Thursday, March 29, 2012

Vacation, and Vacationing from the Vacation

I'm back.  This past Monday (late, late Monday night) we returned from eight days in Southern California.  A real live family vacation.  We hadn't been on one since October of 2008.  Well, not a big one like this.

Our last trip was to Florida.  We did the traditional Disney World and Cocoa Beach thing, and it was awesome.  The kids were easier than I thought they'd be, so I knew they'd be even easier now that they're older.  And they were!  They're great little travelers, even though they bicker too often.

This trip was longer, busier, packed with way more activities.  And it took the wind out of me for sure.  Not that it wasn't great, it was.  But I am beat!  I'll fill in more specifics about the trip over the next week or so, but right now I'm just feeling the general impact of the thing.  And if you're planning a family trip, here's my personal list of pros and cons of family travel, coming from someone fresh from baggage claim.

Cons first:

Oh my God it's expensive.  I have gut rot from the amount of money we had to spend.  Yes, you have to give in and realize you're on vacation.  Yes, you know life isn't like this all the time.  Believe me, I kept that mantra in my head the whole week so I didn't feel like I was being crushed to death by the weight of it all.  And I know we could have done a few things differently to save more money, but again--this was our vacation.  Right?  But man does it pile up.  I felt like a sieve with money just pouring out all the little holes. There were four plane tickets to LAX.  And our checked luggage (one of which got an extra fine for being "heavy").  Seven hotel nights (in four different hotels, mind you).  Eight days worth of car rental (which hubby upgraded when we got there to a full size SUV).  And these are the expenses right off the top.  Then there's gas (CRAZY high out there), food, tips, souvenirs, tickets to Disneyland, tickets for tours, and on and on.  Gulp.

It's hard to relax.  When we are on vacation, and I don't know about the rest of you, we don't sit still.  Even if we fully intend to.  We are in a new place, and we feel a need to see as much as we can, pack it all in because we don't know if we'll ever get to these places again.  So we go go go.  All day every day.  Tons of walking.  Tons of driving.  It's madness, really.  Great at the time, but by the time you hit the bed at the end of the night, you feel like the Walking Dead.  Pretty.

Gift Shops.  Holy cow there's a lot of crap in the world to buy.  And I really wanted to get the kiddos (and us) some cool things to remember our trip.  I wanted t-shirts, hoodies, ball caps, whatever.  All the kids wanted to look at was ridiculous trinkets that you can buy in any crappy shop at home.  I tried and tried to explain to them the whole concept of a souvenir, something to remember your trip, but they were completely uninterested in a t-shirt, opting instead to focus in on things like tiny glass "Angry Bird" figurines or silly toys.  Ugh.  Not even the fake Oscar statues appealed to them.  So we came home without one shirt for any of us.  Completely my fault for me, though.  I really wanted a hoodie, and kept holding out for one in case a different place had a cooler one.  And in the end I wish I would have picked up one in Disneyland.  Sigh.

Squabbling children in the car.  We spend a lot of time in the car.  I ended up very grateful that hubby opted for the upgrade, because the car was lovely to spend time in.  Except for the bickering from the backseat, of course.  The five minute rule of trading off the iPad was the only way to shut them up.  No matter how many times you try to get 9 and 10-year old boys to look out the windows and notice what's around them--palm trees, mountains, amazing buildings, insane traffic, beautiful homes or cars, nutjobs wandering the streets, the wonder of it is mostly lost on them.  Oh well.

Finally, I never stopped feeling like a pack rat.  I always had my purse.  Whatever shopping we had done was in bags in my hands so it wouldn't get left anywhere.  If we were on the beach I was holding my shoes.  And usually the kids' shoes.  And probably some shells.  If I was lucky I had a cup of coffee. I had to keep track of stuff, you know.  And yes, hubby was there.  But he is our family's photographer, and his hands were always busy with the camera.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

We all missed our Freddy.

But now the pros.  And oh, do they outnumber the cons, not only in number but in importance:

Vacationing through the eyes of your kids is beautiful.  Even going through airport security is an adventure for them.  They chat it up with the employees.  They watch everything around them.  It's way cool to them.  Airports are amazing places when you're a kid.

Being on the plane was fun, and I don't love flying.  The kids love taking off, watching the ground disappear below them.  They get a kick out of being above the clouds and seeing them from the other side.  Even getting their little cup of soda is cool to them.

The shuttle to the car rental place from the airport is fun for them.  Getting the new car is fun (well, for me too).  And then, getting to the first hotel room is always great when you're a kid.  You can't wait to swim in the pool.  To be in the room in your jammies.  To lay on the bed with the remote.  To go to the crappy free breakfast.  I found a new appreciation for all these things through them.

Watching them seeing new things, being patient with our constantly changing days, eating new foods, asking questions, seeing different people, was like magic.

Hanging out with all of us together for that amount of time really is a treat.  Watching the hubby see some of the things that most interest him was great too.  We went to an aircraft carrier and did the whole tour.  We would not have been able to do that with the kids four years ago, but they were fine with it now.  Staying on the Queen Mary.  Going to where his favorite tv show is filmed.  So vacationing through his eyes was just as special for me.  When we're at home, we don't pay as much attention to one another.  He's doing his thing, I'm doing laundry or whatever, there's homework, there's just home stuff.  Out there there's nothing but each other, and it's a great reminder of how lucky we are to be together.

We got to see my Uncle, which is always fun.  The kids love him, and hubby and I have been fortunate to have a fun relationship with him over the years.  We went out to LA for the first time together 18 years ago, when we hadn't even been dating for a year yet.  He was our tour guide then, and he's just as good at it now.  We missed out on seeing my aunt (she had the flu), but it was good to be with Uncle.

We spent time with a good friend of ours who moved out there five years ago.  I wish she'd move back here, but what can you do?  It's good to see her when we can.  She has this cool ability to lift the mood of a room and keep everyone laughing.  Her laugh comes so easily and often.

We had no worries.  No rooms to clean.  No bills to think about (yet).  No jobs to go to, no school.  It's like fantasyland.

And finally, we got to come home.  And being on a vacation that long is a great way to fall back in love with your home and your hometown.  I can't even tell you how great it felt to drive on Minnesota roads again, no LA traffic.  To open our back door and greet our dog, and to go to bed in our own beds.  I'm still riding a high about how much I love my home and how happy I am to be here.  Until a few months from now, when I start wondering when we should plan our next getaway.

Yikes.  I better start saving up now.

More details to come about our trip.

1 comment:

  1. YAY! So happy that you had so much fun! :) PS.....we have some of the same pro's and con's! ;)