Vacation can be a giant pain in the ass when kids are involved. Shit can hit the fan super quick with tons of time and money being wasted, kids getting fussy and tired, with only a limited amount of time to spend until you're back at life's 9 to 5 haul saving up for the next nightmare Christmas. (fuck)
9. Plan Ahead
Now this one may seem like a no brainer, but planning your day ahead of time will save you the stress of pissed off kids, wasted time and arguing about what to do in an instants notice. Now don't get me wrong, I still like to live by the impulsive punk rock lifestyle but when you're new to a city with a family of 5 without a clue in the fuck-world where things are, a nice tourist fanny pack itinerary is the way to go.
A. You'll waste time winging it:
If you're new to a city/vacation spot and aren't 100% sure on what you're going to do you'll end up wasting more time on Pinterest "Family things to do in (insert city here)" than get the full experience out of planning ahead of time.
Talking to friends that have been there before, your Uber/Lyft driver or even doing that Pinterest search the day before hand will save a shit load of time, especially with cranky impatient kids.
B. You'll piss off your family:
If you end up winging it and not everyone is on the same page that same day, you're going to end up pissing someone off. At least if you have the day planned out in advance and you let everyone know what's going on you might not all agree on what's going on, but you won't waste time arguing about what to do half the day leading back to point A.
8. Hotel Accommodations
This one might sound shallow, but it will segway perfect into my next super tip and will help your ass in the long run.
The hotel you pick can make or break you, financially and mentally so be cautious, first time vacationers heed my warning, book ahead of time like your flights, and make sure your hotel is within a good radius of what you want to do.
The time of season, area, and amount of tourist attractions in the area can fluctuate and determine the price of the hotel you're looking at.
What do I look for in a hotel to keep the family happy? Thought you'd never ask. In all of the hotels we look for a few simple things:
A coffee pot
And a fridge
On our vacation to Los Angeles we had a condo which had all of the amenities and then some.
Why all of that nonsense you ask? Downtime.
75% of the time you will be out and about but that other 25% of the time you will be sleeping and kicking back in your hotel.
I love free shit. So a hotel with a free breakfast every morning or food voucher is awesome. Also free cable and wi-fi is one of the biggest musts for me, ya know, gotta keep the social media thing going. During that down time you can rot your kid's brain during the wee hours of the night so you can regroup for the following day's fiasco.
An indoor or outdoor pool is always a cool feature, it allows for a sweet cost effective day or hours in the water while not getting sucked into the crazy money black fucking hole the sometimes ends up being.
7. Buy Your Own Food
Blue Skadoo-ing into this next one is buying your own food and further more cooking it AT THE . (If it has a microwave/stove whatnot.)
Now I know what you're thinking "I didn't go on vacation to go fucking grocery shopping."
But here's two reasons why it's an excellent idea.
A. Cost Effective
Think of it this way, every time you eat out, you have to pay, for you and the entire family, which is costly even if you're eating at the local fast food(s) Fat Donald's, Taco Smell, or E-coli Park.
OR you're looking at bill of like $70-$80 for the local shacks in the city/boardwalk with mom and pop prices.
OR then if you wanna get fancy, well fuck it...$200 is low end if you're in the city which could've easily been contributed towards something useful to do other than stuff your face with.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm a total foodie as much as any guy, but for a 4-7 day long vacation with 3-5 meals a day (trust me it's fucking 5 meals with a kid) things are going to add up quick.
B. Picky Eater(s)
If you hit the lotto like I did and landed a kid that's a super picky fucking eater, who's diet is mostly that of a college stoner (IE: pizza, mac n cheese, ramen, ice cream) because everything else is "poopie eww dad/mom, that looks disgusting". As well as Mrs. Pop-Pink who refuses to dabble in the tiniest bit of something that I say tastes good because well, I'll eat anything honestly.
