Divide & connect: the upside of traveling with just SOME of the kids

Mad Tea Party Ride

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 As travel-loving parents of five children, my husband and I have spent a lot of time over the last decade feeling squished: squished into cars on day-long road trips, squished into hotel suites that don’t quite accommodate us comfortably. Squished for time and money as we try to meet everyone’s needs and make traveling a fun experience for everyone.

And don’t get me wrong, we’ve loved (almost) every minute of it. Our kids have learned a ton about patience, compromise, and resourcefulness on our family vacations.

Still, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to travel separately with different groups of kids this spring.

First, I traveled to an event put on by Hanes at Disney World, and was able to bring along family members as long as I covered their airfare.  Since the older two boys couldn’t take time off school so late in the year, and since Clara would be attending a family wedding with us in Orange County (with a bonus trip to Disneyland!) just a couple weeks later, Jon and I figured it would be a great opportunity to treat William and Owen to a never-before-experienced vacation with just them, Mom, and Dad.

What an experience! While I attended the Hanes sessions by day, Jon, William and Owen tromped through the parks, father-son bonding their way through Star Tours and beyond. In the afternoons and evenings I joined them, and we rode all my old favorites, like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion, plus my new favorite, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (twice).

With no younger or older siblings pulling us in all directions, we got to really focus in on experiencing Disney with our middle kids, doing all the things that are most fun for them. It was such a treat, and we joked that, for once, we got to act just like “normal” people with two kids.

Then just a week later, we were jetting off to California for my stepbrother Adam’s wedding. After all the marriage festivities, Clara, Jon and I went to Disneyland for a day…all by ourselves. Here are the photos telling the Story of our trip:

We hung out in Fantasyland for hours, for the first time really able to spend time there without feeling torn between different-aged kids and their desires. We got to go at a much slower pace and really just enjoy each other’s company for the day.

So here’s what I learned from our “smaller” family adventures: I still love traveling with all five of our kids. But sometimes, it’s nice to break off and do something focused on just one or two of them at a time, giving them the special attention they want and need and letting ourselves enjoy a more relaxed vacation.

Big families are awesome, but sometimes I want my kids to feel like they have a chance to breathe, enjoy themselves, and really connect with us without feeling like they’re in competition with a crowd.

Plus, traveling in smaller groups allows us to get more bang for our buck by targeting trips to the groups of kids most likely to appreciate the itinerary.

We’ll still plan a whole-family trip or two this summer. But we’ve also got plans to take our two oldest boys back to California, to check out Hollywood and the other kinds of things that would appeal to them.

And, hopefully, we’ll make it back to Disneyland. Only I’m guessing that this time, we’ll spend a lot more time at California Adventure – and not nearly as much time looking for princesses.

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  1. Courtney
  2. Tracey Anne