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Guest Writer Mickie Shares Some Wisdom On Family Vacations

A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:13

A wonderful thing happened while we were on vacation this past weekend – we ALL had a good time!  My hub and I are seven years into this parenting thing now and have had enough vacations where very little fun was had by anyone to know that traveling often causes irritable child syndrome to rear its ugly head.  Our expectations have substantially lowered over the years – of the kids and of each other – and we are now basking in what may be the honeymoon phase of our adventures in parenthood.
I should tell you, though, that we usually go to the SAME place each year.  We love it!  It is the kids’ favorite place on earth.  They know what to expect and what their options are, although each time I up the ante by forcing them to ride a new amusement park ride.  Last time it was the tea cups, this time an inner-tube river ride.  Both times they screamed like I was killing them, but miraculously survived.  Someday they’ll warm up to it, I just know it!
Anywho…  I thought we got a couple of things RIGHT this year while doing the vacation thing and thought they might inspire you while you’re still in the planning stages of your adventure.  Here are a few things that I think grossly improved the happiness portion of our vacation.

I let each child pick whatever they wanted that would fit into each of their respective backpacks for use in the car.  For my 7YO, this meant Star Wars books.  For my 5YO, this meant Legos in baggies and a couple of drawing notebooks.  I’m against Legos in the car, too, but the important thing was that they were in control of what went into the backpacks, since my hub and I would be in control of their lives for the rest of the trip.  Mwahahaha!  Evil parents.    

I packed their beloved bathtub color tablets for use in the motel, along with the giant cup I use for rinsing their hair.  They were not fond of the process involving motel coffee cups last time we went.  It took too long and I think someone got soap in their eyes or something.  I also let them pack ALL (and I do mean all) of their bathtub toys.  Two gallon-sized baggies of wet tub toys = at least an hour of R&R while they played in the tub.
Usually, we over-plan our vacation activities.  We expect the children to be excited to see new things and go new places.  Ha!  This time we learned our lesson.  We told the children where we were going and asked them what they wanted to do.  Their response?  They wanted to jump from bed to bed at the motel and swim in the pool.  So, each evening we made time for them to do just that.  We didn’t get to see a couple of evening events because of building in the swim/jump time, but we were better off, I assure you.  Yes, we visited the theme park we were destined for, but we left as soon as the kids appeared to be tiring of it.  This also allowed us to hit a vacationing milestone – no strollers!  It felt as if we’d won the big prize!  We actually felt at the end of the vacation that we could have done a little more this time, so we squeezed in a drive-thru animal park on the way home.  By this time, though, my 5YO was DONE and he didn’t really enjoy being slobbered on, but the rest of us had a great time!
Instead of eating at the theme park, we left for meals that were more familiar to the kids.  We stayed at the same motel that we’ve stayed at for three trips now, so the kids knew what to expect for breakfast.  For lunch, we left the park and ate fast food that was inexpensive and quickly devoured.  We had pizza one evening from a local restaurant that we discovered several trips back, and ate it in the motel room instead of in the company of strangers.  And, of course, we hit the local rollback store for snacks to consume while confined to our room or car.  No, our menu wasn’t the healthiest on the planet, but did my children die from one weekend of indulgence?  No.  Did it prevent mother-meltdown when one of them refused to finish their $5.00 corn dog?  Probably.
Wrapping it up:
Our ending leg of the journey included a quick stop at the grandparents’ house on the way home.  Not only did it break up the 4 hour journey, it also gave the kids a chance to tell their exciting vacation stories to someone and wrestle in the middle of the living room for a little while.  It also gave them a landmark on which to base the remaining duration of the trip home.  Grandma also provided some much needed reinforcement that the inner-tube ride was FUN and not scary, thus avoiding a trip to see Dr. Phil later in life.

I hope you’re blessed with time off this summer to spend with your family on a good old-fashioned family vacation.  Perhaps my account will inspire you to lower your expectations and take one day at a time.  I know we’ll be back on the road again soon to visit our favorite place on earth.  Maybe someday when I get this destination down pat, I’ll even be brave enough to try a whole new place altogether.  Or maybe not.  Why ruin a good thing?
But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.”  Psalm 68:3

Mickie D. is mother to two boys, a horse, a pony, a cat, numerous chickens, one guinea, and five neighbor cows.  She and her Russian husband have been married for 12 years.  Her hobbies include reading, crocheting, gardening, cooking, and writing down familial stories on her blog www.hickmama.blogspot.com, in case she later forgets.  Mickie is a life-long LCMS Lutheran and teaches preschool Sunday school, volunteers with VBS and children’s church, and is the Wednesday night chef for church activities.  She is currently a full-time mother, but has held many jobs throughout her life including checking groceries and governmental bank examination, thankfully not at the same time.


  1. Chris Joly

    Mickie D you inspire me. Good job girl and many more happy vacations to you and yours.

  2. Jen

    What a wonderful post. I just blogged a series of articles about vacation on my blog, as well. You gave great advice, and some really helpful tips. Thanks so much for being a guest writer. I look forward to getting to know you through your blog!

  3. PamBJoyMom

    Love your advice. We have 3 young kids, and it is important to remember, as you pointed out, that they have wants too, some of them the simplest things like jumping on the bed and swimming in the pool. I will use your tips when planning our next trip. Thanks so much. What a blessing!

  4. Karen

    Great article!! Awesome tips!! Here’s something I discovered. Take lots of pictures with everyone smiling. We can soon forget a vacation. Really the pictures are the only memory left sometimes. So, even if it was rough, I am tellin’ ya, if everyone smiling in the pictures it’s a good memory!! Funny but true!!