We have just returned from a wonderful two-day getaway to the city. This was my Valentine’s Day gift from my husband, who got us a room at a 4-star hotel, arranged baby-sitting for Friday night, made dinner reservations at a great restaurant, and finished it off with a visit to an old favourite bar with a group of friends. He’s great at that kind of thing and I loved almost every minute of it.
You see, the fundamental frustration is traveling with kids! Every aspect of the trip is complicated somehow by their presence! Granted, they provide hilarious entertainment at times and, when put into perspective, I really don’t have much to complain about. Our kids are on a predictable routine, which allows them to adapt easily to whatever new setting we’re in, but it still doesn’t make traveling easy. Here’s a breakdown:
I could fit everything I need into a single bag, plus winter coat and boots. Not so with kids! The baby needs his basket for sleeping (we don’t co-sleep). Diapers, multiple changes of clothes in case of accidents, the stroller, the front carrier, their snow gear, a sleeping bag for the toddler in case there isn’t a second bed… the list goes on and the trunk fills up! Add my husband’s inability to pack lightly, hauling entire cases of protein and vitamin supplements for a single overnight, and our dressy clothes for a night out, and the car is bursting at the gills. I hate over-stuffed cars. It’s a pet peeve of mine.
The kids are good. The toddler has a running commentary going for 2.5 hours, though he’s started shrieking, “Stop talking!” if we aren’t paying enough attention. The baby sleeps, except when he needs to nurse every third hour. That’s when the fun starts. Pull over, turn around and extricate the baby from his seat, lifting him into the front because I don’t want to carry him around the car in this -20C weather, balance his sobbing body on my lap to nurse awkwardly, fumbling around for a cloth in case the projectile puking begins when I least expect it, trying to reason with the toddler who’s (fortunately) buckled into his seat but is wailing to get out, then replacing the baby without jiggling him too much, which could stimulate the dreaded gag reflex…
3. Checking into the hotel
This is fun. Remember everything listed in point 1? It all has to get carried – somehow – from the car to the front desk, then up to the room. Subsequent trips aren’t a problem because I can wait in the room with the kids while my husband gets the rest. But with that first grand entry into the fancy marble lobby, hauling a protesting two-year-old by the wrist, my arms laden with an overflowing diaper bag and random assorted luggage, while following my husband with a baby over his shoulder and a big woven Moses basket on his arm, I suddenly find it all very comedic and I can’t stop laughing. This is a problem I have and what makes it even funnier is how much my husband hates it. “Stop it. Not now,” he snaps, which makes me start laughing even harder.
4. Entertaining them in the hotel
Hotels contain playthings you’d never even notice unless you have kids. For instance, the elevator has tantalizing buttons with a magnetic attraction to toddlers’ fingertips. Before I could interfere, he called for help by pressing the “phone” button. It was still ringing when we exited the elevator, but then I heard a brisk voice asking how she could help. We fled down the hall in horror. Then he got his hands on the room phone, pressing random keys until he began a serious conversation (by baby standards) with the dial tone and I hung up. The safe is also fascinating, with its loud beeping noises and swinging door. We just had to make sure he didn’t lock anything inside not knowing the code!
5. Entertaining them outside
Once the hotel room is making us crazy, they must be taken somewhere else! My shopping expedition ended up including the littlest child, simply because that enabled my husband to take the toddler swimming – better all around for everyone! Then my dilemma ensued: stroller or front carrier? It’s a catch-22! The former limits store accessibility; the second limits the ability to try on clothes! I opt for the carrier, because I can actually, sort of, try on pants without taking it off. But after one attempt at trying on some tops with the baby lying on the change room floor and far too many layers of clothing on both of us, I gave up and started irresponsibly buying clothes without even trying them on! (I was feeling that desperate.)
Then the kids get hungry and you can’t just go to the fridge. Restaurants are unpredictable. You never know what the ambience will be like before you sit down and settle in with kids. Sometimes you get glares; other times, friendly smiles and questions. The toddler is generally great. He entertains himself with his cars and reads Curious George while we wait for the food. The baby, on the other hand, has been struggling with indigestion lately and chose a prime time at brunch yesterday to begin coughing, choking, and spewing up large amounts of phlegm. The restaurant was unusually quiet and I could see fellow brunch-eaters looking over at us distastefully. Picnics in the car, on the other hand, are rather difficult in the winter. We twist in our seats to feed the children, crumbs spraying everywhere, the ignition getting turned on and off depending on our heating needs, water spilling from the container, the toddler bellowing for more bread while kicking the back of my seat…
There was a second bed, so no need for that sleeping bag that we hauled all the way. Problem is, the toddler’s not used to a regular bed, and chose a most inopportune time in the late evening to nearly fall out completely. Suffice it to say that my husband and I had to leave what we were doing to catch him mid-air. We weren’t happy about that.
8. Waking up early
When regular wake-up time is 6:30 am at home, it becomes considerably more difficult in a hotel because there’s nothing to do! I’ve learned over time to bring breakfast for the toddler, since he’ll be miserable without it, but that’s only a partial consolation. Still dark outside, the room’s novelties have worn off and his toys from home are old news. We turn on cartoons, but he’s not used to those and loses interest very quickly. We end up getting packed and checked out by 8:20 a.m…. on a Saturday morning…. in Toronto…. How pathetic is that?! Even the breakfast places aren’t open till 10!
Now we’re home and life is already back to its regular routine. My frustrations have lost their poignancy and I realize that it’s always worth going somewhere, just to shake things up a little, even if it’s challenging. I vow never to become one of those parents who doesn’t travel because of their kids. To the contrary – I think it’s more important than ever to take them along and get them used to it, cuz it ain’t stopping anytime soon!!!