Podcast: Sarah visits Pennsylvania, and we discuss vacations with kids

Best of Both World podcast with Laura Vanderkam

Today’s episode of Best of Both Worlds was a fun one. My co-host Sarah and her family visited Philadelphia over Christmas break, and we recorded a handful of episodes on December 26th while our husbands herded the 7 children through the local kids’ museum.

(There were beer flights afterwards. For us, not the husbands, though they probably deserved them more.)

We discussed getting vacation days on the calendar in advance (look at your kids’ 2019-2020 calendars now! Also, if you’re not taking off the days they’re off, you’re going to need childcare.) We discussed how to plan days when you’re not traveling. Having at least one activity to get out of the house is good. I also note when we’re doing something that all of the kids enjoy, so I can mention this to the kids later when they grumble about leaving the house.

If you have young kids, there’s often a rhythm of a morning activity, nap + down time (roughly 1-3 p.m.) and then a post-nap activity. This can be very frustrating when some places close at 4 p.m. A request to kid-oriented institutions: please stay open until 5!

We discussed extended family trips. We recorded this right before my family of six flew to Indiana. The flight to Indiana is only about an hour and 40 minutes, but it felt really, really long sitting next to the 4-year-old. That said, it was probably still better than an 11-hour drive with all of us in the minivan. I discussed the virtues of the extended family making plans the night before so everyone can plan their energy for the next day.

Sarah’s family survived their flight from Miami, and my kids had a great time playing with hers. We drank out of our Best of Both Worlds mugs. This is pretty much just a conversational episode, but according to the Best of Both Worlds inaugural survey, people like those the most. So…enjoy!

9 thoughts on “Podcast: Sarah visits Pennsylvania, and we discuss vacations with kids

  1. Travel with kids! Who would do it?!
    Actually we did a 10hr drive from southern New South Wales (Australia) to Western Victoria last Easter break. No iPads and no radio. The kids (6 and 8yr olds) each were given a blank A5 art book, a colouring book, a magazine and new markers – this is what I got when we used to do an even longer drive when I was little. They were great! We stopped a lot but there were so few arguments, so much less than when we drive the 1/2 an hour into town!
    Love the podcast. You two are so refreshing!
    P.S. I NEED one of those mugs!

  2. Thanks for another great episode, Laura and Sarah!
    A question perhaps for future travel Q&A …
    I have 21mo old twin boys, and as I look at the year ahead for vacation planning (I’m also a physician and so need to plan my vacations well in advance), I’m stuck with the question – is it worth the hassle to travel on our vacations?
    Last year we ventured to Whistler (only a few hour drive away), and one screamed most of the way there (which is unusual, but he missed his nap for the car ride). Then the condo we had wasn’t baby-proofed and it was exhausted to always be running after them. One of them was so upset about sleeping in a new bed that he threw up everywhere. Plus there is a lot of the stuff you need to lug (x2 for us). We also flew 2hrs to Palm Springs when they were 8mo old, and again a TONNE of work, for probably not long enough stay (4 nights).
    I appreciate that it’s a personal decision about what makes something “worth it”, but is there an age when it becomes a bit easier to travel with little ones? (eg. once they are easily entertained by screens for long flights?) Do you have any tips for ways to vacation with little ones that feels less painful? (eg. avoiding plane trips altogether?) We’ve tried vacationing solo (ie. just myself and husband) as well as taking grandparents along, and clearly having help is more relaxing! However, this isn’t always an option.

    1. @Jenny- good question! And we will be doing another kids-and-travel episode before too long. I think this is actually a philosophical question — we can sometimes privilege the “remembering self” over the “experiencing self.” You are asking a lot of the experiencing self to get on a plane with 21-month-old twins. On the other hand, you may make a lot of memories. Things that are wonderful in retrospect aren’t always pleasant in the moment. I would say that once the kids can be reliably entertained by screens it does get easier. My 11-year-old, 9-year-old and 7-year-old are just fine to travel with (and we’ve taken them far away places such as Hawaii and Europe). The 4-year-old still gets antsy but I trust that by the time he is 6 or 7 that will be easier too. If you wanted to take a breather on travel until your kids are, say, 3.5, that would be understandable. People could come to see you. But if you have another kid that resets the clock…

      1. Thanks for this, Laura! You’re right – it is a bit of an experiencing self vs. remembering self! And also probably a good reminder that memory making is not without some chaos costs here and there. And I totally commend your travel with so many little ones. I probably will avoid plane travel for at least the next year if we can, but your post encourages me to focus on creating some novel and unique experiences to try to stretch time even if it doesn’t mean getting on a plane. Glad to hear that it gets a little easier!
        And PS – loved “Off the Clock”!

