Don’t Watch Your Family Vacation from the Sidelines

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mine train disney

When you make a 2,000+ mile round trip drive with someone, chances are good that you will talk about a variety of topics.  Bob and I travel well together.  We log our miles chatting about our past, our present and our future.  We reminisce, we discuss our kids, we gossip about this person or that event.  We turn up a good song on the radio and belt out the lyrics.  He farts, I act shocked and appalled, then we roll down the windows.  We lament that we have passed a Starbucks every 100 yards for the last 100 miles, but when we WANT a drink from Starbucks, there are of course none to be found.  We take turns handing the kids various snacks or boredom busters as our car hurtles down the super highway.

A couple of months ago, our trip home from Florida began much like any other road trip.  We had just spent a week in Disney and on a Disney Cruise and had enjoyed every aspect of the vacation immensely.  We had plenty of things to talk about, including trip highlights and things that we’d like to do differently on the next one.  Then he said something to me that I had never heard him say before.  He said, “So, did you have a good vacation?  Like, did you truly enjoy the vacation?  Because for the first time in a long time, I really felt like you were having fun TAKING PART IN the trip – not just watching us have fun from the sidelines.”

His comments took me by such surprise, because I couldn’t believe that he had noticed.

Here’s the thing: I love planning our vacations.  I am always in charge of planning every aspect of every trip because I genuinely find it fun to do so.  I am always happier when I have a trip to plan!  I love pouring through travel reviews, adding fun stops to our travel itinerary, etc.  I love packing (okay that’s a little bit of a stretch).  I don’t mind packing our clothes, snacks and boredom busters.  I love counting down to the trip itself and usually can’t sleep a wink the night before we leave because I am so excited.

But once we hit the road, something shifts.  I tend to become more of a vacation observer than a vacation participant.  I take the pictures while Bob takes the kids on rides, for a swim in the pool, you get the idea.  90% of our vacation pictures are usually guaranteed to be missing one person:  ME.  I’m not sure why or how I fell into this pattern, but a pattern it became.

Shortly before this year’s vacation, I made a silent promise to only myself that I was going to try to participate in the fun.

It was time to dive in head first and be more of a do-er and less of an “I’ll just sit here with the baby” watcher.  I did this a few different ways.

I bought a bathing suit.  A real bathing suit.  Not a t-shirt and shorts.  Not a tank top and a long skirt.  Not a beach cover up.  A real, spandex-y bathing suit.  A couple of years ago I found myself very inspired by The Mom Creative’s post about wearing a bathing suit.  Her words kept rolling around in my head as our vacation countdown got lower and lower.  Your kids don’t care that you didn’t lose the 10 (or 40) pounds that you wanted to lose before vacation.  Your kids don’t care about cellulite, stretch marks, or any other battle scar of pregnancy that your body might carry.  Your kids only care about YOU jumping in that pool, ocean or lake WITH them.  That’s it.  So for the first time in at least 7 or 8 years, I bought a real bathing suit from Land’s End.  I put that suit on and rode the Aqua Duck on the cruise ship with Lily.

Disney Dream Aqua Duck

The next day I put that suit on again.  I spent the day on the beach with my family.  I don’t have any pictures of me floating in the lagoon on Castaway Cay because I was doing just that – FLOATING around IN THE WATER with my kids and Bob!  For hours!  I must have remarked at least 5 times that I was having the best day.  I can’t remember the last time I swam with my kids.  That makes me sad for the past, but extremely excited for the future.

This is the only picture that I have with PROOF of the SUIT (see the straps?!)  LOL – but like I said, I was too busy PARTICIPATING in our day and water fun to snap pics.  The thought of Bob dropping my phone into the crystal clear water also didn’t sit too well with me.  :)

castaway cay disney dream

I went on rides.  Like, lots of rides.  I NEVER go on rides unless they are tame, let’s-all-go-together-on-this-slow-boat type rides (like It’s a Small World).  Kids are going to remember the moments that you jump into the action.  The screaming on the coasters, the hands up on the log flumes, the funny pictures that the ride takes at the most inopportune, unflattering moments.  You’re completely excused from this one if you are afraid of thrill rides, get motion sick, have a medical limitation, etc.  I have none of these and therefore have no excuse.

