I was looking at some old pictures of trips we took with our kids the past few years and I had a thought… there really should be a unique word for “a travel expedition with kids.” “Vacation” is entirely misleading and inappropriate. Vacation implies rest and relaxation, leisure and laziness, drinks and more drinks… none of which is the norm for a trip with young children. (Or at least not with my ¾-part-monster kids.)
A term more akin to “rallying troops and heading to war” would be more appropriate.
First off, there’s the pre-deployment preparation (aka: packing). The amount of STUFF that three young children need to travel is IN.SANE. The bags and gear outnumber the people traveling 10:1. And the craziest part is, it doesn’t matter if you’re going away for a week or an overnight… the amount of stuff is the same. HOW THE HELL IS THAT POSSIBLE?!?
(Also included in prep is, of course, the mental preparation. For up to a week prior to departure, you can hear me muttering, “I can make it through this. I WILL make it through this.”)
Second, we have boot camp. That’s the time you spend at the airport waiting for your flight to board. (And if you’re anything like me, that’s usually about three-and-a-half hours.) At any given moment, you may be sprinting (down a long corridor, chasing a two-year old), carrying heavy weights (in the form of car seats and doll suitcases) or commando crawling under chairs (to attempt to clean up the Matchbox cars and Goldfish that have been dropped everywhere).
Second, it’s time to head off to battle. And by battle, I mean the attack your kids initiate against every single other passenger that had the misfortune of being on your flight.
There are a few ways to protect against the attack:
- Small, cheap, plastic toys that a.) the
troopskids have never seen before, b.) don’t roll away when thrown on the floor and most importantly, c.) don’t make any noise.
- Snacks, in the form of salty carbs (chips, crackers, etc.)
- Snacks, in the form of sweet carbs (cookies, granola bars, etc.)
- Saying things like “Look out the window! I think I just saw Mary Poppins/a rocket ship/Superman/a hot air balloon/the Wicked Witch outside in the sky!”
- Snacks, in the form of candy (especially M&Ms, because you can dole them out one at a time and lollipops, because they last a long time)
Did I mention snacks? I cannot stress the importance of food bribes when trying to keep kids happy on an airplane. (Happy = not screaming and not kicking. Anything beyond that is gravy.) My kids typically consume more calories in the course of a two-and-a-half hour flight than they do during a typical weekend at home.
And last but not least is the war, I mean, trip, itself. It’s Them vs. You. Every damn day.
- Sleep routines are more than disrupted, they’re completely eradicated, so everyone’s exhausted at all times.
- There’s always the challenge of configuring the kids’ beds/cribs in a way that they will not wake each other up, yet Mom and Dad will still be able to drink at night.
- There’s the additional challenge of trying to occupy the kids between the hours of 5:30am and 9:00, before the rest of the world gets moving.
- Nobody’s eating well. There’s a delicate balance between sugar highs and hunger dips that is hard to achieve. That scale is almost always tipped one way or the other.
- Believe it or not, frozen waffles, grilled cheese and pasta with just butter are not ALWAYS available at the appropriate times in every possible travel destination. Huh.
- Kids want constant activity, 100% of the time.
Side note: We spent a few days at the beach last summer and after swimming in the indoor pool (because it opened at 6:00am), walking to town to get breakfast, heading straight to the beach to swim and play for a couple of hours, eating lunch at the hotel restaurant, and then more swimming at the outdoor pool, we’d head back to the hotel in the late afternoon for some “down time” before dinner. Well. Let me tell you a little something about kids and down time. OXYMORON.
- Everybody’s running on adrenaline and kids that have been sugared-up and worn out to the brink of exhaustion can freak HARD. (Note: Any Disney theme park offers PRIME viewing for top-notch, hardcore meltdowns.)
- Eventually, they crash. And immediately after that, you do, too.
Finally, the trip ends and you return home. The kids have a hard time readjusting to the normal routine and you? Well, you have certifiable Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Good luck with all your <sneer> vacations this year.
PS. I feel compelled to add that, with this satirical essay, I mean no disrespect to our country’s real troops (and their families) and the very real wars they’re fighting for the sake of our country and our freedom. I understand that there really is no comparison between fighting difficult battles and… what they’re doing. (If I used winky faces, I might put one here.)
PPS. I also mean no disrespect to my parents who go to GREAT efforts to make sure that our family vacations bear no resemblance to the one described above (aka, the ones we take without them).