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Yesterday, I returned from a week away with my husband and four children. We drove from our home in Maryland to Cape Cod, spent a day on Nantucket, and then drove to New Hampshire for four days with my parents. We packed a lot into one week … boogie boarding at the beach, movies, back-to-school shopping, skydiving (in a simulator!), mini golf, swimming at the pool, games of ping pong, and riding around on grandpa’s tractor. It was a ton of fun and I think everyone – from our 3 year old to our 15 year old – was suprised by what a good time they had.

While the last week was a great getaway, it was not by any means a vacation. My husband is famous for making this distinction. In his words, “there are vacations, and there are family trips.” The difference between the two? Kids!

We love travelling with our kids and cherish the experiences we have with them when we do, but travel with kids is not relaxing. Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, right? Everyone is different, but when I think vacation, I think about lying on the beach immersed for hours in a good book, romantic dinners with my husband, spa treatments, and leisurely walks around quaint towns with stops along the way to explore the local shops. For the life of me, I can’t imagine doing any of this with my kids!

Yes, its possible to do some or all of the above on a trip with children, but it requires leaving them in the care of a babysitter and venturing out on your own. And while we always manage to squeeze in one or two adults-only outings on our family trips, I actually like spending time with my children and wouldn’t want to lose too much of it on our family trips.

So we travel with our kids and spend car rides listening to Bob the Builder on the car’s DVD system, we eat hot dogs and mac n cheese on paper plates, we pile everyone in the car for a game of mini golf in the blazing 90 degree heat, and we referee the arguments that inevitably ensue when you squeeze four children in a minivan for anything longer than 30 seconds. But along the way, we get to see the wonder in our kids’ eyes when they ride a huge wave on their boogie boards, get to lift rocks using my dad’s tractor, are lifted magically into the air in the skydiving simulator, and – in the case of our 3 year old – sit through a full length movie (in a movie theater) for the first time. So worth it!

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