* Plus 10 tips for traveling long distances with an infant, toddler, and 2 pre-teenagers. Scroll down to the very bottom to witness a real video road trip experience.
They said, “You’re gonna need a vacation after your vacation.” “Y’all are crazy.” Oh, and I’ve always heard the saying, “Don’t wake a sleeping baby.” Well now I know that goes for toddlers too, and the tone of the vacation was set by doing just that. At 2am, my husband and I woke up, and finished packing the SUV for a 17-hour trip to Florida with the two of us, our 12-year-old daughter and her bestie, & our 2-year-old and 4-month-old sons. We woke up everyone at 3am with energy and excitement for a week-long trip of a lifetime…..and boy was it a trip to remember for a lifetime….especially for this mama! 😳
Since the pandemic, I now realize that I have to learn how to “vacation” all over again. I forgot what it’s like to be out in the world with the rest of society. I have to learn how to be around people all over again without having a major panic attack. I’m not talking about germs and the fear of Covid….just vacationing in general where I’m not in the cozy, comfortable, nook we call home.
So our 2-year-old, Levi, has spent most of his life at home because of the pandemic. He hasn’t been on a road trip longer than a couple hours. Well, he didn’t do so well on the long road trip. He only took one nap on the way, and it was for a whole whopping 3 minutes. Levi kicked, screamed, threw toys, threw his sippy cup, threw fit after fit 90% of the drive. The only time he was slightly satisfied was when I played “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” over and over and over and over again on his iPad. I can’t tell you how many times I would try to say my nightly prayers in the comfort of the hotel bed, and all I could hear ringing in my head was “A told B, and B told C, I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree.”
I’m just going to get to the point of the story. VACATIONING IS BEYOND DIFFICULT AND EXHAUSTING FOR MAMAS! Don’t get me wrong, I did have blessed moments of fun, but they only lasted in spurts. Most of my fun was when I was actually able to watch the kids have fun, which of course made my heart very happy! The weight on a mom’s shoulders is super heavy, especially when you have a breastfeeding infant and a toddler that is way off of his normal schedule. Our 2 pre-teenagers were my saving grace many times, so I am extremely thankful for them. Also, thank goodness for my husband, they were able to have the time of their lives! I, however, was stuck in the hotel room most of the time struggling to get the babies to nap, and me trying to breathe instead of cry. Oh, and thank goodness for my sister who answered every time I needed one of her talks to calm me down. My tears weren’t because of missing out on my own fun of vacationing….my tears were because I was so overwhelmed with the 2 littles, that I was missing out on watching them make memories. The girls and I were laughing at how crazy some of the trip was, and they helped me make a list. If you are a mom, then you know that we are the ones that worry most about the kids. God gave me the gift of empathy, but sometimes it’s so debilitatingly strong, that I physically feel others’ situations and feelings as if they were my own….especially when it’s with the kiddos. So if someone is hurt or sick, my body feels that too. Hence, the weight of being mommy, is overwhelmingly heavy at times. This list may help you understand why this mama needs a vacation from the vacation.
⁃ Levi would not nap in the car and was running on 16 hours straight of no sleep.
⁃ Cam’s friend was car sick and not feeling well the first night at the hotel.
⁃ Levi was running into the girl’s room, screaming, taking their fidgets and throwing them everywhere.
⁃ Gibson, our 4-month-old, was super constipated the whole drive.
⁃ Gibson then decided on the last hour of the long drive to have a complete blowout all over everything.
⁃ Levi, for some reason, didn’t want his diaper changed on the road trip. We stopped at Zacksbys for lunch and I changed his diaper in the car. He was kicking and screaming. I couldn’t get the diaper on him. Finally wrangled it around him and the darn sticky tab ripped off and I had to start all over again. I literally threw the diaper across the parking lot.
⁃ Every time we stopped for food, they always messed it up, but only my food of course. Either that, or they completely forgot to include it. I mean, every single time.
⁃ The beach day was so beautiful, but by the time I got Gibson fed and sunscreened up, made the long walk to meet everyone at our umbrellas, I basically had to turn right around because Levi was crazy tired and fussy. The pictures I posted at the beach were basically the only few minutes I was actually out there. The rest of the time, Dad was the one who took the pics.
⁃ When we got to Orlando, we settled into the nicest 3-bedroom suite. I specifically chose this resort because of the full kitchen and washer/dryer in the room. After doing our nasty beach laundry, the dryer conveniently broke. A technician came out and said they couldn’t fix it so he would try to have it replaced. Waiting a night then full day to find out the only option was to move rooms completely. Well when you have 7 people, with everything finally organized into drawers and bedrooms, fully stocked groceries from Instacart, kids area set up with pack n play and toys, there is NOT an option to easily move rooms. They offered to have housekeeping dry the wet clothes. I accepted the offer, but when they delivered them back to us, the clothes were just thrown in bags and only HALF dry.
⁃ Next up on the itinerary was Disney World. We got up super early, but Levi STILL hadn’t really slept. A cranky toddler to start the day isn’t what I would call a good beginning. We got to Disney World and headed to eat breakfast. Levi then decided to throw his body across the dirty ground and he had powdered sugar from head to toe, literally.
⁃ There wasn’t very much shade, so now Gibson is hot, over it, and super fussy. Now I’m sweating profusely and have to breastfeed my infant while running after my toddler. Dad got him “under control,” and I just sat down with tears running down my face. I was ready to leave that minute.
