It's a perennial mom-joke that there's no such thing as a family vacation, just the opportunity to feed/clothe/bathe your kids in a different location. While there's no getting around the fact that you do
have to care for your offspring, it's the things you do every day at home that help travel plans run a bit smoother. As we gear up for our one-way repatriation ticket from Abu Dhabi
to Memphis this month, we've been reflecting on how adaptable our kids have been on our trips across the globe. And, funnily enough, the key is
to have the same feed/clothe/bathe routine, but in a wider framework.
The Frequent Fliers
In the last 12 months, our kids have flown the equivalent of 1.8 times around the globe - 44,702 miles to be exact (and if you know me, you know I like exact). We've slept in multiple family houses, hotels, furnished apartments, Airbnb's, and attempted sleep on a couple of 14+ hour flights. And they've accepted each new situation with the resilience of a triple-diamond status frequent flier.
Like most expats, their first passports were issued before they could lift their own heads. Our long-haul travel was usually back and forth to our family in the U.S.: a 15+ hour flight (currently sitting at #10 of the world's longest
) followed by a 1-2 month stay in familiar places with familiar faces. These were easily adaptable trips, and we didn't stray much further than this one annual flight for the first three years of parenthood, mostly due to fear of having cranky, confused babies - and what's the point of a vacation if you can't really
enjoy it, right?
Routine Gives Freedom
It's no secret that young kids thrive on routine
; predictability gives the comfort and security needed for (somewhat) calm, happy kids. So our regular day-to-day home schedule does not waver. From the time their wakeup clock lets them out of bed to start the day to setting it at the end of each night, their days run within the same framework.
It took some time, but we learned that if we stick to the same basic routine, the kids would accept almost any new situation we throw at them without getting totally out of whack. Even on a plane there's dinner, a quick "wet wipe bath," jammies, book, and tucked in as best we can with their lovies. They understood: it's time to sleep.
I'm no expert in child development, but I think giving kids new experiences are better handled when we maintain a vital touchstone in the order of how things run and remove the worry what comes next.
Obviously while on vacation, timings do stretch as we explore new places and hop from flight to flight, so we don't get too tied up in, "OMG it 6:42pm! RUN!"
If we happen to arrive at a hotel at 10pm, we still walk through a mini-routine. But overall we don't stray too far too often. Lack of sleep, uncertainty, and processing new surroundings can will lead to grumpy kids. And that definitely can ruin a trip.