If you were to look up the definition of “honeymoon” in the dictionary, I’m sure it would be something along the lines of “a romantic, intimate, and secluded vacation taken by a newly married couple.” One taken to celebrate their undying love and commitment to one another. Traditionally, people get married before they have children, so the predicament of what to do with the kids during this overly-hyped getaway is a non-issue — but we aren’t your average family.
My husband and I eloped a little over a year ago when I was pregnant with baby No. 2, and had grand plans of ditching the kids and jetting down to Costa Rica for a week of selfishness once the baby was old enough to be dumped at Nana and Pop Pop’s house. We even bought one of those travel books, fantasizing about sleeping until sunrise, waking up in little huts on the beach and making love to the sound of crashing waves.
But as it came time to plan our dream vacation, reality set in. Our childcare wasn’t going to pan out. Refusing to allow the illusion of a romantic getaway shatter so quickly, I thought to myself: why not bring them with us?
I started researching all-inclusive resorts — places I avoided in my pre-kid life — and discovered that on top of offering all-you-can-drink tequila shots, buffets for miles and unlimited Zumba classes, some include childcare as one of their all-inclusive amenities.
I informed my husband that we were going on a honeymoon — with the kids.
“There’s no such thing as a vacation with kids,” he argued.
I vowed to prove him wrong.
A few months later and after weeks of preparation, days of packing, and pretty much an entire day of traveling, we arrived at the Grand Palladium in Riviera Maya, Mexico. The amenities included eight pools, a kids’ water park, a crocodile habitat, a sports center, a luxurious spa, 15 restaurants, 27 bars, nightly entertainment, and water sports – which pretty much means that there was little reason to leave the resort at all.
I was a little overwhelmed upon arrival — after a somewhat brutal 4-hour flight with an indignant toddler and a whiny baby — but vacations don’t really start until your bags are unpacked, right?
As soon as we walked into the bright, airy lobby, a bouncy, young woman from the kids’ club was there to relieve us of our little nightmares so we could check in peacefully. I felt like a celebrity as our jolly driver Orlando (“not Bloom,” he joked to us) gave us a golf cart tour of the property before escorting us to our (door-divided) two-room ocean-view villa.
As I stood on the balcony and watched the waves crashing before me, it was starting to feel like a honeymoon.
Before we left home our plan was to basically dump the kids off at the kids club for most of the day so that we could enjoy time “just the two of us,” picking them up periodically throughout the day for a little family time. But when you bring your kids on vacation, you can count on throwing your plans out the window.
Our first full day, we enjoyed a buffet breakfast with the kids, which they thoroughly enjoyed due to their ADD eating habits, and then ventured over to the Mini and Baby Club. They had amazing program for kids that offers childcare for all of those under 18, separated by age. Activities and entertainment for each age group varies, with each day divided up into a detailed schedule ranging from indoor activities like movies and crafts to outdoor ones such as swimming and sand castle building.
While my husband was eager to get rid of our daughter and son so we could enjoy a kid-free sunbathing session, I was a little hesitant to leave my most precious assets in the hands of total strangers.
“Stop helicoptering,” my husband insisted. “They are going to be just fine.”
I spent the first two hours in the sun, my head aching with anxiety of all the possible things that could be happening to my children. I tried to remind myself that if an issue arose, one of the girls would contact me on the walkie-talkie they handed me. Just to ease my mind, I decided to peek in on them.
“Jackson pooped his pants,” one of the girls revealed to me, as soon as I walked in the gate.
Horrified, I walked back into the bathroom, where I found one of them cleaning up the poopy mess that was not only on his bottom but in his pants, and scrubbing them until no trace was left behind (a task not one of my babysitters back home would likely undertake).
I felt terrible, apologizing profusely to the young woman. But she acted like it was no big deal.
“It’s practice,” she warmly responded, clearly trying to make me feel like it happened all the time.
While in theory, my son was able to spend the entire day and eat his meals at the club, for safety reasons my daughter had to be picked up and eat with us. This gave us around three-hour increments of adult-only time to spend on the beach, by the pool, or at the resort’s amazing spa where I managed to drag my husband who “doesn’t liked to be touched by strangers,” for our first-ever couple’s massage. This was probably the most honeymoon-like moment of the trip, as we were completely out of walkie-talkie range in the kid-free, super zen complex.
We also spent time each day with the kids — taking them to the kiddie pool where my son took endless rides down the many waterslides and danced with the resort’s mascot and my daughter splashed around.
When it came time to dine, the first few evenings of the trip we attempted to bring the children to the resort’s fancier restaurants, but it was far from enjoyable. After a full day of activities, both were overtired and unwilling to sit and eat peacefully like adults (if only, right?). The servers were always very sweet, but we were garnering bad looks from other patrons who were on real honeymoons or romantic trips for two. Instead of taking turns bringing baby girl on walks outside of the restaurant, we surrendered to dinners at the buffets with all of the other families with young children, which was a far more relaxing option. After dinner, we took them to one of the resort’s nightly Vegas-like song and dance productions, which thoroughly entertained them.
No wonder we were asleep by 10 almost every night.
At the nightly kids show one evening, as we watched my son play musical chairs and dance around the stage to “Uptown Funk,” our daughter crawling her way up the stairs to join in on the fun, we realized that this wasn’t a honeymoon — it was our first, real family vacation. It suddenly made sense why all the families we had met over the last week return to the resort every year.
In the end, my hypothesis was totally proved wrong — you can’t take your children on vacation and expect it to be a honeymoon, after all.
However, you can take a really nice trip with young children, and still have adult-time to boot. While every moment wasn’t the romantic, stress-free experience we imagined, when we returned back Chicago a week later we weren’t complaining that we “needed a vacation from our vacation” or telling people “there’s no way to take a vacation with kids.” And if you ask me, that’s a big sign of success right there.More On