I Took a Family Vacation and Now I Know Holidays With Children Aren’t a Rest at All
I used to love summer before I had a baby because it meant vacation time. I could relax at the sea, camp in the forests, or explore ancient cities. My husband and I didn’t need much comfort, and we could plan a trip spontaneously 2 hours before the train left. But after having a baby, we learned that vacations are not so simple. Especially with a family.
My name is Mary, and I want to share my thoughts on why vacations with children are not relaxing at all, just like maternity leave. However, that does not stop us, parents, from enjoying various trips with our little ones.
Relaxing for a second? Not possible.
Every mom knows: you can’t take your eyes off your child for a second, or they might get hurt, eat something they shouldn’t, or vanish altogether. I once lost my 3-year-old son at a train station. It was crowded with people, trains, and suitcases. My heart sank.
Then I saw some woman holding my son’s hand and walking away. I ran after them, caught up, and my son ran to me. The woman turned out to be harmless: she was just taking my son to the information desk. I breathed a sigh of relief.
That’s how vacations with children are: you have to be constantly alert, so you don’t lose your child in any way. It’s easier with a baby who can only eat and sleep (and not crawl or walk yet). With children from one to 18 years old, you can’t relax: the younger ones always try to fall, run away, or break something, and the older ones get into various adventures.
Instead of going where we want to go, we choose the places where our child will have a great time.
Travelling with young children can be challenging and stressful. Parents may wonder if it is worth going to the other side of the world when they cannot predict how their child will cope with a long flight, a different climate, a foreign cuisine, or a potential illness without a reliable pediatrician nearby.
Similar problems arise with shorter trips. For example, my son used to get seasick in any mode of transportation until he was seven years old, and he could not take any medication for it because of his allergy. He would turn from a happy kid to a miserable one after 30 minutes in a car, a boat, or a train, and it would stress everyone out.
With children, parents’ preferences become less important. It does not matter if mom wants to go to Goa or dad wants to go camping, when even a visit to the nearest park requires more than a day of planning.
Children are more susceptible to infections than adults.
Children seem to attract all kinds of illnesses, and it has always been like that. When I was a little girl, my parents took me to the sea with a large group of adults and children. We all swam until our lips turned blue on the first day, and the next day I ended up in the local hospital with my mom — I had a fever of almost 104 °F.
I got strep throat, and we spent 12 out of the 14 days of our vacation in the hospital (my mom had to pay extra for staying with me). I only saw the sea once during the whole trip, but I got to know the hospital very well.
Now I am a mom and my first aid kit takes up half of my suitcase because I also have to bring an inhaler and some medicines that are not available everywhere. My son had already caught rotavirus, flu, and conjunctivitis on vacation. He also hurt his forehead on the playground. And that was sort of a not-so-severe case. Our neighbor’s daughter, for example, came back from the sea with a cast on her leg last year, and on her arm this year.
My kid doesn’t want to vacation like I do.
Different people have different preferences for their vacations. For example, I love visiting the zoo in every city, spending hours there, and learning fun facts about animals, but my son does not share my enthusiasm. He gets bored easily by looking at giraffes or elephants, and he is more interested in the rides he sees nearby. He does not complain, but it is not fun to walk with a sad and sighing child. I compromise, trading otters and gazelles for carousels.
Parents often have to give up their own interests for their children, and vacations are no exception. We skipped a lake in the forest because my son gets nauseous in the car. I do not plan long walks in the old towns that I adore, as the child cannot walk for many miles in the direction I want. Of course, children grow up, but I don’t know yet when things will get easy.
Sometimes I feel we shouldn’t have those vacations at all.
Children often have different memories of vacations than what their parents expect. I remember when my son was 3.5 years old. It was his first big trip to the sea — we took a train, a plane, saw mountains, waves, everything. When we got home, my mom asked him, “What do you remember most, grandson?” And my son answered without hesitation, “Mom and some guy had a funny fight over a watermelon.”
It was an epic situation where we bought a rotten watermelon. The seller insisted it was just ripe, and I tried to make him eat it! It might have seemed hilarious from the outside, but I was upset: why take the child so far for such an experience, when we could have had the same drama in any grocery store near our home?
