Fun fact – our two oldest kids have the same April birthday.
Our son was two weeks early, and two years later, his new little sister was a week early. So far, the dual birthday party thing has worked out, but now they’re ten and eight, and I think that window is coming to a close.
So this year, we decided to surprise them with a trip to Disneyland instead of a party. My husband and I were extra secretive about our internet research, ferreting out bargains on three-day hopper passes and hotels and a side trip to Universal Studies for the Harry Potter stuff.
And then, when we had pulled the trigger, buying the tickets and booking the hotel, I blurted out the news that night at dinner.
Because when it comes to secrets, I am the worst.
All four kiddos were insanely thrilled, even the littlest, who, at two, has never seen or heard of Disneyland and couldn’t pick Mickey Mouse out of a crowd.
We invited the in-laws and decided that a nine-hour drive was actually easier (not to mention cheaper) than the headache that is air travel with four kids. We have a six-seater, and our in-laws graciously sprung for a Suburban rental so we could all pile in together for the trip down south.
This thing was ridiculous.
It’s about the same footprint as my husband’s truck, but all that bed space is interior room. This land boat comfortably fit four kids, two car seats, four adults, two giant duffel bags and two big suitcases, plus everyone’s travel necessities – pillows, various mobile devices and headphones, water bottles, snacks, books, all of it.
I loved it, because I didn’t have to drive it.
As co-pilot in charge of navigating, I couldn’t hear anything going on in the backseat, which was approximately two miles behind me. And since we left crazy early in the morning, around 2:30, it was super mellow and relaxed.
Actually, the drive down was a breeze, after a sketchy few miles over Donner in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, when we were stuck in fog so thick and soupy, it was like driving through yogurt.
But we made great time, everyone slept except me and my husband, and our room was ready when we arrived. He and I hit a wall around six that evening, but we were on vacation, damn it, so we rallied.
The rest of the trip was wonderful, with all the kids who wanted to go on the big rides big enough to do so, and Harry Potter’s wizarding world suitably magical, and lots of churros and bubbles and one of those amazing Disneyland balloons.
And then it was time to drive home, which is automatically kind of a drag. We couldn’t arrange a middle-of-the-night departure again, so we woke up, had breakfast, piled in the land boat and immediately hit traffic.
The movies had already been watched, the games had already been played, our vacation was over, and the novelty of road tripping had pretty much worn off for everyone. The grown-ups were stoic, the older two kiddos were troopers, and our five-year-old limited himself to asking if we were home yet every three minutes.
But our two-year-old was another matter. And it wasn’t because she was bored.
Nope, it’s because she had to go potty. Like every five seconds.
And, I mean, what are you going to do? She’s two. She potty trained a few months ago, and how long can you realistically expect a toddler to hold it?
The upshot is we made a lot of pit stops at the kind of places that looked passable from the outside, but inside, well, yikes. And once we were in, it was too late. She had to go, so I did what I could to kind of hover her over the most disgusting toilets I’ve ever seen, the kind that had us both wrinkling our noses and me yelping, “Don’t touch!” every time she moved.
We made terrible time on the trip home and did a lot of serious hand scrubbing, and we all breathed a big sigh of relief when she snuggled in for a good long nap. Because by the time she woke up, we knew we’d be home.
The next day, we handed over the Suburban with no regrets. It’s great for a nine-hour ride with eight passengers and all their gear, and we’ll rent one again for the next Disney trip, but I can’t imagine trying to park that thing myself.