By Melissa Stefanec
According to every advice column ever written for parents, I should be decompressing with my kids right now.
I should be immersed in an energetic game of Chutes and Ladders or, better yet, a spirited game of kickball.
I shouldn’t be alternating between bath time, packing for camping and freelance-writing while my children listen to David Attenborough narrate about freshly hatched sea turtles and suckling sperm whales.
However, here I am, living my best vacation life.
As a parent, vacationing has its own set of rules. Gone are the days of sleeping late and loafing. These are the days of sibling bickering, early rising, home maintenance and catching up — all in the name of keeping up with life while I’m on vacation.
Still, in the quieter moments, vacation has a lot to offer.
Here are 10 do’s for parents hoping to keep pace and sanity while enjoying their limited time off.
While on vacation, do:
1. Get out of the house
You want to know what never goes away? Home projects. You could spend each day from now until Christmas addressing your to-do list, and it would magically keep getting longer. As a parent, your only hope of mental and physical salvation is to get away from your house. Visit family. Get a hotel. Find a home rental. Don’t let yourself get sucked into the home improvement vortex.
2. Cut yourself some slack, by cutting your kids some slack
Potato chips for dinner? Why not? Up past bedtime three nights in a row? Sure. Vacation is the perfect time to convince yourself that chocolate pudding is just as much of a breakfast as a standard kid’s cereal. Keep expectations low on your vacation.
3. Get outside
In just a few months, this land will be littered with relentless snow and wind, and the only thing keeping you warm will be summer memories. As tempting as the “getting caught up” monster’s song can be, don’t waste precious moments and beautiful weather. Get outside and start making some memories.
4. Play a little
You know all those times your kids ask you to play with them or watch a show with them? Usually, I respond to such requests with, “Maybe later; I’m making dinner,” or “I would love to, but I have to get everything ready for the school day tomorrow.” Now is the time to say yes, if even for 15 minutes. Those minutes will go a long way toward everyone’s happiness.
5. Plan a little, but not too much
Don’t plan every single day of your vacation. That makes your vacation resemble work. It turns it into something with deadlines that you’re beholden to. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know what we are doing today.” Let yourself fall into the loafing-around trap for a day or two. Some of the best things happen when nothing is planned.
6. Make lists
Before you leave for a vacation outing, start a list of things to pack. Start this a day or two before a larger trip. As things pop into your mind, write them down. Then you won’t spend precious vacation time reminding yourself not to forget something.
7. Dedicate some time to projects
Don’t be afraid to break rule No. 1 (above) here and there. If you’re anything like me, you find it a lot easier to enjoy yourself after a couple of “must-dos” are behind you. Don’t fault yourself for wanting to get a couple of things done in order to make your mental load lighter. Bonus points if you see to these tasks before your vacation starts.
8. Step away from the screen
A lot of us view screen time as a way to escape the day-to-day. However, screens can just as easily turn us into slaves. Why would you want to escape your vacation? Tune into the world around you and turn off the screen.
9. Do save your funds for the good stuff
Even small vacations can be expensive, and sweating every dollar you spend isn’t relaxing. Be selectively mindful about what you’re spending. Pack the kids’ water bottles and refill them instead of buying bottled water. If bottled water is your thing, pack a small cooler with water in it. If you are going somewhere that is known for its gross yet surprisingly expensive food, pack yourself a picnic. Buy a box of popsicles and eat them in the parking lot before you go into a park and spend $3 per pop. Save your money for the stuff you will enjoy instead of begrudgingly turning it over for sub-par goods.
10. Do take life less seriously
Long days at the office coupled with the responsibilities of raising children often lead to exhaustion and a sense of seriousness surrounding our day-to-day tasks. Vacation is a great time to take a step back and enjoy all the good life has to offer. It’s a time for us to reset our brains and focus on the aspects of parenting that bring us the most joy.