My kids are pretty well-traveled. Maybe it’s because we are generous and adventurous parents but probably it’s because we are selfish and like to travel so they have to come. Because of our experience, many friends have asked me for tips on how to travel with their own kids before their maiden voyage. There are little tidbits I could offer here and there but mainly I advise this: Be sure you want to go and be sure you want to go with kids. But how can you know what to expect until you’ve done it? Well, friends, here is a little field guide; some activities you can do right in your own home to make sure you’re ready to face the world at large with your precious angels in tow.
1. Rent the movie “Snakes on a Plane” and note the fear and horror on the faces of the passengers on said plane. Picture those faces as you board a plane but this time, the snakes are your children and you are not Samuel L. Jackson.
2. Try applying sunscreen to the fastest and crankiest person you can find. Bonus if they have an adamant opposition to wearing sunscreen. Extra bonus if they spit as a form of self-defense.
3. Go out to a restaurant and order dinner. When it arrives at the table, ask your spouse to go ahead and eat while you walk to and from the restroom at least three times, making sure you argue with at least one person about the necessity of washing their hands each time. Once at the table, change seats several times and drop at least three utensils on the floor necessitating three separate replacements by the waiter who loathes you more and more with each passing second. When your food is good and cold, go ahead and take four bites before you’re too tired and just want to go home. Bonus if you throw half of your meal into your lap and make noises loud enough to alienate at least two tables around yours. Alternately, pick up some chicken fingers. Lots and lots of chicken fingers.
4. Pile up a few of the trash mags and books you’ve been dying to read. Now look in the mirror and laugh at yourself. You’re not reading a thing, dumb ass.
5. Begin getting ready for the pool / beach / water park at 8 am. Arrive at the pool / beach / water park at 10:15 (allow for extra travel time if destination is more than 1.5 miles away). Watch the last shaded lounge chair go to the family who began getting ready at 7:55. Plop your crap in the sun. Repeat sunscreen application (see above). Resist the urge to drown yourself in the kiddie pool.
6. Lock your family into one room (or two rooms with obscenely thin walls) beginning at approximately 8 pm. Turn off all lights, hide all crunchy snacks, empty all grown up bladders and then stare at your spouse until you both pass out in silence. Alternately, gather up a pile of money and set it on fire to emulate the suite / house you’ll rent to give yourselves distance between you and your sleeping children.
7. Practice convincing family members to come places with you for free. Assure them it will be the experience of a lifetime! Laugh heartily in secret with your spouse when they agree.
8. Walk past the local ice cream shop 20 times. Each time, practice a different scenario. For example, kid wants ice cream but it’s 10 am. You say no. Huge meltdown. Maybe instead you say yes. Sugar-induced excitement followed by mid-morning huge meltdown. Or perhaps kid wants ice cream and it’s 6 pm but they’ve already had ice cream at 10 am. You say no, huge meltdown. Or you say yes and you go to bed that night knowing your toddler is on ice cream two-a-days and you’re contributing to America’s childhood obsesity problem. Perhaps you order an ice cream bar. It melts as kid takes sweet time eating it and falls on clothes / body parts / floor. Huge meltdown. You wipe mess and accept the fact that you’re an asshole parent because you “let” your kid’s ice cream melt in the heat while others watch you and judge you / pity you / celebrate that they’re not you.
9. Practice taking photos of people’s backs in front of a serene setting. Many tantrums are undetectable from the back.
10. Learn the difference between a trip and a vacation. A trip is traveling with your kids. It’s akin to a business trip or a working weekend or a punishment for acts in your previous life. A vacation is a trip without your children or, as I’ve just recently tried and thoroughly enjoyed, it’s a trip with your children AND a helper, be it a sitter from home, a camp at your hotel that your kids actually want to attend, or a grandparent who can handle the hot messes that are your kids after two ice cream cones and a day at the pool long enough for you to get a drink with your spouse. (Make it a double.)
I’m extremely fortunate that I can travel as we do. I love experiencing life with my babies. I love showing them the world. I love teaching them through doing and spending leisure time with them. That’s why I bring my kids wherever we go. That doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to the days my husband and I take a vacation again. I can wait for that. But don’t judge me if I wait eagerly.