Travelling with kids – a recent experience

During the recent school holidays, my husband, Eugene, and I took the kids on a road trip holiday to Dunsborough, a beautiful seaside town about 3 hours south of Perth. We had a lovely time (overall) but as parents, I’m sure you’d agree, holidays with little ones involve a lot of hard work (I reckon harder work than if you stayed home) and can be really stressful at times.

So, putting my positivity and gratefulness hat on (and with a WHOLE lot of hindsight), here is a snapshot of my recent travel experience and why I would do it all again.

The Before

I’d like to think that I am a really organised person but there is just something about packing for holidays that makes me feel slightly panicked and overwhelmed. I think it’s simply the thought of the sheer amount of stuff we have to bring for 3 small people. Anyway, as a result, I tend to procrastinate on the packing, which exacerbates the panic and overwhelm.

What really helped this time around was that I gave myself two days to slowly work through my 8 page list (I am a list person) of things to pack ticking off all the relevant things to pack for me and the kids (Eugene does his own packing – this time he forgot all his shaving gear).

Another thing that I find helps is each child having their own “luggage”. Genevieve and Lucinda have their own Trunkis (kid-sized suitcases with wheels that they can ride on or pull along – very handy) and Gabriel has a small overnighter/duffle bag. This makes organising their belongings much easier however it’s not practical to have so many pieces of luggage for plane travel. We did it once before when we just had the girls and it was a nightmare when one or both of them decided they didn’t want to pull their own luggage.  It’s no fun trying to wrangle children, 4 pieces of luggage and hand luggage through the check-in and boarding process!

Towards the end of packing, I always start a “last-minute” list – things that can only be packed on the day of the trip. Examples are Gabriel’s lovey and sleeping bag, the kids’ water bottles and toiletries.

And…we’re off!

We are REALLY fortunate that the kids travel really well in the car. All road trips with Gabriel happen at his afternoon nap time and the girls generally entertain themselves (although their bickering can get quite ugly – we really should invest in one of those DVD players that you can strap to the back of the headrest). For this trip, though, Gabriel stayed up for well over an hour into the trip before we finally worked out he wanted to suck on his lovey to drift off! Fortunately, he was not upset, just super drunk tired babbling.

One of the things the girls love to do whenever we go on holiday is to explore our “home” when we arrive. They derive so much joy in checking out new spaces and seeing where they will be sleeping (they especially love sharing a bunk bed!). I think this enthusiasm for the new is one of the reasons why Eugene and I go on family holidays, despite the huge effort and occasional stressful moments. We can really see the benefits that travel has on the kids – the enjoyment of new experiences and the making of many happy memories.

Don’t get me wrong, I have wondered in the past whether travelling with the kids was worth it. I have asked myself whether we were just moving the same chaos and stress at home to a new location (and having a whole lot more laundry to contend with when we returned, not to mention the unpacking).

But I have come to realise that, for me personally, a family holiday is a holiday for me in the sense of my workload being shared! Sure, Eugene and I are still outnumbered but at least it’s not a 3 to 1 scenario! Also, a holiday forces me to spend my downtime differently. If I’m at home, there is always something that needs to get done – chores, paperwork, cleaning and tidying. When I’m away, I don’t/can’t have the urge to cross off things on my to-do list.

More time for me

Holidays should be about rest, relaxation, recharge and renewal. I must say there is definitely less of this when travelling with kids however, I have found ways and means of incorporating a bit of it into our family holidays.

I try to book in some “me” time usually in the form of a spa treatment or massage or a leisurely shopping trip in town. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity during this most recent holiday but I didn’t feel hard done by because I am able to duck away for “me” time regularly when I’m back home (thank you, Eugene).

I love accessorising more when I’m on holiday. I might change up some of my jewellery, carry a different bag or change the watch I would normally wear. There is something about going on vacation that makes it fun and different and new.

Another thing I love to do on holiday is to pack a few new things for myself to enjoy. It might be a new magazine or book I’ve been wanting to read for ages, or a new skincare product (I love slathering on a luxury mask especially if I know I’m unlikely to be going for a facial) or makeup product, or I might download a new album onto my iPod. It is a joy to have some small treats to look forward to enjoying during downtime.

A few of my favourite things that accompanied me on this recent holiday.

It is worth packing a few new little treats for the little ones too, like new colouring or sticker books and small inexpensive toys. This time around, because we travelled just before the Easter break, we brought some small chocolate eggs so that the kids (mostly the girls, Gabriel just enjoyed the fruits of their labour) could enjoy an egg hunt in the backyard (see the first picture above).

As it turns out, the house we rented in Dunsborough did not have wifi (we knew this at the time of booking) and Eugene and I played board games for the first time in forever! We would never think to do this at home with all the distractions of home life and obligations. It sure was a refreshing change and a highlight happy memory from this holiday.

The After

Okay, I’ll admit it. I actually came home from Dunsborough more exhausted than before I left. With the kids at the ages they are (6, 4 and almost 2), the daytimes while on holiday are really about them. We had wonderful weather so our days were spent doing family-friendly outdoor activities. We were a little restricted in that our days also revolved around Gabriel’s nap time schedule which, for all our sakes, we strictly adhered to! We dined out most meals at family-friendly spots. It turns out Gabriel was the biggest source of stress as he is at the age where he wants to run around everywhere with complete disregard for caution and safety (seeing his big sisters running around and playing didn’t help the cause) and, as you all know, there is no reasoning with a (tantrumming) toddler.

But…

One word. Time. It really is the new luxury. Time away to spend as a family is priceless (despite, let’s be honest, the occasional FML moment) and I am so grateful that we get the opportunity to go on holiday.

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