Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lessons Learned From Our First Vacation As a Family of Four*

*or, Four For the Fourth.

We've been thinking that we ought to do more fun things out and about now that Baby is a little older and more on a schedule and such, and we thought a visit to Grandma's condo in Moab and a jaunt to nearby Blanding to see some of The Wife's extended family was just the right distance to try.  We've traveled with our kid/s before, but flying and road trips have their differences and we sometimes are just reluctant.  But we haven't been to the condo in about five years, and the kids have never been, so it was high time.  Here are some of the things we learned as we went along our way.

• It's a good idea to drive not during naptime.  As long as you can keep the kids entertained, it might be better if they're not overtired and unable to get comfortable and cool and horizontal.  The drive down on Friday morning was pretty great, because the kids were happy, but mostly because The Wife had made preparations to keep them that way (thanks, Dollar Store!).

• It also helps if you manage the hyping of the trip.  We didn't tell him until the morning we were leaving, but then The Boy was very excited once he learned we were going to a "Fun Place", even through the long drive there.

• Bring a few more books and/or toys than you thought you might need (which we didn't do), hide them, and then reveal them gradually to maximize excitement and longevity of play.

• It's really nice to go on vacation with just your little family, but it's also really nice to meet up with other family!  We were so glad we could spend another weekend with The Wife's sister and her kids.

• When you're on vacation, you just have to be flexible with your schedule.  Sometimes kids just don't nap or go to sleep as consistently as they will at home, and I guess that's part of the point -- they wear themselves out with all the fun and unusual activity, crash hard at night, and then get up to do it all again (and that's why people have to recover from vacation).

• The pool is always a big hit, but ever since they put an awning over half of it it's even better.
• It's always a fun idea to try the local eateries.  Our first night we went to a homey little grill downtown, where the steak and eggs were the best deal on the menu.

• Vacation isn't the worst time to try to train your toddler to sleep in a big bed (though it's probably not the best time either).

• I'm really glad we don't generally bed-share with our kids.

• If you're going somewhere like southern Utah in the dead of July, dress appropriately and find ways to spend time indoors.
Fun tie-dyed fireworks getups!
• If there's a smalltown parade, your toddler will be thrilled.

• If there's a dinosaur museum, your toddler will be thrilled.

• If there's a free pool day, your toddler will be thrilled (unless he has trouble with the too-big slides).

• If there's a cardboard-and-confetti airplane at the local bazaar, your toddler will be thrilled.

• Really, it doesn't take a lot to thrill your toddler.  You don't have to spend a fortune on fancy vacations every time.  (Not that we're not planning a trip in the near future to Disneyland for said toddler.)

Red, white and Blanding.

This was going to go in the grid, but I could hardly stand its cuteness so it had to be seen all on its own.
• Bring a car charger for your phone, especially if you're going to small towns where roaming/searching for 3G signal will drain its battery in record time.

• Pizza is great anytime, but it's especially good after a long day of sun and fun in obscure southern Utah towns.

• Nutella brownies are a thing that are not at all not worth trying...

• Moab lightning storms are epic already, but adding half a dozen fireworks shows to the mix ups the epicness significantly.

• Board games and card games are always great on vacation, but try an occasional group-crossword puzzle.

• If you are responsible for cleaning up your own lodgings, you can save a lot of time if you bring some of your own linens and wash them when you get home.

• It's a fun idea to do major parts of your itinerary on the way home, but plan accordingly and keep to your schedule so you don't end up feeling like you're dragging on when you ought to be on the road.

• Southern Utah in July is hot.  No surprise there.
That grimace is actually "cheese!"  He found a golf ball on our walk around the course.
• It's also a good idea to plan a drive during naptime.  We planned our homeward travel during nap, and they both slept the entire way home.  We were afraid The Boy wouldn't get comfortable and fall asleep (like on the way home from previous trips...), but he was tired enough after a few days that he would probably sleep through anything.

• If both kids are sleeping soundly, don't stop.  We thought about stopping a few times, including halfway to feed Poopsie, but they were both so calm and peaceful that we didn't think we should break up the tranquility unless absolutely necessary.

• Vacation is fun, but there's no place like home!

And finally:

• Remember what I said about recovering from vacation?  If you can afford to, it's great to take another day off work the day after you get home just to get back into the groove.

So in the end, we overcame our hesitations and just went for it, and it turned out great!  We learned a lot and we all had a great time, so I think we feel like we can do it again someday (like soon) (to Anaheim).

And now, I leave you with this parting image.  I've always wondered at this sign, and now I have the forum to share my puzzlement with the world.  What are you doing in there, you poor displaced end quote?

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