All Ages

The Most Embarrassing Family Vacation Moments Ever (and What We Learned From Them)

See recent posts by Cynthia J. Drake

We had just settled into our booth at the popular Jewish deli we had been looking forward all week during our Florida vacation. A steaming bowl of matzo ball soup was on its way, my then-2 year-old was happily sipping on chocolate milk.

And that’s when the vomiting began.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but after we cleared our booth and tried to avoid the horrified gazes from the diners adjacent to us, the only thing I could think of as I hurdled toward the bathroom with our upchucking toddler was: “We will never show our faces in here again.” And: “I really wanted to try a latke.”

I wish I could say that was our worst embarrassing family vacation moment (or the only time one of our kids has thrown up in public), but neither would be true. We’ve been traveling with our boys since they were just a few months old, and for all the walks of shame we have encountered over the years, we refuse to stop taking our little ones out in public. Nor should you.

Because what doesn’t kill you (and only merely mortally embarrasses you) makes you stronger, right? Here’s what happened, and what we learned.

No Diaper, No Problem

We were on our first family cruise with our 18-month-old and my husband and I had done what we considered to be a diligent job of packing all the various carry-ons, diaper bags and checked bags.

As we boarded our ship, we could feel our stress melting away. Except when we got to our stateroom, we made the belated realization that neither of us had included any diapers in the bags that we had with us. Our checked bags were still a few hours from being delivered to our room … and what was that telltale smell emanating from our kid’s diaper?

In a move that MacGyver could appreciate, we took care of his dirty diaper and fashioned a baby toga for him out of a towel. We also crossed our fingers and pleaded with the gods of potty training that he’d be fine until the diapers arrived. He was, and we had some priceless toga baby photos in the meantime.

Lesson Learned
You can never be 100-percent prepared, 100-percent of the time when it comes to kids. Interestingly enough, on a more recent cruise, we came perilously close to running out of diapers again. By now, you are probably thinking we are the least prepared parents in the world. We found that being able to laugh it off, come up with ingenious solutions – and even putting the word out for help (on the most recent trip, the on-board nursery came to the rescue) will go far.

Bringing the Noise

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but kids scream on airplanes occasionally.

It seems to have become a hot-button topic among travelers – particularly the ones who have the luxury of putting in their little earphones, reclining their seats and ignoring the world around them, while the rest of us work on willing the plane to reach warp speed and get us home.

If I seem a little raw, it’s only because I am still recovering from the Dreadful Transatlantic Flight of 2012, when our little angel screamed off and on for the 12-hour flight from Barcelona.

Look, I totally get that a screaming kid is annoying. But I also know that the person that is likely most vexed from the whole experience is the mom or dad, who are going out of their way to do airplane acrobatics and reinventing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” in every possible way to keep that child quiet.

Lesson Learned
Nowadays on flights when I hear a meltdown churning back in 29E, I wave down the flight attendant and order Mom a glass of wine. It’s my way of saying, “I’ve been there, and I see you. This will pass, and hopefully public vomiting won’t follow.”

Rocky Mountain, Why?

Last summer, I took my oldest son on a little pre-kindergarten getaway in Colorado, just the two of us. Everything was going swell. We were driving across the state taking in the sights, singing silly songs and making memories.

And then suddenly and quite inexplicably, I found myself lost in the middle of Rocky Mountain National Park in thick summer traffic that was crawling ever so slowly. I was reasonably sure that the main artery through the park would eventually lead me to where I needed to go, but I had no idea how long it would take to get there. I didn’t have a map, my cell phone was losing both its GPS signal and its battery, and my son was starting to get hungry (guess how many snacks this prepared parent had packed?).

I pulled over to the side of the road and asked a few tourists if they could confirm whether I was on the right path. They gave me some very tentative information about a visitor center at the summit, and I kept going and hoping for the best.

I have never been so excited to see bathrooms, electrical outlets, food and RANGERS (shoutout to the Alpine Visitors Center rangers).

Lesson Learned
I have since learned about downloading maps when I’m offline. And I’m more confident in asking for help from strangers (and believing in the best when the going gets tough).

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