Vacation struggles with toddlers

I thought of writing about vacations, and how we spend them and whom we spend it with, after a post from one of my friends on FaceBook. Traveling with children is the ultimate challenge (I think there should be an episode of Amazing Race where there are toddlers with the couple. That would be a lot of fun).

It read:

How to make traveling with a toddler easier:

Step 1: Leave your toddler home


So here’s a scenario when going on vacation, especially with children in tow:

  1. Going on vacation is best enjoyed when one is on an authentic break. Strictly speaking, a vacation or holiday, is a leave of absence from the regular routinary activities. It is for recreation, relaxation, recharging, refocusing, and yes, even for tourism. Basically, we need to enjoy and cherish that “moment” guiltlessly. So what’s the use of going on a break with a toddler in tow if all you’ll be doing is taking care of the toddler and not enjoying the sights, sounds, and the other recreational activities of that vacation? Do you even remember where your parents took you to when you were 2 years old? So here’s the deal – leave the toddler behind and go on that trip you’ve been planning after your delivery! You deserve it. And you shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving orphan Annie behind. As long as you have family that you know will take good care of her (or him) when you’re enjoying your margarita in a beach somewhere in Bali…GO!!!! You need that break!
  2. I have parents that relentlessly ask how to “sedate” their children on the flight. There’s the good old diphenhydramine. In the majority, it does the trick. Then again, because of either the excitement or fear of the new environment, the child may not respond to the sedating and anti-anxiety effect. So you’re on a plane, in economy class, pushing back from the tarmac holding two kids on your lap, on your way to New York from Manila. One of then starts bawling as the engines are revving up and the other starts kicking on your lap and holding his ears when you start to ascend. Your nightmare has just begun because you’ve just taken off and you have another 16-18 hours on this flight. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that some of them start throwing up all over you and the floor and aren’t even toilet trained yet at that age. Your other child wants to go to the toilet but breakfast is being served and you’re a million miles away from the toilet (because they put the parents traveling with children at the bulkhead) and the meal cart has just passed them when your son suddenly feels the urge to take a leak. The toilet for economy class is all the way to the tail end of the plane! Then leak he does – all over the floor! And you’re only 1 1/2 hours in the air. As you drag your child to the toilet, turbulence ensues and you’re asked by the pilot and the crew to get back to your seats. The kids start crying and screaming. You’re holding on to the kids, the tray of food at your seats, and the seatbelt sign doesn’t go off until an hour later. Fifteen hours to go…welcome to hell! Where the hell is that rivotril?!?!
  3. Finally, you get to your destination. You get off the plane looking like part of the baggages that are being thrown around. Vomit on your shirt, shit on your pants, milk in you socks! And you smell like turd as well. But it’s fine. You made it this far…you’ll make it anywhere…or so you thought! And the immigration officer isn’t really too happy with how guys look like coming off a plane looking like you and your kids were came from a war in Afghanistan. So he asks a million questions on why you’re here, how long you’re staying, what are your means for staying, who are these two runts joining you, why are you staying for 3 weeks, how will you handle the children, how many baggages did you bring, do you have work, what do you guys do, do you have relatives…and so on and so forth…while one of the kids is dead asleep in your arms the other toddler is just unsteady at his place….AND YOU REALLY NEED TO TAKE A LEAK!!!
  4. The immigration officer finally lets you and your family go through. You rush to the toilet and have the family wait for the baggages. All the baggages on the flight are now out. It’s just you, the kids and the wifey that are left standing on the carousel belt. You have 3 of the 4 luggages you brought with you. The baggage that’s missing are the kids!!! Their meds, the milk, other bottles (I don’t know why they’re still bottle feeding, but yeah…it’s typical for Filipino kids to still bottle feed till they’re 7 years old!). Day 1 doesn’t seem to be coming together. It’s going to be a stressfully long vacation…and your wife looks at you and tells you that you should have just stuck to plan number 1! Leave the toddlers behind…
  5. As you settle in to your BnB apartment, your 2 year old has a temperature of 40 C. And you’re quick to your fingers on your mobile phone calling your paediatrician at 4AM (in Manila) panicking on what to do. I get patients like that. Worst is that some of the parents come to my clinic a few days before they’re leaving with the toddler having a very bad cold and slight fever. I tell them that if he or she is still sick on the day of departure, they need to stay behind or cancel the trip. You should see how the parents look at each other then GLARE at me imagining how evil my suggestion is! Give us an antibiotic but we will need to leave. The tickets have been paid (bought at a vacation madness sale). The accommodations are all settled as well (no refund clause checked!!!). The visa is a one time entry good for 30 days!!! THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!! GIVE MY CHILD PARACETAMOL AND IBUPROFEN ROUND THE CLOCK!!! WE ARE GETTING ON THAT PLANE TOMORROW!!!

I have very little memory of my days as a toddler. I can’t even recall where my parents took me when we I was 3 years old. My mom would usually tell me when we’re on a trip somewhere, this is where we first had that delicious barbecue that people rave about. And I shoot back and say, really? Like that was three decades ago!!! I don’t even remember that we had barbecue or the view of the place. All I see is SM to the left and Ayala Mall to the right!

I get it when we want to go on vacation with the whole family in tow. I think it’s a fair advice that when we go on vacation somewhere near (like a local road trip), it’s okay to bring the whole clan along. It’s a different story when you’re leaving on a jet plane to a far off destination. The farther the trip, the more you need to leave the younger kids behind.

As a general rule: kids who are not bottle feeding and can eat on their own, have a sense of responsibility and appropriate behaviour, and do not need too much care and attention on hygiene and health are ready to travel with you on your family vacations. If you have no one to leave the children behind, plan a small local vacation. Never base your family vacation on an airline sale! All advertisements are enticing. But that’s the marketing arm taking hard earned savings!

While it is the company that matters, you need to make it as enjoyable as possible for EVERYONE! So don’t believe all that bull crap on bonding and memorable moments with all the kids in tow or that Dr Seuss “valuing the moment until it becomes a memory” one liner. They’re not the ones bringing and taking care of the toddlers with them in that next vacation to never never land! (Unless you have extra cash or extremely wealthy, you can take the au pair with you on the travel!)

You need to tailor-fit each vacation for the place and the people traveling there. I don’t think your 2 year old would actually want to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre! Or that you and your wife would fancy another tiring 3 days meeting and greeting Mickey and Donald.

There will always be a time when all plans will fall into place and make that dream journey a truly memorable one.

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