Vacation Routines for Kids…Simple Steps and Benefits
Written by Noreen Greimann
My family and I spent the last three weeks vacationing in Germany. We had been preparing for this trip since last fall and everyone was beyond excited. I kept having visions of myself relaxing by the beach, maybe doing a bit of writing or drawing while the kids built sandcastles. I imagined quiet moments for myself while my husband was out exploring the town with the kids. I so needed that and couldn’t wait.
When we arrived in Germany, we spent the first few days with my family and then headed up north to the Baltic Sea where we had booked an apartment on an island for 11 days. Plenty of time to chill out and let the stress melt away.
Everything was going according to plan until REALITY kicked in on day 2.
You see, the problem was that there was simply too much change for the kids (and us).
A different language (both children understand German but are not comfortable speaking it, yet), a continuous flow of new people, different food (though, no one complained about German rolls and Nutella for breakfast every day) and the excitement of new places and activities every day. Add to that, a hefty dose of jet lag and exhaustion.
For our children…
NOTHING was the SAME.
EVERYTHING was DIFFERENT.
The Benefits of Routines
I have always been a big advocate for routines in children’s lives. Our children have always enjoyed a fairly predictable schedule that included regular sleep and mealtimes. At times, I was torn about our rigid life as we would have to leave friends’ parties early to get the kids into bed, turn down hiking invitations because of nap time and always had to plan ahead on day trips to ensure proper mealtimes.
But this trip made it crystal clear that children NEED routines. There is simply no way around it. No matter how inconvenient it may seem at times.
Can you remember a time, when you had a busy weekend with birthday parties and other fun outings, coupled with a late bedtime and maybe not the most balanced food choices? How did your child react to all that change? Most likely not in the most positive way. Yes, they are having fun while they are in the midst of it but sooner or later, this change catches up with them.
That’s exactly what happened to our two children. We were having fun, no doubt. And they wanted to keep going on new adventures every day. BUT they also began to act out more and more.
They were together 24-7 and it was simply too much. It was the first time they shared a bedroom and you can imagine how well that went. Again, they were having fun but found it incredibly hard to settle down. (Oh, and did I mention that it didn’t get dark until close to 11pm and the sun started to come up around 3 am?)
By now, you are probably wondering how our vacation could have been any fun at all.
Well, it was because piece by piece we began to figure out how to bring back at least some harmony. We knew it wouldn’t be the same as at home but we could make improvements.
3 Steps back to Harmony
Step 1 – Slowing Down
We were in the midst of the most amazing beach resort that had so much to offer. We wanted to take it all in but that came at a price. We decided to give the kids some good old play time. After one morning of just hanging out at the apartment we could tell a difference. Our kids are used to spending their days playing without much direction from my end. They use their imagination, get to be creative and it also gives them an opportunity to process experiences. On our trip they simply didn’t have enough down time and ended up too wired.
Step 2 – Talk About Our Day
Each night at bedtime, we would snuggle up together and chat about the day. What they enjoyed the most. What they didn’t like. What they would like to do the next day. Again, that allowed them to process the day’s events and put them in a more relaxed state before going to sleep.
Some nights, we made up stories about the fairies and gnomes that had traveled with us from the US and the ones that were native to Germany. Sometimes, it was challenging for my husband and I to keep track of who was who but our kids were always quick to remind us about the details of their folk. The stories we created often wove in the day’s activities or sometimes even a struggle we had with getting along or sharing.
Step 3 – Schedules, Routines and Journals
We wrote out a schedule of all the days ahead and what we wanted to do. We also created a simple journal page where we captured the day’s events through pictures and words. That was particularly helpful for our 5-year old daughter. AND it quickly became one of my favorite activities of the day as we would sit together to draw and write. And lastly we tried to stick to a consistent morning and evening routine. It was more relaxed than at home but it was consistent and that made all the difference.
I had been thinking about our summer rhythm quite a bit before we went on this trip and it became a focal point during the trip. Now, that we are back and everyone is slowly adjusting to our life at home again, I am contemplating what the best summer rhythm for us would be.
Do you have any tips for keeping everyone happy and relaxed on vacation? Share your ideas in the comments below.