THE BLOG

Attention Young Moms -- Vacations Get Better as the Kids Get Older

05/02/2011 02:01 pm ET | Updated Aug 03, 2011

Some vacation.

The young mom spent more time washing baby bottles in the bathroom of her expensive hotel room than basking in the sunshine on the famously beautiful Bermuda beaches.

Not that she could have enjoyed the beach much. Her fair-skinned 6-month-old couldn't tolerate much sun and liked nothing better than eating sand. Evenings weren't much better. Once the baby went to sleep at 7:30 p.m., his parents were stuck staring at one another in the hotel room.

Even sacking out early was no reprieve. The baby was so restless in the unfamiliar environment that he woke up several times a night.

"I regretted having gone," the New York City mom told me. "I was exhausted. It proved to be more work than if I'd stayed home."

"We say a vacation with the kids is no vacation at all, but rather a relocation," another mom told me ruefully.

"They all got tired at different times and needed naps at different times," recalled a neighbor of mine and mom of four of one particularly horrendous trip to Orlando. "And you're running around doing stuff with them that if you had your choice, you wouldn't be doing."

Happy Mother's Day! I've been on those "I can't believe we're spending so much money for such a non-vacation" trips with my three kids more times than I want to remember.

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My kids and me at Disneyland in 1992 (photo by Andy Yemma)

Forget snoozing on the beach, sipping a frothy drink or dipping into a new novel. Forget romance. I'd be too tired anyway after chasing a toddler while keeping my eye on the older kids playing at the water's edge. It seemed whenever they weren't asleep, I was entertaining them, feeding them or mediating their squabbles. Restaurant meals were endured, not enjoyed

It's not that dads don't help. It's just that we moms seem to shoulder more of the burden for keeping everyone fed, clothed and not killing each other -- just like at home. It's even tougher for single moms and those with special-needs kids.

Even going to an all-inclusive resort, or on a cruise with first-rate children's activities, is no guarantee that moms will get that much-needed break. Young children may refuse to participate in the organized activities.

Here's the good news for all of you young moms: Vacations get easier as the kids get older and more self-sufficient.

To encourage her kids to entertain themselves -- and diffuse sibling squabbles -- my neighbor often invited kids' friends to come along, my daughter among them. Vacationing with another family (or relatives you actually like) can make all the difference.

One mom I know in Wyoming suggested vacationing with families whose kids are just old enough to think it's fun, not a chore to help entertain the littlest travelers.

"If we go with friends who have similar-aged kids, we can take turns watching the kids while the others relax," suggested a single mom I know who lives in Boston.

My sister always brought along a sitter when her three kids were small. We teased her, but she didn't care. She got the break she wanted and didn't have to sit around while the kids napped.

Friends of mine have invited along favorite nieces or teen sitters, who are only too happy to chase the toddler down the beach in return for a free vacation. More and more grandparents are coming along on family vacations, and they're happy to pinch-hit, they tell me, as long as they're not expected to baby-sit for the entire trip.

Of course, there's one other tried-and-true solution. After their disastrous trip to Bermuda, The young New York mom and her husband left their toddler with his grandparents while they went off on their own to grab some rest and relaxation without their toddler.

"Couples really need alone time to reconnect," she said, "especially if you ever want to have another child."

Just-me time can be just as important. Even a couple of extra hours of sleep in the morning or a child-free hour at the pool or to go out for a run can be a well-deserved treat.

So rather than flowers this Mother's Day, give your favorite mom an IOU for some "me" time on your next family vacation. It will cost a lot less than that bouquet and I guarantee she'll really mean it when she tells you it was the best Mother's Day present she ever got...

Eileen Ogintz interviews families and experts around the world for her widely syndicated column "Taking the Kids™" and is the creator of www.takingthekids.com. She's written seven family travel books, most recently The Kid's Guide; NYC and The Kid's Guide: Cruising Alaska. For more "Taking the Kids," visit www.takingthekids.com.