Feeling Guilty About Family Vacation

Updated on May 04, 2010
B.H. asks from Detroit, MI
22 answers

Before my husband and I had kids we loved to travel during the summer months. sometimes we would have at least 3 vacations during the summer. When we had kids that sort of came to an end.
We are planning our vacations for the summer and don't know if we want a family or "just us" with no kids vacation. I'm leaning toward just the two of us because all our past vacations with the boys have been miserable for me. They are always fighting, crying or whinning about something, don't want to do whatever it is we have planned and I feel that my vacations are not really stress free. I end up needing a vacation from my vacation.
In the end I have taken my niece with me so she could watch the boys while we go out. If we want some adult activites. Now she is getting older and not interested in babysitting the boys or dealing with the drama.
I really feel bad for not wanting to take them with us. I always have a picture in my mind of the four of us having this great family vacation. But the reality is not that way. I'm thinking that my husband and I could take a 3 day vac. together. Then in the fall we can struggle though a short mini-vacation with the boys.
Can anyone tell me when vacationing with the kids can be fun and hassell free. My boys are only 5 and 3 years old so I'm hoping things will change in the next several years.
Thanks for any opinions.
also the experience of a plane with them for more than 2 hours is not an experience I like to have in the near future. It's just so hard. Vacations are suppose to be fun.

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So What Happened?

Thanks so much for your responses. Got some great responses for reasons not to take the kids.LOL I think I'm leaning towards not taking them. If SIL is willing to keep them. Everytime I think of the idea of my husband and I running free and enjoying ourselves, which we never do, I get so exicted! Can't wait!

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answers from Saginaw on

Don't feel guilty...go and have a good time. Whats good for the marriage is also good for the family!

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from Detroit on

Hi B.! I haven't been on Mamasource in ages but when I got your request I just had to log back on! I find that planning vacations is easy if you pick the right vacation. By that I mean don't "plan" so much! We have learned that if we try to cram a bunch of activities into the trip it becomes painful for all of us. We have started just doing beach vacations and playing the activities by ear. We rent a house(or hotel) on or near the water and just do what each day leads us to. Some days we make a pitcher of adult drinks for us and grab some stuff for the kids and sit on the beach other days we will actually go out and see the sights. We pretty much let the kids plan each day as they come. We now look forward to them because they are so much less stress. We have never been on a plane with our kids 15, 7, 6 and 4. We stay with in driving distance of our home. This year we are renting a house in Michigan city, IN. We are thinking of going into Chicago but if not no biggie! What ever you do just let it be relaxing for all of you! Good luck!

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answers from New York on

At their age, I would suggest a series of day trips that you can access within an hour of your house. They are both too young to really enjoy a "vacation".

Don't feel guilty about enjoying time alone with your spouse. If you have someone willing to take the boys for a few days, go for it! I wish we had that- it's like an act of Congress to just go to dinner.

You could also consider a family cruise- lots of them offer supervised activities/babysitting for the kids, so you can have a little of both!

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answers from Albuquerque on

My parents always took a few vacations a year on their own, without us. Just small vacations lasting 4-5 days. Not because we were naughty, they just needed that alone time. Once we were about 5 we started taking a yearly family vacation as well. Up until then we would do stuff close to our home. We never felt left out or unloved. We just knew it was mommy and daddy's time. Plus we got to hang out with my aunt and cousins so we got some time away from our parents. We thought we were on vacation too!

My parents are now empty nesters and couldn't have a better relationship. They are so close and still travel together as much as they can. I learned so much about marriage from my parents taking time to nurture their relationship.

Don't feel guilty or mean. You need time with just your husband. It will make your relationship stronger and the time you have with your kids better.

