Ahhh…sweet summertime! The days are long, the kids are home from school, and it’s time to pack up the minivan for a road trip or hop on a plane and explore a new city. No matter where you’re headed, here are my top seven tips for making your vacation as an adoptive family fun and memorable:
Manage your expectations
You see them smiling back at you from your social media feed…tan and relaxed with your perfectly behaved children. The ideal vacationers. Here’s the reality: that photo is part of the highlight reel of their life. And life is more than the highlight reel. Vacation with kids who are easily dysregulated can be tough. There might be meltdowns and tears. You might not get to see all the sights in the guidebook. It’s okay. Take a deep breath and try your best to connect with your kids and make memories together.
Think about how you’ll get there (and how you’ll get around)
Consider how much driving you will be doing to get to your destination (and how much you will be doing once you arrive). Likely, everyone’s moods will be better if you stop every few hours to let your kids stretch and run around. If you are flying, make sure to give yourself enough time to navigate an unfamiliar airport (and clear customs, if necessary) before you have to be somewhere else. If you have extra time in an airport, ask if they have a children’s area. Two of the airports we visited recently did, and one of them occupied my kids for several hours.
All of the different sights and experiences of vacation can be hard for some kids to manage. Late bedtimes and missed naps only make this harder. If you can, try to stick to your children’s sleep routines as much as possible while you are on vacation. Well-rested kids have a much better capacity to handle all the sensory input in new places.
Pack the snacks
My general rule is to have enough food on hand so that my kids can eat something every few hours. Especially if we’re in an unfamiliar area, knowing that they can have a quick snack that’s not just sugar puts everyone’s mind at ease and can help stop a meltdown before it starts. Our favorites include peanut butter sandwiches, trail mix, and granola bars. We’ll take fruit, Greek yogurt, and cheese sticks if we have a cooler.
Make a backup plan
Sometimes things might just be too overwhelming for your child. Having a backup plan makes this easier. Consider staying several nights in one hotel so that you can return during the day if needed. Renting a house or apartment can also give you the option of having a safe space to return if your child needs to take a break. A cruise or resort will give you the choice of lots of activities with the backup of a more familiar room where your child can retreat if needed. We get similar options (for a lot less!) by attending family camp together.
Take your child’s lead when you can
Are your kids loving the hotel pool? Think about skipping the fancy restaurant dinner and letting them spend the evening splashing away instead (this is why you packed the snacks, remember?). It’s ok to do less and linger more. Everyone will be happier and more relaxed if you take your child’s lead on vacation when you can.
Plan for a slow reentry
If possible, plan to get home a few days before you have to return to work and your kids have to go back to school or daycare. On our first day back, I like to get us back into our sleeping and eating routines (as much as we try, it’s just impossible to be completely consistent with them on vacation, and that’s okay) and plan nothing else. Giving your child (and yourself) time and space to ease back into your normal routine gently is a gift you should give if you can.
What would you add? What have you done to make vacationing with your adoptive family a great experience for everyone?