Next week we are going to a cottage for the week.  I’m very much looking forward to it.  The forecast (so far) looks great, and cottaging is old hat now – this is our 4th year going to a cottage, and the girls just get older and better every year.  Vacationing with kids seems to get easier as they get older.  Guess time will tell if that trend will continue!

We’ve gone many places in the last few years, with and without the kids.  Here’s a run down of some of the things I’ve learned when we drag the kids along with us:

I always pack too much stuff.  Even just for me.  This year I’m going to be more ruthless and bring less clothes and toys.  It will work out.

Kids can eat the same food for a week.  There are really no short-term negativities to this. When we were in the Dominican my youngest ate only pizza and spaghetti, while the oldest really only ate breakfast (pancakes and bacon) and did not succumb to hunger for the rest of the day.  Yes, my kids are weird.

Staying up late does NOT equal sleeping in the next day.  I’ve tried this tactic many times over the years – vacations or not.  My youngest, who is now 5 and starting to realize sleep is a good thing, still does not sleep in.  EVER.  The almost-8-year-old has, within the last year, started staying in bed longer in the mornings.  I guess she’s figuring it out.  At the cottage they share a bed, so this year will be interesting.  I’m sure eldest daughter will just tell youngest daughter to go away when she wakes up early. TV is a great occupier when you are somewhere with constant water access.

Making lunch (or dinner, or anything) inside while children are outside can (obviously) have the potential for disaster.  We’ve been lucky that there have only been scrapes and cuts at the cottage in the past years, no water-related incidences.  But when you’re the only adult at the moment you need to keep those kids where you can see them!

Invite as many people to visit over the week as you can.  This is great entertainment for the kids, and the adults too.  Also they can bring you fresh food/drinks/toys etc so you don’t have to pay twice as much at the close-by small grocery store.  Bonus points if they’ll take away your bag of garbage and your recyclables when they leave! Never underestimate the power of a pen (or pencil) and a pad of paper.  My eldest loves carrying around notebooks and a pen so she can just draw whatever, whenever.  She even has a clipboard so she can sit on the ground and create art on a whim.  I’m going to be sure there is lots of plain paper with us this year. Lastly, take time for yourself, moms and dads.

Sit down, outside, with a drink.  Let the kids run wild (after sharing all the rules and regulations for your location).  Unless they’re screaming and fighting, leave them alone.  I know your parent-radar is always on – at least mine is – but I have learned to let it run in the background.

Sometimes I’ll move my chair so I can at least see where the kids are, but I can still sit with my book and my drink, and trust that my kids are finally old enough and responsible enough to know if what they’re doing is safe, and tattle on each other if they know it’s not!

It’s your vacation too. Enjoy it!

Now that the time is drawing nigh to start organizing and packing up to go, I’m realizing I don’t need to take all the same things as we’ve taken in the past.  We’re over diapers and pull ups (YAY!!), the girls love playing together, so only a few toys will be necessary.  And I’m pretty much tired of making them separate meals, so as long as there’s bread and peanut butter they can just eat that all week.  This is my vacation too!

I am very much looking forward to this week off.  I love having the family come around and not have to really do anything. Meals start off half prepared and no one expects gourmet at the cottage. There’s no real cleaning needed – it’s clean when we get there and we sweep up when we need to.  And we just hang out.  It’s great.

Vacationing with kids doesn’t have to be stressful.  What do you do for summer vacations?  Do you have any other tips?


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