Lessons Learned on our Big Family Trip

I’ve fallen behind on writing lately, sorry for the lack of recent posts! Everyday life gets busy, and sometimes there are too many things needing attention and something has to go. Blogging has always been an on-and-off hobby for me, so when I have to cut something from my day that’s the easy choice.

But I hate leaving things unfinished. Our big family trip is now over a month and a half behind us, and I still haven’t done any video from our time in Victoria or even looked through the photos our 4-year-old took with his camera. Today I will cross at least one thing off my list: lessons learned during our trip!

Lesson #1: Pack Less, Wash More

I’m always doing laundry when we travel, whether it’s on a cruise or at a DVC resort, and it’s not just for long vacations. Even weekend getaways will see me taking advantage of the washer and dryer when we have one in our hotel room! (Pro tip: any Disney Vacation Club 1-bedroom villa or larger has a washer and dryer.)

Regardless, I still overpacked for this trip. I planned to do laundry only once on the ship, then once after the cruise in our Homeaway rental. Almost four years with children should have taught me better… I wound up washing clothes at least 4 times during our 7 night cruise, and every night at our rental home. That’s life with boys, between food, dirt, food, puke, and more food.

I could have packed half the clothing and saved at least one suitcase. You might think that we need extra clothes to swap out when one toddler gets too wound up and sends their entire breakfast back where it came from, and we did change outfits right away whenever something particularly nasty happened. But we also put those clothes in the wash ASAP, so we never needed more than a single emergency outfit.

Lesson #2: Leave the toys at home

We had a whole bag devoted to toys: LEGO sets, Kindles, Transformers, action figures, arts and crafts, and a huge thing of Thomas & Friends Adventure sets (which are the perfect toy trains for travel), and that’s just what I can remember! Some things were played with, especially the tablets, but others were barely touched throughout the multi-week journey.

The best times were had outside our room, whether on a playground or touring the ports. Playtime in the room was less engaging than it used to be, perhaps because the boys need more space to roam. We should have done more activities on the ship, gone to more open houses, played more shuffleboard, and done more glacial sight-seeing from the open decks instead of staying on our private veranda.

Lesson #3: Don’t lose sight of what matters most

I’ve already covered this in some of my previous posts detailing each stage of our trip, but it bears repeating. Travel can be hard and stressful, especially with young children. Relax the expectations and remember why we’re traveling in the first place.

We travel to spend time together away from work and everyday life. We travel to explore the world, to try new things and to build shared memories. Our trip had a rough start, rougher than any other vacation, but back home I look at the photos and see only good memories. Even the tense moments have a hint of goodness because it’s a moment in life that we experienced together, a challenge that we conquered as a family.

That’s something I need to learn to see in the moment, not just in the weeks or months that follow. If I can remember what matters most, next time will be better, and I can become a better father in the process.

These were the three things I took away from our journey. I still have more to share when time permits, not to mention all the everyday life and weekend outings that have happened since we got back! Thanks for hanging on while I attempt to balance work and family life, trying to fit a little blogging in whenever possible.

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