom. Go to Whidbey or Vashon – put a body of water between you and the fam!

  2. Well put! I loved the line about a trip requiring only that you return alive. Sounds like you’ve found the key to a good time, and good life.

  3. It certainly is a different vacation, but I am a big supporter of taking them on our adventures. I posted this week about traveling with kids and why I think it is important for them. We would love to go to Whistler sometime- even thinking of going in the summer so my husband can mountain bike. Thanks for the post!

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