First vacation in two years. Second vacation in four years. The math doesn’t seem right, but with a pandemic and starting a family, it sadly adds up.
Last week, my husband, mother-in-law, two-year-old daughter and seven-month-old daughter drove to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. At some point during the combined 24 hours round trip, I began mentally comparing traveling in your twenties to thirties. Adding two little ones to the picture sure makes for a big adjustment for every aspect of vacation.
Oh, how I long for the days of one packed suitcase and purse for a trip. Preparing for a family of four trip took one giant, never-ending packing list and borrowing my father-in-law’s car. Portable crib, two highchairs, bath seat, umbrella, enough beach toys for a family of 10, five backpacks, clothes for all types of weather were packed in every available spot. Anyone watching us unpack would wonder, “Are they moving in here?”
In my twenties, a long drive might require at most two, quick pit stops. On the drive to Hilton Head, our first pit stop took over an hour, and we were only two hours into the drive.
Another stop, we were at a Burger King for so long, I had to use the bathroom twice myself, plus a bonus trip helping my toddler. One blowout diaper later and toddler tears over a chocolate milk spill followed with two wardrobe changes, and my husband summed the stop up perfectly. “A little piece of me died at exit 173.” Throw in the gas shortage a few days prior to our return trip, and yes, there were several stops.
Sometimes when I’m having trouble falling asleep, I picture the best summer of my life, when I lived in Ocean City. In my free time, I’d often go to the beach alone. I’d grab a tiny blue beach chair, towel, sunscreen, book and water, then say, “Ready!” I’d go for hour-long walks by the water’s edge and listen to whatever recent Beyoncé, Rihanna or Justin Timberlake songs had just released. At lunchtime, I’d drive to Wawa. I can almost taste my chicken salad sandwich, Doritos, sour watermelons and Dr. Pepper that I’d devour.
Going to the beach looks extremely different a decade later. Walks include either a baby in a carrier on my chest or a toddler in my arms. Lord help us with the number of bags we need even for a few hours at the beach. Plus, getting everyone sunscreened and dressed is nothing short of an Olympic sport.
Meals look different too. We brought bagels to the beach one morning. My toddler couldn’t get playing soon enough in the sand, which resulted in my bagel having an extra seasoning besides salt. Sand. My bagel was covered in sand. The perfect metaphor for the day because it wasn’t long before my daughters and I were also covered in sand too.
Despite the chaos, I’m still pinching myself that I was able to take a vacation after all the craziness from the pandemic. However, I’m only human and am already daydreaming about my next kid-free trip and praying it’s sooner, rather than later.