I’d like to say that it seemed like a good idea at the time, but I’d be lying.
I’ve gone on vacations with my kids before. (Well, with my lone kid. The second one is brand new.) And while they’ve been fun, they don’t exactly qualify as vacations. Vacations are meant to be about relaxation, and recharging, maybe some reading, and maybe getting some extra rest. Vacationing with kids is a different thing entirely.
This past spring, when I took my 5-year-old and my 3-month-old on our first family-of-four vacation, I was not anticipating much in the way of relaxation. (I’m not really anticipating either of those things ever again.)
It did not seem like a good idea — not at the time, not after the time, and certainly not during the time. We had some fun. I can’t pretend we didn’t. Vacationing with your kids is not exactly a vacation, but it’s not sitting at a cubicle stressing about deadlines either. So let’s start with the good stuff!
Shockingly, the plane wasn’t a problem. The baby slept the whole time, he didn’t incur any wrath from strangers on the plane, and he didn’t scream nonstop. The five-year-old did OK on the plane too, mostly watching movies and asking for more snacks. It was a short-ish flight (about four hours), and we survived.
When we got there, our accommodations were perfect. The hotel was on the beach and had two easily accessible pools — along with an easily accessible poolside bar! — which made the need to lug so much kid-based gear everywhere a lot easier. The weather was great, the food was great, there were lots of families, and the people were friendly.
And now for the bad stuff. I hope you have a few hours…
The plane ride did go pretty well, if you don’t count the fact that the baby shit all over everything and I was forced to change a blowout at 35,000 feet. Detective Munch watched movies but also refused to stay in his seat, and those snacks he asked for were either not accessible, nonexistent, or cost $10.
The hotel was so great that my five-year-old didn’t want to leave it. He spent half of our stay watching the SpongeBob movie they had in the lobby, and I got to stay there with him because for some reason five-year-olds aren’t allowed to be unsupervised. The Hammer survived the beach and didn’t get dehydrated or contract any sunburn, but that’s only because we brought a small condo for him to reside in and shield him from the sun, and Daddy carried around approximately 14 bags of sunscreen and stupid Gilligan hats to protect his dome. I lost 10 pounds lugging that stuff to the beach every day, so I guess that’s a plus?
One of my primary goals on vacation is to sleep in. There’s no bus to walk my son to, no boss to beat to the office, no reason to get out of bed before nine. But considering the fact that the baby’s sleep regressed due to being in a strange place and so he was up for a few hours every night and that Detective Munch inexplicably woke up at 5:30 every morning, dying to see what happened next in the SpongeBob movie he’d already seen 15 times, extra sleep was not in the cards.
As is typical with most vacation destinations, the food was expensive, which would be fine if my son didn’t refuse to eat everything we bought him. Drinks were expensive, which was fine, despite the fact that we blew our whole budget drowning our frustrations over having taken two kids to an island. Souvenirs were expensive, which would be fine if my son didn’t lose and/or break every single one we bought him. Babysitters are expensive, which would be fine if our kids weren’t so annoying.
At the end of the week, we’d spent a lot of money to get some time away from the daily grind and to make some fun memories with our children. We managed both of those things, despite the fact that one of our kids is too young to remember anything and the other one mostly just remembers every line of dialogue from that SpongeBob movie.
Vacations are fun. Having kids is fun (I know, I know—just go with it). But vacationing with kids is a challenge. It has its moments, and despite the inconveniences, it’s (probably) ultimately worth it. But it ain’t like it used to be. Of course, once you become a parent, nothing ever is — for better or worse.
Unfortunately, on family vacations, it’s mostly worse.
This post originally ran on Scary Mommy.