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Erin Stewart
With everything else taken care of, Erin Stewart was able to sit back, relax and enjoy the vacation instead of planning it.

I wrote recently about how I’m convinced a cruise may be the perfect Mom-cation. We set sail on our very first family cruise last month aboard the Carnival Magic, and though I’m far from being a seasoned cruiser, I learned a few tips and tricks for turning a week on a boat into the most relaxing and memorable trip for your family.

1. Leave the littles. This may seem harsh, and I had a lot of guilt at first about leaving our 2-year-old son behind while we went on a cruise with our two older children. But, oh, am I glad I did. Everywhere I looked, I kept repeating to my husband how I was glad our youngest wasn’t there. Sure, he would have loved running back and forth across the boat with mom running behind him, or climbing on the boat railings with mom yelling “Stop!” but I would not have been able to be fully present in the moment. And in truth, he’s too young to remember the trip anyway, so it was wonderful to be able to spend some toddler-free time with my older children. Keep in mind also that on most boats, children in diapers are not allowed in pools, which would have meant a daily fight about why he couldn’t swim when his sisters could. Yes, I missed the little guy, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

2. Leave the planning to the pros. While shore excursions such as snorkeling or dolphin swim adventures are a little pricier when you book through the cruise line, it was so nice not to have to plan all the logistics around our in-port days. When you book directly, all the transportation and details are scheduled for you, plus the boat guarantees they won’t leave without you if your excursion gets delayed for whatever reason. As a mom, having someone else handle all the details was worth every extra penny.

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3. Leave your mom guilt at home. One of the best parts of the cruise was that the kids loved going to Camp Carnival, which is basically like a day camp for kids, broken down by age. I wish we had taken more advantage of this program, but it took us a few days to figure out how it all worked. And while I’d normally have a healthy dose of mom guilt for enjoying poolside alone time with the hubby, I knew my kids were having way more fun playing with their peers for a few hours. Most cruise ships have some sort of free kids camp, so make sure to sign up and schedule time to let the kids be kids while mom and dad take a break.

Perhaps the greatest tip I can give is to leave regular life behind when you step onto the boat. With limited Wi-Fi and zero cell service, there’s no reason to be checking your phone all day and no distractions to take your attention away from just being with your family. Trust me, the days will fly by and you'll be back on land before you know it, wishing you could leave it all behind for just a few more days.