Here’s the conundrum of having little ones: You really need
a vacation, but if you actually manage to take one, you come back even more
exhausted than before. It's because traveling with a toddler or little kid in tow is
tough. (Babies and big kids are a cinch, so cash in on the airlines offering
free rides until age 2 and, while you have to pay for the tickets for those over 5,
the iPad does all the work for you.) But once kids hit a certain age, it’s
harder to uproot them from the everyday—and harder for you because, let’s face
it, that routine is all about keeping your
life manageable. After all, it’s not the 3-year-old who freaks out over being late
Going anywhere alone with your kids is not my idea of a
getaway—it’s just transporting all the usual child care work to an alternate,
albeit hopefully nicer, location. What makes a vacation is the addition of
other folks around to ease the burden/share the joy of your children. That’s
why a trip to grandma’s is better than a 5-star resort, because even if there is
24-hour concierge service at the latter, I’m still the one stuck sticking the
straws in all the juice boxes or changing the diapers.
When my first child was around a year old we went on a trip
to France, just the three of us. It was wonderful, but there’s no way I’d do it
now. With a 3-year-old and an 18-month-old, that sort of trip (staying in multiple
locations, not knowing anyone, lots of travel time) sounds like a descent into
hell. Instead, I’m doing something I never thought I’d do: camping.
The kids didn’t have to be contained, bathing was optional, we cooked meals communally and nothing but a tent pole got broken.
My husband and I are hardly the rugged types—we care about
thread counts and comfort and have zero survival skills outside of a shopping
mall (I can turn a J.Crew bag into almost anything). We never camped together
before having children, but let’s face it: Now sleeping in the woods isn’t such
a stretch. We hardly ever shower, regularly eat food found between couch cushions and are so sleep deprived we sometimes nap in the car during red lights. Plus,
the last time we stayed in a hotel with the girls, they trashed the room like
rockstars, stole all the chips and nuts from the mini bar and peed in the
heated pool. We checked out just before we were thrown out. Done.
So we went with a bunch of other families on
a weekend camping trip two hours north of where we live, and it was the perfect vacation:
The kids didn’t have to be contained, bathing was optional, we cooked meals communally and nothing but a tent pole got broken. Plus, the girls could pee almost
anywhere they wanted. And because we don’t have high-tech camping gear, our
cell phones and all other electronic distractions died, forcing us to actually
engage with each other and the natural world for an entire weekend.
It’s not like I want to shelve the world travels (India,
please) or nice hotels (Four Seasons, sure), but for the time being it’s easier
to unwind away from civilization (OK, not too far. There was a store, a deli,
a bathroom and a swimming pool nearby) where my wild things can commune with
other wild ones. And the lights go out when the sun does, so we actually get some