Another summer, another family vacation. We head to Cape Cod every year and stay at the same place, with the same friends. It’s tradition. And I love it. The kids have been there enough times now that they feel comfortable and confident walking around the resort, and they get so excited at the thought of a beach and an outdoor pool and an indoor pool and a hot tub and mini golf and go-karts and arcade and ice cream.
And every year, as I stare out at the ocean — part mesmerized (it’s so beautiful, so vast, so powerful, so calming), part terrified (it’s so beautiful, so vast, so powerful, so big compared to my little boys) — I find myself reflecting on how my boys aren’t so little anymore, and how we make this the best family vacation ever, every year:
Yes, the resort is a bit pricey in my opinion. Yes, we blow a lot of coins at the arcade. Even that souvenir store is overpriced. But I’m not talking about spending money. I’m talking about TIME. Spend time in the waves, sitting by the pool, slathering sunscreen on wiggly little bodies. Spend time answering the questions about what we’re doing next, why the waves are big sometimes and small other times, what time the pool closes, why we can’t live in Cape Cod, why we’re not going to 3 different restaurants for dinner just because three different people want three different types of food . . .
Spend the time together . . . because we all know that saying that the days are long but the years are short. We’ve been doing this vacation for nine years now. The years are flying by . . . and I can only hope that when my boys are too old for this vacation, that they will remember the time spent together as a family.
Let them . . .
Let them explore. Let them enjoy.
Even though we started this vacation with diapers and baby food and pacifiers and strollers, now we’ve got goggles and boogie boards and fishing trips and jetski adventures. Let the vacation activities grow with the kids. Let them feel that sense of freedom walking from the resort restaurant back to the room by themselves. They know the way. You showed them.
And while you’re at it, let them have ice cream for breakfast. Dairy! In a cone? Sure, it’s just like cereal and milk. Not every day, of course . . . but once in a while. It’s fun. It’s vacation. It is fleeting.
Anyone who has ever been in charge of packing for a family vacation knows there is a LOT to bring.
You know, all the usual stuff, like clothes and swimsuits and underwear . . .
Air freshener (because . . . boys)
Medicines (epi-pen, and an extra epi-pen)
Patience. A lot of patience.
And most importantly, yourself. Not your work laptop. Not your ever-important instagram account. YOU. Your hand to hold. Your eyes to shine. Your breath to call out “Big wave!” or “Nice jump!” Not your concern over jiggly thighs or blue veins or muffin-top bellies. Be there. Bring yourself. You deserve the vacation, and the family deserves you truly being there.
I know it can take time to settle into vacation mode. Just do it. The kids are super-excited and ready to jump into everything fun once they arrive. Do it. Jump into fun mode, family mode, unpacking mode, walk-to-the-beach mode, finding seashells mode . . . it doesn’t-matter-if-everything-is-covered-in-sand mode. Jump Into the pool — get your hair wet. Stand or swim in the ocean –and if you’re like me, don’t let them see you’re terrified of the waves. Watch out for sharks and jump in. It wasn’t long ago the kids felt the sand and waves for the first time. It won’t be long now until family vacations fade away in favor of summer jobs or girlfriends or college . . .
Try something new. Find a new adventure — a new restaurant, a new activity — balanced with the traditions you love most.
Capture . . . the moments. Not all posed and perfect, but candids, too. Save them, print them, frame them, share them. Cherish them and the memories they bring and the ideas for the next vacation they inspire.
Kids grow, families grow, things change, but they also stay the same. Make sure you remember this list of all you need for the best family vacation.
(and a little seashell souvenir, that is exactly the same today as it was when I was a kid, doesn’t hurt either)