We have an annual family camping trip that we take each year. It is blissful, memorable, and full of low-key hanging out.
We ALSO have a rule for said annual family camping trip though: the kids are not allowed to come unless they are AT LEAST 3 years old.
Yep, you read it right: the only way to get an invite to our one big annual family trip each summer is to show your birth certificate at the door - MUST BE 3 YEARS OLD TO ATTEND.
This tradition started with our group of friends long before any of us had kids. It was a week to unplug, reconnect with one another, sit around the campfire until the wee hours of the morning recounting our glory days, dreaming of the future, and spending countless hours eating licorice, playing cards, and hanging out on the river in the boat. IT WAS BLISS!
But then, SOMEONE (my husband and I) decided to start cranking out children. Being that we were the first though, we were bound and determined to not let the babies disrupt our annual tradition. Nope, we would confidently show everyone that having kids is NO BIG DEAL, for sure they can come camping at 3 months old and sleep in a tent on the side of the river in 100 degree heat. Yep, totally not a problem.
*insert eye roll here*
WHAT WE'RE WE THINKING?!
The following year, when it came time for the annual camping trip, we thought: oh he's so much older now, surely he'll adapt well to a camping trip for the week.
Less than 24 hours in to our adventure with friends, we sent him home. Yep, called up Grandma and Grandpa and through tears, explained how we would need them urgently meet us halfway - the toddler was not going to make the cut this year after all.
Year after year, as we kept adding to our brood, we became wiser and learned from our mistakes. We recognized naps in a hot tent - not a good idea. Toddlers near a river - not a good idea. And thus, we implemented a family rule (applicable only to our family mind you): no children under the age of 3...regardless of the birth certificate showing you belonged with us. Nope, we'd go live our best life on the river and make all of the memories, and someday, when they weren't (as giant of) a pain in the a**, they could join the family vacation as well.
And I feel approximately zero ounces of guilt for this.
Our trip is now completely overrun with at minimum 5 billion kids between all of the families. We have tents, trailers, pop up shades, portable high chairs, floaties, bikes - you name it, if Clark Griswold had it, we've got it!
Regardless of the surrounding chaos, our family rule still applies: not until you're at least 3. We have made an exception though for the third kid as we've "adjusted" our said rule...she's pushing 5 and still has yet to receive a formal invitation from us to attend the family camping trip. Why? Because bringing just our 7 and 8 year old is SO MUCH easier! No toddler meltdowns, no naps, no tantrums (okay maybe a couple). Parenting in the school age years - now THIS is what family trips and vacations were made for.
So my advice for those contemplating all of those blissful excursions that you dreamed of when you became a parent - use the yardstick of whether or not they'll even remember it. If the answer is meh, save yourself the stress! They'll be fine left at home (with Grandma and Grandpa), and won't even know what they're missing!Our third born relishes her one-on-one time the week that she hasn't been invited to yet and it's a win for everyone. Sure, you'll be viewed as the Okayest Mom Ever, but the alternative is INSANITY (and there isn't enough rosé in my fridge to counter that). I choose sanity over other people's expectations all day long. Go make the memories, live the dream, and leave the super duper littles behind.
That's my advice on how to travel with kids. ;)
For more stories and tips on achieving Okayest Mom Ever status, check out Ashley's blog www.designstylepurpose.com or follow along on Instagram @ashleydsp.