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S is for . . . Summer Getaways (Or, 6 Signs You’re Vacationing With Kids)

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Last week, my family and I went to Martha’s Vineyard for a much-needed “vacation.” For the past thirteen years, we’ve stayed at a beloved bed and breakfast, squeezing a cot and, most recently, a pack-and-play next to our four-post canopy bed. Sure, we had kids, but nothing had to change. We could still enjoy our quaint New England home away from home. It would just be a little, well, noisier.

Sadly, last summer, after the second day  of our son waking up at dawn and screaming his little lungs out — much to the chagrin of the other house guests, whom I feared were about to turn into the New England version of villagers with pitchforks (graying old ladies wielding tacit disapproval and sailboat-themed throw pillows) — we realized a change was necessary. And so we withdrew our life savings and rented a house on the island. Armed with a couple of books and some sunblock, we prepared for a week of rest of and relaxation with the kids.

Such delusions were our first mistake.

Vacations with children are wonderful. They’re filled with magical first moments, family togetherness, and a refreshing disconnect from technology. What they’re not filled with is sleep. Or anything resembling “relaxation.” Vacationing with a small child is a bit like vacationing with a werewolf. Everything may be fine by day; come nightfall, and you’re living in terror of howls from above. Here are six signs that you’re vacationing with small children:

1. The roosters are relying on you to wake them up. Every day, at the crack of dawn, our toddler son arose from his slumbers, desperately crying out for mama and cheese. In retrospect, we should have placed a cheese plate in his crib at bedtime; we might have been able to sleep in (and by that I mean later than 6 a.m., of course).

2. You’re counting the minutes until nap time — yours, not the kids’. Sure, you’ve planned a full day of snorkeling, swimming, or museum hopping. But nothing compares to that sweet window of time the kids hit the sack, and your head finally hits the pillow.

3.  You’ve become the Sun Tzu of Go Fish. You’ve masterminded strategies for every possible card-fishing contingency, and your poker face is worthy of any game in Vegas. If the Bellagio ever opens a Go Fish table, your kids are getting a full ride to college.

4. You know the location of every ice cream shop within a thirty-mile radius. You even have the ice cream man on speed-dial, right above your mother and your kids’ pediatrician. Because nothing pacifies an overtired kindergartner (or her mommy) like chocolate-chip cookie dough.

5. You’ve resorted to a hose for applying sunblock. Face it: there’s no easy way to rub SPF 200 on a wiggling toddler attempting to climb onto your head while you slather sunblock on his tiny torso. Desperate times call for desperate measures…

6. Despite the exhaustion, it’s the perfect trip. During our vacation, I watched my five-year-old tentatively jump from a pier without her floaties, bursting with pride to the water’s surface, finally trusting herself to swim on her own. I watched my son explore hidden corners of his strange new environment, squealing with delight over an unexpected flower hidden in blades of grass, or an old Highlights magazine lurking under his sister’s bed. I watched my kids laugh together, shout together, and spend every moment they could in each other’s company. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, or the sugar rush from the five pounds of fudge I consumed, but I felt a rare exhilaration that made me never want to leave that island.

Ultimately, vacationing with kids is hard work that may make you wonder why you ever voluntarily left your house. But I like to think that, when I look back at the photos of my family playing in the sand, I won’t remember that my daughter just had a meltdown because my son chewed the front door off her sand castle. I’ll remember that, for one shining moment, my phone was off, my laptop was hundreds of miles away, and we were the only people in our little world. Even if we all passed out five minutes later.

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31 Comments

  1. Welcome back! Really missed your humor and wit. We stayed in hotels which, while close quarters, was really fun. Probably did not always appear so back then. I’m glad I have the memories and thousands of photos.

  2. I love this Meredith!

  3. I always prefer to rent an apartment or house as then I can at lease relax about being noisy.
    I’m glad you had a wonderful family vacation and can now hopefully get some much needed rest. :)

  4. While I don’t have kids to take on vacation, it can be a hassle enough with just my boyfriend and I at times, so I am sure it’s rough. I’m glad you made it work out though and had fun :)

  5. My husband and I have a joke that whenever we come back from vacation…we REALLY need a vacation! Traveling with kids is amazing and I love it…but it’s usually anything but relaxing!

  6. Traveling with kids sure is different than before kids. I love your line “Vacationing with a small child is a bit like vacationing with a werewolf.” I may need to borrow it sometime.

    • Thanks! I confess I’ve been watching old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer lately, so I have supernatural creatures on the brain…although I did find the comparison apt :)

  7. Hahaha! So true! Fun but tiring at times.

  8. Kids will be kids and no matter where you move they will fuss and complain. You do need time without your kids once in a while and enjoy yourself.

  9. My kid is a pretty awesome travel companion I must say but I guess that is what happens when you have been a military family. I haven’t had too many of those things happen.

  10. Ha, ha….super fun post, and of course, very true. If you go into a vacation with your kids knowing that vacationing is not to relax but to make new memories and experience new things, then you’ll enjoy it, AND, you’ll appreciate the actual small amount of rest you DO get once you arrive at your front door! :) Glad you got to enjoy time away with the family, and it made for a wonderful blog post, too! 😉 XOXO-Kasey

  11. I haven’t been down to the vineyard in 3 or 4 years. Of course I am on the cape all the time since I am just a few minutes off the bridge :)

  12. So so true! The cheese plate beside the crib has my laughing though, can you imagine? That’s better service that most high-end hotels!

  13. I’ve always wanted to go to Martha’s Vineyard. My sister lived there for a Summer. I went to MacKinac Island and they tell me it’s similar…but I want to find out for myself. :) So happy you had the perfect trip! PS- I also love Highlights Magazine!

  14. Travelling with kids is work, in my opinion. But, they are only young once.

  15. Sounds like my weekend trip.. we found every ice cream place in the immediate area.

  16. I think vacations are supposed to make you end up tired and worn out yet glad you went!

  17. I’m always exhausted after going on vacation with kids. Even if it’s only a two day trip. My kids sometimes want cheese for breakfast too.

  18. I have yet taken a vacation in a long time!

  19. LOL SPF 200???!!!! GoFish at the casino….you are too much. I love seeing your posts come alive in my mind.

  20. LoL! We are taking my son on his first trip for my 31st bday and his 1st combined …on a cruise…to Mexico…could get interesting

  21. I have to say that since we’ve had kids, we’ve not taken the traditional vacation. My kids are definitely a handful in the mischievous sense & I am downright terrified as to how they would act on a vacation. Perhaps this book could help calm my nerves, LOL.

  22. This post made me laugh. I keep wanting to take my 2 year old twin nephews on a vacation… but then, I can hardly keep up with them when I visit them at their home, so way and I bringing them on a three day trip, a 4 hour car ride away, right next to Lake Michigan. I can’t wait until they are a little older so I feel more comfortable bringing them to Places with large bodies of water. This summer we started teaching them how to swim.

  23. This post made me giggle. I used to love going on vacation when I was a little kid, I can only imagine what my parents felt like LOL

  24. Haha! I love it “Vacationing with a small child is a bit like vacationing with a werewolf” This is why we do day trips instead of big long vacations.

  25. Great post about vacations with toddlers! All true too, since I have a 3 year old I know exactly what you mean :)

  26. I agree, vacationing with kids is a bit challenging but it’s the memories you build together that’s important.

  27. This was awesome. I agree that taking vacations with kids is exhausting lol, All of you will always have the memories though

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