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The agony and ecstasy of traveling with small children

(Public Domain Photo)

Traveling with kids is one of those things that’s way better in theory.

Like going to the beach with infants — two cups of digested sand later, you wonder who thought this was a good idea.

So as I packed up my family this year to go on our first big vacation with our newest addition (our now almost 1-year-old son), all the craziness of trying to pack and travel with a baby came flooding back to me.

First, there’s the packing. Oh, the packing. How can such a small little human need so much stuff?

And, of course, I have to pack as if we will be miles away from civilization where no one has heard of diapers or baby food. We were, after all, headed to the exotically remote destination of Orlando.

That’s right, we’re taking a 1-year-old to a theme park, so you know you’ll be hearing about that experience soon, assuming, of course, I live to tell the tale.

But I digress. Back to the packing. As I loaded up every bottle, spoon, diaper, piece of clothing and toy the baby could possibly need for a weeklong excursion, I decided to focus on the good aspects of traveling with children.

Here’s what I’ve got:

It makes me clean

If I never went on trips, my toilets would never get cleaned.

It’s no secret that I’m not the best housekeeper, so things such as toilets, sinks and that weird spot behind the trash can where half-eaten strawberries always migrate never get cleaned. Ever.

But before a trip, I clean. Why? Well, because the only thing more terrifying than some horrible catastrophe befalling us while on vacation is the thought of someone then going into my house and finding five-years’ worth of squished strawberries and hard-water rings.

It helps me get organized

If I never went on trips, my kids would never have matching socks.

Sometimes, it takes a good pre-trip packing session to make me realize all the things I am behind on doing like pairing socks, folding laundry and making sure my kids’ shoes still fit.

I was amazed this time to find my kids had outgrown all their summer shoes, hats and bathing suits, and that they have been pulling mismatched socks out of the to-do bin for months.

It helps me unplug

If I never went on trips, I wouldn’t unplug. My husband and I made the bold decision on this trip to not take our computers.

When I asked him what we would do in the evenings when the kids are in bed, he replied, “I don’t know. Maybe spend time together?” Revolutionary stuff here, folks.

But the sad truth is, if we have our computers, we will work. We will find something we have to do rather than just seek each other’s company.

And really, that’s what any trip with my family should be about. It’s the time spent together that makes any trips with small children worth it.

No, they won’t remember most of it. They will never have any idea the amount of time that went into my Tetris-worthy packing job or the planning that went into coordinating a fun-filled week away.

I hope, deep down, they remember the feeling of being on an adventure together. The packing will end. The sand will pass.

And hopefully what will be left is the memory of choosing to spend a few days together, seeking each other’s company and getting to know these little humans a little bit better.

From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, Erin Stewart discusses it all while her daughters dive-bomb off the couch behind her and her newborn son wins hearts with his dimples.

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