Yes, you're taking the kids on that time-honored tradition: the family vacation. But, does that mean you have to forget about your love life, forego some rare and memorable moments with your partner, or give up the deep relaxation that helps us remember to hold each other's hand?
The good news is it doesn't have to. A family vacation can be a time of rest, reconnection, and renewal for all the members of your family. Even your six-month-old can use some time to de-stress. It just takes a little thought, some planning, and time to be mindful of your expectations so that you enjoy each other even when things don't go as you'd hoped.
Of course, deciding that this is going to be a family vacation can be the first hurdle to overcome. If you've been a parent long enough, you know the fantasy: You and your partner are relaxing on a sand beach on some exotic island, palms swaying in the coconut-tinged breeze, billowing clouds float across the azure sky while the crystal turquoise water lulls you to la-la land.
It's just the two of you, at last, alone together. Your eyes sparkle a little brighter; your tanned partner looks dazzling in less clothes... yes, tonight will be the night you'll rekindle your romance until you hear that all-to-familiar shriek: "Mom!!"
All right, back to reality. You've got three kids, and the idea of relaxing on a beach with a teething baby just doesn't cut it (no pun intended).
The Family-Activity Resort
Most people have little vacation time each year and deciding how to spend it can be almost more stressful than not taking it at all. And if you're a parent, the thought of leaving your kids behind can be scary.
However, it gets easier when you consider the wide array of options out there. Obviously, you want everyone to be happy, to have fun, and enjoy the time together. And, both the kids and the adults need time to play. Luckily, the resort industry offers several choices to meet your family's interests and keep everyone - including you - happy.
Woodloch Pines Resort, located in the heart of Pennsylvania's northeastern lakes region, is an award-winning, family-centered resort and golf community that is so well-loved by its guests that it's now catering to fourth generation guests. Woodloch offers dozens of activities like go-carts, waterslides, scavenger hunts, and contests to keep families playing together.
"We're like a cruise on land,"Laurie McEvoy said, Woodloch's marketing director.
"What makes us special is that we are family-owned and run and when you come here, people know who you are," McEvoy explained. "Woodloch encourages families to be together and the activities are set up so that families can pick and choose what they want to do and plan a fun, relaxing day."
The resort can accommodate up to 1,500 guests per week, has four types of accommodations, including guests homes that offer more privacy - perfect for those looking for a "home-away-from-home" atmosphere and a more economical share for two single parents with kids. Because of the high level of repeat guests, McEvoy encourages people to book up to a year in advance.
"We're not Disney and we're not corporate. We're just pure, down-home, all-American fun - with good food and company," McEvoy stressed.
Resorts like Woodloch are perfect is you want to bring grandparents and for family reunions. With its own golf course and opportunities for hiking, touring, horseback riding, bowling, and skiing, plus antique shops and museums, Woodloch offers something for everyone in a relaxed atmosphere.
Other resorts offer children's programs, with scheduled activities that allow parents time to relax and do their own thing. Cruise lines and many smaller classic resorts often provide kid's programs, with babysitters and opportunities to relax knowing your children are in safe hands. This is a great option for parents who are interested in spending some time at the spa or at nearby antique shops. Parents have the freedom to plan their own entertainment and rest assured knowing their kids are having fun.
All-inclusive resorts can take the hassle and some expense out of vacations by offering an everything-in-one package price. If you want something for everyone, with adult activities and children's programs, this may be a good choice for you. Caribbean resorts offer some of the most inclusive packages with your choice of accommodations and exquisite cuisine. A few even assign personal "Vacation Nannies" - trained nannies who care for your children and stock your fridge with items of your choice - for your entire stay. Many nannies will also keep your room clean and is often available to plan birthday parties or other special events.
But, if a personal nannie is a little out of your price range, consider asking a relative - like a grandparent or responsible niece or nephew - to join you on your vacation. They'll get to go on vacation, and you'll get some alone time with your partner.
Choosing the exact option for you will depend on your budget, time, and interests. But whatever type of resort you choose, keep in mind that just like life, if you don't pencil in time for romance, it just won't happen. If you're not comfortable with a resort babysitter, you might consider bringing along your own. The added expense could be well worth the peace of mind and the chance to have some time alone with your partner.
The key is to focus on what your family needs most. What are you expecting from the vacation? What is your partner expecting? What do you secretly hope to gain from this vacation? If your romantic relationship is strained by more than just the normal wear and tear of life with kids and lack of sleep, a family vacation is not the place to hope that it will magically be repaired. If, however, your relationship is good and the two of you are just tired and in need of a change of scenery, the family vacation could very well be a time for you to reconnect and rediscover the miracle of your life together and the children you have created.
Also, what kind of rest does your family really need? If you are a family that's busy 24/7, jam-packing a week of vacation with activities won't be much different than relocating your everyday life. If you are a family languishing in too much home time, then a high-energy vacation might be just the fix. The point is, don't get caught in the trap of over-scheduling activities. And weigh the pros and cons of how much activity you want available at your resort. Children want what they see, so if you are looking for relaxation and time to just "be" and reconnect with the sun, sand, and water, a classic family/fishing resort might be the place for you.
Even if it's just the two of you with the kids, enjoy being together while you explore with your children. Try to make the most out of nap times. Hold hands, kiss a little longer, laugh. Just revel in the gift of being together and knowing your bond will be a little stronger by the shared memories you have of your trip. It doesn't have to be perfect or extraordinary. It just needs to be a time when it doesn't matter what you do, just who you're with. You never know - you just might find your passion isn't that far gone, after all!