We’re back safe and sound from our big family vacation. It could be said that it was an adventure, I’d rather call it a hard lesson to learn. Don’t get me wrong, there was sun, sand and surf and when from Canada these are very welcome in the month of January. But I cannot say it was the best vacation ever. I learned a few lessons about travelling with children, but the hardest of all was learning that a vacation with young children is not a vacation at all.
My husband and I drove to Florida so that we could minimize costs, i.e. flights for the two of us and the cost of a car rental for two weeks while there. The drive down was fantastic. It was the first extended period of time we’d had alone together for a long, long time. It was nice to chat, listen to adult music, stop when and where we wanted. We delighted as the weather got warmer as we drove further south. We were excited to see our condo and get a lay of the land. My parents flew down with our boys two days later. We were all giddy in excitement for the vacation that lay ahead.
Challenge #1: Children struggle with routine when away from home. The first few nights were difficult. Our oldest was scared at night by his strange surroundings and had trouble settling to sleep. It wasn’t a big deal, I just layed down with him until he was sufficiently comfortable that he could fall asleep. The baby had much more trouble settling in to his new surroundings. The second night he was up until after midnight, fussy and way over-tired. It took a good three or four days before they were sleeping well. Our oldest also decided it was a good time to test every limit he has, from when and what to eat, to climbing on furniture, to not washing hands after going to the washroom. You name it, it was a fight. He was downright sassy. (Can a boy be sassy?).
Challenge #2: Our condo, while gorgeous and comfortable, was MUCH too far from Orlando. This was a compromise we made with my parents. They didn’t feel there was much to do in Orlando (in hindsight this was ridiculous) so insisted that if we go we must stay close to the ocean. They wanted to be able to walk the beach each day. Fair enough, I was willing to make this concession. At the time I thought New Smyrna Beach was only an hour drive out of Orlando. The trek, however, was closer to an hour and half. This meant we stayed put in New Smyrna much more than we would have liked. There was so much we could have been doing in Orlando with our children, but for the sake of three hours or more of driving each day we mostly stayed put. New Smyrna is not a destination for families with young children, the community quite obviously caters to the older set. It wasn’t disastrous, just not the kind of family vacation we were hoping for.
Challenge #3: The weather. Perhaps it is unfair for me to complain since we were in a southern locale, but I assure you there were several days when it didn’t feel very southern. Coupled with the fact that most of our vacation was planned around “ocean time,” you can imagine that weather in the mid-teens wasn’t exactly something to write home about. We had to bundle up each day to walk along the beach. It didn’t feel very tropical at all. That was, until our last two days, when Mother Nature decided to tease us with warmer temperatures that only made it hard to go home.
Challenge #4: Travelling with extended family has it’s pros and cons. It was great to have my parents with us, we were able to get away for one day on our own to do some shopping. My dad was also a tremendous help with keeping the baby entertained. However, he spent most of his time keeping the baby entertained while I cooked and prepared meals and tidied up after everyone else. I’m not suggesting that I was the only one who did this, however it certainly felt like as much, if not more, work than when at home. Why is that? Throw in the usual element of trying to keep various personalities happy and entertained, well, I would imagine you get my drift. The days we stayed close the condo were also about keeping the kids on routine. With so many people around that was challenging to say the least.
Challenge #5: Several of us were fighting viruses. My mom got sick, Jay got sick, the kids were a bit off a few days, I was sick and still am. This made for some cranky condo-mates.
Challenge #6: (Yes I’m still complaining) My husband had a mid-life something or other. I’m not sure what precipitated it all, but he ventured out one night and came back with this awful tattoo on his back. It’s ugly, I really dislike it. I’m not opposed to a tattoo and think they can be really attractive. This one, not so much. More than that though, I was unimpressed with how the whole thing went down. He told me by text message practically after the fact. I wasn’t given the courtesy of offering an opinion. I have many issues with the whole situation. I was unhappy about it for days.
Now that that is off my chest, I feel better. I don’t imagine I was always easy to travel with either, I can be very moody myself. The most important lesson I learned was to think twice before too many more big adventures with my young children. The littlest one was a rockstar and did great, but it’s obvious to me that it was tiring for him and possibly a bit overwhelming. The oldest had a great time, as I mentioned in my earlier post, but still took some time to get used to his surroundings. We’re avid travellers, so this isn’t the end to be sure, we’ll just think twice in future about the type of vacations we do and plan more carefully based on our children’s needs.