The one about holidays.
Am I ever going to relax ever again?
This past weekend, we flew up to Byron Bay for a friend’s wedding. I’ve been looking forward to it for months – one, because who doesn’t love any excuse to frock up and celebrate love, and two, because since going back to work, we haven’t had a single holiday (not counting Christmas break with the in-laws visiting, just 3 weeks after moving into our new apartment).
A recent at-home long weekend demonstrated to us how relaxing 4-days off could be, so I had high hopes for our short trip to the beach, where I’d obviously look glamorous and come home feeling rested for the final run-up to Christmas. Unsurprisingly, the tiny dictator had other ideas.
What I’d failed to realise is that toddlers are demanding and require immense infrastructure. Of course, I did *know* this, but it wasn’t until I’d stepped out of our carefully crafted ecosystem that I realised how completely he runs our life. I’d prepared for the plane trip adequately: 10 episodes of Play School at the ready on the iPad. He’s not usually allowed to watch videos outside of the house, so it was great enough to keep him occupied and still. Then, we picked up our car and he napped in the seat until we checked into the hotel. And from there, shit unravelled.
After 3 hours of exploring, playground, walking, fighting, sighing, chasing and yelling, I was done. No shoes or hats were to be tolerated, and then the conciliatory banana smoothie we purchased ended up being worn, so we had to make an emergency clothing purchase, because in the huff of leaving the hotel room in search of food, we’d forgotten a change of clothes.
Thankfully, as co-sleepers, we didn’t have to really worry about the evening’s arrangements, as we knew he’d be pretty happy sleeping wherever we were.
The next morning, with wedding approaching, we made a game plan. Before breakfast, we stopped by the local woolies and bought the biggest sketch pad and crayons we could find (how I ever left the house without these I’ll never know). We stocked up on all of his favourite snacks. We went past the beach, and learned that bribery would be our way forward: no hat, no sand. No shoes, no walk. A logic the tiny dictator could understand.
Day by day, we slowly found a few ways to get through, but ultimately, there was no relaxation to be had.
If there’s anything to be gained from this, at least I can share my learnings with you. So, here are my tips for successfully negotiating a weekend away with a toddler in tow:
Take all of the things with you: books, crayons, toys, puzzles - anything that you know they love and will be occupied by.
Have your sleep plan in place: co-sleepers, this is pretty easy (and even better if you can push a queen and single bed together, as we did). Otherwise, spend some time getting them used to sleeping in a travel cot before you go, and take your own with you - most airlines let you bring all sorts of baby paraphernalia with you at no extra cost, including pram and car seat.
Find a hotel with a microwave and kitchen sink, or book an AirBnB: the convenience of a hotel seemed super appealing to me, but in hindsight, a home-like setup would have suited us much better.
Go to a resort: Byron Bay is beautiful, but the streets and playgrounds are not hugely kid-friendly, especially with a toddler who wants to walk/run all over the place. For true relaxation, it would have been amazing to go to a contained environment that was set up to entertain children. And, frankly, it costs about the same to fly the family to Fiji.
Be prepared to break your own rules: sometimes you just have to make some concessions so that not everyone ends up in tears. If this means resorting to means of entertainment that are normally off limits (hello, iPad), don’t beat yourself up about it.