Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On Traveling with Toddlers

I'm not sure I even need to write this post. Anyone who has traveled with toddlers will know it all already. And yet if you don't, or if you've forgotten [or more likely blanked it out for sanity's sake], then here goes.

My husband and I decided to take a trip to Newcastle for half-term.
We thought we were being sensible; the demands of his job as vicar mean he doesn't really relax unless he is out of the village. We knew a long trip would be tiring and expensive, so we booked two nights in a hotel in the centre of Newcastle within walking distance of Pizza Express--very important. We had two family rooms, with our older children in one and our younger children and us in the other. We planned to do a family-friendly attraction the next day, either the Life Centre or the Beamish Museum. The following day we would do some shopping, since there aren't many shopping options in West Cumbria.

Doesn't that all sound sensible and good? On paper, yes. In reality... Toddler Girl is in the stage of life where if she is unrestrained she is all over the place. She is running down a busy city street. She is trying to take some stranger's drink from their table at a restaurant. She has no sense of danger, of cars, of strangers, of cracks in the pavement that will send her sprawling. And if she is restrained, sensibly, in a stroller? She is straining at the straps as if we had wrestled her into a straitjacket. She is screaming at the top of her lungs. Unless we give her juice or bananas or, in desperation, lollipops. I brought many lollipops with us to Newcastle. They are all gone.

And then there are the sleeping arrangements. Family rooms at a budget hotel are small. The bathroom was barely big enough to stand up in, and the door was made of barely-frosted glass, with the toilet directly in front of it. Try sitting on the toilet with three people a few feet away, able to watch your every movement, and two of them quite interested in your every movement, as it happens. TMI? That was the nature of the whole trip.

Toddler went to bed at 8pm, at which point the three of us remaining in the room had to be completely silent in the dark. We didn't even breathe loudly. Eventually I gave up reading my Kindle and went to bed around 9pm. And then in the middle of the night... Toddler Girl's every movement had me tensing in bed, wide-eyed and awake. At 3am she, in her sleep, shouted 'MOM!' several times. I jumped out of bed, wild-eyed, my heart pounding. At 4am I thought it was morning until I checked the time and realised I had two or three more hours of this unbearable is-she-about-to-wake-up tension. Finally she did wake up, and then the chasing her around city streets began. At 1pm we called it a day and I took her home.

The upside to all this is that I appreciate the comforts of home so much more. I closed the door to our house and watched Toddler Girl toddle off with a huge sigh of relief. I didn't have to chase her! There were no zooming cars or menacing strangers to worry about. We have unlimited Peppa Pig. She slept in a separate room. And our village is so quiet and peaceful and clean. [Despite the troubles with dog poo, which is another post entirely.] While we walked around the centre of Newcastle trash blew into our toddler's face. Drunks staggered from doorways when we walked home from dinner. Not exactly what you're looking for in a holiday getaway.

So we have decided no more city breaks with children until the youngest child is at least 3, maybe 4. I haven't even got into the other stress of our trip, which is having a 16-year-old and a 1-year-old on the same holiday is a recipe for someone to be unhappy, probably several someones. It is impossible to please the kind of age range we have in our family right now. And the attractions we had chosen were so expensive we would have spent upward of £100 to get everyone in. So no more holidays, ever! That's what I'm thinking right now, although of course we are all home today and everyone is complaining about being bored. You just can't win sometimes.

1 comment:

  1. Two of my husband's favorite sayings are Everybody is Trying to Rip You Off, and You Can't Win. But really, he's not a pessimist....well, most of the time he's not. I enjoyed your post. I recently went on a "relaxing" trip to the mountains for 4 days with my husband, just to get away since like your husband, the only way he can rest is if he's out of town. We had an okay time, but decided that we would have enjoyed ourselves more if we'd stayed close to home because there's something to be said for sleeping in your own bed with the normal anxieties of home. time we'll stay closer to home and try a few day trips. I utter your words: "You just can't win sometimes."