Vacations are the best, but add little kids to the mix and you may as well toss the dice—you’re either in for the ride of your life, or the worst nightmare ever.
Taking a trip with young children is like surviving the zombie apocalypse; all semblance of normalcy melts like snow in the sun. Routines are the key to functional family life, but once you cross the threshold of Gate A-32, you can kiss your serenity goodbye.
There are many universal truths of travel that plague families from coast to coast, but these are the biggies that haunt me. Whether on sandy beaches or snowy mountains, these truths do not discriminate:
1. Someone Gets Sick
The sickness can range from mild to wildly out of control. In severe cases, you’ll end up with child vomit splattered on your shirt, or worse yet, diarrhea all over your jeans. The sickness usually targets its unsuspecting victims on airplanes, and is twice as likely to appear at Disney destinations or on trips you’re really looking forward to. Come ready with barf bags—you’ll thank me later.
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With kids, you never know if you’ll need to pack two pairs of pants or seventeen, so in most cases, parents will err on the side of caution and pack everyfuckingthing. Clothing, diapers, wipes, medicine, toys, books, stuffed animals, lovies, blankies, coloring books, fifteen shirts for a four-day trip . . . oh God, what am I forgetting? Not that it matters—you can pack your whole goddamn house and somehow still miss an item of highest importance, causing interrupted bedtimes, terrible tantrums, and more.
3. Bedtime Disasters
For some, putting the kids to bed is the most difficult and dreaded part of vacation—I know my kids would rather eat bugs than go to bed when I tell them. Then there are the times, after thirty-five minutes of singing song after bloody song in an attempt to slowly lure your children to sleep, that your spouse makes the brilliant decision to pop his or her head in the door and call out: “GOOD NII-IIGHT!”
(In-laws are also well-versed in the bedtime fuck-up, usually by stuffing candy and sugar into the sweet faces of your children at nine p.m. The fact is, no one is going to give two shits about bedtime but you.)
Need I say more? The pillow is too fat, the scratchy sheets smell suspiciously like stinky shoes, the overly-bleached linens chafe your skin . . . and you’re 99.7% sure you saw a pube on the top sheet. The night passes slowly, and you toss, turn, and curse the gods until the first light of day seeps through the curtains.
I know as well as anyone that traveling can throw a wrench into your normal eating habits. On vacation, my healthy diet of whole foods gets bitch-slapped by ice cream, french fries and burritos the size of my thighs. I feel bloated, I get indigestion, and my pants strangle the soft flesh of my fat roll. The more shit I eat, the more shit I want. Funnel cakes, cookies, and other miscellaneous confections whisper sweet nothings to me. When a half of a hamburger would suffice, I take pity on the other half, lonely in my belly without its counterpart. Before I know it, I’ve gained ten pounds and feel like crap.
6. Homecoming Cleaning
I always breathe a sigh of relief when I walk back through the doors of my cozy house. The familiar smell of home is a soothing elixir after a week of chaos. Sadly, the moment is short-lived; the clutter and general filth makes my throat tighten, and the floor makes my mind reel . . . it couldn’t have been that gross when we left, could it? Like a tornado, I instantly lose my vacation Zen and start whirling around the house, making piles, throwing things into my kids’ rooms, and shoving huge loads of laundry into the washer.
Once I’ve quelled my OCD tendencies, I can finally relax and reflect on our wonderful week of travel. Vacations are bloody hard, but we’re making memories, damn it, and this will have been the best time ever when we look back. Regardless of the universal truths of travel, a clogged colon and tight pants are just a drop in the bucket when you’re in the business of having family fun.
And as the old ladies in the supermarket say: “Enjoy it while you can.”