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Holidays with Children—Keeping it Real!


I am sure that your social media feeds must look similar to mine at the moment: lots of perfect photos of friends on holidays with their family, lots of fun on the beach, dining out in lovely places, afternoon slumbers in the sun—so lovely, right?! Now, we know that these are only highlights; of course, there are not-so-exciting times on holiday; we know all of this. But it can still be depressing to see these sorts of pictures when we compare them with our own family getaways. So, in this post, I am going to give you the behind-the-scenes perspective of our holiday to the USA. I want to show you the good, the bad, and the real!

This time last year we had a family holiday to the USA. Of course, I was anxious about it. I have three children, who were 6, 3, and 1 at the time. We were going to be sitting on a plane for 15+ hours, then dealing with jetlag, followed by full days, a lack of routine, and different diets. So many unknowns. To be sure, it was a wonderful time, and we came away with lots of great memories, but it was hard work. Oh my, it was hard. Here are a few of the highlights, but with the real story behind the photo.

Pictures: kids at airport window & sitting in the plane ready.

Photos of the kids at the airport and then looking out the plane window are iconic on social media. The excitement of the adventure to come is almost tangible in the picture. But here is the reality behind these shots:

  • This was a 15-hour flight with a one-and-a-half-year-old on my lap, basically for the whole flight. There was not enough space to sit, let alone sleep properly or eat meals.
  • It was nearly 15 hours of Peppa Pig on the in-flight system.
  • The flight from Sydney was delayed, which meant we missed the connecting flight to Boston, which meant we had a further 8 hour wait(!) in Dallas. 3 kids in an airport for 8 hours—you do the math.
  • We eventually arrived at our destination at 3am after some 40 hours of travel.
  • We were staying with friends in New Hampshire, which was a huge blessing. But our jetlagged and highly-strung-out children were having major meltdowns about … well, nothing. Bad enough at home, but when you are guests in another person’s house?

Pictures: Sophia with a squirrel & playing in leaves

This photo is of us in Boston. Looks lovely, right?! Kids seeing squirrels for the first time? Memorable. Reality:

  • The baby was really sick that day and had just vomited all over me in a historical graveyard.
  • While we were doing Boston Freedom Trail, our baby vomited on me, again. This time whilst in the carrier and facing me. Then, as we travelled the 2-hour journey home, two more vomits for a total of three clothing changes.
  • For the next few days, a bug went through the family. On the last day, we were enjoying a wonderful thanksgiving dinner when my 3-year old projectile vomited all over their kitchen floor.
  • Adam was downstairs, also vomiting.
  • All told, a final night in NH cleaning up vomit and washing clothes.
  • Then, the next day, it was a 5-hour drive to New York with a car full of sick people. Three more vomits from my daughter and we reached our destination.

Pictures of Statue of Liberty… plus Manhattan skyline.

New York, New York! It’s on every bucket list and is the stuff of fantasies. I mean, who isn’t jealous of seeing friends taking selfies in New York? The truth: our experience of NY was the worst of all our destinations. It is just not a great place for kids.

  • We went to see the Statue of Liberty. Which was Beautiful, but took pretty much the whole day, and the only sunny day we had there.
  • To get there and back meant 3 hours on the subway, in peak hour, with 3 kids.
  • We spent hours waiting outside in line to get on a boat to see the Statue—and we all know how much kids love waiting in line!
  • Great view, sure, but what a day.

Pictures: Times Square & ice-skating.

Times Square, M&M store, Disney store, Ice-skating in New York City—magical, right?! That place was created for selfies. But, Oh. My. Goodness. Probably the worst day of all!

  • Another 3 hours on the subway in pouring rain.
  • Finding the right station, pushing the stroller in the rain through the crowds, heaps of pathways blocked with construction, stairs—one of us carrying the stroller, the other with baby in carrier and holding hands of the other children.
  • Get all the way down only to discover we needed to be on the other side of the platform. Back up the stairs…
  • Ice-skating in the pouring rain at the beginning of winter. This was a real highlight for my daughter and I, but:
  • My husband was waiting for us in the cold with my two sons, bored, wet, and hungry. Not so memorable.

Picture: of Air and Space Museum & butterfly exhibition

We travelled from NYC to Washington, which was a breath of fresh air. There were open spaces, grassy areas, less traffic, less crowds, it was really lovely. But we also had children, so, the reality:

  • Epic meltdown at the Air and Space Museum. Our baby boy just stopped coping. I ended up finding a corner near the cafeteria to just let him scream and protest until he was ready for me to hold him and calm him down—approximately an hour of managing a public tantrum. The photo you see here, was at the entrance- before any drama.
  • Then a second tantrum in a second museum.
  • The photo with butterflies is really cute and it was lots of fun—I am told. I was actually outside of with the baby, who I tried to pacify with food, only to be informed by staff that there was no eating. Taking the apple away from the hungry, screaming baby—you can picture it.

