Summer is here, and with it comes those lazy afternoons, sunny days by the pool, and the occasional pipe dream of a well-planned (and DESERVED) vacation with the entire family in tow.
Unfortunately, as a military family, those pipes do tend to burst no matter how much planning we do. Unfortunately, when it comes to planning…Murphy is usually right around the corner just WAITING to burst our bubbles.
We already know that the military’s mission ALWAYS comes first…there’s really no getting around that. At one point or another on your military journey, the well-laid plans you’ve made will inevitably fall through. Whether your service member is clear across the world on deployment, or they end up being “volun-TOLD” they’re scheduled for last minute duty at the barracks, you need to have contingency plans for your contingency plans (i.e. DON’T skip out on the trip insurance).
I can absolutely GUARANTEE that at one point or another you’ll find yourself flying solo on many fronts throughout your time as a military spouse…and at LEAST one of those times will be during a vacation. But listen (and listen WELL, fellow milspouse): You should NOT put your life on hold just because the military has other plans for your service member. Just because they can’t enjoy your carefully planned family vacation, doesn’t mean there shouldn’t BE a family vacation!
Sure, it might be a (bit) more stressful in theory, but not if you adjust your plans to fit your needs! We chatted with Marine spouse Sarah Seaman (who has three kiddos, mind you) who goes on a family vacation EVERY year – whether her service member is around or not! She gave us some amazing tips on how to have a great vacation with kids when you’re forced to go it alone:
1. Don’t WANT to go it alone? Then DON’T!
“We have these AMAZING surrogate families in our midst,” said Sarah. “These are the people we spend holidays with during deployments and play aunt and/or uncle to each other’s kids…why not go on vacations together?”
Sarah makes a great point…the more the merrier! The military family may not be bound by blood, but we ARE a family nonetheless!
2. Put your kids to work!
“My oldest is 11, but my youngest two are 3 year old twins,” said Sarah. “…so I enlist my 11 year old to assist with the logistics of handling them. She’s a big help with the boys, and she knows that we wouldn’t even GO on vacation if she didn’t step it up a bit.”
Sarah makes a great point. Not only is she fostering a sense of responsibility and trust in her daughter (that, yes, usually falls on or is taken up by the oldest child of a military family), that extra set of hands can go a long way! Kudos to her AND her daughter for embracing that challenge!
3. Pay for convenience
We all pay for things to be a bit more convenient…especially when our service member is away. Some of us hire a maid to swoop in twice a month to help with housework, while others splurge on childcare so they can keep their sanity as they wait for mom/dad to come home.
“For me, I splurge on ANYTHING that will help make sure I DON’T cancel summer vacation,” said Sarah. “There has been plenty of times I’ve wanted to just give up, but every year I find myself pulling a rabbit out of a hat. THIS YEAR? I’m bringing my neighbor with me. She’s a young Marine spouse who doesn’t have kids yet, so I’m paying her way to Disney and she’ll be joining our family for free!”
Sarah made an EXCELLENT decision. She would have been spending the same amount of money on food and lodging if her husband were home, so she doesn’t come out of pocket too much. Not only that, but she’ll be able to impart some Marine Corps wisdom upon her younger counter-part, show her exactly what it means to be part of the military family and form yet ANOTHER bond with a military spouse who’s flying solo herself. It truly is a win-win!
These are just a few suggestions from a well-traveled MilSpouse who took Murphy by the ear and said “GET OUT”. We’re sure there are plenty more ways to enjoy a summer vacation when forced to fly solo….what strategies have worked for you? We want to hear them!