I fondly remember the days when my husband and I could plan a last minute weekend get away with ease. Deciding on where we were going was the hardest part. Packing could be done the day we left, each of us with our own bag filled with what we needed for the quick trip.
I was reminiscing back to those days as I packed our SUV full for a two-day trip as our kids were fighting in their car seats. After shouting one too many times, I started daydreaming about making a run for it. Whose idea was it to take this trip in the first place?
Yeah, that would be me. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
As any family with young kids living in an area that experiences the frigid tundra of winter can tell you, cabin fever is real AF. Being cooped up inside the house with two toddlers is the stuff nightmares are made of. Everyone is on edge. Sippy cups are thrown. Diapers are torn off in a blind rage.
To counter the winter blues, I naively suggested a quick and easy weekend away to nearby Indianapolis. I channeled my pre-kids sense of adventure and booked a house on Airbnb that was walking distance from the children’s museum. I was patting myself on the back for being such an amazing mom when I realized the easy part of this trip was already in the rearview mirror.
Here are five ways I learned the hard way that the words ‘easy’ and ‘weekend trip’ should never be uttered in the same sentence when dealing with kids.
1. I packed my kids’ entire wardrobe but forgot to pack myself underwear.
Theoretically kids’ clothes are smaller and should thus take up less space when being packed. But that only plays out if you don’t pack every item of clothing they own. It was a two-day trip but I planned for every what-if scenario possible.
What if there’s a snowpocalypse? Better pack their snowsuits.
What if we go to a fancy restaurant? (said no parent of toddlers ever) Better pack my daughter’s fancy dress and her matching shoes.
What if the museum is cold? Better pack the long sleeve shirts.
What if the museum is hot? Better pack the short sleeve shirts.
What if the kids spill something on their clothes? Better pack 15 different changes of clothes.
And the list went on and on. You know what scenario I didn’t think of? What if I need something to cover my bare ass each day? You know, that thing called underwear? Yeah, forgot it.
2. While preparing for the trip I went to Target to grab travel size toiletries and ended up buying the entire store.
I had a very specific list of travel items to grab for the trip. But like most of my trips to Target, things got out of hand quickly. Here’s how this particular visit went:
Hmmm, I bet the kids will get bored during the three hours they are in the car so I should buy new toys to keep them entertained. Because the millions of toys they already own just won’t get the job done.
Oh look! A cute travel bag. I have plenty at home already, but THIS one will be perfect to put all the new toys in. And this Nate Berkus throw blanket will be so cozy to curl up with at the end of the night. I mean, I just know there won’t be a single spare blanket to be found in the ENTIRE house we’re renting.
Wait, there’s a Cartwheel deal on kids apparel? Perfect! NONE of the clothes my kids have now will work for the trip, so let me just stock up. And I promise I won’t get mad when they ruin the new clothes by spilling water and sand all over themselves at the children’s museum. Pinky promise.
See? It escalated fast. Damn you Target.
3. Being stuck in a car together is worse than being stuck in a house together.
I underestimated how long the excitement of taking a road trip would wear off for the kids. If you are wondering, it was 15 minutes. The phrase “are we there yet?” gets put on repeat and we aren’t even out of town yet when my oldest declares he would rather stay home.
I tried to keep the energy up by sharing all the exciting details of weekend ahead. But that backfired and led to me answering 100 questions about every activity. Particularly perplexing to my kids was the concept of staying in someone else’s house through Airbnb.
“Are we staying in a hotel?” No, we are staying in a house.
“Is it our house?” No, it’s not. Our house is back where we left it 15 minutes ago.
“Will there be other kids at the house?” Nope, just us.
“But who lives there?” I don’t know.
“So, it will be our new house?” YES. WE BOUGHT A NEW HOUSE IN AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT STATE JUST FOR THE WEEKEND.
But at least the bag they got stored in is super cute.
4. It’s not fun to watch your kid be an asshole in public and feel the daggers of strangers’ eyes.
Going on a trip means having fun in new places. Very public places. With lots of people around. And no matter how hard I tried to respect the balance of nap time and fun time, meltdowns were bound to happen at some point.
Most of the time I have an exit strategy for if and when my kids are beyond reach. But sometimes there’s just nothing you can do.
So when we were on a bus tour at the Indy 500 racetrack and my one-year-old declares “I’m done” less than five minutes into the 30-minute tour, I knew we were destined to be ‘that family’ of this experience. You know the family. The ones with parents that clearly have no idea what they’re doing and are raising little asshats for kids. That day, we were them.
Everyone on the bus pleaded with their eyes for us to get control of our youngest. But of course she wasn’t having it. You couldn’t even hear the audio tour over the screaming and crying. I tried all of my usual tricks to distract her but none lasted. When the tour made a stop at the finish line, I’m pretty sure I heard clapping from the back of the bus.
We thought we were in the clear since both of our kids could get out and stretch their legs on the track. Well, stretch his legs our oldest did. He took off running. Turns out he imagined himself to be a racecar and thought he would take a quick lap around the 2 ½ mile track.
I heard someone in the tour group mutter, “Damn, he’s gone. Look at him go.” Followed by the tour guide yelling at my husband to go get our son. When my husband finally caught up to him my son was in tears because he figured out he wouldn’t be able to complete his lap like he imagined.
So, back on the bus we went with two crying kids this time. No one was sad to see us get off that bus when the tour ended.
5. Only being able to see the kid-friendly side of a new city.
When you travel with kids, 99.9% of what you end up doing is kid-friendly. Which is great. There’s no better joy in the world than seeing the smile on your child’s face blah blah blah. But as we traveled around Indianapolis we saw so many great places and restaurants that we wanted to try but dared not with two young kids.
It was like window shopping at a store that will never be in your budget. As we walked to dinner one night I looked longingly into boutique shops and lovely cafes thinking how nice it would be to pop in and enjoy the atmosphere a bit. But toddlers whining for pizza brought me back to reality.
I kept saying to my husband, “Well, the next time we are here and it’s just the two of us…” but we both knew that was an empty promise. We won’t be back. And if we do, it will be with our kids.
But at the end of the weekend we had two exhausted and happy kids. They talked about the trip for days and they are already asking about when our next road trip will be. I tell them it will be when I recover from this one. So at least a year.
What did I learn from enduring a weekend trip with my kids? Mostly that preparing is good but over preparing leaves you without underwear.