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answers from Detroit on

Please don't feel guilty. I've taken a lot of parenting course (for fun!) and they always say to use a vacation to recharge your battery so you can continue to be a good parent. It also shows that mommy and daddy time is as important as family time, which is a good model. We never took our kids on vacation when they were little because I didn't want to hear the whining, etc. My daughter is 9.5 and son is 7 and we just now took our first family trip to Disneyworld. I have to say that we discipline our children and they know when we're out that we will follow through with consequences, so they shape up pretty quickly. I think day trips are good for little ones, something like the zoo or a waterpark if you want to get fancy. Most of the time my kids are just happy going to the park or the pool. They also enjoy picnics at the park because it's special time and they have our undivided attention.

Most of the time parents make big plans and spend a lot of money planning to take the kids somewhere and they don't even enjoy it. I think society needs to get back to simple pleasures for the children. It's what they enjoy. Have fun!

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi B.,
Growing up, there was just my brother and I and we fought like cats and dogs. My mom and dad were only children, and unknowingly (I think) taught us to be enemies and to fight. When my brother did something good my dad would tell me about how good he was. When I did something good my dad would tell my brother about it, but wouldn't brag to me about me. When my brother hit me or if we were arguing over a toy, it was always my fault because I was the oldest. When I was invited to a birthday party, if my brother couldn't go, I couldn't go. He learned to tease and fight with immunity. I could say more, but you get the idea.

When I was raising my kids, I made sure there was absolutely no teasing. I made sure I always bragged on the child that did good to the entire family, but I made sure there was something good I could say about each one of my 8 kids so I wasn't telling my kids any one of them was any better than anyone else. I made sure there wasn't but minimal fighting over toys or what ever. No child was allowed to take from any other with out sharing so every child could play and be secure. When we traveled on vacation we had some fighting when we were cooped up for hours at a time on a plane or van. But my wife and I put a stop to it immediately. If the fighting was because we were cooped up and the kids needed play time or exercise time I'd stop at a park or McDonalds or Burger King or anywhere they had a play yard. If we were on the road, I'd stop at a rest stop and let the fighting kids out about 100 or so yards before the restrooms and let them run into the restrooms where we'd stop. We'd always had books or quiet toys for the kids to play with so there was always something for them to do. I've always made it a point to hug my kids and to tell them I loved them.

When we flew, my wife and I would have the kids race/run between my wife and I and by the time we got on the plane they were very tired and often slept on the plane.

My kids seldom fought and are friends to each other. My brother and I had one short period when we were friends, otherwise we didn't associate with each other.

Plan your driving vacations so that your kids have a chance to play and get exercise. I use the word "plan" loosely. If the kids are arguing, find a burger joint with a play yard and let them play. Don't give them anything to eat. When they've had a chance to play, get back in the car and give them something to eat (no sugar snacks please). By the time you've been on the road 30 minutes, they will have eaten something and will probably be falling asleep or asleep. Always have non competitive play items for them to play with. When you get to a rest stop and the natives are restless, have a ball they can chase (and get tired) and play ball or catch with them.

When we just seemed to all be having a bad day, I would fill up the van, buy burgers and we'd get in and go. When we were about 60 to 90 minutes from our next fill up, I'd give them the food to eat. They were starting to get tired by the time I filled up again. They got out to play at the play yard where I bought more burgers. We all got back in the van and started off. In an hour I was the only one awake. :)

Good luck to you and yours. If you want more suggestions, e-mail me.

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answers from Fresno on

I hear that!! My girls don't get along spectacularly well to begin with, but coop them up together for a week, and you've got a recipe for disaster. Family vacations are hell for us, too. Last year was Disneyland - never again. It cost a gazillion dollars and the kids were either fighting, crying or whining the whole time. Not fun for my husband and me! So, this year the older one is going to summer camp for 2 weeks, and the younger one is going to Grandma and Grandpa's house during the same time frame. YAY for mommy and daddy! Sure, at some point we'll take a quick weekend trip somewhere with the kids, but like you, I'm all done with the concept of the week-long family vacation, at least for the next few years.

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answers from State College on

I have 4 young children ages 18months 3, 5 and 6years. Every feburary we atke a week long family vacation to florida. his parents have a home down there so we stay there w his parents, we also take my mom along to help referee the children. They fight like indians on the war path also. then in the summer we take a weekend and go to atlantic city, by ourselves, ocean city md by ourselves, and this summer we are going back to florida, by ourselves! taking the brood is hard and not much of a vacation i know. don't feel bad. sometimes parents need a vacation from the kids. i call it sanity saving.

