Written in 2008, found tucked away in a file on my computer –
What is interesting to me about this is that we just had a travelling Christmas vacation with Marc’s Dad. Many of the things that I wrote (and didn’t revisit) seven years ago would still have been great considerations for this trip. The kids being older (and all having their own phone) allows for different flexibility. And the ones needing to be careful about rest time were no longer this younger set.
Now that I am ten years into my parenting journey, and now that my youngest is four and out of diapers, I feel that I am getting quite good at planning a car-trip, an overnight, a plane-ride, and an extended vacation. Recently, my skills were put to the test when we took my parents on vacation with us to King’s Landing Historical Settlement in Fredericton, NB. Here is a list of what I hope I will remember to do next time, when planning a multi-family/generational vacation.
*Do your homework and find out what is going on everywhere. Request books from the tourism bureau for yourself and each household going on the trip. Compile it, include times, phone numbers and directions. Even if something doesn’t look appealing to you, a lecture on grafting fruit trees may be the most exciting option for dear old dad. Remember to ask those that have been to your point of destination, what they want to see. Use FB and twitter to find out what might be going on off the beaten path, and what to avoid.
*Be aggressive about getting everyone to say what their one thing is that they hope to do. Being trained in nice-ness, I didn’t push this point after my first ask. I knew for certain what two people out of seven wanted to experience (and I wasn’t one of them). By the second day I found myself frustrated that we were spending more time in some places and not in others.
*Expect that you are not going to see and do everything that everyone wants to. No matter how much time you have, this is probably true. We have always made it a point to not take the ‘this is a once in a lifetime trip’ approach. It MAY be once in a lifetime, but the pressure that puts on everyone is unfair and no fun.
*Have a rigid schedule for arrivals, departures, meals, and snacks. Waiting for hunger to hit is often too late with kids. Saying we’ll leave when we’ve had enough can be disastrous. I love traveling that way, but for the sake of my kids, and my sanity, our trip would have been less stressful to have put some of these solid boundaries on the path.
*Plan on having some meals separately. Meals while traveling are stressful times for kids (even if they do well with it). Meals with extended family can be the same. Add the two together, and just a meal can exhaust the kids (and parents) . I wish we had planned to have at least one meal a day with just our core family, preferably a ‘sit down and play UNO after the meal’ meal. It’s like a soft reset for everyone’s CPU.
*Build in times to explore together and separately. This morning the girls will be here, the boys will there. This afternoon grandma and grandpa will go to this show, and the kids will go with us to the pool. In the evening, grandma and grandpa will babysit so mom and dad can go have a drink together. (I was not as bold in asking for a break for hubby and I as I should have been.)
*Evaluate rest and sleeping times, and be generous with them.
*Make caring for travelling plans and documents a team sport. At least two people should have addresses, phone numbers, timetables, and know where passports and other travel documents are at all times.
*Do two debriefings toward the end of the day, preferably with pen and paper. One debriefing would be for me and hubby: what went well, what went poorly. This would not only allow for better planning and preparation, but would also give space to put to bed any frustrations of the day. The other debriefing would be for everyone: what did you love today, where were you surprised by today, what did you learn? The fresh memories written down will be an invaluable addition to a paper or digital compilation of all the photos you’ve taken.
Our vacation to NB was a treat for all of us. We got to spend lovely time with each other in a lovely place. I got to see my son tease my father, and my mother and daughters learn about spinning flax together. My husband listened to my father observe many things that he would have missed, including grafts in fruit trees. We all stood in awe watching wood be split in a water-powered sawmill. And as we considered family and village life in the 1800’s, we were strengthening and enjoying our own family life in the 21st century.