How can you enjoy a relaxing family vacation?

Vacations are a time to relax, spend quality time with loved ones and discover new things. Easier said than done once you've become a parent. It's not easy to break your routine with a baby, or to rest with children who demand our constant attention, or to go on adventures while respecting nap times. How can we make sure that the whole family enjoys their vacation, and that it suits us moms too, so that we can recharge our batteries to the full? How can we enjoy a relaxing family vacation?

Two children playing on the beach by the sea

Think about your needs
Whatever your preferences, make sure that your destination, activities and on-site organization are really what you need to recharge your batteries, not what a vacation should be. You may be used to an active vacation, but this year you may be looking for a more tranquil one. If you know what you want, organization will be easier.

Now that you know what you want from your vacation, communicate with the person(s) who will be sharing it with you so that you don't go off in opposite directions. Multi-person vacations require some give and take, so make sure everyone's needs are met BEFORE you leave. To respect everyone's wishes on our family vacation, for example (9 adults and 8 children), there's no expectation that we'll spend all our time together. Everyone goes at their own pace and does the activities that suit them. Everyone helps out with the cooking and cleaning (17 people makes a mess!), so everyone gets a real break. Bonus: with lots of adults, we always manage to leave the kids in the care of the family for a few hours to escape for a romantic getaway.

Children's vacation rhythms
What about the kids? What can be done when planned vacations make it difficult to keep up with the rhythm or habits of the little ones? For example, if you've planned an itinerant vacation. As parents who are a stickler for these things (not to say psychorigid), we've always given priority to maintaining the rhythm of naps, bedtimes and meals when the children were very small. This made us and those around us a little tense at times. Until one day, I saw a friend doing something different with her 18-month-old second child. The little one slept in the stroller, baby carrier or arms when she needed to, and we carried on with our outings as if nothing had happened. The same goes for my sister with her 15-month-old, who let her sleep as she pleased on vacation, shifted mealtimes if necessary and always ended up back on her feet. And I, on the other hand, with my second child of the same age, struggled to maintain a rhythm despite a different environment. Guess which child, and especially which mother, was more relaxed!

If there's one thing I learned in 14 years of maternity, it's that most children can adapt, even the smallest ones, and that if we're good, they're good too. Vacations are an opportunity to let go and try something new. Once they're home, they know how to get back into their routine, even if it takes a few days.

Of course, there are children for whom changes of environment or rhythm are more difficult than for others, and for whom keeping a routine is important. Our youngest is autistic, and we've always made sure that he has opportunities to isolate himself during the day. He'll want to share a room with us rather than with the cousins, so we adapt. He'll always prefer vacations at home, but we try to get him to adapt to change by going on vacation when we can, because that's what vacations are for: trying out new things and growing.

Hélène Girard
Mom of three boys aged 10, 12 and 14

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