Hi there! I’m Jennifer Stalley, and if you’re anything like me, you might find transitioning back to everyday life after a vacation with your kids quite challenging. Let’s talk about why routines go out the window during vacations, why it’s okay, and how we can gently guide our families back into the rhythm of regular life.

What Happens to Routines on Vacation?

When my family and I go on vacation, our regular routines pretty much disappear. We prioritize spending time together and exploring new places, which means our usual bedtime cues and daily structure are left behind. This is common for most families, and it’s completely natural. On vacation, we sometimes rely on what I call ‘crutches’ — like extra treats or screen time — which aren’t part of our normal routine at home.

Is it Bad That Routines Get Disrupted?

No, not at all! In fact, breaking from routine can be refreshing for everyone. However, the challenge comes when it’s time to return to our normal schedules. This transition can be particularly rough on the kids who, unlike us adults, haven’t experienced these shifts as often. It is important to keep that in mind to make the transition home as easy on everyone as possible. 

How to Smoothly Transition Back to Routine

Here’s how I approach reestablishing routines after a vacation, blending gentle strategies with practical steps, all learned through my own trials and errors:

  1. Sensory Play: Once we’re home, I find that sensory play is an excellent way for my kids to reconnect with the here and now. Whether it’s playing with dough, getting messy with water play, or cozying up in one of Pitch a Fete’s Sensory Tent Adventures, it helps them process their big emotions by immersing themselves in pretend and sensory play with you as they transition smoothly into quiet time or bedtime.
  2. Take it Slow: I’ve learned not to rush back into our full routine immediately. Take it step by step, so the transition isn’t jarring and stressful to anyone in the family. It’s better to gradually reintroduce the structure of our days.
  3. Self-Care for Parents: Coming back from vacation is exhausting. I remember one trip where we thought our hotel room would have separate sleeping areas for us and our daughter. It didn’t. My husband and I ended up whispering in the dark at 7 PM, trying not to disturb her sleep. It was a stark reminder that parents need to look after their own well-being too. Sometimes, ensuring there’s a bit of quiet time for yourself when you get home can make all the difference. This is where setting your child up with a sensory kit can be helpful as well! 
  4. Communicate About Feelings: We talk a lot about feelings when we get back. It’s important for kids to understand and express what they’re experiencing. Recognizing the ‘vacation letdown’ helps them—and us—manage the emotional wave of returning to the everyday grind.
  5. Routine Reminders: I use visual cues around our home to remind the kids of what’s coming next. For instance, a chart on the fridge detailing our morning routine helps jog their memory and sets expectations for what a regular day looks like again.

Embracing the Transition

Remember, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed when reestablishing routines post-vacation. Granting yourself and your children a little grace and taking it one step at a time can make the process less daunting. We’re all adjusting together, and that’s perfectly fine.