Pictures: Me in front of Capitol Hill & family in front of Capitol Hill

This picture looks nice and calm but the circumstances around it were really annoying.

  • Prams were not allowed in this museum, which wouldn’t be the worst thing, only, our pram was loaded with lunch and snacks for the day.
  • So, I went for a walk while Adam took the kids. Quite annoying.
  • Capitol Hill is really nice, and the weather on this day was particularly lovely, but the walk from Capitol Hill to the Lincoln Memorial and then back again is several kilometers. Little legs and a long walk equals lots of complaining.

Pictures: Kids in the dessert & Bearizona

We visited Arizona, which is a really beautiful place. Our main reason for coming here was to visit the Grand Canyon, which, it turned out, was about 5 hours away by car. You know what’s coming.

  • “Are we there yet?”
  • This photo is a stop on the way. A chance for a packed lunch, bathroom break, and to get the argumentative, sooky, bored kids out of the car.
  • Back into the car and more, “Are we there yet? Stop touching me!”
  • We also visited Bearizona. This place is totally worth it if you are ever in Arizona. There are literally bears, wolves, deer, and other pretty big and scary animals walking around your car. Rule number 1: keep the windows up at all times. Rule number 2: don’t stop moving.
  • But visits like this, or stopping for lunch, means delays.
  • By the time we arrived it was almost sunset. It was really beautiful, don’t get me wrong … as long as you don’t think too much about the drive home.

Pictures: Grand Canyon x2

The Grand Canyon any time of the day, let alone sunset, is amazing!!! But:

  • I was captivated, they were bored.
  • I wanted to stand in awe and take it all in, they wanted to go home.
  • My husband set up the camera to get some proper photos, we hung out in the information centre (I will say, it was a great information Centre).
  • 5-hour drive home, arrive close to midnight. Worth it, but exhausting!

Picture of a pretty Blue door & Museum

Our last stop was Denver. It was the day before Thanksgiving, which is the busiest travel day in the USA. Of course, we were late and missed our flight. Standby, again. Arrive in Denver:

  • A sick child, again.
  • Adam was working this week, so I was by myself.
  • The first 2 days in Denver were spent in our (lovely) Airbnb with me looking after our 3-year-old while the other kids watched cartoons.
  • Eventually, we were all well enough to go out. This is the pretty blue door to our pretty BnB, as we returned from a crucial coffee shop hunt.
  • The next day we went to another museum. One in the carrier, one in the stroller, and one on foot whining regularly about too much walking. I was also on my own that day- must have been feeling particularly brave.
  • Finished there but didn’t factor in the early sunset. Kids were in no mood for another long walk in the cold and dark.
  • I hadn’t thought to plan for public transport with young children, so now I’m stranded. Incredibly, a really kind family offered us a lift home—so I took it.
  • Thinking back, I’m appalled that I did. Taking my family in a car of strangers! But, honestly, I was so desperate I wasn’t thinking straight.

Photo of us on the plane…

Four weeks and (all in all) a fantastic holiday later, it’s time to go home. We’re all tired and ready for a long and uneventful flight home. No such luck.

  • Baby is on my lap, asleep; suddenly, I feel and smell something in his nappy.
  • Do I check him when he wakes up? Everyone on the plane is asleep and I want him to stay quiet. Okay, let him sleep.
  • Eventually he wakes and I realize I am wet. There has been a leak, and it smells, really bad!
  • You’ve seen those tiny bathrooms on planes, right! My husband stood outside holding the baby inside while I went through the wipes. Oh, and had I brought any spare pants for myself? Nope. I had to wash what I had on and put up with it for the next 10 hours.
  • Oh but doesn’t that highlight photo of the view look lovely….Reality: I was feeling really gross!

So, as you can see, it was quite the adventure. It was an incredible holiday and worth the effort. And it hasn’t deterred us from other overseas holidays with kids.

We just need to be realistic with our expectations … and social media promotion.


Author Rachel

I am Mum to 3 little ones, aged 6,3 and almost 1, Wife to my high school crush, Midwife at our local hospital and Creator of 'Out of the Nest'. I hope more than anything to do all these things well and maybe empower and encourage others along the way. Though its quite the juggling act, and balls do drop ALOT, so I am happy to talk about that too. xx

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