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answers from New York on

oh geez don't i know how you feel. i mean in my head i dream about alone (and i mean alone, no hubby no kids) vacations. in my head i am having an awesome time, no whining, no sour faces, no hubby telling me how people are behaving badly in his eyes, that the sun is too hot, my kids crying because the otehr one looked at her with 'mean looks' oh you name it. so in my head right now i am in france, sitting outside a caffe sipping my 4th macchiato and reading my book.
but then i remember my childhood vacations. they must have been horrible for my mom, who would have to leave the beach hours before we would to go cook us meals at the rented place. but my childhood vacations are the thing i treasure the most. so i suck it up, and do all vacations with my kids. i take extra bottle of motrin for my headaches and just do it.
i would say if you still go on getaways with kids, and you want one for yourself (alright your hubby too if you insist) then i see nothing wrong with it. but if you're saying kid-free always hehehe (sure you're not saying that)0 then i'd say no, it's not fair to the kids.
i wish i had your guts, i don't though, i am that mom who can't breathe without my kids, even when they're giving me headaches.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Don't be sucked into the family vacation myth! Yes--it's kind of a pain, the kid(s) get tired and crabby, but I still love taking vacations. Sometimes it feels the same but I get to cook in another kitchen! LOL My vacations rule: We can eat breakfast & lunch in but I do NOT cook dinner on vacation.
This year we are co-vacationing (same resort/separate condos) with another couple (friends) who also have an only child (son) so I am hopeful that both of us couples may get to enjoy O. kidless evening out during the week.
It definitely feels like less of a vacation for me & my husband but I want to give my son vacation experiences and memories in his childhood.
My son just turned 7 and last year was much better, if that's encouraging to you.
Think of it this way, once they're grown, you two can resume your adult vacations! Good luck!

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answers from Detroit on

Sounds like the boys don't appreciate the vacations. They are still young and more than likely won't remember an expensive vacation. Maybe a couple of long weekends with them would be sufficient and make them very active and kid oriented.

Parents need a break too. Don't feel selfish about taking time to strengthen your relationship. You will appreciate the boys more and I know they will appreciate you more.

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answers from Detroit on

Don't feel bad, after the vacation from hell last summer to mackinac island with our screaming 2 year old and 6 year old we decided this summer would be a mom and dad vacation. sometimes you need that so when you come home you are refreshed and more relaxed which makes for a more happy mom.

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answers from Grand Rapids on

I have to say, I am all for vacations with just hubbie until the kids are a little older. Actually, we are taking a vacation this month, just the two of us. It's been two years since our last vacation and first time ever taking one with just the two of us. Just remember, it's usually harder on you than it is on the kids leaving them home. Enjoy yourself where ever you end up going!

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answers from Boise on

If you two need to get away to recharge, and it sounds like you do, do it. Especially, if you have the ability to leave the kids with someone you trust. I have never had that, so my husband and I have never been away overnight, but just about everyone I know does it, and loves it!

I don't think that the perfect family vacation exists. In my family, if my sister wasn't being her oh so pleasant, negative, whiny self, then my parents were fighting, or my dad decided to use the vacation to stop smoking! You kids are young, and I am sure that they would have just as much fun doing something smaller, and local, than they would getting on a plane, and it would be much cheaper and hassle free. Maybe when they are older, and can appreciate it, you can try again for the family vacation....although, they may need to be in their 20's. :)

