First, book a good hotel. Not a Motel 6 or Super 8. Bite the bullet and pay for a good hotel. I'm talking, the kind with a free hot breakfast, free wifi, and a courteous staff. Why? Sure, you think, we're only sleeping there, why spend more than $50 a night? Well, if you have young kids, you're not just sleeping there. You're trapped in the hotel room every night after they go to sleep. So splurge a little, get a room with really comfy beds, a hotel that spends money on insulation between rooms and a heat lamp in the bathroom. And having a fridge and microwave in the room is a godsend! Don't stay with relatives if that will stress you out. Anyway, the hotel is a must.
Next, and I know everyone says this, but have a truly relaxed schedule. Don't plan out a detailed itinerary, scheduling every minute, because kids' naptimes and mealtimes will just throw a wrench in and stress you out. Instead, say you're going to the zoo on X day, and plan all day for it, that way you're not rushing to get to something else. Plan a waterpark day for Y day. And don't have a set day for visiting with friends and relatives. Instead, do a short little visit each day. That way, you don't spend all day in a non-child-proof home with curious kids and nothing for them to do but get into stuff. Small visits, that's the ticket.
Third, food. For young kids, hit a grocery store as soon as you arrive, get some juice boxes, small bags of chips, and something like Uncrustables. Keep them in the fridge in your good hotel room. Perfect for snacks, on-the-go meals, or to keep them busy.
Last, either rent a car, or borrow a dedicated car from a relative, one just for your use while you're there. Having your own wheels means you can go get food when you guys need it, you can leave an activity when your kids are melting down, you can go do something your kids want even if no one else wants to.
Here's some other points to consider, the good and the ugly:
- $500 for all three tickets was great; 6am flight out, and 9pm flight home, were not.
- We had our own hotel room, so our kids weren't disturbed when sleeping, and we were able to keep to our own schedule. Awesome.
- We hung around a relative's house most of Friday (arrived at 8, check-in wasn't until 3), kids bored and curious. Not fun.
- Hotel had an indoor pool, awesome.
- Saturday, after a free hot breakfast, we sort of tooled around, visited a sick relative, and generally tried to keep the kids busy.
- Sunday, we planned all day for the zoo, and left when our kids were done. That was great.
- Park birthday party on Monday was awesome, plenty of room for kids to run and get dirty and be kids, with minimal interference from us. Gave us time to visit with friends instead of being overbearing parents. Then played in the park's water park until closing, which was awesome.
- Tuesday, after checking out, went to a petting zoo with tons of baby animals, which the kids really loved.
- Tuesday night, 8PM flight (bad idea) turned into a 9PM takeoff, which had us landing at 11 and actually driving away from the airport by midnight. Bad, just bad. Got home around 3AM. So yeah, hubby and I didn't go to work today...