Congratulations! You survived the trip to your destination with all of your limbs, your kids limbs and your marriage still intact. Maybe you even got yourself a well-deserved good night sleep, but if not, no matter because today is a rally day - and rally we shall. Like when you (or maybe this was just me) were back in college and spent all afternoon and all night drinking, eating jumbo slices of pizza the size of a yield sign or three cups of ramen and a box of Kraft mac'n'cheese at 3 A.M. Passed out at 5 A.M. only to wake up at 10 A.M., finish the last slice of pizza and head out around noon to do it all over again. The selfless, take-one-for-the-team, 'Ain't nothing gonna break my stride, nobody's gonna slow me down oh no, I've got to keep on moving'* kind of rally.
While you're on vacation and probably eager to get out and do whatever it is you have come to do, you can't skimp on breakfast. It probably will be the best your kids, and consequentially you, eat all day. . Besides, you likely serve breakfast to your kids at home and I for one am a stickler for routine with my kids, without it I notice wildness creeping into them - no es bueno. If you're like my family, we like to enjoy a little room service on the first day. I'm not sure what it is about room service, because the food is often not that good - especially breakfast. But a fresh fruit bowl, some oatmeal, a waffle and some coffee for Mrs. Griswold Wanna-Be (I seem to be the odd man out everywhere as I can't stand coffee, never have - at most I'll have some tea - and I think this comes from always smelling my father's breath as a kid and being overwhelmed by the eight cups of southwestern Connecticut's
Our most recent trip was to Disneyland, and like any theme park there are height restrictions, long lines, obnoxiously large turkey legs (I'll get to my feeling on these nasty hunks of meat shortly), too many gifts shops and characters that may scar your kids for weeks. So let's tackle these items one-by-one.
My 2 1/2 year old has just gotten to the point of sort of liking rides. He wants to ride everything until he's on it, then he wants off. However, some of the rides he actually does love and like watching Curious George, you will ride these rides ALOT. For us it was the Astro Orbiter. Our son loved it. We rode it about 10 times between myself and my wife, and though this would normally irritate me, just watching my son get into it every time was hysterical to watch. But as much fun as rides are, they come with lines. And in case you don't know, 20 minutes is a short line. Apparently, 2 1/2 year olds don't understand lines because my son will try to drag me past everyone in front of us. I explain to him that we have to wait like everyone else, but 2 minutes will pass and he is trying to pull me again. You have to love their tenacity. At this point you need to rely on the almighty parental tool, distraction. Distraction is the first weapon of parenting I was taught and I use the hell out of it. If you haven't learned to use this tool effectively, I feel bad for you. You are the AOL of parenting.
The Characters (if visiting a theme park, or I guess anywhere as there are some damn scary people walking the street of any town USA).
My son was ecstatic to meet Mickey Mouse. He watches Mickey Mouse Clubhouse every morning like he's watching it for the first time. He knows the whole cast. We even bought the Main Street USA Mickey Mouse train for the Christmas tree this year. Needless to say, he loved it. We thought about doing the character breakfast, but we knew better than to have him surrounded by several monstrous, crazy characters before he'd even had some orange juice. Pure recipe for disaster, and we like to think of ourselves as good parents. So we read that Mickey would be in Toon Town for photographs and it sounded great. Once we got to Mickey's house, our son started to get a little apprehensive. And like good parents we thought that walking through the intricately decorated house (as if Mickey were to actually live there) that he would warm up and get into the idea. To our surprise, he actually did...kind of. He went from holding on tightly to talking about the surroundings and pictures of other characters in the house. Then we reached the door to pictures with Mickey. We walked in and as soon as our son laid eyes on Mickey the drama began. Screams of "NO, NO, NO! Me no like Mickey!" began while he kept trying to climb over my shoulder. We tried the tricks of distraction...no luck. We tried bribery (another of my favorites of parenting tools)...no go. Then we thought maybe we just switch his position on me to the outside and away from Mickey and still he was not having it. So Mrs Griswold Wanna-Be had her photo taken with Mickey. (One side note, if you go to Disney and give them your camera to take a picture of you with one of the characters be aware that they will take terrible pictures to make you buy theirs, so make them take it until it's right. This was the silver lining in the entire event because even if we had calmed our son down the picture would have been all for not). Characters are cool from a distance or better yet on TV. If you're visiting a city, I don't suggest taking photos with "characters" you meet on the street. Just sayin'.
