The One-Minute Trick to Get Your Family Vacation Back on Track

Traveling with kids is hard for the same reasons raising kids is hard—plus jet lag. Expectations aren’t met. Plans veer off course.
And kids, it turns out, are their own people. In trying times, moments of positive thinking can help tremendously. Read on for mindfulness tips.

Low-tech trips:  In an effort to disconnect, author Megan Baxter puts down her iPhone and uses a Polaroid camera to snap pictures on family vacations.

Low-tech trips: In an effort to disconnect, author Megan Baxter puts down her iPhone and uses a Polaroid camera to snap pictures on family vacations.

I never practiced yoga until I got pregnant. After my first trimester, I was a downward dog regular, and loved my class as much for the therapy—we spent at least 30 minutes going over our physical aches and mental pains—as I did for the exercise.

I also learned about affirmations and matras, simple strings of words that, when repeated, aimed to get us through difficult times. In this case we were talking about the ultimate difficult time—childbirth.

After all of my chanting, meditation, and stretching, I ended up having two planned c-sections, so the power of morphine quickly overwhelmed my well-practiced matras. Still, the exercise in mindfulness came in handy: See, it turns out they don’t dole out morphine on family road trips, so the idea of the affirmation came roaring back on one of my first highway hauls with a wailing one-year-old in the back seat. We had a nine-hour commute and thanks to a cold that wouldn’t go away, my son was one miserable kiddo—and travel companion. “This too shall pass,” became my matra, my new drug of choice.

To expand further on the power of positive thinking on family vacations, we tapped Megan Baxter, a Austin, Texas-based mother of two (ages three and seven months) and the author of  Pat on the Back, a book of affirmations, disguised as a children’s book, that help men and women better acknowledge and affirm themselves as parents. “Through Pat on the Back, I learned the power of affirmations,” Baxter writes. “I routinely tap into this power when I am traveling with my family on vacation, a time when I’m inevitably over analyzing and stressing over each milestone of the journey.”

Below, Baxter shares her family travel-focused affirmations with Half Pint.

Baxter’s Tour de Midwest:  Peoria, IL Milwaukee, WI, and Shawano WI.

Baxter’s Tour de Midwest: Peoria, IL Milwaukee, WI, and Shawano WI.

I can make and break rules with equal authority. I choose my battles.

There are times when ice cream at 10 am works and times when it doesn’t. Saying out loud what is flexible and what isn’t helps to set everyone’s expectations and make those breaking-the-rules-moments more special. What child isn’t excited to do something they don’t always get to do?

I control my outlook, the weight of the suitcase/stroller/car seat does not consume me.

It’s not all going to be fun. Between the stroller, the portable sound machine, the bag of toys, the bag of snacks, baby milk, car seats and the all-important iPad and child-sized headphones, moving all the items from place to place is a chore. I try to not let that control my mood. I am mentally stronger than the stroller. 

I am not an extension of my phone. Life is here with me.

I make it a priority to disconnect from technology when on a trip. The irony of viewing what other families and friends are doing instead of spending that time with my family is not lost on me.

I share ownership of our plan. It is not mine and mine alone.

If I don’t share the plan, I become the director. I’m used to my seven-month-old and my toddler looking to me for everything from snack requests to potty breaks, but when my husband is right there alongside them, something’s out of whack. Sharing ownership of the plan ensures that I have a partner in the tough times. I wonder if sharing ownership of the plan with the kids would have a similar effect?

I celebrate each moment of our trip from the second we leave the house.

Seeing how excited my daughter got when we piled into the car with all our bags before the sun came up really helped to drive this home: The trip wasn’t a series of bullet-pointed destinations, it was the space in between. Changing my mindset to recognize that the “getting to the destination” was a part of the vacation was critical.

I will see the newness of each moment through your eyes.

For some reason, I’m always compelled to push us onward to that grand destination, but my three-year-old was honestly as happy playing with the cheapo fifty cent horsey ride outside the national park gift shop as she was actually seeing majestic views of Big Bend National Park in Texas. That won’t always be the case, and I want to appreciate it in the moment (or at least until I run out of quarters).

My vacation success is not measured in the number of photos I capture.

I’m a paparazzi mom with the best of them but we have made a tradition of taking a cheap Polaroid camera with us on our vacations. It forces me to not document every moment with 50 shots of the same thing but instead take a single shot. Instead of beating myself up for not grabbing my phone quick enough to get that perfect shot of my kids doing something, I am more present in the moment. Bonus: Polaroids instantly transport you back to a moment when you view them later.

I place my needs and wants alongside my families. I don’t compromise my happiness.

I try to not be a victim of mom martyrdom and remember it’s my vacation too. If I spend the vacation sacrificing my needs or wants for those of the rest of the family I don’t return home recharged. Remember, you have to put on your breathing mask first before you can help anyone else.

About the Author
Megan Baxter lives in Austin, TX. She constantly succeeds and fails at maintaining a healthy work life balance between her day job as a UX Design lead at IBM, being an author, illustrator and publisher of her children’s book, Pat on the Back, building her family’s dream home in the hills, and raising two children on tacos and queso.

How do you recharge on family vacations? Tell us Below.