By Lisa

We’ve just returned from our annual family vacation, which this year involved a long an epic road trip from the Bay Area to San Diego, one of the most southern parts of our state.  Our initial destination was ComicCon in San Diego, which was a blast & included a preview of the upcoming Phineas and Ferb Movie,which is terrfic, if you like that sort of thing, which we do.  But the trip quickly morphed into a week at the Coronado beach, a 3-day visit at Disneyland, an excursion to Hearst Castle, and something Caroline came to call Mission-polooza: a visit to every California mission between our home and our destination.  I will not be writing about that part of the trip here.  (You can check my personal blog for follow-up and fallout on that score.)  But what is of interest to LTE readers is that for the first time ever, we stayed in hotels for the duration of our trip, which was a new experience for us.

For me, this meant a lot things: no cleaning, no sweeping, no making beds, no tidying up at the end of the day. Of course it also meant no marketing and no cooking. No farmers market. No prep. No meal planning.  Honestly, it was a terrific break, but I was nervous about many meal-related things including:

  • Cost
  • Getting the kids ready and out of the hotel for dinner.  Every night.
  • Table manners
  • Stamina–the day in, day out energy it takes to dine in restaurants
  • Finding enough variety in the food to keep us feeling energetic and healthy
  • Theme park food

We were right to worry about some of these things. Variety, for instance: we eat so much seasonal produce that by the end Finn was picking the cucumbers out of his dad’s water in search of fresh vegetables. And I may never again eat another Caesar salad, because at many of the theme parks we visited, this is the closest thing you can get to fresh vegetables.  I also discovered that left to their own devices and an unstoppable tidal wave of kids’ menus, even my accommodating and not-picky eaters will choose chicken tenders or pizza or burgers.  My daughter, who never ate a chicken finger in her life ordered these twice in our last three days.  It’s true she got the side of fruit salad, too, but it just goes to show the deeply subconscious appeal of the kids’ menu–even for a kid who doesn’t really eat like a kid.  And finally, it is costly to eat out all the time, so we were right to budget high for this part of our vacation.

But other things proved not to be problems. In retrospect, it’s not that surprising. In some sense, we’ve been training our kids from the time they were toddlers to eat out in restaurants, so the stamina, the manners, the getting ready, all these things were taken in stride. It surprised us. We stuck to our tried and true rules, and they worked for us through many different kinds of meals: in a car, at a pool, at a taqueria, in a fancy restaurant, in a lodge….Frankly, it was an enormous relief because in the weeks leading up to the trip we were not at all sure that the kids would make it through every meal without incident.  But they did, and at the last meal, a lovely little place in Carmel, we celebrated and we toasted them. While they ate pizza and a burger.

Up next: managing breakfast on the road.