In March of this year we took our first family vacation (all 3 of us) to Naples, Florida. Since we have been married, Naples has become our favorite place to vacation. It’s also the most budget friendly due to the fact that we have a family member in the area to stay with. However, vacationing pre-baby is SOOO different than vacationing post-baby, as I am sure so many Moms and Dads can attest to. And since it happens to be summer, the prime vacation season, I thought I’d offer some encouragement to other newer Moms.
Thankfully our trip to Naples was pretty fun. The plane ride, the pool, the beach, the hot weather, it was all fairly enjoyable. However, there is one thing that could have made it go terribly wrong and take a turn for the worst…and that thing is…my own expectations. Yup, I know…you probably had visions of a screaming child during the plane ride or maybe they get a 24 hour bug. Although each of those situations are terrible they still do not have the power to wreck the entire vacation.
BUT, setting my expectations prior to our trip could have derailed the whole week. And thankfully, I didn’t.
The travel was probably our biggest hurdle. Even a relatively calm, pleasant baby (most of the time) senses change and the unfamiliar plane, rental car, and house we were staying at made her act a little weird. I think the hardest part was watching her become unsettled by all the things we had changed in less than a 24 hour period. It took her about 3 days to get adjusted and had I listened to everyone telling me “she’s such a good, easy baby – she’ll be fine” and expected that, I would have been devastated in the first 48 hours feeling like a horrible Mom for throwing off her routine. But the reality is that sometimes in life that will happen…ESPECIALLY on vacation.
There were days I didn’t shower or leave the house looking fabulous in my new “vacation clothes”, but that’s OK because I valued our time together more. Some days we got a good 2 hours at the pool together and some days it was only 45 minutes. However, we seized every second Eden was in a good mood to create memorable moments. I didn’t tell myself that she would be in bed every night by 7 or that her naps would take place at their normal times for their normal duration. We just paid attention to her signals and stretched her as much as we could to seize every second.
We did the same with our time in the evening together once Eden was asleep. We certainly didn’t have the energy to be up late or a babysitter to go out on the town. However, a few glasses of wine, a deck of cards, and/or a movie…PERFECT! We could chat, enjoy each other’s company, and still get the sleep we needed to conquer the next day.
If you don’t have preset expectations you will always be surprised by the results. I know that is REALLY hard to do, but my advice is to try it and see how much less you pay attention to the details of your vacation and more attention to the time spent together.
Here are a few tips that we found helpful on our first family vacation…
- Before arriving, jot down a list of 5 or less things you want to do or see while you are on vacation. Treat this list as if they are goals for your family. You may want this list to be shorter or longer depending on the length of your stay – you don’t want it to become overwhelming. For example, our list consisted of these 5 things for our 8 day stay…1) Visit the pool 2) See the sunset at Naples Pier 3) Visit downtown Naples 4) Visit Tigertail Beach 5) Visit South Marco Beach.
- Balance your time together and time on your own. We didn’t realize this one until we were there for 2 days, but an advantage to vacationing as a family is that you may actually get more time on your own to relax too. Ben and I took shifts relaxing at the pool while one of us played with Eden at the house or let her take a nap. I thoroughly enjoyed my full hour of quiet reading with the sun on my skin! Thank you Jesus!
- Keep as much familiar to them as you can while not making things more difficult on yourself. For example, a few toys, her own car seat, books, and a blanket or two. Some may disagree but I think the smell of home or just familiarity of these objects helped to soothe her when she may have felt uncomfortable.
- If you can, bring an extra family member or close friend on the vacation. This is a benefit in many ways. My sister came along for part of the trip and not only was she an extra set of hands, but I also got to spend time with her and so did Eden, which I LOVED.
- If you don’t get to do EVERYTHING, it’s ok. If you are an achiever like me, you sleep best at night knowing you completed every thing you wanted to do that day. This is primarily why I made the list above. It gave me achievable goals to accomplish in over a weeks time. And we weren’t rushing from one thing to the next, either; we got to enjoy every moment. And besides, there will always be other sweet family memories, some of which you don’t need a vacation to have.
- Just keep smiling and praying. I am a pretty positive person but at certain times my anxiety creeps in and my smile can quickly fade away. So, if my husband or I can make the situation something for us to laugh at, then my emotions don’t spin too far out of control. I also spent a lot of time praying for this trip before we left and while we were there. That was the best thing I could have done, especially to combat any expectations that may have been forming in my mind.
Have any other encouraging family vacation tips? Comment below! I would love to hear them!