Vacationing with Young Kids: Expectation vs. Reality

Vacationing with Young Kids: Expectation vs. Reality

Posted by Sammy H. on 2nd Aug 2022

After countless hours of planning you’ve finally booked a vacation for your whole family; relaxing, fun-filled days are within reach. Congrats, you’ve earned it! But remember, things don’t always go as planned and with the added element of energetic children, flexibility is key. Thankfully, with a little preparation you can make the most of your adventure and make the most of your expectations.

Kids, regardless of age, will not magically become easier to manage simply because they are on vacation. In fact, many of the shenanigans you face at home will be amplified on your trip because your kids are tired and excited all at once.

Below are a few expectations you likely have and the realities you will probably face.


Expectation: You will get to relax on your vacation.

Reality: You will be chasing after your kids the entire time.

Depending on your vacation (road trip, resort, sightseeing, etc.) you will not likely get many chances to relax the way that you want to. Being in unfamiliar territory may put you into hyper helicopter-mode where you won’t want to take your eyes off your kids for a hot second.

To help ease that anxiety for your littles, consider a backpack with a tether to keep them safe. Not only will they have a place to store their vacation treasures, you will be able to keep them at arm’s reach at all times. Consider activities designed to keep kids engaged. This could be as simple as an afternoon swimming or at the beach, or a children’s museum where they will keep themselves entertained for hours. Suggest a “quiet time” for everyone before dinner to recharge; take naps (yourself included), quietly color, or play a game before getting ready to head back out..

SUGGESTION: Try to carve out some “Me” time for yourself. This could mean leaving the kids with your partner and taking a long walk alone or taking turns with the kids when sightseeing for a bit so you can see what you want to too.. You’ve earned a little “Me” time on your vacation, and it will help clear your mind and relax.


Expectation: Your kids will sleep in late.

Reality: Your kids will be up at the crack of dawn.

Without the normal structure of school, expect your kids' sleeping habits to be out of order. When I was a kid, I would still be fast asleep while everyone else was already dressed while my sister would be up as soon as someone else started moving around. Kids have a spectacular supernatural ability to not sleep when they are excited about something or sleep hard when they’ve been kept busy the day before. Be prepared for them to be even louder than usual, as you’re all likely in the same room together and they are without their usual distractions of toys and games

To ensure your kids, and you, get some needed shuteye, consider these tips:

  • Be realistic with everyone’s sleeping habits
  • Respect the routine
  • Go to bed early
  • Make the room dark
SUGGESTION: Get creative with the sleeping arrangements. Booking an AirBNB or a hotel with conjoined rooms can make a huge difference in how well you and your family sleep. And take note of any nearby coffee shops and when they open.


Expectation: You will get to eat out every night.

Reality: You will be eating PB&J for dinner half the time.

As much as you want to try some of the local culture and foods, if you’ve got a picky eater you’ll have to do some research to find restaurants that satisfy everyone. If you know that your kids only eat chicken nuggets and mac n cheese, see if the shop’s menu is published online or call ahead. Can the food be ordered to go? Consider having you or your partner pick up something for you while the other picks up something for the kids and have a picnic together nearby..

SUGGESTION: If you decide on a restaurant that isn’t particularly kid-friendly, consider consulting Google Maps for some help. The app has a feature that shows you when restaurants are typically more or less busy, and in some cases offers real-time information. Going out to eat during a less busy time will help eliminate waiting in the lobby to be seated, and a longer wait time for food to get to your table. Waiting is incredibly boring for kids, especially if they’re hungry too, and can lead to a meltdown. Bring a coloring book or a quiet toy to the restaurant to keep the kiddos entertained.


Expectation: You will get to see all the sights.

Reality: Your little ones will tire out quicker than you hoped.

As much as you want to plan, schedule, and make a full itinerary of your vacation, your kids only have so much energy and patience to spend. It’s helpful to have more than just an idea of what you want to do, but being fluid with your plans is essential when your child is DONE. Touring a museum full of dinosaurs and airplanes will be really exciting, but when your little one is ready to call it a day, you’ll have a better chance of flying one of those planes than you will keeping your kids moving.

SUGGESTION: Have a goal of one or two things per day you want to do and consider if your kids will have the energy to see it through - the last thing you need is a tantrum because they just want to be back in the room napping.


Expectation: You will have a great time.

Reality: You will have a wonderful time with your family!

Don’t sweat the small stuff, accept things will go wrong, and use your vacation time to bask in family togetherness. Although your dream holiday may not have a flawless execution as you planned, you will have created memories that will last a lifetime for you and your children.

SUGGESTION: It’s not mandatory that every day of your vacation is packed full of activities. Take a day off from seeing the sights and spend a “lazy day” playing board games, watching movies, and cuddling your kids. When the distractions of home and work are eliminated, you may find this mundane family time to be the best day of your trip.

If you are interested in more tips to improve fun quality time with your family on your vacation, check out these helpful tidbits

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