        1. I have to agree that traveling with little ones is not always “worth it”; however, we’ve still done vacations with them every year (sometimes multiple trips per year!) and it’s always fun overall, even if it is a bit of a disaster at times 🙂 I think what helped was that we kept things relatively simple and not too expensive (like renting a house at the beach with family, which provided an extra set of hands, or just doing a long weekend somewhere semi-local). Less cost made it less painful if things weren’t going great! I learned this the hard way after our last family vacation with just the four of us (our first!) that it’s extremely important to set expectations with your significant other or others traveling with you in terms of balancing who will wake up early with kids, how much alone time you want/need, etc. I was pretty fed up at the end of our vacation when I really hadn’t gotten the alone time I wanted to go running and to sleep in a few days, but I also hadn’t done a good job communicating what I wanted. Same goes for family members – don’t assume they will babysit unless you ask them/plan ahead!

          We’re planning a week-long vacation to Disney in Dec with extended family, so need to take my own advice 🙂

          1. In my experience it is even more than lowering expectations, it is changing the mindset (or would you say “narrative”?). For me, vacation before kids meant relaxing, cultural visits, lot of walking, chilling out on terraces and going to nice restaurants. Most of this is not possible with young kids. So even if we do go on holidays with the kids, I do not consider that as “vacation”. It is family time or even an educational experience as we confront them with a different environment. Thinking about it this way helps dealing with broken expectations (even when that one was limited to enjoying some quiet time as they nap… and they don’t!) I assume it will get better with time as kids grow older and we can do more of the things that I like with them.

  3. Love your podcast!
    Unrelated to this episode in particular I had an I interesting occurrence the other day that got me thinking – I had an interview for a volunteer position to sit on the board of directors for a local heritage site that is run by our municipal government. The interview was with 3 city councillors (all male) and the city mayor. At one point when I mentioned have two children, the mayor reminisced about when his kids were small and how it was much easier now being a grandparent. He also stated how his wife “did everything” during that time. He then proceed to ask me how I could manage the work/life balance with a busy full time career and two young kids. Granted I am addmittedly younger than the citizens that usually serve on this board, I am definitely green and likely less experienced, but all that said I was asked to be interviewed based on my application which makes me wonder, would he have said that if it was a man sitting there? If my husband was in my seat I highly doubt he would have been asked that question. I’m not saying it’s and invalid one to ask – the position is volunteer after all – I think it was more the fact that it came after mentioning that his wife did all the work at home that made me think twice!

  4. You mentioned your “Disney schedule” – we have only been to Disneyland, which is much more manageable, but here’s what we have done. For most trips, we like to stay at one of the Disney hotels within walking distance of the park, because you get the “Extra Magic Hour” entry in the morning, one hour earlier than everyone else, and our kids are happy and fresh at that time because they get up so early. We hang out in the parks until lunch, then leave to get and early lunch at Downtown Disney or the hotel (I am not a fan of the food or eatery crowds inside the parks, generally). We have “family down time” in the hotel mid-day around 1-3, and generally most of us nap, but those who aren’t napping have to read quietly. Then we head back to the park and usually stay until around 7 or 8. The last trip my older one was able to make it to the fireworks, so she stayed with me while my husband took the younger one home. Also, we take turns so that one adult can walk over to the park and do all the good rides after putting the kids to bed (esp when they were 2 and 5 and couldn’t make it past 7pm!). That made it much more fun for everyone.

    The one time we didn’t stay at the park, we headed to the lovely Grand Californian hotel lobby after lunch and found a place where the girls could curl up on the benches near the fire and they actually napped for over an hour (!). It was nice and dark and quiet over there, though that depends on how busy it is. Probably wouldn’t work on a Saturday.

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