In two days, my three boys, husband, and I will be flying out to the West Coast for a two and a half week summer road trip. I am anticipating how great it will be with all the laughter we expect to share, all the bonding moments, all the great memories.
And we will have them.
But, I can also guarantee that somewhere along the way, my kids will argue. Someone will throw a tantrum. It might be the 6 year old. It might be the teen. It might be me.
We often see posters of vacationing families laughing and dancing in the sun, and we base a lot of our travel decisions around the hope of the ideals placed before us. We too want to laugh and dance in the sun.
We all set expectations that if we buy tickets to take our family to the happiest place in the world (whatever that place is for you), that our children will suddenly become the happiest children in the world. And they certainly can be very happy, and travel can definitely affect them and change them in positive ways – as it has my own children.
But it's not about everything being perfect. It's about making the most of the moments that are not. What bonds us most during our family travels are not the flawless moments that we have along the way, but rather how we stick together and support each other through the flaws.
I love traveling with my family. While planning what we will do, where we will go, and even how long we will be in the car, I can almost foresee the moments when my teen will say something snarky, when the two little ones will fight over a toy, when my husband and I will disagree about what direction to go (or even where stop for coffee).
Understanding the realities of my family dynamic, not setting false expectations for my children, my husband, or even myself, and making sure that we all aim to be as patient, as understanding, as compromising, and as easy going as possible: those are the things that help to make the family vacation great.
So, before you head out on your family vacation, make sure to let go of the myth that for it to be good and really worth it, it has to be perfect and that everyone has to be happy and get along just great.
There are countless families who have never traveled with their kids because they are waiting for "the perfect time." Except, it never is perfect…and that's the beauty of it. Take the necessary steps to prepare your children as best you can for travel, but be understanding and patient if they falter here and there because like everything else, it's a learning process. If you never do it, they will never learn.
Be willing to roll with the punches, take deep breaths, and ignore those with opinions that don't matter.
Family vacations are their best in the unexpected, imperfect moments. Just remember to not get so caught up in the negative that you fail to embrace what those moments can bring.