When I was younger (by a year or two), I would’ve claimed that I never ever wanted to stay at a resort. That I loved Airbnb so much more than hotels. That traveling domestically didn’t count as a vacation. That if I didn’t board a plane, what was the point?
Well, a) I was being an idiot, and b) I wasn’t being honest with myself. Because eight years ago, when I traveled to a resort in Cancun with Ben, my then-boyfriend (now husband) and future in-laws, I discovered the true meaning of a vacation. Reclining in the sun with my toes nestled in the sand. Sipping frothy alcoholic beverages. Being asked multiple times an hour if I had everything I needed. Feeling exhausted from my continuous naps. And finding a note on my monstrous bed that affirmed my feeling that, “Even doing nothing is doing something.”
But for some reason, Ben and I continued to take these insane, patchwork trips to places like Romania, where we missed train stops and roamed highways on foot, and the Spanish Pyrenees, where Ben drove along a winding road on the side of a mountain for hours in the dark while I fell into a self-preservation slumber, and Philadelphia, where we booked an Airbnb in the neighborhood that the New York Times dubbed “the Walmart of Heroin.” Oops.
Well, traveling with a toddler has forced us to rethink what I say I like (Adventure! Roughing it! Figuring things out!) and discover what I really crave (Comfort! No logistics! Relaxation!). Because having a kid has meant that my time is spent less on introspection and more on filling everyday needs and demands. Which has meant that I sometimes stop trying to be someone I wish I was — and instead embrace the traveler I really am.
I Love Hotels
Airbnbs are awesome when traveling with a toddler for so many reasons. You can get more room for your money. You can spread out, scatter toys all over the place, and make yourself at home. You can stock the fridge with all of your toddler’s snacks and enjoy multiple-course breakfasts. You may even have a separate bedroom from your kid. But let’s get real — hotels are amazing! You can leave your room a mess and when you return, it’s clean and stocked with all new towels! There’s a concierge to answer every last one of your inane questions, and to sell you discounted tickets to local sites, give you extra coffee pods every single day, and offer kid-friendly travel tips. And hotels are even better when they have a restaurant and pool, too! Sure, we’re all in one room and our Little One goes to sleep much, much later than he should. But honestly, that would probably happen in a five-room Airbnb, too. We’re lazy like that.
I Despise (Over) Packing
With kids comes stuff — so much stuff. And even if I’m willing to wear the same jeans every day, I can’t ask the same of my kid. Plus, their stuff gets really dirty. So, while Ben and I each take 25% of the space in our suitcase, our Little One gets half. Plus, there’s the stroller and car seat. And toys. And carry-on bag devoted to food. And if your kid has food allergies or very specific food tastes, you’ll probably carry a bunch of other items just in case. Like, vanilla almond milk. And peanut butter and jelly. And challah rolls. Anyway, lugging all of this stuff has shown me once again how much I hate packing and how much I hate overpacking. But at least now I’ve resigned myself to using an extra-large suitcase with delightfully smooth wheels, instead of lugging a terribly packed (but super cool) North Face on my back.
I Hate Being in a Car, but Love Having One at My Disposal
We live in Manhattan and don’t plan to own a car. Though getting in a car to go anywhere is normal for many, many people, it feels so exhausting to us. There’s so much process — getting into the car, driving, sitting in traffic, parking, getting out of the car… and I’m not even the one driving! Yet, I still enjoy having a car around when we travel because it means that we can pop the car seat in the car, leave it there for the duration of our trip, and then easily get from point A to point B without cobbling together multiple modes of transportation. Ah, the paradox!
I Live for Long Walks with Coffee
My favorite thing to do while traveling has always been to take long walks while drinking coffee, preferably with someone I love. And I continue to savor this past time — even when I’m not traveling. Our Little One falls asleep on these naps, and as long as we continue walking, he often stays asleep. Which means that while he peacefully dreams, Ben and I are able to chat or have heart-to-hearts or even enjoy an impromptu date — as we did at a kid’s amusement park last week when our timing was off and our Little One fell asleep as soon as we arrived. But then we went all out — drinking hot chocolate and eating chocolate chip cookies and a grilled cheese sandwich — in that order. It was decadent and also slightly odd.
I Adore Vacations in All Shapes and Sizes Wherever They May Be
Sometimes I can’t believe that I gave birth to a child — and yet I don’t get to spend every waking hour with him. I find a lot of meaning in my day-to-day work, but I also can’t wait for our precious time together. Sundays are weekly vacations I never appreciated until having a child. Three-day weekends are gifts from God. Vacations anywhere — not just to international, far-flung locations, are sublime. Which is why we spent Labor Day Weekend in the Catskills and Thanksgiving weekend in Plymouth. I love getting away from our daily distractions and exploring new surroundings together.
Kitsch Speaks to Me
When did I start to love cheesiness non-ironically? Perhaps I always did, but I just pretended otherwise. When I recently found a hotel in Plymouth that boasted a Pilgrim-themed pool, complete with a waterslide protruding from a Mayflower Ship and a Plymouth Rock hot tub, my heart nearly skipped a beat. It was perfect, as was the Dickensian Christmas village in a local amusement park and the Merry Christmas sign floating on the water, luminescent in hundreds of multicolored lights. Does this mean that Disney World is next on our list? Honestly, I’d be up for it.
Traveling with a toddler has shown me that what I really want out of my travels is relaxation, fun, and minimal logistics. All in all, I want my kid to be happy because when he’s having a good time, we’re having a good time. And, if we get to explore and have mini (non-stressful) adventures along the way, that’s awesome too!