Just back from a week at the beach, and utterly exhausted (you’re not supposed to need a vacation after vacationing, are you?), I decided to reflect on some of the ways vacationing is different now that we have a little one.
You can no longer throw clothes in a bag and take off. Vacations after children are organized affairs, replete with lists to organize the abundance of items you’ll need to bring along. That extra pair of undies you used to throw into your bag just in case, are now an afterthought when you have to factor in diaper failures (and extra diapers), additional changes of clothes for potty training little ones, or complete outfits for every type of weather condition you might possibly encounter. Even my lists have lists when planning for vacation these days!
Spending long days in the sun, with a good book and plenty of naps, are a thing of the past. If you’re going to be spending a long day in the sun, you’ll now need an armory of sun protection gear and toys to keep your little one busy (and protected from the sun). We used to take a blanket and a couple of towels to the beach, with a bottle of water and books adding to our ‘gear’. These days, we roll a wagon down to the beach, holding a beach umbrella, sand & water toys, snacks, a ginormous bottle of baby powder (miracle sand remover), multiple sunscreens, an extra diaper, wipes, and change of clothes for our little guy. Books? They usually become an added burden; who has time to read when they’re busy chasing a toddler around in the sand?
Late dinners, spending an hour or more getting ready, are nonexistent (without the help of a sitter). I remember the days when I would come in from a day of sightseeing or lounging on the beach, take a long, luxurious hot shower, and spend time carefully doing my hair and makeup, picking the right accessories to go with my beautiful dress. These days, I don’t even travel with jewelry. I now take a quick rinse (maybe), throw my hair up in a bun, don some presentable clothes, and head out for dinner during Early Bird Special hours. I know it doesn’t have to be this way, but having my son in some semblance of a routine while on vacation make all of our lives easier.
Falling into bed after a day of sightseeing and a delicious meal…doesn’t happen anymore. These days, you have bath and bed time routines to contend with, forcing yourself through exhaustion and jarring you from your fabulous after dinner reverie. Again, I suppose you could skip the routine, but our son won’t go to bed without his bath-book(s)-bed routine.
Taking the scenic route home, in an effort to prolong the vacation, is often out of the question. The minute we left the beach, our son was asking for home; if only teleportation existed, we’d all be happy!
Lest you mistake the above as complaining, I’m here to tell you that I wouldn’t change a thing. If my husband and I want that relaxing vacation, we’ll need to enlist the help of family to watch our son for a quiet, restorative getaway, but we both prefer to spend time with our little family. To be honest, vacations are different after children, but they are also so much more rewarding than I could have imagined. For my husband, who spent his childhood summers at the beach, it’s a way for him to both relive and bestow his childhood memories onto his son; hermit crabs, ice cream cones, boardwalk rides (the very same ones he rode back in the 70s), and feeding the seagulls (something I would never have considered if I didn’t have a child). Sightseeing with children really does open your eyes to things you may have otherwise overlooked, or seen in a different way. There’s something about the innocence of children that colors every experience you encounter, be it on vacation or otherwise.