Then you probably look at a sit down restaurant like it's a horrible car crash and dread the thought of even walking in the damn building knowing the expectation of a crying, screaming kid because the SPECIFIC texture of mac and cheese that they have isn't like the one in the can, the pizza doesn't have the "big pepperoni on it", french fries aren't like Burger King's and my personal favorite "where's my milkshake?/ what's taking so long" literally 10 seconds after the waitress leaves the table.
To cut all of that bullshit in half, JUST GO SHOPPING. Trust me even if you don't have a stove, you will be a gourmet chef with a microwave by day 3 on vacation. And guess what, you won't feel guilty even if you DO go to that restaurant, because your kid will be full and you will get to eat your meal while they sit there quietly...(yeah fucking right, bring the iPad or DS.)
Believe it or not, with kids this these modern day side hustle cabs are life savers for many reasons. I stumbled across it by accident due to a fuck up on both my and the rental car's end. If you're not fortunate enough to have these in your vacation destination, I suppose a cab is the way to go. But I highly recommend it none the less.
With a cranky kid who only knows how to want - need - now. Uber/Lyft helped out a hell of a lot on vacation. Imagine not knowing where the hell you are in the city, navigating 8 lanes of traffic on your own with a 10 car pile up a mile a head, a half hour left to Disneyland and your kid in the back screaming in the back for Queen Elsa and Mickey Mouse. Then the GPS reroutes you to a new "easier" way, 45 minutes through downtown that is completely ass backwards from anywhere that you're actually going. Now you're kid is frustrated, everyone has to pee, and the 405 and/or 101 a is nightmare getting off of when you're trapped in the middle of a merging lane of congestive morning rush hour traffic.
Now to simplify things, call an Uber, the gas and time you would've used navigating the labyrinth of a city that you've never been to is saved by the drivers ability to know all of the ins and outs of the town, the frustration alone by the speed of getting to and from efficiently, and the $20-$40 in parking/ toll you were going to run into you now save or reciprocate with a $17.00 Uber driver with a $6-$8 tip, pending how cool the driver is.
This may seem to be one that goes over people's heads, however, with all of shit going on in the news you want to fly safe and if you're a shop savvy person like myself, you want to get tickets and flight deals early when you can.
The whole "looking for a ticket on a Tuesday at 3pm while the lunar eclipse is full while you have your rare peruvian crystal at full manna" isn't going to get you any cheaper of a fucking ticket if you just simply know where to look.
Personally, I'm not going to lure you, but we flew Southwest, and will probably stick with it. Other airlines have too many policies, and too much shit with checked bags and whatnot.
Southwest is this.
You get TWO checked bags (that's your luggage n00b) FREE...EACH. Anything 50lbs and under. Trust me, our biggest bag was taller than our daughter and it only weighed 30lbs.
Then you get one carry-on FREE...EACH. That meets the standard TSA carry-on requirements which doesn't include purses, a blanket, pillow or hoodies.
Most airlines charge you to check your bags, some charge BY POUND. Insane.
Why is this such a big deal? Well when you're dealing with other airlines, they're charging you out the ass to fly.
While paying for your ticket can get pricey, which if you're not landing the right time of the year or wait too long, it will get pricey. You can catch tickets 2 weeks to 3 months in advance round trip on SW for $120 per person. Compared to other airlines for the same flight, time, place, for $374, not to mention you have to
Also, you can get roped into the "deal" of finding an airline like (insert here) that's tickets start at just $80. But they have what is called a "bare fare" which is just you and your seat. Which is great if you have nothing. But if you're a family of 5 for a week vacation forget it. They also charge your bag, each bag, and your carry-on, by weight. So plan on traveling light or not bringing back souvenirs.
4. Occupy Time
There's going to be a whole lot of dead time between point A and B. In such time you may find your little bundle of cranky shit to be, well, cranky. I suggest something to occupy the long rides. Plane, car, train, bus, because I can promise you no matter how "awesome super duper cool" you think vacation will seem to them. They won't care after the first 9 family photos and 5 minutes in the car.
