Why Family Vacations Are Mediocre Vacations
My husband has always hated traveling with the kids. It has taken me a lot longer to see the light, but I have pretty much reached the same conclusion. I once read somewhere that going on a trip with family is not a vacation. Parts of it could be fun, but it will not be restful and relaxing. Most of it will be work. You can call it a trip, or an excursion, or an outing, but it is most definitely not a vacation.
After numerous trips with my three children (some more elaborate than others), I can completely understand this mentality. You are basically making things harder for yourself. For example, you are stuck in a hotel room with little to no toys and no “separation”. This means that in order for the kids to go to sleep, you have to go to bed as well. Then, when they get up in the morning, there is not much for them to do, so you are the sole entertainer. (Well that and the T.V.; I never stay anywhere that does not have one of those).
I have tried to soften the blow of the room dichotomy by being more selective about places we stay. I don’t care if the place is five stars, but it better damn well have a second (or connecting room). Then I can at least kick the older two out for the night. Unfortunately, now that we have a baby, this does not work too well, either. Poor baby either gets put in the bathroom for the night, or in a closet. (So bonus points if the hotel we are staying at has a separate sitting area where we can put up his portable crib). Even with all this finagling, we still only get mediocre sleep at best. Someone always doesn’t want to go to bed right away, or someone gets up insanely early. Put this together with my husband’s need to get up early and work in the lobby, and after a few days you have a powder keg of sleep-deprived animals.
But the room roulette is just one of the many problems when going on a family vacation. My children are spread out in age, so everyone has different needs. The oldest could easily last all day, but the baby needs a nap. And when the preschooler was a “threenager”, by afternoon we had already dealt with numerous tantrums resulting in a night-time routine like trying to put a drunk frat-boy to bed.
I think my husband’s biggest issue with traveling with the kids is that we are at their mercy so he never gets to see anything he wants to see or do anything he wants to do. He likens it to being a kid in a candy store that is not allowed to buy any of the candy. To be fair, he has a point. Despite my promising him ziplining fun on the last cruise we went on (three years ago), he never got a chance. And don’t bring up the arcade at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, which we have been prevented from going to twice now. (We are trying again in a month and a half. Wish me luck.)
His next biggest complaint is that it is all the work with none of the comforts of home. At least at home, he reasons, we would be able to put the kids in their own beds and have general comforts like rocking chairs and bathtubs. (Fun fact: most cruise lines only have showers. If your kids hate showers, you are going to have an extremely fun time getting them clean).
Then you have the issue that you have your children round’ the clock for the length of vacation. At least at home, they are in school, camp, preschool, etc. But on vacation, you have no such luxury. You are the sole entertainer and provider. Some places, like cruises and certain resorts, have “kid’s clubs” to try and make the place more enticing. But there are so many caveats to these places. Some have limited hours. Others have limited ages. (Most won’t take them under age three). Even if you can navigate the caveats, you still may have children like mine, who don’t want to go to the club. For whatever reason
(torture?) they want to stay with me. In those cases, the kids club sends them right back to you. (They unfortunately don’t hold them hostage against their will).
Thus, most of your waking hours on “vacation” are spent entertaining your children, without all of the entertainment tools you generally use at home. Sometimes people are lucky* enough to have extended family go on these trips with them. (*Depends on your extended family). We have had that a couple of times but honestly I did not find it any more relaxing than the times we go alone with the kids. The extended family may try to help here and there, but let’s face it, they are not hired babysitters, and nor should they be. They should get to enjoy their vacation. But it leaves parents with the same underlining problem-you are stuck entertaining the kids.
If you have more than one child, your family vacation will not be complete without plenty of bickering and squabbling. Mine argue about “important things” like who gets to press the elevator button and who gets the extra pillow on the bed. (Is there some reason hotels can’t always provide an even number of pillows?) This of course does not include the squabbling in the car (who gets to pick the movie), in the plane (who gets to sit next to mom or dad or by a window), or at the actual location (who gets to choose the first and subsequent ride, exhibit, lunch place, or snack place). I have had to mediate more disputes in one vacation than I ever have in my whole career being an attorney.
Finally, we get to the best part of family vacations: eating. This is where I understand my husband’s complaints perfectly, because food is my language. I love to try new places and cuisines. I love to savor my food. None of this happens, of course, on family vacations. We are usually relegated to fast food or at the mercy of whatever mediocre café happens to be at the site we are visiting. (I don’t even bother trying anymore to leave one venue to go to a place to eat. It does not end well.) If we break down because we are tired of mediocre food and make the mistake of eating in a sit-down restaurant, it is nothing short of an expensive circus.
For all of these reasons (and more), for my fortieth birthday this summer I decided to embark on the holy grail of vacations: a vacation without my family. (After much consideration, I decided my spouse could come along as well). We will be spending five days in Hawaii. Of course, I have gotten flack from friends and family for doing this as well. “But won’t you miss the kids???” (Maybe. I will send them a postcard). “But there will be kids there anyways”. (Yes, but they won’t be mine). Let me put to rest all of the naysayers: I do not have one iota of guilt about going on this vacation. There is no vacation I would rather be doing. After nearly ten years of marriage without any alone time save a few overnights, my husband and I deserve this vacation. At the very least, it is sure to be better than mediocre.
I am mediocre mom!
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