Such twists in children’s memory often discourage parents. Moms and dads who spent a lot of nerves and money on vacation with their children feel devastated by such statements! But still, after a year or two, they pack their bags again and take their children to new places to admire the beauty of the world, even if their main memory will be not what parents expect.
But despite the challenges, vacations with kids are awesome.
I have been a mother for eight years now. In these years, I have had five vacations with my child, and I have learned to accept them as a different kind of rest. Vacationing with a small child will never be the same as without one, but it has its own benefits.
The most obvious one for me is the chance to relive my childhood. I grew up too fast and became a helper for my mom, and there was not much fun in the small town where we lived. Now with my son, I can do all the things I missed: buy cotton candy, go to the haunted house and the “Upside Down House”, and go on rides. When I did not have a child, I never went to places where all these were possible, but now I do it all the time, and I enjoy it.
I have learned that children are very easy to please, they do not care about the prestige of the place or the number of stars in the hotel. Until a certain age, they are happy to vacation anywhere, as long as their parents are nearby and engaged in the process. For example, this summer we could not go abroad, and we stayed in the countryside for a month. We had to improvise and find entertainment nearby.
My son and I hid a treasure at the cottage, visited an ostrich farm, had a picnic with his friends in a forest, and went to an open-air movie theater in a nearby town. He was so eager to tell his friends in the city about these small adventures that I realized that no sea had ever impressed him so much.
Human memory is a mysterious thing, and you never know what will stay in your mind for a few days and what will last for years. Maybe right after a trip, a kid will say that they remembered their first ice cream or a balloon shaped like their favorite character, but in fact, they will remember how they rode on their dad’s shoulders or how their mom taught them to swim. I believe that these emotions and impressions stay with a child forever, even if they can’t express them at first.
Who knows how life will turn out in the future, but happy memories from childhood will definitely come in handy. Creating such bright moments of joy for your child is a real pleasure, even if we come back from vacation with them more tired than we were before.
Yes, vacationing with children is not relaxing at all! But it is a building block for their bright future. That’s why I think it’s worth it to gather my strength and have fun with the kids to the fullest, whatever that means. After all, you never know: whether this particular vacation will go smoothly or not.
Our readers have very different experiences of vacationing with children.
- I took my daughters, aged 3 and 6, to the sea. It was exhausting to watch them run in different directions. I was feeling more tired than at home. Upon our return, my husband asked our kids what they remembered most.
The eldest said, “Mom took off her swimsuit and went to the shower. Then she screamed like a seagull!” I screamed because the water was boiling hot on my sunburned shoulders. I couldn’t believe that this was more memorable than the sea and the whole trip.
- We made a mistake when we booked a bus tour in Crete. It was hot, stuffy, and half the bus was filled with restless little kids who wouldn’t sit still. The worst part for me was that at one of the stops, the kids were abruptly pulled away from a cute cat with kittens and forced to see some attractions. © Zlobniy_suslik / Bright Side
- My daughter has traveled to eight countries and taken ten flights in the past 18 months. I admit that we are not doing it all for her but for ourselves. But she did enjoy swimming in the Mediterranean Sea and watching a panda. Of course, traveling with a baby is more complicated than without one, but it is manageable. © Artur Holavin / Bright Side
- I don’t have any children of my own, but I remember how I used to go to the sea with my parents every summer as a kid. My parents were easygoing people in life. They hardly brought any medicines, warm clothes, toys, or other comforts with them.
If I scraped my knees, they told me to go to the sea and wash them with salt water; if I got sunburned, it healed on its own; if I felt cold, I wrapped myself in blankets and never got sick. I spent all day swimming in the sea, digging in the sand, collecting shells. Those are the best memories of my life! I wish I could go back to that time again. © Maria Denisyuk / Bright Side
Children react differently to a change of environment. Some become calmer and more curious, while others become more mischievous and restless. I can understand why one mother decided to cut her vacation short because her sons were behaving terribly. After all, parents not only want a change of environment but also a little break.