Spring has arrived, the virus is receding, and families are starting to organize summer trips with their kids and grandkids again. After some memorable travel adventures while my children were growing up, I offer some funny memories and tips to assist with your planning.
One of our first trips as a family was to California when our first born was 18 months old. We flew to Monterey, rented a car and planned to site see for a few days, then drive south on the beautiful Highway 101 to San Luis Obispo to visit relatives. Although we had driven on the Pacific Coast Highway before, it was our first visit to Monterey. The plane rides to California took all day with layovers, so we were all tired when we got there.
After a night of not too restful sleep due to adjusting to Pacific Time, we decided to see some sites. The 17 Mile Drive, from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach, seemed like a good choice. Hugging the coastline, and with views of beautiful homes and a famous golf course, we thought the little one would probably fall asleep while we enjoyed the drive. We had made sure to time it after eating lunch and changing diapers. The little one had other ideas. After we paid the fee to get onto the drive, it was only about 30 minutes until the crying started. Non stop, full on, over tired, I am not on Pacific Time, not in my own bed, toddler howling.
We thought the motion of the car would eventually lull said child to sleep. We also thought the drive was only 17 miles, so how long could it take? Well, quite awhile with traffic. Trying to stop and console the little one outside the car didn’t work, so I moved to the backseat in the hope of helping, and we drove as fast as we could. It was like being on a European road race, but with traffic. I remember seeing a bit of the ocean, some pricey homes, one hole at the Pebble Beach golf course, and the trunk of the famous Cypress tree.
The little one did eventually tire herself out and fall asleep, after we exited the famous drive. Then we had to drive around to keep her asleep with the hope of a more restful night. From that day forth, I have referred to this picturesque locale as the 117 Mile Drive, because that is what it felt like. A return trip might be in order now that retirement has set in.
Fun Travel Tip Number One- if your kids wear diapers and take naps, avoid air travel and stick with driving trips close to home, in the same time zone. Or just stay home.
After baby number two arrived, we knew better than to fly anywhere with two toddlers. But that didn’t stop us from naively planning a driving trip to a lake with another family. The photo of the dismembered Barbie doll above, which I am amazed was available on the free photo site, gives you an idea of how this one went.
Our kids were two and four, but the friends children were a bit older. Since they might be more flexible than we could be, one of our favorite babysitters came along on the trip. She was thirteen, and very willing to help out. The drive to the lake we were visiting went pretty well, and when we got to our destination each family checked into their own condo. That was a great help since we had different schedules our kids were used to, and no one had to adapt too much.
The lake resort was nice, but with two toddlers I spent a lot of time in the condo with one or the other changing diapers or putting someone down for a nap. Our babysitter was a huge help, but we wanted her to have some time at the pool too, so it was a lot of juggling. I remember it as more of a working vacation than restful but not too surprising.
The only real drama occurred on the drive home. The toddlers and babysitter were in the middle row of our van, and each of the kids had a bag of books, toys and snacks. This worked well until the two year old fell asleep with a Barbie doll in her hand. She woke up about 45 minutes later, and apparently wasn’t done with her nap, because for no obvious reason she started hitting the babysitter on the head with the doll. And I mean hitting. By the time we pulled over, and extracted the sitter, the doll was pretty mangled. After some time to regroup, I decided to move to the middle seat and let the poor sitter get a break in the front. Miraculously, the sitter did take care of our kids again, and when she grew up even had three of her own.
Fun Travel Tip Number Two- when travelling with small children who take naps in the car, remove anything that could become a weapon when they fall asleep. Or just stay home.
The next trip happened when the kids were 3 and 5, and involved another vacation to California. Learning from the 117 Mile Drive, no sight seeing was planned, and we flew into the Santa Barbara airport. Our final destination wasn’t too far away. It is a small airport, and has a lot palm trees and open areas since the climate is so temperate. The children, their grandmother and I arrived after a full day of connecting flights. The next stop was the car rental counter.
I took the five year old, and sent the three year old in a stroller with her grandmother while we got the car. The line was full of business travellers, and I clearly wasn’t- I had on elastic waste pants, a sweater, and looked like I had been travelling with toddlers all day. As the line grew, I asked one of the business people to save my place, and I put the five year old on a bench nearby, where I could see her, with stern instructions not to move or talk to anyone. Once I was back in my place, she said, as loudly as possible “Sure, I’ll sit here, and I’ll do whatever you say, you big, fat butt”. There were some stifled laughs. I mumbled something about how verbal she was for only being five, but I felt like my derriere was inflating by the minute. And I made a note not to wear sweat pants again on a flight. Ever.
Fun Travel Tip Number Three-keep your precocious, verbal children in front of you when you are in lines at an airport to avoid any unsolicited comments about your backside. Or just stay home.
The last adventure was when my daughters were 11 and 13. We were at a beach in North Carolina that had a lot of family activities- in addition to the ocean, miniature golf, go carts, and a great ice cream shop on the main street to and from the beach. We visited every year starting when the girls were much younger, but the activities remained the same. It was a popular place, but almost all of the businesses were small, family owned and had great service.
We were long past any missed naps or other mishaps by this point, but something happened that really caught me off guard. One night at the ice cream store, the nice young man serving my daughters mentioned that theirs were free. I thought it was some kind special deal for the family. Then it dawned on me- mine wasn’t free- only theirs, and he was flirting with them! What was he thinking? They were still young children my mind. I swooped in like a mother bird, paid for all of our treats, and hustled them out the door. Our vacations had hit a whole new zone.
Fun Travel Tip Number Four- when your daughters are over age 10, assume that all of the boys you see on vacation will think they are old enough to date. Dispel all boys of this notion by hovering over your girls at all times. It’s not practical to stay home at these ages, so make the best of it.
I hope this post has given you a few laughs, and some ideas for future trips with your family members, especially the kids. Happy vacation planning!