Monday, August 18, 2014

on vacationing with a toddler (a tale of history repeating itself)

On Friday night we headed down to Columbus and met up with my parents for an overnight stay at a hotel and visit to the Columbus Zoo the next day.

Because apparently we're a couple of masochists and decided to let history repeat itself.

In all fairness, we also had a trip to Virginia thrown in there and Elden was a freaking rock star on that so... high hopes. Perhaps that's part of why this trip was so frustrating--my expectations were too high. It certainly didn't help that I'm basically 31 weeks pregnant, the size of a house, and in a world of pain in general.

So here's how it went down: I was able to leave work a bit early Friday thanks to overtime on Wednesday and Thursday so we loaded up the minivan and headed down towards Polaris just north of the city to let Elden get some of his energy out. We had to wake him from his nap to put him in the van, but Jon managed to hook up our DVD player to the one in the van (the one in the van came to us with a disc jammed in the player and we are not willing to shell out the money it would take to fix/dislodge/replace it) so we could remotely use the system. I should also add that at Elden's 2-year well visit on Tuesday we were given the green light to turn him forward facing (we followed the AAP's recommendation to keep him rear facing until he was 2--we were originally going to keep him rear facing for longer but since he was in the 92nd percentile for height our ped said he was just fine) so this helped with the DVD situation. I should also add that after nearly a year of being ear infection free thanks to his tubes, the pediatrician noted an ear infection in Elden's right ear at that well visit. He prescribed ear drops... but we don't think they took care of it. We have an ear check in ten minutes to confirm whether or not the infection is gone. So basically, ear infection+travel=disaster for us, always. I digress.

The DVD player kept Elden entertained for about an hour and a half of the 2-hour trip, so we're grateful for that. He also had his lunch in the car and played with some toys/read some books. When we got to Polaris we met up with my parents and Jon did a little shopping while we played in the indoor play area. After about an hour we headed to a restaurant in the plaza for dinner. Dinner was pretty good, Elden did a decent enough job of listening and behaving, and after that we headed to the hotel. After check-in we headed down to the hotel pool for some swimming. That lasted maybe 30-45 minutes with Elden, but it was already after 8 (when we normally lay him down) so I was impressed. Once Elden was over the pool we got him ready for a night of bed sharing... which was probably the biggest mistake we could have ever made.

Let me just say, though, that I don't really know what better option we would have had. Elden is too long to sleep in his pack n play. We could have gotten a room with 2 doubles but that would have warranted us bringing both bed rails and that just didn't sound like an easy solution. Plus, being in a strange place one of us likely would have had to sleep in bed with him anyway. Needless to say.. it took Elden a good 2 hours to fall asleep and even then he was up every half an hour wanting to play. Then he was up from 2-4 am. Once he finally fell back asleep he slept fitfully until about 7:30. So.. we were all completely exhausted and cranky come sunrise. We knew we were in for it when he was totally defiant at breakfast (normally his best moods come in the morning) but decided to go for it anyway. My sister met up with us and we all headed over to the zoo.

I should also add we didn't bring a stroller because we're masochists. And also we didn't think Elden would sit in it because he doesn't at our zoo. But he normally sleeps the night before we go to our zoo.

In any case, within the first 45 minutes of the zoo we had seen approximately 1 species of animal (a duck and her two ducklings, none of which were actually animals on exhibit--they were just walking the path) and gotten a few hundred yards. It did not bode well. On and off throughout the next few hours Elden cycled between throwing tantrums, wanting to be carried (by me only, of course), being entertained by some random zoo thing, and just generally being a super cranky tiny human. We were equally exhausted, I was in a ton of pain, and it was just not a fun situation. My fatigue coupled with hormones/frustration/pain resulted in my tears at least a handful of times throughout the day. We finally gave up and went over to the little amusement park ride area they had and let Elden ride the rides--easily the happiest hour or so of our whole time there. After eating lunch we called it a day and left around 1:45 for home. Elden slept for a lot of the trip home with a bit of waking up here and there and being angry.

This is the only picture I took of the entire trip:

When we got home we brought dinner in (too tired to cook) and laid Elden down an hour earlier than normal for bed. Jon and I talked for about an hour and a half because I was emotionally needy after such a draining trip. It did our souls good. It also didn't hurt that we went to bed by 9:30 and Elden slept in until 7:30 the next morning. We were planning on trying to go to the staff reunion at camp in celebration of their 100th birthday one night over Labor Day weekend but now I'm thinking we probably won't because this last trip was the stuff of nightmares.

And some lessons learned:
1. Always take a stroller, even if you just plan on leaving it in the car.
2. Set the bar ridiculously low.
3. If staying overnight somewhere, get the toddler a space with his own room. I think this is why he did so well on our Virginia trip - we weren't there to distract him.
4. Don't go on trips that involve any sort of walking if you are nearing the end of your pregnancy.
5. Don't go on trips ever.
6. Do. Not. Bedshare.
7. If your kid has an ear infection that doesn't seem to be going away in time for the trip, just cancel the freaking trip.

We've been planning and saving for a big beach vacation for the summer of 2016 already and now we have reservations about that (Elden would be nearly 4, the baby would be 1.5). From the beginning of our discussions about this, though, we said we'd get our kids their own room in a shared beach house so that we can avoid some of the issues we had Friday night. Furthermore, the nice thing about a beach vacation is you don't have to plan out ANYTHING. It's a house. If the children are having a bad day or didn't sleep you can just stick to the house and there's no stress of going out. I don't plan on being hugely pregnant for that trip. I'm sure we'll re-evaluate when the time comes, but I will be hopeful (am I letting history repeat itself thrice?) that the next trip will be a good one...


  1. Keep the beach trip. Leo used to be a disaster on trips too, but he's gotten so much better. SO much better!, and you never know what the disposition of your little one will be. But also, hotels = hell boxes with kids. Just... NO.

    1. That makes me feel better. I'm really hoping this kiddo has a more low key temperament like Jon but the acrobatics I'm exposed to make me question that possibility...