Need a vacation from your vacation?

My family and I, including our newly adopted dog, returned from a week long road trip visiting friends and family in the Bay Area. I have been reviewing my “travel journal” in which I used to write long pages of ideas, inspirations, lists and sketches during our trips. I noticed that firstly, I never located my ongoing travel journal and had to improvise, using blank pages from another notebook, and secondly, my journal keeping style has been reduced to key words, dates, and an occasional quote or highlight, scribbled in what ever writing utensil was available at said rest stop, in between changing diapers, cleaning up vomit, running the dog, and doling out snacks, tissues, and benedryl.
I remind myself of the realization that always comes to me a day or two into these trips; that whereever you go, there you are, taking care of your kids, wiping noses, managing upsets, packing, unpacking, looking for the one item you forgot or lost along the way (I know we brought a hair brush, just can’t find it after two hotel stops, and three nights at my brothers place). I tend to talk myself into the “relaxing vacation” model. If we get away from home, toss our routine, and spend 24/7 together, it will be a great time! Hmm. Expectations? My friends husband states “the only real vacation is when a babysitter is with the kids”. He has a point.

So I can offer plenty of tips on how to keep babies, toddlers, and young children happy or at least distracted, sometimes occupied on long car rides.

I can also offer sanity suggestions for parents during such vacations.

But I realize as I re-enter my everyday real life at home, it might be useful to discuss tips on how to return from a vacation with family in tow more gracefully. I notice that we are all relieved to be back in our routine, happy to be on familiar ground, but I had to pace myself in picking up all the juggling balls that needed attention. I had to manage my own sense of overwhelm in order to hold onto any of the benefits of our trip.

-I highly recommend planning at least one day two if possible to make the transition less abrupt
Continue to celebrate “vacation” while home, have a special dinner, ask your kids to talk or draw about their favorite parts of the trip, write and send thank you notes if appropriate, let your kids help pick out pics to send to family or friends you stayed with.

-Set limits with your self about what is realistic regarding catching up with home and work tasks (voice mails, emails, etc). I set my vacation response an extra day out. That way I do not feel pressure to respond to folks immediately. Schedule your mail to be delivered the day after you return if possible. There is plenty to do with out tending to mail when you first return.

-Try not to schedule any big meetings in the first couple days after returning from vacation. I frequently remember how, in my 20’s we would maximize our vacation time, returning from a trip at midnight, and heading off to work the next morning. I have to remind myself of the energy it takes to travel with kids, and allow much more leeway for myself to get back in the swing of things at work.

-Talk with your kids about the transition home a few hours before you arrive, review expectations at home and the plan for unpacking. Help them prepare for re-entering everyday life. Give them tasks to help unpack from the trip. Have them identify what they will play with when they get home, so that parents can unpack… Some kids have an easier time with transitions then others. Find what works best with yours.

Practice gratitude- it was great that we went on vacation, but there is a little let down after an anticipated event, even if you are glad to be home. Review for yourself, what are you grateful for in your current life? Any inspirations during your trip? We visited friends in Berkeley who have two boys age 5 and 7, and live in a very small house. I am always amazed at their ability to keep the place clutter free, relatively clean and artistically intriguing. I am also reminded of how lucky we are to have a bigger house with a basement to rough house in. I smile as I recall why we go on these vacations every spring: the boys playing ninja warrior all over the living room furniture, baby sister trying to tag along, a relaxing walk with my good friend Jen, taking dogs to the park without kids, and a fun day at the Discovery Center on the Bay. My husband is inspired to cook leg of lamb after an exceptionally nicely done dinner with my brother and his wife in rural Trinity County, CA. After two exciting drives through blizzard like conditions, rain, hail, wind, and abundant rainbows, we are back in rainy Portland, with new perspectives and fond memories.

So for our next trip, I will look at my scribbles from this trip, bring less of some things, more of others… remember pool toys for the hotel nights, talk my son down to one giant stuffed animal, skip the highchair attachment for my daughter…
Of course we will go again, and of course we will look forward to coming home again, landing more gracefully every time!

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