5 Essential Things to Take on Vacation

July Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Vacation

Welcome to the July 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Vacation

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their family-travel tips, challenges, and delights. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Natural Parents Network: 5 Essential Things To Take On VacationI just cleared my inbox of two weeks of old emails that contained a lot of links I thought I wanted to read. After the third vacation-related article that truly didn’t apply to my life, I deleted the rest of them. Then I made a list of the things a Nurtured Mama would take on vacation with her, which I realized was the article I was actually looking for and not finding.

So here you go. Five things you should put in your suitcase this summer:

A Flexible Attitude

A friend asked me recently if my partner and I travel well together. Because we were a few days away from leaving on a trip, I had to pause and think a bit.

We do travel well together. Excellently, in fact. What we don’t do well together is prepare for a trip. I need to have lists and plans and be prepared in advance. He’s happy to pack a bag the day we leave and find a place to sleep when we arrive.

Because we have traveled quite a bit together, I’ve learned to accept this discrepancy in style. If he forgets to put something in his suitcase, he’ll deal. I can make our first night’s reservations so I’m not a basket case on the plane and then let him manage the ongoing planning once we are out the door.

In fact, because I decided to be flexible about that particular issue of making reservations on one trip, we found ourselves spending the night in an Irish castle. That was one of the best experiences of the trip, and it wouldn’t have happened if I’d insisted on making all the reservations from our dining room table in advance!

The best parts of travel, in my experience, are the things you were not expecting. But you have to be open to them or they won’t happen!

A Willingness to Let Go the Rules (a bit)

It is hard to travel with small children, especially when they are still napping. But it is even harder to try to stick your at-home schedule when you are on the road. Talk about making mama crazy!

You know yourself and your kids best, so you’ll have to decide which rules can be flexed and which should be held. I tend to bend the nap time and bedtime schedules, but hold fast to the no-sugar rule. Tired kids, confined spaces, and extra sugar are a terrible mix for our family.

Determination to Relax

The last item leads to this item. Let go the rules. Let others manage for themselves a bit more. Let the other parent take the reins a bit more than might be normal at home.

Plan your days so there is downtime for everyone, and alone time if you need it (I raise my hand for this one!). Know the rhythm of your family and work with it.

But most importantly, make the choice that you will relax. You deserve vacation time, too.

Your Swimming Suit

It is making me so happy this summer to see all of the posts and encouragement to moms to claim their bodies in whatever shape and size they are. I didn’t have a pre-baby body even when I was pre-baby, so struggling to feel comfortable in a swimsuit is familiar and long-standing.

But my kid loves the water and my man thinks I’m hot. So beyond that, I don’t really care what anyone else thinks about what I look like, in our out of a swimming suit.

So pack that suit even if you still have baby belly, pack that tank top even if your arms jiggle more than they used to. Your body is amazing. It grew another human. That’s about as beautiful as it gets.

Your Good Humor

Vacations can be sublime. They can also be fraught with travel delays, missing luggage, illness, lost reservations, or any number of other stressful issues.

How you deal with those is your choice. You can choose to make up games to pass the time while you wait for a late plane. Or you can fume and pace and snap at your family.

You can explore the open-air market and find clothes to wear in the local style when your suitcase doesn’t arrive, or you can spend an hour on the phone yelling at some poor airline employee who can’t actually help you.

Your choice.

Pack along all your best coping tools and pro parenting skills, but most importantly, bring your determination to have fun.

Because that’s really all that you need to bring to have the best vacation ever.


