Taking trips without tripping up

There are two types of families: those who love to travel. And those who don’t. 

Our family is in the second category. 

We’re what they call “indoorsy”. A we-prefer-to-be-home-family. 

Our family considers driving to the beach a “big outing”.

Ask my kids where they want to go on a day off from school and they’ll predictably say “stay home”. Christmas break? Summer vacation? 

Let’s just stay home. 

In a way, I take it as a compliment. My kids actually LIKE being home. And this is no small blessing to me. I work hard to make our home fun and relaxing so they will feel loved and refreshed.

But this spring break, we decided to “break” our usual stay-at-home tradition and actually GO on a trip (applause here). This was a big deal for us. Getting our family of 6 packed and on an airplane was no small feat. It took weeks of researching and deciding and planning and reading mommy travel blogs who somehow successfully plan and execute multiple exciting trips and memorable vacations with their vans full of children. I’m impressed with their ability to pull it off so well. (Also slightly jealous…)

We had one week. So we decided to see 2 rather small cities….

New York City and Washington DC.

I know. We might’ve been a little ambitious.

We loved it! We saw everything on our list! Mostly on foot with an occasional subway ride, we totally took a bite out of the Big Apple! And in DC, we enjoyed so many historic places and buildings. Our trip was so memorable and so worth it. The kids were champs! They were easy, happy, flexible and patient. And we feel so much closer as a family because of it. I think we might even go on another trip next spring break.

Here’s some pics…

Looking back though, there were some take-aways and mom-lessons that I need to learn and remember for next time. Because I didn’t always respond to every situation with the grace and patience that was required.

Next time, I will remind myself to…

Adjust those “mom-expectations”

Every mom has them…you know what I’m talking about…those unrealistic expectations we have for family vacations where everyone is smiling and giggling and happily taking group pictures. Where memories are being made and togetherness is happening. It’s all rainbows and unicorns.

Then the screeching reality hits…there is some smiling, but it’s mixed in with hangry and tired, and no one can agree about where to eat, and there seems to be more bickering than giggling. And NO ONE wants to pose for a picture.

In our imaginary thoughts of a “perfect family trip”, we can forget about this real-world nasty thing called sin. I forget that no matter where we go, we can’t escape our sinful hearts. It comes along like stinky carry-on luggage.

So what do we do when we feel disappointment creeping in when family trips are not what we pictured?

First, I need to stop daydreaming about what it’s supposed to look like. Because (spoiler alert!) it’s actually going to look like real life, not like the perfectly godly life of your imagination. We’re still the same 6 people with the same strengths and weaknesses, just in a different location. Sometimes I can turn an image of an ideal family experience into an unrealistic mom-expectation, or even into an idol. And then no one can live up to it because…well…no one is perfect. God wants to meet us in our actual real family with his actual real grace. Because that’s where we really need it the most.

Second, expect struggles and frustrations and prepare your heart in advance for it. Be ready for the sinful temptations in your heart and your kids’ hearts. Things WILL happen that we didn’t plan on. Attitudes WILL need to change. And we need to respond to real life situations with real life faith and obedience.

Good mood, good food applies on trips too.

Being cheerful and positive, especially if your kids are not feeling cheerful or positive, is a powerful tool. Hand out smiles and encouragement like candy. Our college pastor used to say, “You can’t bad attitude someone out of a bad attitude. You can only good attitude someone out of a bad attitude.” My husband lives this out in our family all the time. He has a way of being upbeat and positive even if everyone else is struggling.

I, on the other hand, am still learning how to do this. Sigh.

Same thing goes with food. Feeding the kids generously and frequently is a huge morale booster and worth every penny you’ll spend.  We did so much walking, our kids were hungry like every 2 hours. But I felt hesitant to keep spending money on food…so I would try and convince them to wait longer, only to sabotage our next stop because their energy and enjoyment were depleted. Ugh. Why don’t I learn? Keep throwing food at them and they’ll stay pretty happy and interested.

Thankfully NYC hot dog carts are on every corner! 

Make time for reading the Bible together.

On day 3 of our trip, everyone was feeling extra tired. So my husband wisely insisted on doing family devotions that morning before we left for another day of sight-seeing. He read Philippians 2 and reminded us to seek to serve and prefer each other like Christ. This helped us all so much. We needed to re-calibrate our hearts to the truth and it produced so much more patience that day. It ended up being our favorite day! Don’t take a vacation from the Word. You may need it even more when you’re not at home! We sure did. 

People are more important than places.

On the last 2 days of our trip, we rented a mini-van and drove to North Carolina so Nate could preach at Colonial Baptist Church on Sunday. Besides being a beautiful drive, we so enjoyed worshiping with those people! It was a blessing for sure! On our way back home, we were talking about how being with other believers (even ones we just met) was so refreshing and soul-nourishing. For me, it was the highlight of our whole trip! Being with God’s people trumps all the historic and famous buildings in the world. People really are more important than places.

I am so grateful for this spring break trip! It was a once in a lifetime adventure with our 4 precious kids. With our oldest starting her senior year of highschool this next year, I cherish times like these more than ever. And I’m praying that I will learn those mom-lessons, so our next family trip is even more amazing!

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