⁃ I sucked it up and managed to get both littles calm in the stroller so the rest of the crew could ride a rollercoaster. Dad did the Dumbo ride with Levi, and then we hightailed it out of there to leave the littles with me at the hotel. Everyone else went back to Disney World to enjoy the day, while I handled up on the crazy.
⁃ The 2nd Disney day, Dad stayed back at the hotel with the boys so I could have a girls morning. That was seriously so much fun! I got to relax for a bit and enjoy girl time. But I couldn’t be there very long because of my breastfeeding body needing to release. There was one ride we HAD to go on…..the Avatar ride. We waited in line about an hour, did the “ride,” and then realized we were on the WRONG Avatar ride. Omg. However, I was committed, so we waited in the 80 minute line for the RIGHT Avatar ride. It was so worth it, even my overly engorged boobs…..or so I thought.
⁃ I get back to the hotel and Gibson was fussy, so I fed him, and Dad left to go back to Disney with the older kids. Apparently I was so engorged and full that Gibson had way too much milk. From the kitchen I hear him choking and I leaped across the room to what was basically a waterfall of vomit gushing out of his mouth. He was choking and it coming out of his nose and was all over his entire face and body, in his hair and ears. I was prepared to do CPR, but thankfully he coughed it all up. That’s when the true mama crazy tears came down. Thank the Lord he was ok!
⁃ That night was our one night to dress up and go to a fancy restaurant. Everyone looked great and the kids were all having a pretty good evening! This was going to be a good one! It definitely was, until the fancy blue shark drink I ordered to treat the girls turned into a scene from Jaws. There was a Swedish fish gummy in the bottom of the drink that Cam bit down on. That little fish ripped one of her molars half out, hanging by a thread. She was hysterically crying. We went to the bathroom to clean up the blood and try to pull it out. She wouldn’t and couldn’t do it, so we sat back down and she watched everyone else eat, but couldn’t eat because of her tooth. That seriously broke my heart. A few seconds later, Chris stood up and knocked my one glass of Pinot Noir over onto the table. The wine was gone, and I was beyond ready to go.
⁃ The next morning was the dolphin swim with the girls. This was another moment that was supposed to be relaxing, with regard to the timing of having to be back to breastfeed before becoming too engorged. We got there early, but our time was somehow changed to later in the day. I asked if there was any way to get the earlier time slot. She checked in her system and there was nothing at all available. So basically we were going to have to miss it and go back to the hotel. I explained the situation and of course I couldn’t hold back tears, as much as I tried to. She was so sweet and left to get the manager to see if there were any options. Another mom volunteered to switch time slots and explained how much she understood my situation. She had also been there before. What a blessing she was, along with the employees that made it happen! (When I said earlier that there were blessed moments for me in this vacation, this was a huge one!)
I know there are plenty more to add to the list, but I would like to leave it on that positive note.
I am typing this right now as we are on the 17-hour road trip back home. I have already heard “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” at least 30 times and “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy” at least 10,000 times. Levi keeps complaining about how his car seat is hurting him, so I’ve broken my back to turn around and adjust it over and over. There is powdered sugar from his donuts smashed all over the car seat. Gibson is now starting to fuss and get antsy, even though we just stopped and I nursed him less than 20 minutes ago. The pre-teenagers are having fun in the backseat, so that’s good. Dad is comfortably driving, able to tune out all the crazy. Oh great, now Levi is throwing his toys back at the girls again and Gibson is now full out having a meltdown. Only 14 hours to go.
So back to the title of this blog post, “A Mom’s TRUTH behind the “perfect” picture moments she posted on Facebook.” Well, I guess this was my confession. While the pictures were beautiful memories, there were so many CRAZY moments behind the scenes that nobody really talks about, and definitely doesn’t post pics of. Now, I don’t regret this vacation whatsoever, because “seeing,” or shall I say just “knowing,” the kids had a blast was worth every tear!! Would I ever do it all over again? 100% yes, without a doubt….as long as the kids are potty-trained and can put on their own sunscreen! But mamas of multiple children, I now truly feel you! When it was just Cam, my oldest, it was easy peasy. You add a couple babies to the equation, and WOW….just wow….especially when they are both in diapers! This experience has definitely given me plenty of knowledge to make a list of travel tips for those brave enough to travel, and I’ve shared them below.
10 tips for traveling long distances with an infant, toddler, and 2 pre-teenagers):
1. Bring plenty of Dramamine and Pepto.
2. Bring a long enough cord to keep the iPad charged the entire trip.
3. Whatever you pack for yourself to dress up in, (ie, different shoes, dresses, accessories, etc), cut that down to at least 1/4 of what you wanted to take. You will never get the opportunity to get ready for anything, especially not to dress up.
4. Pack trash bags, ziplock bags, and grocery sacks in every suitcase, purse, bag, cubby hole, and nook.
5. Pack baby wipes, Lysol wipes, and paper towels in every suitcase, purse, bag, cubby hole, and nook.
6. Set realistic expectations when you are planning your itinerary. The expectations are to never expect the itinerary to go as planned, because it is basically impossible.
7. Phone a friend or family member as often as you can to help you regroup, instead of spiraling into a psycho.
8. Ear plugs are a good idea….a really, really good idea.
9. Bribe the older kids as often as you can to help with the littles.
10. Anything over a 6-hour drive, fly. The faster you get there, the better. Actually, I just got anxious thinking about flying with an infant and a toddler. Don’t fly. If I were you, don’t fly or drive. Don’t go at all. We have 7 hours left of a 17-hour drive, and I would really recommend staying home.