Family vacations can be stressful. Even if you’re exclusively planning for your core family, it is difficult to find a destination that suits everyone’s individual tastes. And that’s just planning. Taking the trip itself can be challenging. With all of the expectations and the money that goes into these trips, how in the world do we get out of them what we’re expecting?
Maybe our expectations are part of the problem? If you’re spending a week in Orlando, there is no possible way to see and do everything. Taking the family to New York? You’re not seeing everything there is to see there in a week, either. Yet, we still try. We develop crazy schedules pushing us and our kids here and there in an effort to get as much in as possible.
But are we missing the point? I think we are. I am super guilty of this. Exposing our kids to new and different things is a valuable and worthwhile undertaking. But isn’t the real point of a family vacation just spending time together? My family gets so wrapped up in our school and sports schedules that having that time to just hang out is where the real value lies. On our last trip to Orlando, we did something liberating…we scheduled times to just hang out by the pool at our hotel. Relaxing on vacation shouldn’t be such a novel concept but can feel that way. My wife and I have both said that we want to get the most value out of the trip. Maybe that’s not just a monetary consideration. Maybe the real value is not the external experiences we have, but the internal experiences we have with our family that provides the real value.
Our last trip to Disney provided something of an epiphany. We had just spent four days at Universal but wanted to squeeze in a day at Disney. My legs felt like jelly and I trying to survive at this point. I’m positive we had the kids hopped up on sugar and we’re in line to meet Mickey Mouse. My three-year-old would not stand still and started running around. I gave in to the judgmental looks of all the parents around me and started chasing him to bring him under control. But he’s fast. I’m not.
And then it hit me. I was right in the middle of a memory that my kids and I are going to laugh about when they’re older. Yes, I looked ridiculous. No, this is not a moment I want to be posted to social media. But it was a moment to remind me why we are there, to begin with. I eventually caught up to him and grabbed him up into my arms. He was expecting me to scold him and maybe I should have. However, at that moment, I hugged him a little tighter and gave him a kiss on the cheek and let out a laugh—thankful for my imperfect family vacation.