One of my mom’s favorite family pictures is of my sister and me, both in our early 20s, glaring at her. Angry and sweaty, we’re both giving her the finger. There’s a long story behind the photo, but basically, it involved a tour we begged not to take and an endless un-air conditioned taxi ride that left us stuck on a closed Costa Rican road. It was all my mom’s fault, we decided, and we pouted like spoiled brats. So my mom pointed her camera at us. My mom liked the photo so much, she had it framed on her bedroom dresser for a while. Every time she looked at it, she smiled. I have to admit, it’s a funny photo. I didn’t think so at the time. But looking back, it taught me an important lesson about family vacation photos: take photos of the bad times, too.

 Photos of the Bad

Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom Go-karting in the 57-degree rain in June at Sugar Grove Family Fun Center in Yorkville, Illinois.

Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom
Go-karting in the 57-degree steady rain in June at the Sugar Grove Family Fun Center in Yorkville, Illinois.

We, as parents, take lots of pretty, happy-family photos that look good on Instagram and Christmas cards. That’s all good. Definitely take those pictures.
But take photos of the less-pretty moments, too. As you know, traveling with your family is not all sunny days and happy smiles 24/7. The weather ruins plans. People get sick, mad and crabby. There are flight delays, bad directions, and all sorts of other things that don’t go according to plan.
Here’s the thing, though: those are moments your children will remember. (Did you see this parody story in The Onion? They totally nailed it!)
You want to capture those moments, because your kids will look back on the photos one day and laugh. These photos tell stories. They bring you back to exact moments in time, and the emotions that went along with them. A picture of all of us smiling in front of the Magic Kingdom is nice, but the one of us in our rain ponchos, looking like drowned rats during one of those torrential Florida rains, makes me smile just as much.

The Bad Times Can Be the Best Memories

Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom This picture of our 12-hour flight delay tells the story from our family vacation.

Photo by Jamie Bartosch/Suburban TravelingMom
This picture of our 12-hour flight delay tells the story from our family vacation.

Our family vacation photos rotate through my computer’s screen saver. I have one of the kids and their grandparents all giving the “thumbs down” while waiting on an 12-hour flight delay (I’m still mad about it, United Airlines!); one that’s all black, with nothing other than cell phone light, from a late night power outage in our St. Louis hotel room; and my son making a classic “eeew gross!” face while reluctantly trying Wisconsin fish fry for the first time.

These are bad times, but they’re not BAD TIMES. You know? I’m not advocating taking a picture of your kids throwing up on a boat ride or having a meltdown in a restaurant. But take photos of the bad times because sometimes they’re actually good times in disguise.
One of my new favorite good-times-in-disguise photos was taken this year at Walt Disney World. My kids can’t stand the “It’s a Small World” ride. They think it’s lame, boring and creepy. But the ride is one of my favorites, and I love the nostalgia. So I make them go with me and suffer through it.
This year, I took a picture of them pouting on the ride (am I a chip off the ol’ block or what?). It’s kinda dark and blurry, so I’m not putting it on this post – and I’m not going to put it in a frame. But it cracks me up and reminds me of what it’s like to travel with tweens sometimes.
I bet they’ll look back on that photo one day and smile – after they’ve taken their kids on the ride. (Come on. You know they will.)

What’s your favorite vacation photo from a bad or didn’t-go-as-planned time? Tell us in the comment section below.