Before we had kids, my wife and I would travel on a regular basis and enjoy some romantic vacations together. However, after we became parents, one of the biggest problems we ran into was the vacations would always end up being more about the kids than us and, as a result, we stopped traveling as often because trips like that would, more often than not, put a strain on our relationship.
When we decided to take a family vacation last month, I was concerned it would turn out the same as the other vacations we tried to take with the kids, especially since we were going to be spending more than 40 hours (round trip) in the car with our daughters. However, prior to taking our vacation, my wife and I sat down and put together a vacation game plan that helped us keep some romance in the trip and ultimately allowed us to have fun as a couple.
The first thing we did was agree to be a team. If the kids acted up in the car, we handled it together. If traffic got bad, she agreed to watch my blind spots and keep the kids quiet. And, if one of us was getting tired or stressed from the drive, the other made sure to encourage them and cheer them up with a joke or squeeze of the hand.
As part of this, we played games together. One, for example, involved trying to find a license plate from every state (we found 43). Another had us counting road construction barrels. We ultimately let the kids play too but, for the majority of the trip at least, this was something we did just as a couple and it helped keep stress levels down.
The second thing we did was find some ways to make the trip only about us. The kids were with us so, naturally, we had to include them too. But, that didn’t mean we only had to do kid things. In addition to visiting the zoo, for example, we also visited a new mall (something her and I have enjoyed doing since we started dating).
In addition, on the way back home, we went out of our way to spend the night in Sturgis, Michigan just so we could add Michigan to the list of states we have visited together. Again, it doesn’t seem like much, but, when things did start to get a bit stressful or weren’t as fun as we expected, we were able to look forward to that one night stay.
The last thing we did was find time to be alone together each day. When we were staying with her relatives, we would let the kids play with grandma and grandpa while we visited a store or restaurant. When staying at motels, we would create some time away from the kids by letting them take a bath while we looked at photos, talked or just spent some quiet time together.
As a result of these things, my wife and I actually enjoyed this vacation more than any of the other ones we have taken with the kids and, unlike the past, are actually enthused about our next one just because, with the right planning, it can be about the two of us too and not just the kids.