I don't care if you are taking your kids to the Louvre or to Sesame Place. Unless you're vegetarian, and your kids are vegetarian, you're going to be eating crap - part of the joy of vacation for you and your kids. If you're visiting a city, don't think that you have avoided the candy cries. There are street vendors everywhere with junk food, just waving your kids in like a Ground Marshall on the USS Ronald Reagan. Pick and choose when kids get theirs "treats" - we settle for dessert with dinner. But at lunchtime you don't need to feed them pizza, soda and chips. And you sure as hell don't need to be eating the overly large turkey leg (for you theme park goers). I'm going to go on a little tangent here. That turkey leg is the dumbest thing theme parks have come up with. In case you haven't seen it, it is about 9 inches long and about 4-5 inches in diameter. No one. I repeat, no one needs to be putting that in their face. If you're fat it makes you look fatter. If you're skinny it makes it appear as if you are eating a human leg. If you are fit, then you just look like an *sshole. I love meat just as much as any other carnivore out there, but to have grease dripping from my chin while holding a club of meat that looks more like Bam-Bams bat (see Flintstones) is where I draw the line. I'd rather eat a stalk of broccoli. And now I digress. Just know that whatever you stick in your kids during lunch and through to dinner may get churned up. There is a lot of running around, a lot of rides (particularly twirly ones) and their energy level is at 120% all day long. The system will need to purge and as we all know there are only two ways it can go.
For our 2 1/2 year old it was out the top. We had a long day in the park and rode the Astro Orbiter too many times. He seemed fine when we put him to bed, but that didn't last too long. At about 12:30 AM I heard him wake up and make some burping noises. I didn't think much of it and told him to go back to sleep. He did. I then heard him sit up in bed again about an hour and a half later, burping and told him to go back to bed. He shuffled around a bit but went back down. Then about 30 minutes later I woke up to the smell of beans and tortillas and not the fresh kind. It suddenly dawned on me what my son had been "burping". I turned on the lights and the poor little guy was sleeping in his own vomit. The shuffling I had heard was him trying to find a place without puke to lay back down in. I picked him up and ran him to the bathroom - a little late for that - and told him to throw up in the toilet. He made a sort of spitting noise, looked at me and said "me all done." Then I noticed his hair was matted in refried beans as were his pajamas. It's was time for a 3 AM bath. Now that we had a clean boy it was time to go back to bed, only problem is that the room wreaked of pre-digested refried beans and tortillas. So I let him sleep in my bed and we tried to tough it out. 20 minutes later he threw up on me- toughing it out was over. Aside from moving into Mrs Griswold Wanna-Be and our 5 month old's room next door (who were both none the wiser of this entire event) there was nothing to do but call the front desk.
One big note when traveling, especially with kids, is to take care of your hotel staff. Tip them well.
I can't stress that enough. They may not do much for you besides make your beds and leave you with some fresh towels, but if you need them in the middle of the night it's nice to know they are there. We had 2 maintenance guys come in and change the sheets on mine and my sons bed at 4 AM. When I asked how often they had to do this they said "You'd be surprised. Usually once a night." While I felt terrible for them, I felt better for me. I wasn't in this alone. Needless to say with the throwing up, the baths and the guys coming in to change our beds, my son was wide awake. I convinced him to go back to bed for about an hour but then our 5 month old woke up and that was that. But we wouldn't be eating Mexican food the next day.
The only similarity of family vacations and bachelor(ette) parties is that once over, you need a vacation from the vacation yet you still need to get home. Like climbing a mountain, getting up is only half the battle. Luckily for us, the kids were exhausted and mostly slept for the drive home. But if you're flying, good luck. You're kids are used to all the excitement of the vacation - the flight will be boring, they will not sleep, they will need entertaining and you will be exhausted. This is the moment your mother will relish. Yes, your mother. This is the moment she has been telling you about since you had your own kids. The old "I can't wait until you have kids of your own, then you'll see". And this is when that moment truly comes to fruition, and somewhere your mom is smiling. Thanks mom, glad to be here.
*Matthew Wilder, "Break My Stride" (1983)