I know it’s easy to look at other people’s family vacation photos and romanticize them. We can’t help thinking, “our family vacations are a mess! Someone’s always unhappy. Or has to pee. Needs a snack. Is tired. Or wants to go home. What’s wrong with us?” Those other people have all the cute travel outfits, no one is sunburned or dirty, and they’re having all the fun, artsy, studious, and adventurous outings. In short, their vacation is perfect.
I’m here to dispel the myth. Guess what? There’s no such thing as a perfect family vacation. For us, there are all kinds of glorious vacation moments, sprinkled with a whole lot of far less magical ones. It’s taken me years to accept that when we travel with 6 people, the odds of all 6 of us being happy at once, all the time, are almost zero. Especially if you have a passionate child or two, like I do. They sometimes struggle with the constant fun and activity of vacation.
And you know what, THAT’S OK!
We can still have a fabulous time, even if one person in the group isn’t loving it as much as the rest. Because at some point on the trip, we all will be happy. Maybe even at the same time! I’ll hold onto those moments so tightly. And then I’ll just laugh at the others.
For example, the other day we were about 3 hours into our family vacation. That’s right. 3 hours! We’d just finished eating breakfast together and I wanted to tour the beautiful Santa Barbara courthouse. I’ve wanted to visit for years but every time I suggest it the kids are anxious to get back on the road and finish the rest of our journey. But this time I put my foot down. “We’re doing it! It’s beautiful and amazing and I know you’ll love it”
All 4 of my kids voiced complaints. They’re usually so good about following me on adventures. But for some reason they just couldn’t get on board with visiting this place. So many years of saying no meant they’d decided it was no forever? I don’t know why they so stubbornly refused, bu no one wanted to go. They were sure we needed to get back on the road. and head towards our final destination. I was irritated by their stubbornness. And even what I perceived to be their selfishness. “Really? You can’t just say, “ok mom. We’ll do it for you!” They couldn’t. I ended the conversation by telling them to stop being jerks and I marched off towards the courthouse.😬😂
That shook them up and a couple changed their tune immediately. Mom tantrums can do that. The others took a bit longer. But by the time we were done touring that beautiful building, guess what? They ALL thought it was really cool! And they were glad we went. I knew that would be the outcome, and that’s why I pushed back against their push back.
What’s more, that little adventure will become family lore. “Remember when mom called us jerks and none of us cared about seeing the architecture of the Santa Barbara courthouse but mom made us go anyway? And then we actually liked it!”
See? I gave them that. Mom tantrums always make the best stories. A few tantrums here and there over the course of their childhood is really a gift you give to them to carry into adulthood and chuckle over with their siblings for many years to come.
The truth is, there are so many lessons to be learned on family vacations. These are lessons I hope my kids will take with them into life, while vacationing and also while just living. Here are 5 we learned in the first 3 hours of our family vacation this year.
The destination isn’t the goal. Enjoy the journey. Don’t be so driven to get to the destination that you forget to stop and enjoy life along the way.
Family vacations aren’t all about any one person. None of life is! So even if this isn’t your favorite part of the trip, make an effort to enjoy it for the person who is loving it.
Say yes to new things. There’s a good chance you’ll be happily surprised by something you imagine will be boring or dumb. Life is full of wonderful surprises.
It’s ok if not everyone’s happy. The trip isn’t ruined if all the people aren’t happy all the time. There will be moments when everyone is happy. And that will be wonderful! And for the other moments, you just hug the unhappy person and say, “I’m sure we’ll do something you love later.” And give them some time to adjust their attitude without letting it ruin yours.
Mom is always right. Well not always. But a lot of the time. And I can say this with conviction because my mom was right about so many things.
Whether it’s a trip to a local destination or you’re traveling far from home, there is so much to learn when we adventure together. And even in the moments that are less than stellar, all is not lost. You know my motto, “it will make a great story later.” It always does!
If you happen to be in Santa Barbara, I can’t recommend a visit to this spectacular courthouse enough. Yes, even if your kids don’t want to go. Its free to go inside, explore, and climb to the top of the tower for beautiful views. You can find visiting hours and how to take a free tour with a docent by visiting this site here. I’m already looking forward to going back and learning more about this beautiful spot.
Cheers to adventure, and embracing all the not so perfect, but still wonderful parts of our lives.