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Toronto, Canada

312 Adelaide Street West, Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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The Family Vacation: Oxymoron or Great Way to Spend a Long Weekend?

Written by Melissa Robertson

Our writer shares the most recent test of her sanity-the family vacation.

Why do we plan family vacations? Let’s face it, a vacation with your kids is basically taking all of your responsibilities as a parent and transferring them to a new location. I get to cook and clean at a campsite! I get to change diapers in a hotel room!

And yet, we still do it. We empty our bank accounts and fill up the car. We look at our significant other for strength and then set out to have the best darn family vacation ever.

But why?

My summer as a working mom is full of guilt. No matter how beautiful the weather or inviting our backyard pool, I find myself spending less time with my kids as I drop them off to daycare and we return home exhausted by the heat and our busy days.

Instagram guilt trips

In the evenings I find myself ambushed by my friend’s vacation Instagram posts featuring picture-perfect summer getaways, smiling kids, and breathtaking landscapes.

Enter the mom guilt.

Is everyone vacationing except me? Does everyone have random picnics on a Tuesday? Am I the only one without a family cottage to spend my weekends?

And so, my husband and I found ourselves packing up our SUV for a family trip to Niagara Falls. Our last trip to this famous destination resulted in two children throwing up, and yet, they had been begging to go back ever since.

I picked up as many tricks as I could from my article with Jamie Contrini on sleeping away from home, visited the library for some books on tape and new reading material and packed up some healthy snacks to minimize their sugar intake.

What could go wrong?

While our drive down only resulted in one child threatening to lose their breakfast, we soon checked into our hotel without incident and found ourselves at a waterpark. The previous visit, I had encouraged (with a little helpful persistence) my oldest down a waterslide with me, which she then decided she loved and wanted to do again and again.

When I tried the same with my middle daughter, she screamed bloody murder and made a huge scene that had me sporting some serious sunglasses the rest of the trip.

There is nothing like judging other parents to make you feel better about your own life choices. Of course, I know judging other parents is horrible, but really sometimes you can’t help but think to yourself, ‘what the heck are you thinking?’

After more than a decade together all it takes is one look for my husband and me to notice the parent who decided to put their infant to play at the bottom of a waterslide. It took about 30 seconds for the poor kid to get taken out. It made me feel a little better about the scene my own kid had made earlier that day.

Wet and wild

The one faux pas I did manage to avoid was bringing my phone into the water park. Not only was I unwilling to risk my expensive phone for the chance at a good picture (that likely would not happen) but I for one and in no way interested in taking family photos while practically naked. Many other parents had their phone in waterproof cases around their necks or even no case at all.

In a wave pool.


The next day we finally introduced our daughters to the infamous Falls. Unfortunately, this was only after a long walk during a heat wave. We were dripping in sweat and the kids began to literally melt down. Instead of picture-perfect moments, our shots turned out more like this.

We then decided to cool off with a fun game of mini golf.

I don’t know why mini golf is pegged as a family game. First of all, it is not easy. Hitting a ball into a hole with glow-in-the-dark obstacles is frustrating at best. Asking my unskilled children to attempt it was a borderline disaster.

Actually, putting anything that could be used as a weapon in my children’s hands is usually a poor choice.

My husband thought it was a good ‘teachable moment’ where he could teach our five, six and seven-year-old the proper hand position for putting. I was more in the camp for letting the kids run wild and get their energy out before bed.

I think the people waiting behind us probably agreed with me.

Night-time trauma

Before bed, we decided to let the kids swim to help them fall asleep. Our youngest daughter bounces between being fully night trained and peeing the bed constantly. Although she was on a dry streak, we brought along two pull-ups just in case (and to keep our $200 room deposit). Of course, by the second night, we were out of pull-ups and facing a major dilemma.

My husband went on a wild goose chase around Niagara and returned with little swimmers.

“You don’t even want to know how much those cost,” he told me.

“You know these don’t hold pee right?” I asked him.

We came up with the brilliant idea to grab some maxi pads to shove inside for some much-needed absorbency. Once again, my brilliant husband spent way too much and brought back the wrong thing.

“Are these panty liners?” I asked.

“What are panty liners?”

After my husband finally calmed down (I had to awkwardly explain the purpose of a panty liner to my husband and three daughters) we decided to combine three little swimmers, 10 panty liners and a hotel hand towel to try and keep the bed dry.

It was a $50 gamble and she ended up holding her pee. So we will never actually know if our little invention could ‘hold water’.

As much as we come home from these excursions needing a vacation, it makes me feel good knowing that my kids are getting these experiences, even if they drain the bank account and often our patience. If nothing else my family learned what a panty liner is.

And isn’t that the most wonderful lesson of all?


*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.