Passing down the wanderlust gene.
It’s well known—to all parents—that once you have kids, everything changes. Life as you once knew it will no longer exist. What gets me, however, is that there are so many things that have changed that I never would have predicted. I’m suddenly terrified of heights; I eat Kraft Macaroni & Cheese off of a wooden spoon frequently—as a meal; I seemingly have endless patience for my kids, but precious little patience for anything else. Traffic, lines, crowds, UGH.
Which brings me to the subject of travel. I was a BIG traveler before I had kids. I was very impulsive. I once hopped on a jet and went to London for a long weekend because I found a good deal on a flight. Why not? If I worked hard and made extra money, you can be sure I would spend it on a plane ticket somewhere. I really did not think my wanderlust would be too compromised once I had kids, because why not start them young on the great adventures of life?
Then I had a kid. Then another. I did not hesitate to travel with them; sometimes by myself. You have to learn the tricks (Benadryl) and find out what works (Benadryl). OK, I’m kidding about the Benadryl, but only sort of kidding. Actually, I’m not really kidding. It really does work to get your kids to nap on a plane or long car ride, but it can backfire if you give your child the Benadryl and then the plane is unexpectedly stuck on a tarmac for three hours.
I digress. My point is that yes, you can travel long distances with small children, but at some point you have to ask yourself, WHY? What will they really get out of it? It depends, of course. If it’s to visit family, that is another story. It just needs to happen, but if it’s a pleasure vacation, what I have discovered is that no matter where you go, the trip is about meeting the kids’ needs 100 percent of the time. So I realized that for me, simpler is better—at least when they are both under 4 years old.
So last year, when my husband wanted to visit his family in Indio (Palm Desert- adjacent), it happened to be the weekend of my birthday. Normally we stay at his parent’s house. It was fine when we were childless, but with two kids, it’s gotten uncomfortable. There’s no room, it’s hot and not childproof. My husband suggested we book a hotel somewhere since it was my birthday and we could make it a vacation. I did the research, and reviews for kid-friendly hotels led us to Rancho Las Palmas.
I had no idea that we had unknowingly found our home away from home for the rest of our lives. When we arrived, I dropped my husband off to play golf with his dad for the day and went to the hotel to check in early. The charismatic and unbelievably friendly concierge saw that I had two kids in the car, asked for my name and ID, went inside, checked us in and came out and gave me my key. Hello, service! The room was beautiful and right next to the pool, so we headed there immediately.
The entire weekend was heavenly and so totally perfect for my kids at this age. We were visiting family, but on a fun getaway vacation at the same time. I never thought I’d be the frequent Palm Desert vacationer, but quite frankly, I don’t see how anything could beat it. The drive is so short from Orange County that we made it in less than two hours. That beats a plane ride any day, in my opinion. Curran went down the water slide no less than 60 times, and Cassidy was happy at the baby beach and getting doused at Splashtopia. When it got too hot, we headed over to the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, which is a five-minute drive from the hotel and perfect for kids their age. It’s like a mini Pretend City. They painted a car, made pizza and made their own remote control cars. We also hit the Living Desert Museum the next morning and saw giraffes, mountain lions, leopards, snakes, birds, armadillos—you name it. So you see, we had family, animals, painting cars and swimming all in one trip. Done.
Instead of heading over to the in-laws’ for dinner, we invited them over to the hotel, which was a super treat for them. We ate on the patio of BluEmber with the backdrop of a desert sunset, steel drums in the background and my two children dancing on the patio like Fred and Ginger. Well maybe more like Fred and Wilma, but you get the idea.
I have found that it’s possible to have a vacation without totally draining our wallet and a five-plus hour flight. Our solution: Palm Desert. Happy kids equal happy parents. It’s a simple equation. Also, after swimming for hours, the kids pass out for the night. Early. It’s a win-win all the way around. No Benadryl necessary.
By Kelly Mitchell