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Our routine will be a mess. Our toddler won’t sleep in a new environment. Our baby needs all of the gear. The flight could be a disaster. I went through a mental checklist of reasons why this kind of family vacation would be hard. It was a pretty convincing list if I’m being honest.

I considered throwing a pity party dedicated to the concerns I shoulder as a mother. A few days later I felt a wave of conviction wash over me. I was dreading a trip that was meant to be a blessing to our family.

Any kind of travel with littles is challenging, but my outlook around this vacation was distorted.

At that moment, I made the decision to pack away my complaints and focus on gratitude, especially during the inevitable trying moments of the journey ahead.

RELATED: Don’t Let Mom Stress Ruin Your Family Vacation

A few weeks before departure, I pulled out our massive duffle bags. I made lists of supplies we would need and borrowed a custom bed for our toddler since our courageous climber can jump out of a traditional Pack ‘n Play. I lined up all of the sand toys, plane activities, sunscreen bottles, floaties, goggles, swimsuits, diapers, wipes, diaper rash creams, medications, snacks, and 14-days of outfits for our two children.

I looked at our overflowing suitcases and started to question if the comfort of what I knew was better than the unknowns that come with vacation. I didn’t want to face the uncharted waters, so to speak, and I know I’m not alone in these reservations.

Before our children arrived, my husband and I enjoyed traveling together. We loved all-day adventures, hiking for miles, and exploring new cities. We savored delicious meals and evenings full of meaningful conversations under twinkling stars. Almost a decade of marriage and two cherished children later, the people we are today require very different things than a carry-on suitcase with a spare change of hiking clothes.

We knew traveling would be different when we had children, but we didn’t really understand what “different” meant.

The pandemic hit when our first child was nine months old, and travel was completely off the table for a while. Needless to say, we were a little rusty with traveling in general.

Finally, departure day came and we drove to the airport. I wore clothes I could nurse our baby in on the plane. I was equipped with countless toys, wipes, trash bags, and snacks. We took a nonstop eight-hour flight to Hawaii and checked seven bags. Seriously. Seven bags. Everything about this day felt unlike our pre-kid life, but as we attempted to push the luggage trolley through the airport, the experience felt more rewarding than any of the trips of our youth. My husband and I played an epic game of rock-paper-scissors on the flight to determine who would handle a diaper blowout, and we high-fived when the plane landed. It was an insane experience to be trapped in the sky with two busy little ones for eight hours, and we exchanged knowing glances that we survived the flight as we taxied on the runway.  

RELATED: We Take Vacations with Our Kids Because It’s about the Memories, Not the Moments

We haven’t slept much this trip. Our routines are non-existent. The four of us have a rough head cold. There have been several tantrums on this trip (I’m included) and everything isn’t “peaches and cream” every second of the day. Nevertheless, we are in paradise. We hiked a volcano earlier today with our daughters on our backs. We saw the most magnificent double rainbow after a rain shower. We played in the ocean. To say comfort beats doing the hard thing is a total lie.

This experience is special and we get to hold onto it forever, even if our children are too young to remember it for themselves.

Mothers set the tone for family trips. We can have the outlook that it will be impossible, or we can do careful planning and aim to stay positive, even when it’s difficult. My vote is that it’s worth doing things like this when we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to do so.

Moving forward, I can choose to tune out the doubt and lean into the adventure of it all. Looking back on things that seemed hard in one season gives me confidence and perspective moving forward in motherhood. Doing the same thing on repeat keeps us stuck exactly where we are. New experiences force us to evolve. I’m focusing on gratitude and soaking in the memory of little sandy toes for a lifetime. 

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Lili Foltz

Lili grew up in Michigan and now calls Colorado home with her husband, two young children, and dog named Trail. Lili is a stay-at-home mom and a freelance writer. She loves running long distances, reading new books, and outdoor adventures. 

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