I rode the coasters, went up and down and around on the carousel and more.  I went on more rides this past vacation than ever before.  I left my excuses at the gate and we used child swap so that Bob and I could both ride.

And ride, we did!

disney carousel

devon lily dumbo disney


I got in the picture.  And not just the haphazard selfie.  I made a conscious effort to really get IN the pictures with my family.  I did this two ways – 1)  I made a point to ask Bob to take my picture with the kids.  He doesn’t always think to snap a pic but he’s always willing to do so.  2)  We purchased Disney’s Memory Maker.  I know the price is steep at almost $200, but when you purchase Memory Maker, you need to make it your job to seek out those Park photographers.  Get in that picture!  Memories can be fleeting – a photograph can last a lot longer!

spirit of aloha dinner

epcot visa disney meet and greet

disney world

disney world matching shirts mickey

I had some silly fun – even if it meant a little self-embarrassment.  Dancing with the kids during the parade, singing along to our favorite songs during the castle show, even, yes, wearing matchy match shirts.  While all of these things were ever-so-slightly out of my personal comfort zone, the more my kids’ eyes lit up with excitement, the more I jumped into the fray.  These are the moments that they will remember.  But also?  They are the moments that I’ll remember too.

disney world matching shirts

joes crab shack

fireworks bay lake tower

This vacation broke down several barriers for me and I plan to make sure that those barriers never build up again.  I had so much fun living in the moment on this trip, creating so many beautiful memories with my husband and our children.  Once I fully understood the positive impact that my participation had on my family, I found it impossible to turn a blind eye.

Live life.

Put yourself into life’s moments, even the small ones.

Step out of your comfort zone and realize what beautiful memories you can create with your children by jumping into the trenches with them, not just watching them from the sideline.

If I can do it, you can too.

10 thoughts on “Don’t Watch Your Family Vacation from the Sidelines”

  1. Awesome realization for YOU. My husband died when my kids were 1 and 3 and guess WHO took all the pictures? That’s right DAD. So guess how many pics we have of Dad, hardly ANY..

  2. I rarely post a comment on a blog unless it speaks to me, moves me. Well, this really spoke to me. I am a scrapbooker and rarely am in the gazillion pictures I take on vacations. I love that you jumped in so to speak and got into the action with the kids. In all the pictures I took on spring break week, I think I am in 2 of them. Well, this post got me thinking that next time, I’ll hand my camera to my hubs to be on photo duty for once! :)
    Fabulous post! Looks like ya’ll had a blast at Disney!!! And will they EVER take that darn crane away from Cinderella’s Castle? Sheesh!! LOL

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Michelle! How awesome that you will get to scrapbook pictures WITH you in them! And yes, oh that stupid crane! When we were there they were still taking down Christmas lights with it (mid Feb) and said it takes like 2-3 MONTHS to get them all down!

  3. Awesome post. And this is truely reality. I’m a single mom of a 3yr old boy and it does become very hard to take the constant selfie to be in photos or get people to take them. Last yr at Disney we also got memory maker and it was a lifesaver for me. I was in almost every photo. And for my son for the future, i think its important for him to see that. And yes, enjoy and live it with the kids – it also helps as a great stress reliever to have fun with them and not be on the sidelines. Kudos to you for realizing it, if only everyone could do that.

  4. Did you get in trouble for wearing those matching shirts? Because I’m trying to make matchin shirts for my family for our upcoming trip and I’m worried about copyright infringement.

    • Nope, no trouble! Many many people were wearing personalized Disney shirts. I would never sell the Disney shirts I make since I do not own a license to sell their branded merch – but for personal use you should be okay!


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