**Disclaimer: I love my kids. Truly. Sometimes I look at them and wonder how something so cute, sweet and smart came from just an egg and one lucky sperm. And other times I look at them and immediately want to make them a Ward of the State (you can legally do this, I looked it up after my vacation with them.)
I’ve been a mother for 13 years so far and no other situation has made me wish I was on Valium than when my husband and I took our 13 year old and 1 year old on a Carnival Cruise September 30th to October 7th 2018. My husband and I, the kids and my parents booked this cruise a year prior. As the date approached, excitement started to build. Until around July-ish when my father started having some pretty serious medical issues. It wasn’t until the week of the cruise did his medical issues become more severe and he had to have surgery. With advice from his doctor he was told he should not be traveling. His health is on the mend now, but it was still disheartening for all of us to hear this news, especially after a year of planning. It wasn’t until a couple days before vacation did it really hit me that I’m going to be vacationing with my two kids without any grandparent help. Now I understand that most people don’t have a lot of help with their kids. Most young families vacation without help. But I’m not one of those people. I’m what other moms call “spoiled”. My parents live less than a block away, my mom is retired so she is my *free* daycare, my parents take my kids overnight several times during the week and weekends, my parents have been on every family trip. Ever. Doing this trip “alone” was a foreign concept for me.
So I panicked. I debated cancelling the trip. I debated not bringing the baby. I debated leaving my family, changing my name and never returning…..
But I put my big girl panties on (because without travel insurance I had no choice) and went through with it. So here is my comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts for anyone planning to go on a cruise with their children. Things I learned, things I wish I did/didn’t do, the drugs you should bring to cope, etc.
- Fly. I don’t care if you need to sell an organ, fake a death for insurance money, start a Go Fund Me page, or do something strange for a little change to afford it. For the love of god, FLY.
This was a 2-3 month argument between my husband and I. He grew up doing long road trips with his family. He loves scenery, driving, taking in the lay of the land. I however did not grow up that way. I hate long road trips. My mom is also anti driving most of the time which is probably where I got it from. So in order to stop arguments before they even began my dad would just book the flight. Joey objected to all of my pleas to fly. Now let’s make one thing clear, my husband is right about 2% of the time. This was one of those times. He did have a good argument. Even with Kaden being free because he is under two years old, it would have cost us over $1300 to fly. Plus we had already paid for a cruise for 4 (which was more than $1300 as you can imagine) So I get it. But you guys, we live in central Illinois. This cruise was leaving from New Orleans. We are talking 800 miles. 12 hours. In a car. With an antsy teen and an 18 month old. The odds were never in our favor. Long story short, if you MUST drive, leave in the early morning hours. I’m talking the ungodly hours. 1-2-3am. The kids will sleep until around 8-9am and then the other 83858283617676384 hours you’re watching Shrek on repeat, handing out Goldfish crackers, freaking out about the teen streaming Netflix on his phone with no wifi, (“you watched AN ENTIRE MOVIE in this car!??!?!”)and watching the GPS “miles to go” in the lower left hand corner on your dashboard. “798 miles to go before you reach your destination…..797…”. On the trip back after your vacation, my advice is to pray. To everyone. Allah, Jesus, Jehovah, Muhammad, Obama, Zeus. Whoever will listen. The trip back is a whole other blog post.
- Check your older children’s bags. My oldest is 13. His father and I are divorced so he splits his time between us, as he has since he was three. You’d assume at this point he is capable of packing a bag for a trip. I mean, ya been doing it in some way, shape or form for 10 years. Well I am here to tell you folks, he is indeed not capable. The night before we left, I went into his room and was pleasantly surprised that his bag was near his door, zipped and ready. I asked him if he was SURE he had everything he needed. I stressed the importance of having enough underwear and socks, packing more than one pair of swim trunks. The fact that dinner would require a different outfit, so two outfits a day is needed. “Yeah” he replies, with one ear phone out of his ear and the other still in. Rookie mom mistake. That boy wasn’t listening. You know how I know he wasn’t listening? Day three of a 7 day cruise he was out of underwear, out of socks and was caught putting on a pair of white shorts that had pizza stains on them from two days before.
Joey had to do his laundry, on a ship, in a laundry area the size of your pantry with a bunch of strangers standing around in silence watching dryers spin. This yahoo packed for a weekend. Not a vacation. I’ll reiterate. Check on your older kids, in the name of Jesus.
- Pack an arsenal of toys, then pack more. This is obviously for the owners of toddlers out there. We packed all of Kaden’s toys that we could reasonably fit. And it came in handy. Why? Because Carnival Cruise Lines is not YOUNG baby friendly. A sad truth we found out while on the ship unfortunately. There is no entertainment for kids his age (maybe a few shows here and there), day camp activities start at age 2 (he is 18mos), if your kid isn’t potty trained they can’t be in the pool (saltwater pools only on Carnival, not chlorine. So if your kid poops in the pool we all get Hepatitis B), no baby section anywhere on the ship at all. No where to play, no where to take them. So much for FUN ships as they call it *side eye to Carnival’s marketing team*. But you live and you learn. We had to make our own fun with Kaden on our days at sea which could have been a lot more exhausting had we not packed the entire Aisle 7 from Toys R Us (RIP).
- Upgrade your room, unless you like prison. So I’m not a newbie cruiser. But I am a newbie cruiser who takes their kids. I know what to expect with an interior room (a room with no windows) which can be shockingly small when you go on your first cruise. All cruises I’ve been on I get the interior room because I’m only in there to sleep and change clothes. Why do I need to spend an extra $300-$700 if I’m never in there? I’m drinking, turning up with my friends, staying out til 4, come back to the room, sleep with my clothes on, up at noon, repeat. Well when you take your kids, particularly small kids, spend the extra money. With a toddler, you’re going to be in your room a lot more than you think. Kaden is one of those kids that can go from Rex on Toy Story to complete mayhem T-Rex on Jurassic Park in a matter of minutes without his nap. Which means once a day, for 2-3.5 hours one of us was in the room. In the dark. Alone with your thoughts until nap time was over. It was like solitary confinement but with lots of snacks and WiFi. I would have loved to be in a room with a balcony, so I didn’t feel like Powder when I emerged from darkness every afternoon.
In my defense, once I found out my parents were not going, we tried twice to upgrade our room but were told the ship was at full capacity and no rooms were available for upgrade.
For the sake of time, I’ll stop at 4. I realize that this is coming from a rookie. Many of you who read this have probably been on a million trips with your kids, are rolling your eyes and telling me to suck it up. I know some parents already know all of these things. But for the families out there full of trepidation because you are first timers, this one is for you. Would we do a cruise with our kids again, alone? Absolutely not. At least not until Kaden is old enough to do some of the camps. For Kai, his days were packed full of day camp activities and friend making. Would we do it again if we had grandparents? Absolutely. Just for the simple fact we could have one or two nights kid free, nap time could be dispersed between all four of us, more hands on deck *pun not intended, but it can stay*. Cruising is a challenge with young children. I think a resort vacation would have suited us better. But all in all the kids had a great time, memories were made, photos taken. Family Vacation 2018 down, 2019 in the making.