Things to UNpack Before Your Next Vacation

Hear me out for a minute – what if you didn’t have a detailed itinerary for your upcoming vacation? What if you only made sure you knew where you were going and where you were staying, and the rest was up to fate? Family vacations are supposed to be a time to make cherished memories with everyone involved. For moms with anxiety, however, prepping for vacation can be very overwhelming, and that feeling doesn’t exactly end once vacation begins. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I recently took my first ever vacation with my son and husband – to Italy. Me? Traveling abroad with a toddler? In this economy with this anxiety? Well, I decided early in the planning stages that I would unpack the mental stress and pressure of high (note: self) expectations and just let things be. I was happy to adopt this mindset early on knowing that this was my son’s, who would be 21 months at the time of travel, first time on a very long plane ride, let alone a foreign country. (Spoiler alert, he did amazingly well, thank goodness!)

As someone who usually likes to plan day by day, task by task to check off, and romanticizes travel as the most nourishing thing in the world, but only if you see it all, this was a bit of a challenge. But after my very successful trip, I thought I would share my best tips and “why’s” on how to keep that travel anxiety at ease.

Embrace Open Expectations

Let go of rigid expectations, or even lower them! Easier said than done, I know. Try to understand that not everything will go according to plan, and that’s perfectly OK. Maybe you don’t even have to plan each day out! For me, I listed out the top 10 things (roughly one for every day of travel) I wanted our family to accomplish or experience, and set priorities. Keeping in mind which ones needed additional planning (e.g., tickets or open hours to an attraction, if our stroller could make the trip, etc.), I left it up to the day for my husband and I to decide on which one we’d tackle. The same went for meals, which let us eat and snack as we pleased, and fit in our top restaurants where we could and when reservations were available.

Why? This left it so much easier to embrace the opportunities for spontaneity and unexpected moments with our son that could turn into beautiful memories (like listening to buskers at a less populated plaza and seeing our son’s excited face at the music). By being flexible, you’ll find joy in even the most unpredictable situations.

Schedule “Do Absolutely Nothing” Time

While vacations are meant for exploration, they should also provide opportunities to relax and recharge. For moms, this is especially important, as taking care of everyone’s needs can be exhausting. Make it a priority to fit in some “do absolutely nothing” time during your vacation. For us, we purposefully made time (especially when it was nap time in the stroller) to find a good park or bench with a view, or when baby was awake, a playground, and just sat. We chatted, people-watched, enjoyed a snack and drink, and took in a much-needed mental check to realize the beauty around us.

Why? These moments of stillness are usually the most refreshing, and the memories you think of first when you try to recall your most cherished recollections of time spent with your loved ones. It’s definitely worth the 15-30 minutes, even, out of your constant on-the-go day.

Don’t Forget to Capture Moments with You in Them

When you’re sticking to a list or schedule, it’s difficult to remember to take those beautiful candid photos. Leaving my mind to focus on where I was and what we were seeing helped me to be more present and mindful, finding the right moments to take those candid photo opportunities. But even more challenging, moms are often the ones behind the camera, capturing every precious moment. I think in these moments, I typically would usually be filling my husband in on what’s next or asking him to take a look at our schedule. But instead, I encouraged him to take more photos as well.

Why? Not only did this create a balanced album on both of our phones, but it also will eventually become a physical reminder that we were all there together, enjoying each moment as a family.

Involve the Family in Planning

That top 10 list I mentioned – most of them were mutual wants between my husband and me. Visit the colosseum, a definite yes for both. Have gelato every single day, yes and yes! Go shopping for accessories, my husband – not so much. Run all the way up the Spanish Steps – I can wait near the fountain for him. When everyone has a say in the itinerary, there’s a better chance of creating a vacation that is equally thrilling and memorable for all.

Why? Not only does this lessen the burden of decision-making solely resting on your shoulders, but your family members will be able to remember the vacation as the time they were able to do the thing they wanted, despite it not being on everyone else’s bucket lists. This leaves a greater chance for strengthening bonds and unlocking those core memories with your family.

With your packing list already haunting your to-do, I hope these tips will come in handy to ease up the task of planning your itinerary. Let yourself UNpack the weight of any anxiousness you feel leading up to your vacation, and remember to give yourself some grace – remind that brain of yours that you’re wanting to make beautiful memories with your family, and enjoy every moment you can! Happy travels!

Hello! I'm Niko - a mom to two-year-old Felix living with my husband in the Northland. I was born and raised in Kansas City, and though I've always found my way back home, everyday I miss the years I traveled and lived abroad in Asia. I hope soon to get back to exploring the world and traveling, but this time as a family! For now, there is so much to do and see together in KC that even I haven't experienced before. As a KCMC contributor, I hope to bring to the table my expertise in Googling, my obsession of planning, my experience in infertility treatments (Felix is here after 3 IVF cycles and 2 FETs), parenting after trauma, and travel, as well as my passion for culture and diversity. My latest hobby is finding new things to procrastinate on now that I've recently graduated!