Advice About “Vacation” From A Mother of Four

Illustration by  Now Or Never Design

Illustration by Now Or Never Design

By Kristen GlossermaN, Guest Contributor

The first thing to know, very often, traveling with children is not a vacation. It’s not a time for partnership and mojitos on the beach—it’s about a family experience, and it takes planning and preparation. Knowing and embracing that from the outset will ensure happy landings.

Here’s what I’ve learned from more than 10 years of travel with kids.

My husband and I have a big family, so we can’t travel long-distance too often: it’s just so expensive to book for the two of us plus four kids, because we’re looking at six airline tickets and two hotel rooms. Also, pleasing everyone is really hard when you have kids of different ages. One of our solutions is to plan a big trip with each child on his/her own. This way, each child gets to have a unique, epic experience. Every five years, one of our kids gets to take a trip with one of us, to a destination of the child’s choice. This has allowed our son to visit London, and our daughter to see Paris, and to spend one-on-one time with their Dad. Both really enjoyed their experiences to the fullest.

For family trips, what I have found really works well is to choose one destination—we don’t attempt to take the kids to one place, then another… it’s just too much. Every time we’ve tried to do a double-destination trip, it never worked due to logistical roadblocks: weather, flight cancellations, someone getting sick...

So now we do what I like to call “Fly and Dump”: fly to one place and dump ourselves there for five or six days, so we can fully relax and enjoy. As a life coach, I’m always encouraging clients to Do What Works—and packing/unpacking/repacking, scrambling to make flight connections on time, and booking multiple hotel rooms for six doesn’t work for my family; it just complicates what little, precious time off that we have.

Two years ago, we attempted a two-fer Spring Break getaway, thinking we’d go skiing in Beaver Creek, then fly on to Cabo San Lucas. Well, our flight to the ski portion of our trip got canceled, and we had to book another flight, finally arriving there two days late—we wound up canceling the second leg of our trip, so we could stay and enjoy Beaver Creek. This past year, we thought we’d go to Los Angeles, and then on to Cabo – well, we got to LA, only to realize that our son’s passport had expired, so once again we couldn’t make the second leg of our trip. The Universe keeps showing me: Keep it simple.

One of the things I really love about family travel is that excitement about a trip starts to build a week before you depart—and part of the excitement is preparing for the trip. So during the week leading up to a family trip, I always get the kids involved in the traveling process as much as possible. It’s not about me doing everything for them. Travel is a great opportunity for children to learn; it’s an important lesson in preparation. But it’s also enjoyable—it doesn’t feel like a chore to them.

I have the kids make a checklist of the things they think they’ll need, so if anything is missing—flipflops, goggles, socks—we still have time to order or pick up those items before we leave. Then I encourage the kids to take out their suitcases and start packing at least four days before the departure day—I never want them to be that person throwing things in a suitcase the night before. Each of my kids has their own suitcase in their choice of color: red, purple, blue, and orange. And those suitcases are usually packed and parked by our front door days before we leave!

Thinking about and helping to plan a trip before we go has helped my kids become experienced travelers. And travel is a skill that they will definitely be using for the rest of their lives. As for tech, what we do is let the kids use as much as they want on the plane—hey, knock yourself out, I’m watching movies too—but as soon as we land, I collect all their devices. I mean, what else can we do while we’re in the air? I guess I could force them to read, but… we are on vacation. However, when we land, that’s when our family time begins and we put tech on hold.

Wishing you each a simple holiday week. How do you prepare for or with your kids?

Kristen Glosserman is a New York based mother of four children, certified life coach and owner of Hill Country restaurant For her previous feature on MU, click here.