So, I have this thing where before we go on a trip, I visualize our family actually being wherever we’re going. I see us walking happily down the street, the kids taking in the sights as my husband and I walk hand in hand. Or, maybe we’re all hiking on a gorgeous mountain trail together, breathing in the fresh air and grateful for the fact that we get to have this time together.
But you know what? The real vacation is never anything like that. Never. It’s usually my husband reminding the kids to stay to the right of the sidewalk for the 857th time. Or me explaining to my daughter there’s no way she can possibly be “so hot” when it’s 65 degrees out. Or it's the kids constantly correcting each other, creating drama, or bickering about nothing.
And I know I’m not alone here. We all know this can be the harsh reality of family travel.
So why, when I scroll through Instagram, do I only see only the good parts? Yes, I love looking at pictures of camera-ready toddlers climbing the steps of ancient temples in Bangkok. But please, also show me a photo of that kid melting down because it was past nap time and 100 degrees out.
That perfect picture of your kids in front of the Eiffel Tower? We all know that there are 50 “bad” shots of the kids looking in different directions, sulking, or posing with a weird smile.
These real, unfiltered moments are important to share because that's exactly what they are; they're real. We all love our kids, but they annoy us. We all crave family time, and then wish we could just be alone at the pool. This phase in our lives is a mashup of every feeling, emotion, and mood, and our vacation photos should document this: real, messy, funny, beautiful family travel.
So, do yourself a favor, and take real pictures. I’m not talking about the instagram-worthy shots (although those are pretty important, too- I get it!) I’m talking about the real life pictures. Because I promise if you don’t, you’re going to forget.
You’re going to forget about the time you had to talk your kid off the ledge when you were hiking The Narrows in Zion because he was deathly afraid of flash floods.
You’re going to forget the time you were in the Happiest Place on Earth and your toddler was miserable, repeatedly ramming his head against the trash can because he couldn’t have more ice cream.
You’re going to forget about the time your kid gashed his head open on a jetty, and you spent what should have been happy hour applying liquid bandaid to his scalp.
You will forget these things because if you didn’t, there’s no way you would ever go on another family trip (and let’s not call it a vacation, ok?) again.
Traveling with your kids is like childbirth. Our brain releases some soothing potion that makes us forget about all the pain and work, while selectively remembering only the good stuff.
And trust me, there’s a lot of good stuff.
There’s exploring new places together.
There’s sibling bonding and inside jokes.
There’s stepping out of your comfort zone.
But please, take those real pictures because all of the exhausting moments-- where kids are being kids and driving you crazy -- these moments will fade away.
And in the end all you’ll think is, “Wow, that was a really great trip.”