The First Blended Family Holiday Can Be Daunting But Don’t Let That Stop You From Making New Memories!
Just a few years ago, I went through a divorce with a 4 year old in tow. Luckily for me, I did find love again and have a wonderful partner who is an amazing father figure for my daughter. He has never been married and doesn’t have children of his own. So, as you can imagine, the idea of our first holiday together as a family was both an exhilarating yet daunting prospect! Needless to say, we had a trip of a lifetime in Tokyo but not without some serious planning and preparation. Here are some tips of how you can make sure your blended family holiday goes well for everyone!
First Blended Family Holiday Tip #1
Parenting 101. It is unfair to expect your partner to know what to do on your first family holiday, especially if they don’t have children of their own. This is when you should prepare them for what the trip will entail, how the kids will behave and what they can do to help you. Our trip to Tokyo was a 10 hour flight so from the time we woke up until the time we checked into our apartment in Japan, it was an 18 hour day.
I prepared him for the fact that she was going to get really board on the plane and will expect us to amuse her throughout the day flight. I prepared him of what would happen if she didn’t sleep on the overnight flight on the way home. I told him she was also susceptible to motion sickness on the plane and how tiring it is to take care of a sick child. I also warned him that he may not get any sleep on the flight.
So, we were off to a good start! LOL
First Blended Family Holiday Tip #2
Preparing Your Child. Whilst we were excited to embark on an adventure together, I had absolutely no idea how it was going to turn out. She was 6 years old at the time so she was on the cusp of nonchalance because she just wanted to go to Disneyland and a little tentative travelling with Mummy’s boyfriend. So I sat her down and I talked to her about it and I asked her how she felt. I explained some of my expectations and I listened to everything she was willing to tell me.
I also asked her if I should book the holiday. I placed that big decision upon her so that I could get her buy in and it made her feel very included. Luckily for me, she was very receptive of the idea and couldn’t wait to go! But the important thing is to not assume that it’s ok. It’s best to ask them first before making big plans.
First Blended Family Holiday Tip #3
Lower Their Expectations. At the age of 42, my partner had never travelled with a child. Not even for a 1 hour road trip! So this was a big ask. My partner is very widely travelled and I imagined he had pre-conceived notions of what he’d like to do in Tokyo when we got there. I had to explain to him that what he would normally do on a holiday won’t ever be the same in a family unit with a small child.
Examples of some of the things I told him that would change include:
- No more late night drinking and dining and wandering aimlessly in into the wee hours of the morning.
- Not being able to cover a lot of must do activities and attractions. In fact, whatever the list might be, cut it down by 60%. The kids would never be able to keep up.
- The itinerary will have to include kid-friendly activities so he would have to learn to do things he may not want to.
Essentially just mention things which you know they are normally accustomed to when they are travelling. This will avoid disappointment and also prepare them for what’s to come.
First Blended Family Holiday Tip #4
Get Them Involved. Get your partner to start conversations of kid friendly activities the family can engage in. As an example, my partner built up the hype a little with my daughter about Disneyland, Hello Kittyland and her favourite food in the world…..sushi. That became their “special thing”. So when we did finally get there, they were very engaged about their experience and they got on like a house on fire!
First Blended Family Holiday Tip #5
Potential Difficulties. Prepare your partner for some of the potential difficulties you may encounter on the trip. As an example, I was a little worried about how my daughter would cope with the suffocating crowds on the notoriously crammed Japanese subways. My concerns were in the end unfounded but we were nonetheless prepared for it if it ever did become an issue. Well, she was a little overwhelmed for the first day but soon got over it.
What about kids with severe allergies, certain type of fears, fussy eaters, tantrum throwers if they don’t get enough sleep etc…. Every potential scenario can make the holiday a little bit more difficult but if you try and prevent it from occurring or at least be equipped for it when it does happen, it’ll just be that much more pleasant for everyone.
First Blended Family Holiday Tip #6
Ask Questions. Prior to booking the holiday and during the lead up, I would occasionally ask my partner if he had any concerns. I wanted to make sure he was comfortable in telling me what he thought he may not be able to handle, what he felt that he needed to do on the holiday to keep sane and if there were any deal breakers. I also wanted him to be able to just ask me questions at any given time about any possible scenarios he was worried about. Well, you can’t possibly be prepared for everything but it was about understanding that we were all going into unchartered territory and it’s ok to not know everything!
First Blended Family Holiday Tip #7
Plan the Basics. So for the first time, my partner had to help pack for a child. I have to admit that it was hilarious to watch! “Why would she possibly need to bring 4 fluffy toys of varying sizes, 9 multi coloured hair bands and enough colouring pencils to open a store?” And admittedly, we hadn’t travelled much together at the time so even packing toiletries was an interesting exercise.
Even simple things that we take for granted I hadn’t thought of. One example was when we approached immigration. We hold 2 different passports so essentially I’m considered a foreigner in Australia. Which line can we go through together? Then what about passports, foreign currency, etc.
Even something as simple as carry-on luggage got us scratching our heads! How many bags to pack, what type of bag would work for us, do we have room for duty free, what do we need on the flight etc. I had to remind him that whilst my daughter wanted to carry the whole house with her, he would be the one to end up carrying it!
First Blended Family Holiday Tip #8
Expenses. Every family’s financial scenario is different so it’s best to come to an agreement of how you’re going to handle the day to day expenses during the holiday. Are you at the stage where you just halve everything or will you pay everything for your child and keep tabs of it? How will you stay on top of it? Certainly a conversation best had prior to departing.
First Blended Family Holiday Tip #9
All Inclusive Holidays. If the family is large with a complicated blend of several kids of varying age groups, it may pay to go on an all-inclusive vacation in a resort or perhaps even a cruise. These holidays provide a very relaxing environment which has activities to satisfy all members of the family. It also allows the older kids some free time on their own or the toddlers to engage in activities suitable for their age group. It’s definitely a great way for everyone to get use to each other when going on a holiday and you’re not so stifled by being stuck together 24/7.
First Blended Family Holiday Tip #10
Bending The Rules. In pursuit of harmony, the adults need to come to an agreement about the level of “rule bending” when you’re on vacation. Certainly rules we abide by at home may not be so suitable whilst abroad or perhaps you want to be more lenient simply because you’re on holidays!
As an example, we lead a fairly healthy lifestyle and don’t permit too much junk food in our house. But I tend to relax that when we’re on holidays and I made sure that he was ok with that when we were away. Some basic things to consider would be how strict you want to be about screen time, bed time, curfews etc.
At the end of the day, remember why you’re going on this holiday in the first place. It is the next evolutionary step for every blended family. For us, it was a trip of a lifetime and whilst both of us had been to Tokyo before we met, our trip with the little one was by far the better holiday. We saw Tokyo in a completely different light and she opened our eyes to things we would never have noticed before.
Go ahead! Make new family memories! They’re worth it.
Check out this blog post too:
8 Tips on How to Travel as a New Family