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answers from Detroit on

5 and 3 should be easier(?). We started doing summer family vacations when my first kids were 1 and 2...those were the long-weekend-vacation days because it took so much work and effort (diapers, bottles, pac-n-plays, naptimes, etc.). But 2 and 3 was a slight improvement and we took a whole week (still, it was work with my 2 year old at the time). By the year they were 3 and 4, we stayed 2 weeks on summer vacation and really enjoyed the freedom of no diapers, no diaper bags, and no nap times interfering with the day. Your question is a bit curious to me because it shouild be easier by now. Believe me, my kids (at 3 and 4) still posed some common challenges. But when I try to pinpoint what those challenges were, however, I seriously can't remember. All I can remember is the beach....and ice cream cones, long walks, sand castles, splashing in the water, playing tag on the beach, pushing them on the swing, and their SMILING...BEAMING little faces (that are now 9 and 10 years old). I have to wonder if maybe 1) you haven't chosen the right kind of vacation that is fun for them so that there is less fighting and therefore less stress for mom/dad...and 2) if you haven't yet realized that you won't have a 2 year old this summer and "3" is so much easier.
Try a beach vacation. We rent the same cottage every summer. It's within walking distance to Lake Michigan (sandy public beachfront)...though my husband usually drives each day so that he can haul all the fun beach toys, umbrellas, innertubes, etc. The kids play happily ALL day long. I have a two year old again, and it is so fun for her...while my 9 and 10 year olds still love the beach just as much as when they were smaller. There are kids all over the beach and they often make new friends. And we actually get to see the same families there every summer, and we now stay three weeks every summer because it is always so hard to leave!
Childhood is supposed to be about children. That's why we all (hopefully) can look back at our own childhoods with deep, happy sighs and faroff looks in our faces...wishing we could somehow go back for even a day. I know I want to give my own children the same thing...because one day they will be parents and their summer vacations will no longer be ALL about them but instead ALL about their own kids.
If you really feel like you need some alone time, take a long weekend with your husband. But 5 is pretty old to not have a summer vacation (or special summer "experience" if vacation is not in the cards financially). That window to creating those memories for him (and his brother) is shorter than you can imagine. And trust me, down the road...I promise that all you will be able to remember are their little smiling faces (honestly!).
Just remember that the key is to picking the kind of vacation that is entertaining enough for them that they don't have to bicker with each other or constantly come to you for ideas of what to do.

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answers from Detroit on

Two shorter vacations! One "just us" and one family. That way you and your husband can have a grown-up vacation that is stress-free and you can plan a shorter, maybe more local trip for all of you that schedules activities suitable for a 3 and a 5 year old (same ages as my girls). Our girls love camping. Most campgrounds have a play structure and many have beaches (private ones often have pools too) and walking paths. We went camping in our popup for a whole week last summer and they loved it. They were ready to come home at the end of the week, but we kept to their home schedule as much as possible, so while we were doing things, it was an adventure. For young kids, you have to consider it is all new for them. Keep their schedule as close as possible as it is at home. It is a bummer, but if they a nap at home, make sure they get one on vacation just like at home. Same with bedtimes and mealtimes. Keeping the familiarity of their schedule while someplace new does help. There is nothing wrong with having
"us time." If you can swing it, two minis is the way to go!



answers from Detroit on

The smartest thing my mom did when we vacationed was to let us bring a friend. It kept us from getting bored and fighting with each other. I just had the thought yesterday that I would try this myself this summer. My kids are a little older than yours (10 and 7) so it would be a little easier for me, but what if you tried just bringing a friend for your older son? That would possibly stop him from fighting so much with the younger one. Plus the younger one might tend to look up more to the friend and show a little more respect. I always find that when even one of my kids have a friend over to the house, things run a little smoother.
I would still take a "grown up" vacation. Especially if you have a good support team to take care of your boys when you are away. We were just invited to a weekend getaway with some friends in August and I am already stressed about where to leave my kids. I have crappy grandparents on both sides and they don't like to take the kids for any length of time. I should add that my kids aren't crazy about staying with them either because they so seldom have. IN the 10 years that we've had children, we had 1 vacation without them. And my kids stayed 3 nights in 3 different places. So more power to you.
Hope this helps.


answers from Chicago on

I always felt the same way.If you go on a vacation with children is not really a relaxing, resting event. I always came back exhausted.
But now my son 16, didn't come with us last year, my daughter 15 needs to bring a friend, only my 5 year old still loves it.
I always say to my husband, we need to get away, alone, just for 2 or 3 days...
I can't leave my 5 year old.He looks so sad and is so attached to me,I can't do it,but we sure need it.
So I said, maybe, when he is 8 or so.
But don't feel guilty, if you have the opportunity,have fun, go for me !!



answers from Los Angeles on

Don't feel guilty about taking a few days to yourself. Taking care of yourself and your marriage are part of caring for your family.

