We trade custody twice a week, which means we never go more than 4 days at a time without seeing my stepdaughter. Our custody schedule definitely has its advantages… But it also means we look forward to our custody vacation time all year long.
We only have one uninterrupted week with my stepdaughter each year, so we are always preparing for the next custody exchange as soon as we settle into a good groove each week.
Except for one glorious week in the summer. During the summer, Mom and Dad each get a week of uninterrupted vacation time, and it is such valuable, quality time for my stepdaughter.
You Can Feel the Difference
It’s the one time of year we aren’t rushing to complete our activities and pack up for Mom’s. We aren’t answering questions about how many days until she goes to Mom’s house. We aren’t hurrying to wash Mom’s clothes to return them clean.
For one week each year, we are just a 3-person family without shared parenting concerns.
I still send photos each day of my stepdaughter to her mom, but that’s a kind gesture that doesn’t require any real thought, concern, or planning. It’s not that her other family ceases to exist of course; it’s just a simpler time for us with less blended family chaos.
How We Maximize our Custody Vacation Time
We tend to travel during our custody vacation time each year, and it has been such a tremendous help for us to sneak away and focus on only our family bonding.
We always plan really far ahead to get better deals on our travel, which means we start talking about it early in the year. It gives us all something to look forward to, and it’s an added incentive for my stepdaughter to finish her summer journal each year. The extended hype around the trip gets us even more excited when the day finally arrives.
There are fewer distractions when we’re away from home, and it helps us to all focus on having fun instead of stressing about everyday life. The biggest choice we made on our vacation week spent in Southern Los Angeles this year was which fun activity to do which day. Tough gig, right?
Which brings me to my next point… To truly get the MOST out of our custody vacation time each year, we plan a killer itinerary for the trip. I research the best restaurants, the most fun attractions for kids, the coolest and most unique things to see in the area… even the best ice cream shop. I want to know exactly what there is to see and do in a new place when we only have one week to explore!
Further, getting away gives our family new experiences to bond over. For example, we all visited Knott’s Berry Farm this summer for the first time, and we could all try out new rides without one person having an advantage over the others.
My stepdaughter is still talking about how much she enjoyed the Jaguar! ride at Knott’s Berry Farm and how she got to ride it over and over without waiting in line when the park first opened. There aren’t many stories like that she could tell if we spent the week at home in front of the TV or in the backyard instead.
Finally, we turn our phones off—or at least on airplane mode—as much as we possibly can. The more we are able to put our phones down, the better we are able to truly focus on what matters: my stepdaughter, our marriage, and our family. You don’t spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on vacation so you can spend it working, chatting with friends back home, or playing Candy Crush, right?
Blended Family Life is All About Choices
When you only have one uninterrupted week a year, you have a big choice to make. You can complain that life is unfair, you’re missing out on so much, and you wish you had more time… Or you can choose to make the most of it.
You can cram 3 beaches and 3 amusement parks into a 5-day trip that ends the day before school begins. When you’re put in the position of sharing custody, you get creative and become more intentional with every moment you have.
Take the trip. Put the phone down. Go to the amusement park. Make the memories. You deserve it, mama.
Why We Chose Knott’s Berry Farm
There is so much to see and do near Los Angeles, so we had to be really selective about what we chose to do during our vacation. I went to Pepperdine University in Malibu and am very familiar with Southern California; I have my favorite beaches and restaurants.
And yet, I’ve never visited Knott’s Berry Farm! I’ve wanted to for years. My friends visited in college and came back to campus raving about all of the rides… But I always had another commitment and was never able to join them!
I finally got my chance this summer during our blended family vacation, and it was so much fun! My stepdaughter and I did many of the less intense rides while my husband and sister-in-law did all of the bigger, better rides (like Xcelerator with its 0 to 82 mph acceleration in 2.3 seconds and subsequent 90° drop!).
Just watching them ride those roller coasters was UNREAL. It made my stomach drop just watching from the ground. Because we got there when the park opened, the longest wait they experienced for the highest thrill rides was only 15 minutes!
When we made it over to the Calico River Rapids, our wait was a little longer at 30 minutes, but it was worth every single minute of wait time. I thoroughly enjoyed the river rapids, and we all walked away soaking wet, which is obviously a win.
The Ghost Town was the coolest! I have never seen anything like it. All of the employees were in character, the stores were fascinating, and the Calico Mine Ride was actually so interesting.
We did every ride in Camp Snoopy with zero regrets. So. Much. Fun. Again, I highly recommend getting there right when the park opens to get on as many rides as you can before the crowds arrive. We were able to knock out over half of the park in an hour with several rides on Jaguar!, Krista’s favorite ride.
If you’re deciding what to do when you visit LA and you’re looking for fun roller coasters, a unique atmosphere, and lighter crowds than the typical amusement park, then it’s time to check out Knott’s Berry Farm!
P.S. I actually think sharing custody can be such a blessing, and here’s why…