True story: this year our family went to Disney World. As we are walking from one ride to the next, my 6 year-old begins to complain that he is bored. I (mostly patiently) explain to him that he is literally at the most fun place on the planet, and it is simply impossible for him to be bored. Without missing a beat, he says to me, “well then I’m hungry.”
And that is family vacation. No matter how awesome the five minutes before were (Thunder Mountain! Haunted Mansion!) if you aren’t entertained at that exact moment, we’re in the world of “I’m bored” or “that’s lame.”
Here are some ways to get through vacation with a little bit of your sanity intact:
Show appreciation. A good friend once told me that once a week her family would go around the dinner table and each member of the family would show appreciation to someone for something kind or noteworthy they had done. It created a culture of appreciation in their family. Vacations offer up plenty of time for kids (and parents) to show appreciation. Make sure your kids are saying thanks for all the fun things they are experiencing on vacation.
Time for reflection. At the end of the day, as we put our kids to bed, we ask them to tell us 2 moments that they enjoyed that day. It helps put a nice spin on a great day of vacation.
Set out a game plan. Younger kids like to know what the day’s plan is. My 5 year old has invented a game I like to call “And then.” It goes something like this: I tell him we’re waking up early in the morning and he says, “and then.” I add to the day, “and then we’ll eat breakfast” to which he responds, “and then.” The whole structure of our day is laid out in this way: we eat breakfast, we drive to the ferry, we go on a boat ride, we rent bikes etc. He feels comfortable being out of his routine because he knows exactly what’s happening throughout the day. Except for when …
Flexibility is crucial. It turns out that the baseball game our son has been counting down the minutes for was an afternoon game and not an evening one as we had thought (totally my bad). We discovered that moments before we were about to leave for t+he game. We acknowledged that sometimes plans don’t work out (too much rain! too much sun! human error!) and we just need to move on from there. There is always more or different fun to be had on vacation.
Sense of humor. There are moments that you must laugh – the hotel you’ve booked is hideous? You’re 2 year old has spilled your entire Starbucks drink on his shirt? You’re 5 year old breaks his croc in the middle of a bike ride? Find the humor in the situation – even if you have to look real hard.
Naptime. As I have said many many times before, never ever underestimate the power of a well-placed nap. It’s a game changer.