We recently took the girls to Punta Cana for a week's vacation at an all-inclusive resort. All in all, it was a lovely trip: the weather was fabulous, the resort was kid-friendly, there were no major disasters. It was, however, a learning experience for us, as it was the first time we'd taken a trip as a family of four. I'd like to share some key lessons with you today.
1. You can never have enough snacks - I know, I know—I've said it before. But this is in a different context. Remember: we were staying at an all-inclusive resort, with an open buffet and a wide range of food choices. Yet inevitably, my kids would eat three bites of their meal and say they were full. Then, as soon as we left the restaurant and got to the pool or the beach, they'd ask for a snack. And a drink. We thought we'd packed a ton of extra food just in case, but we came home with nothing. In a similar vein...
2. You can never have too many diapers and wipes - So we're in the Dominican Republic, and the food is different, and the water is different...and while nobody got sick per se, we definitely went through more than the usual amounts of diapers for the toddler. As for wipes, they're the MacGyver of baby products: there's nothing they can't do.
3. You will miss having a buffer - My kids can be needy in general, but man, when it was just my husband and I trying to meet all of those needs, it was surprisingly hard. "I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, I have to go to the bathroom, you need to change my bum, where's my bear? watch what I can do!...." Some days, they just went on and on and on. My husband and I felt we didn't have a vacation as a couple, even though we were pretty much always together. Luckily, we met another family with two girls, and the kids were able to (sort of) amuse each other so the adults could have some grown-up time. But there's no question, it would have been a very different trip if it had just been my husband and I.
4. Sometimes, there's just nothing you can do - Our return flight home didn't depart until 9:45 p.m.—way past everyone's bedtime—and involved the usual long period of sitting on the plane, waiting for takeoff. Not exactly a recipe for success. My two-year-old didn't understand why she wasn't allowed to take off her seat belt and wander around. Plus, the stewardess asked us to turn off the iPad and the entertainment system wasn't on yet, so we didn't have a lot of tools at our disposal. Believe me, I tried: stickers, stories, cuddles, lollipops...the toddler just wasn't buying any of it. We became those parents you never want to be: the ones whose kid is screaming and annoying everyone in an enclosed space. It wasn't great, but we got through it. Which brings me to the most important point...
5. Even though it's difficult at times, you'll want to do it again - As with anything in life, our trip had high points and low points. And the kids are still so young, they probably won't remember any of it. But we will. We'll remember how the two-year-old, watching the Michael Jackson impersonator moonwalk on stage, looked up with delight and exclaimed, "He go backwards and backwards and backwards!" How our increasingly coltish four-year-old went on every slide in the water park a hundred times and tried to make friends with every little kid she saw. How much fun the two-year-old had making—and smashing—sand castles, and how she started asking for "pina coyadas" every time we went to the bar. How the four-year-old giggled uncontrollably while petting a stingray and tried to learn Latin dancing.
When you have kids, you have a choice: you can make them your lives, or you can bring them into yours. We chose the second option. My husband and I loved to travel before we had kids, so why should we have to give it up now?
So we won't. We'll go on another trip, and maybe it will be just the two of us, but more likely, it will be the whole family. All four of us—and a massive bag of granola bars.