We thank Olga of https://www.europeanmama.com/ for this article, where she explains so clearly how a holiday for an expat family can get…just a bit complicated!
Two years ago, our Christmas trip looked as follows. First, we took a train from Rijswijk to Amsterdam. From there, we took our plane to Warsaw to spend Christmas with my family. Then, we boarded another plane, this time going to Hamburg, Germany. We spent there a few hours with friends. Then, we took the train to Kiel, North Germany where we were picked up by my husband’s parents, and spent the rest of the year there. Then, we came back all the way back to Rijswijk.
While last year’s Christmas wasn’t as chaotic, traveling still made a big part of our Christmas time, and I know that for many expats it is even more complicated: their travels include passing several time zones and continents. Their situation is much more complicated, but it doesn’t mean that it is easy for us.
First thing are family visits. My situation is as follows. My parents live in Poland. They still work. So, visiting them includes planning and advocating on my part. My parents-in-law, on the other hand, live in Germany and have family in Osnabrück, which is only 3 hours away from where we live. They’re retired. They can just hop into their car and visit. So, as much as it pains me, it was them we asked to watch our girls while we wanted to go to a friends’ wedding, not my parents. We didn’t go, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is much easier for my in-laws to come here than it is for my parents.
And, of course, both families would like to spend as much time with us as possible, but then there is the fact that we sometimes need vacation. For me, family visits, as much fun they are, are not vacation. Vacation is when we go somewhere, just us and the children. We love choosing autumn for vacation: in the Mediterranean, where we love to go, it is less crowded, cheaper, and the weather is nice and agreeable. The weather in the Netherlands can be warm enough during the summer, so we usually stay there unless we go to visit my in-laws, or my parents come to visit.
In the autumn, we greatly enjoy the few days of sunny nice weather somewhere where I don’t have to cook, clean, or do laundry. Where we can do stuff and play with the children. While traveling can be somewhat stressful, I’d still take it into account for a few more days of peace.
Now, with three children, going on vacation has become tricky. Our 4 year old enjoys traveling, loves hearing everything about airplanes, and the baby is still little, but we won’t be traveling much for a while. However, I know we will need a vacation sometime. At the same time, family visits increased while vacation time decreased.
We could travel pretty well with two children, but with three it could be more complicated. So, we have to find a new balance between our need for a few days for ourselves and the needs of our parents to see the children. And, then, we have to figure out a better balance so that my parents can be able to see the children more often. I suppose that it won’t be easy, but hope it can be done.