Many talks of "I miss my video games/ YouTube" and the obnoxious "are we there yet" will not subside unless there is something to hold their attention.
If you plan to bring hand held video game
consoles, tablets, anything that runs off of electricity, be attentive to battery life where games are left for handheld consoles.
We brought power bricks for our phones and Ava's Nintendo DS and charged them full every night in the hotel as well as the system and phones themselves.
The rule with the DS was, she wasn't allowed to play it unless we were in a moving vehicle or stationary for at least an hour with the exception of a theme park line.
3. Take The Necessities (Pack Smart
Now Mrs. Pop-Pink Mom didn't get the fucking memo on this one and packed for about 3 months instead of a 1 week vacation. Which involved having "options" for outfits each day delaying the process of actually getting out and doing shit.
The other major issue is that kid of ours flat out didn't care what the hell she wore, she just wanted to leave the hotel, just like me.
The TSA were nice about our things and things went smooth, except the baggage handlers weren't so friendly and apparently have an underground Fight Club where they toss all of your packed shit around. Our toiletries burst inside of our checked baggage but nothing else seemed too rummaged through, lucky for those ziplock baggies.
As the week progressed the fashion "options" turned into comfort and the 7 pairs of shoes turned into 1 pair of memory foam flip flops after 1 day of hard walking in Hollywood and Santa Monica.
Packing smart also means leaving enough room for things like souvenirs and sandy, beach trunks and towels in which we purchased an empty beach bag, brought it with us, and lined the beach bag with plastic grocery bags, then filled it with our wet beach stuff all for the plane ride back.
2. Dress comfortable
One of the worst things while in the midst of doing tourist shit is to walk around theme parks or along boardwalks all day and then all of a sudden hear the sudden whimper of a 50lb sack of toddler crying about their feet that you're now forced to heave over you're shoulder like a lifeless carnival stuffed toy all the while balancing the other 9 souvenirs you had to buy, prizes you've won, beach gear and so on.
Not to mention that if you're a conservative driver and you Lyft or Uber there's no dropping things off at the car, you're in it for the long haul or at most hopefully finding a place that has a locker to rent, bucking and storing your shit for the day.
One of the biggest issues we recently ran into was that our daughter wasn't used to walking long distances, miles at a stretch without stopping all day. So her feet got thrashed quickly. We packed her normal shoes from home, mom of course overpacked 7 pairs, but nonetheless they all wouldn't have helped anyways since they weren't memory foam or anything like that. The first thing that we had to do when we landed was run off and purchase not only AvaLynn, but mom and myself shoes as well.
Trust me without good footwear your entire day is a constant deadlift of tired, cranky child, combined with fed up, pissed off parent who wants to salvage the day but instead is forced to drag around the child who refuses to stand in line, walk to anything or comprehend the idea that you already have your hands full with the 300 items of toys and souvenirs that you already bought.
1. Just Say No
From the airport in PIT to LAX. The car ride all the way to Michigan. The car ride all the way to Erie, were all non-stop little fingers that pointed out and grabbed for any fun filled expensive souvenir, toy or treat followed by "can I have that." Or "buy this for me". If you don't put your foot down quickly or have a bottomless wallet to spend you'll realize that your fun In the sun will be cut short by the stupid little knick knacks that lure you in. That $9.00 "My Little Pony" keychain with the name of the beach on it or the "discount" t-shirt for $30.00 that says the name of the state that you're in is so cute on your social snap feed until you realize that you're down $50.00, it's Day 1 and you haven't even paid for the theme parks, beach, food rental car or even left the airport yet.
Trust me, each vacation and family is different in their own fucked up way. Being unprepared for a cranky toddler on vacation can be hell, just be prepared because I wasn't and damn it my head hurts thinking about it.
Hope the tips helped, if you have any other tips you'd like to share comment below.
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(The Pop-Punk Family in Hollywood)