Around March or April, my husband and I begin to sweat and break out into hives. It is this time of year that we start to plan our annual family travel extravaganza. Like most other red blood American parents, the notion of a family summer vacation is ingrained in us. We feel it is our parental duty to provide our children with some sort of vacation during their vacation from school. We want them to have life experiences beyond their own backyard.
Every year, we ponder destinations over brochures and the Internet, seeking our perfect family getaway. And every year, after we’ve spent countless hours analyzing our options and fighting over who wants to go where (some reasonable, some not so much…ahem…European cruise), a sense of dread immediately begins to consume me.
Vacations are hardly that for me. The anxiety sets in about a week before we are scheduled to depart. That when I start with the lists.
My family (my husband) makes fun of my lists. But without them I think I would quite frankly lose my mind. Packing for four people and preparing for a trip, even a two or three day mini vacation, is a monumental undertaking. Ugh…there’s that word…”packing”. Just saying it gives me a headache.
It causes my head to pound because it is entirely up to me. I have to make sure everyone has bathing suits, socks, underwear and outfits for every conceivable situation we may face from hiking up the side of a mountain to an impromptu invite to dinner with the President.
Not only are the other three people in the house completely incapable of this chore, if I left it up to them it would cause my head to explode. Because when I hear, “Mom, where’s my…” or “dear, did you pack the…” I know the answer to the question. If they packed, my son wouldn’t pack any underwear, my daughter would fill her whole suitcase with clothes for her American Girl doll and my husband would throw everything in a garbage bag because he would have no clue where the suitcases were kept.
Nobody would remember their phone chargers, toothbrushes or extra flip flops. And then would stand there in their broken flip flops, holding their dead cell phones and a tube of toothpaste blaming me for their inability to plan ahead and anticipate their own needs.
Needless to say, it is exhausting. Because inevitably I WILL forget something and usually it will be something of my own (like our week long Myrtle Beach vacation the day after all of us were in a wedding and I remembered every last blessed item except my phone charger).
Then there is the actual traveling. All of our trips are via car. Not only am I like chicken in the flying department, but the hubby is cheap. (Love you dear).
Despite providing the children with ample food, drinks and activities on the road, the trip in at least one of the directions will be nothing short of disastrous. Usually it is the returning home trip after we’ve had a smooth sailing on the way to our destination and have lulled ourselves into a false sense of security that “hey, maybe this will be a good car ride both ways”.
But alas, our return trip will always be a nightmare. We will hit bumper to bumper traffic at some point and my husband will start off by cursing under his breath. He will ask why we are traveling on a Saturday again and loudly announce “we are never traveling on the weekend in daylight hours again!”.
As we crawl down the road, he will become increasing agitated and start shouting at the drivers around him and clenching his jaw which will undoubtedly cause him to get a migraine. He will not want to play the license plate game any longer.
It will be at this point that my daughter will (without fail) announce that she has to pee and she has to pee NOW. Dear hubby will grip the wheel, knuckles turning white and inform her that there is no place for her to go to the bathroom.
Her eyes will well up and her bottom lip will tremble. She will announce that she is in fact peeing RIGHT NOW. Her brother will scream that she’s gross, to which she will immediately get defensive and tell him it’s no fair that he can pee in the Snapple bottle. Which he will take as a challenge and try to pee in the bottle, missing as my husband sharply switches lanes.
And of course, I’ll be desperately trying to ignore the rest of the travelers in my car by reading a book when I hear those ominous word, “Mommy, I feel like I’m gonna puke”. Quickly I’ll spring into action because this a very real threat.
Inevitably my belt will lock up as I am attempting to contort myself to grab the plastic bags stowed behind my seat. My son will usually take pity on my and hand his sister the bag, but his help ends there. He will turn his head, muttering about how gross she is once again, as she spends the next five minutes with vomit shooting out of her mouth and nose. She will then hand me the plastic bag and I will discover as I carry over into the front seat, that it has a hole in it.
I will start my mental list for the next day. Unpack, laundry, scrub car seat, scrub car floor.
The wall of traffic lets up at this point and my husband, desperate to “beat his time” will now attempt to do 90. Causing him to get pulled over and get a ticket, thus losing money and even more time. There is no way he’s going to let us stop to eat or pee now. It’s home or bust now.
I probably could tolerate the packing and the car ride if it was a little easier to enjoy the actual vacation. No matter where we go, someone is unhappy. If we go to an amusement park, the little one wants to ride on the toddler rides (which she is WAY too big for) and the older one will have a temper tantrum because he doesn’t meet the height requirement for the rides that twist you up and tie you into knots.
My husband wants to eat three fast food meals and I think eating two big meals is more time efficient on vacation. If we go to the beach, someone gets burnt the first day and spends the rest of the trip miserable and complaining.
When we go some place known for it’s unique cuisine, one of my kids will turn up their nose and go on a hunger strike. If we go someplace remote and relaxing without a lot of distractions, they will complain they are bored.
Every souvenir stand we pass will result in tears because I don’t want to buy junk that will fall apart before we get to the hotel. If the hotel doesn’t have a pool, they will cry. If the hotel does have a pool, they will never go in.
They don’t want to share a bed. “She pinched me”, “he kicked me”…24/7 for the entire duration of vacation and I can’t get away!
I think, next March, I’m just going to take the money and hop a plane to Hawaii. Yup, I’m gonna get on a plane and fly away by myself. Just me and the cabana boys bringing me drinks on a sandy beach all day long. I can read all day, eat when I want and not pack anything but a bathing suit.
Now that’s my idea of a vacation!