For the next family trip... have you tried to get the boys involved in the planning? Letting them help choose the location and plan activities might help them enjoy the time more and therefore behave better. I also like one moms suggestion about staying within driving distance. Best of luck!



answers from Redding on

Dear B.,
I think it's perfectly great to get away just you and your husband sometimes. It can recharge your romantic batteries.
However, I was always of the opinion that kids don't figure out how to behave and go along with things if they're left home and not given the chance.
My parents went on getaways for business functions and things, but unless it was just me and my sister going to stay with grandparents over the summer, our "vacations" were always family affairs. Believe it or not, my mom even still has fond memories although it's not always as carefree for moms as for the kids at the time. We went on long road trips, camping in torrential rain....there was never a vacation without a mishap of some sort and I really admire my parents for having the courage to forge ahead anyway. There were heat rashes, bug bites, scraped knees, seemed like we always forgot something. One time we were camping in a beautiful spot and a game warden came through just checking to make sure all was well.
My sister never lets me forget about my voice echoing through the canyon that day....
"Hey, Dad! Look out! Here comes the fuzz!"
It was the 70's. What can I say?
We got dressed up and visited rock gardens and nice restaurants and we also got dirty and camped and swam. My parents were very much into making sure we were well rounded children prepared for anything.
My dad is gone now, but I remember how much he loved just loading up and taking off with a spirit of getting there being half the fun. My mom was always up for it too. Sometimes we'd just throw stuff in the truck and go.
As a single mom, I've taken my kids all kinds of places just the three of us and we've had the best time.
There's no such thing as a hassle free vacation. I think it's all a state of mind. You can be at home with your kids arguing, or, you can be on the road and out of the house and on a journey somewhere with your kids arguing. I'd take the latter any day. And, like I said, the more kids get used to going, the less they seem to be out of sorts about it.

I highly suggest finding "Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss" on DVD.
It's about a family and their vacation destination. We have it...it's a classic.
It might help you see the humor in the vacation arena.

Get away with your husband, but try not to think of it as struggling through with the kids. Take vacations with them. They'll only be little for so long. And, they will carry on their vacation memories by sharing them with each other and their own children some day.

Best wishes!



answers from Minneapolis on

Hey B., Don't feel bad about about how you're feeling! My girls are 8 and 10, and travel is my passion. However, a few years ago, we took a few too many family vacations, and our youngest daughter's behavior (she is always in competition with her big sister, is prone to meltdowns, and has a hard time being on an unpredictable schedule) had gotten really awful. Actually, both of my girls were continually fighting about stupid things like who used the key card to open the hotel door, who got which side of the bed, who got to press the elevator button, who got to fill up the ice bucket, etc. Then there was the whining about walking and it didn't matter where we were, all they wanted to do was swim in the hotel pool. It was very stressful, and it was CLEAR to DH and I that they did not feel vacations were a special treat, and they certainly did not appreciate them enough to step up in their behavior. So. . . we decided they needed a year off from any hotel-stay travel. We did a few camping weekends the next year, and that's it. That year was 2009. DH and I enjoyed a 4 day getaway to Los Angeles that summer, and the kids stayed his parents. We didn't feel a bit guilty. Now this year, we took the kids to DisneyWorld over spring break, and it was 100% better. My girls fight a lot, but this time they really, really knew what we expected, and it was much better. My youngest only really got upset once, when it rained the morning we were supposed to go to the waterpark, but she got over it in a reasonable amount of time. Both girls realized if they were going to fight and be self-centered, we were just fine taking long breaks from the "family vacation"

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