Thursday, January 14, 2010

Vacation Tips

The Farmer, the chillens, and I are going on vacation this summer with our good friends Muffie and The Architect, HB and The Minister, all of their chillens, and two babysitters. (I am choosing to use the nicknames from over on our joint blog, Three Rights and a Left, to protect the guilty -- those are obviously not real names). The six of us adults went to Islamorada together in September 2008 and had a blast, so we decided to all vacation together again and this time bring our kids along. (I am thinking, however, that next year we need to go on another adults-only vacation.)

All of this vacation planning has reminded me of another vacation that Muffie and I planned for our families. It was back when there were only three kids between us -- Miss Priss, Sassy, and Muffie's son, G -- and before we met HB and The Minister. It was our first official family vacation, and we were so excited to be spending a week together at the beach.

It started out as the vacation from Hell.

However, we quickly turned it around and had a wonderful time, and we definitely learned from our mistakes. I thought I would mention some of them to y'all so that you won't do what we did!!

Let's get started...

Only rent a house or condo from a reputable source. Maybe this should go without saying, but there are tons of places like VRBO out there, and you have to be careful that you know what you are getting. We decided to go to Amelia Island, Florida, and Muffie found a great house for us online. It was beautiful, but all of the pictures were taken at night (and that shall be a sign unto you not to go with that house...we should have known).

We showed up at the house on our first day, and it. was. a. dump. I am talking no covers on electric outlets or vents, nasty shag carpeting, moldy spots on the walls, shallow, scary stairs -- I could go on. It was a total nightmare.

We got to Amelia Island pretty late in the afternoon, so we had to stay in that nastiness the first night. First thing the next morning, though, The Farmer and The Architect went in search of another house for us. They found a great one, and the rest of our stay was in a perfect beach house.

However, we then had to deal with the hassle of getting our money back from the owners of the dump. That was no fun and involved a lawyer.

Don't go too far from home. Obviously if you have kids you already know this, but car rides with children pretty much stink. Someone is constantly hungry or has to go to the bathroom. Someone is always fussing or asking "how much longer?" As the parent, you are pretty much spending your time changing out the DVD, picking up a dropped toy, or saying "not too much longer, honey."

We are fortunate to live pretty close to a lot of great vacation spots, so our trip wasn't too bad. This year we will be travelling with 7 kids, so we are trying to keep our drive down to as short as possible. Planning to drive around nap time or at night is a good idea, too, if your kids will sleep in the car.

Take a babysitter -- or two if you have more than one family -- if you can afford it. I don't know if The Farmer and I would splurge on a babysitter if it were only the five of us going on a beach vacation, but I think it is a must with more than one family. A lot of times a vacation with the kids ends up being just more hard work for the parents. We decided to take babysitters on our Amelia Island vacation, and we are so glad we did. The babysitters enabled us to have "grown-up time." We got to go out to eat without the kids, and we got to spend some time actually relaxing on the beach. Of course we spent plenty of time with the kids, so it wasn't like we were on two separate vacations; the babysitters gave us the opportunity to get just enough time away, and they were extra hands when we were all together. Babysitters are well worth the extra money!

If you do get babysitters, make sure their duties are outlined before the vacation. Muffie and I really had no idea what we were doing when we hired our babysitters for our last vacation; we just knew we wanted extra hands on the trip. We asked a high school girl that I used a lot at the time, and we asked her to bring a friend. We had both girls over before we went on the trip, but we didn't really know what to tell them. That is something that I think can be hard -- we didn't exactly know what we wanted them to do until we got there.

Some things to think about are:
**Who is going to get up early with the kids?
**Who is going to sit inside during nap time?
**How much free time do you want?
**How much free time should you give the babysitters?
**Do you want to handle all of the discipline, or do you want the babysitters to
step in some?

It can be kind of awkward when having the parents and babysitters all together with the kids if these questions aren't answered beforehand. Muffie, the boys, the babysitters, and I would all kind of look at each other like "who is supposed to handle this?" whenever we were all together and something came up -- whether it was nap time, diaper changes, whatever.

Obviously the babysitters are there to work, but they are on vacation, too. They should be able to enjoy themselves -- especially if you want to be able to take them on your next vacation! They need some time to themselves, but they also need to know their duties up front so they can be of help -- it will make the vacation easier on everyone!

As I mentioned, this year we will have 7 kids ages 7, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 2 babies. Our babysitters are in for some work! Luckily the two girls we have going are well known to all of us and extremely responsible; one has practically raised my children through the past three packing seasons, so I know we are in good hands. We should not have any of the problems we had before -- and it wasn't the babysitters who were the problem last time but our lack of communication, I guess. And even with the awkward parts, the babysitters were worth it.

Honestly I am not a pro at this vacation-planning-with-babysitters thing. This is only the second time we have done it, but as I said, the first time started out as a nightmare, and we had many learning experiences along the way. Maybe some of what we learned could help you from having to deal with the same issues!

Now I am just ready for that vacation to get here...
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