me & beanDoña Bumgarner is a writer, artist, and mama. She blogs at Nurtured Mama. She lives in Santa Cruz with her partner, their little one and his almost grown one, along with a collection of cats and chickens. If you are needing extra support to ease into summer with the kids at home, find her Welcome To Summer resources and printables pack here.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Favorite Family Vacation Recipe: Staying at Home — The best family vacation Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence could ever recommend requires minimal packing, no hotels, unrushed travel, easy meals to everyone’s taste without a bill, no schedules, everyone’s favorite interests, and three generations playing together.
  • Scared of toilets and other travel stories — Tat at Mum in search is an expert at flying with kids. She shares some of her tips and travel stories.
  • Staycation Retreat for Busy MamasLydia’s Handmade Life gives Budget-friendly, eco-friendly staycation ideas for busy work-at-home moms.
  • How We Leave It All Behind — At Life Breath Present, they don’t take traditional vacations — they go on forest adventures. Here are some tips in planning for an adventure, if you don’t just go spontaneously, as they have before. Plus, many pictures of their latest adventure!
  • Traveling while pregnant: When to go & how to manage — Lauren at Hobo Mama discusses the pros and cons of traveling during the different trimesters of pregnancy, and how to make it as comfortable as possible.
  • Our Week in Rome: Inspiration and Craft Ideas for Parents, Teachers, and Caregivers — If anyone in your family is interested in learning about Ancient Rome, if you enjoy crafts, of if you’re a parent looking for a fun staycation idea, check out Erin Yuki’s post for a Roman-themed week of crafts, food, and fun at And Now, for Something Completely Different.
  • The Real Deal: A behind the scenes look at our “Western Adventure” — Often Facebook and blog posts make vacations look “picture perfect” to outsiders. If you only looked at the pictures, Susan’s recent family vacation was no exception. In this post at Together Walking, she takes readers “behind the scenes” so they can see the normal challenges they faced and how they managed to enjoy their vacation in spite of them.
  • Welcome to the Beach House! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is in love with her family’s new “beach house”!
  • Road Trip to Niagara Falls — Erica at ChildOrganics writes about her first trip out of the country with just her and the kids.
  • 5 Essential Things to Take on Vacation — Five things Nurtured Mamas should be packing in their suitcase for their next trip, in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
  • The Many Benefits of Camping with Friends — Do you want to go camping, but the very thought of it seems daunting? Make your life easier – and your kids happier – and go camping with friends! Dionna at Code Name: Mama discusses how much better camping can be when you join forces with others.
  • My Natural First Aid Kit for Camping, Travel, and Everyday Use — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama gives us an insiders looks at her natural first aid kit for camping, travel, and everyday use. These natural remedies have saved her hide and those of others many times! You might be surprised what made her list of must-haves!
  • Traveling Solo and Outnumbered — Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras shares lessons learned from a recent trip with two toddlers and no co-parent.
  • Compromise and conviction on the road — Jessica of Crunchy-Chewy Mama shares the reality vs. the dream of travel and dishes on the compromises she makes or won’t make while traveling.
  • Camping Trauma — Jorje of Momma Jorje offers why she loves camping and why she and her family are a little gun shy about it, too.
  • First in our Books — Writing fresh from her first family vacation, Laura from Pug in the Kitchen has realized that helping pack her parents’ station wagon made for a smooth and pleasant trip that was more than she hoped for!

Photo Credits

Gabriel White via photopin cc

9 Responses to 5 Essential Things to Take on Vacation

  1. Erica @ ChildOrganics  

    I agree whole heartily with your packing list. Your article makes me want to grab the kids and go on a road trip now. Thanks!!

  2. Dionna  

    Love, love, love this post. I was just messaging back and forth with my hubby about our upcoming road/camping trip, and I reminded him “remember we need our positive attitudes and patience!” Because camping, long drives, and tired kids. Yeah. I’m sending him this article now 🙂

    • Doña Bumgarner  

      I admit part of the inspiration for this post was a planning conversation with my partner about a road trip we were considering to Colorado and the feeling of dread that was coming up about it. I hope it helps you both!

  3. Lauren Wayne  

    I love this list! I especially love the swimming suit part, because I remember being so horribly self-conscious for years (back when I weighed 50 pounds less, ha ha) and now I just don’t care. I’m swimming, dang it! And I’m enjoying myself. 🙂

  4. Laurie Hollman, Ph.D.at Parental Intelligence  

    Laurie @ Parental Intelligence
    I think your attitude about flexibility and relaxation is important for all to read. That’s a real vacation.

  5. Juniper

    Change your attitude, change your day! Awesome packing list 😎