Friday, October 28, 2011

What Girls Want (on vacations)

Keeping your children happy on holidays - the secrets are about to be revealed...
If our girls booked our vacations stays, things would look a lot different.
First of all, I am not about to unleash the power of the internet and let our girls book any of our future holiday accommodations. That would be like giving sugar-starved, hyperactive kids a key to a candy store after closing. Plus I’m pretty sure that if that task were taken away from me, my wife would likely realize just how little I actually do around the house (outside of trip planning for the family) and potentially re-think our long term ‘marriage contract’. So for that reason alone, it’s just not going to happen.
There are other reasons though. Recently on a family trip to San Diego, California, I paid close attention to what actually keeps them amused and busy when we’re at our hotel. It’s not having fancy restaurants in the lobby, or amazing art hanging in the walls, or even the brand name of the hotel that’ll keep them happy and busy. The following are the things I discovered that they’re really attracted to and likely would keep them occupied for hours. 
Elevators and elevator buttons
When we’re in a plane and I’m yet again amazed that something so large and full of people and luggage could ever get off the runway and into the air, the kids are quietly reading, not paying any attention to the surrounding miracle. But put them into an elevator, and they’re grinning mischievously ear-to-ear and dashing at the speed of light to be the first to press the buttons. I imagine this gives them a feeling of control. After being directed through airports, flown in a plane, driven in a taxi or rental car, this likely is their first chance at deciding WHERE to go. Plus, it’s simple, and YOU know that THEY know that they have the power at their fingertips to influence any other passengers’ day, just by deciding just how many buttons to push.

 Room cards
I think everyone remembers the day when we were all given an actual key to use to access our rooms, and the importance of hanging onto it or facing the embarrassment of going back to the front desk to get a replacement. Now with key cards, they’re more like souvenirs or collectors items, particularly to those who like to hoard any and all things ‘free’. With our girls at an age where they’ve begun to assert their hotel independence, we’ve begun to get additional cards for each of them. It’s always a battle though between our girls as to who gets to swipe to get into the room, swipe to get into the pool, swipe to get in the back door entrance after hours, or swipe to flush the toilet (kidding! But you can bet our girls would LOVE this feature if it meant they got to swipe their cards that much more). I’m not even sure why my wife and I bother to get a card when we have two eager swipers, ready and waiting…
Luggage carts
I’m not sure if luggage carts inspired skate boards, or vice versa, but I have to say that they’re equal when it comes to the damage any kid can do to themselves and any immediate surrounding objects (including parked vehicles). Knowing that every kid at some point lives by the motto of ‘What? Me walk?’ after an exceedingly long journey from the car to the hotel lobby (20 meters), the luggage cart is the perfect (and fun) solution to tired, weary feet. The only time any kid has any interest in NOT riding on a luggage cart is when their other sibling is already riding on it and they get to control where it goes.
The luggage cart, also known as a Bellman's cart,
really should have been named "Monkey Bars on Wheels".
Really, really long hallways
When it comes to running programs, school fitness testing, or heck, getting up and crossing the room at home to get the remote control, it’s amazing how instantly tired our children can become. This all changes when they’re in the proximity of a long, hotel hallway. I mean, even I get tempted to kick up the heels and see just how quickly I could make it from one end to the next, dodging luggage carts, discarded room service trays, and yes, the occasional guest reaching for their morning newspaper. For kids, it’s like it’s instinct, not unlike a bird migrating south for winter, to sprint like crazy at the drop of a hat (or room key).  If only the remote were at the end of it.

Swimming pools
Like moths to a flame, this feature is an obvious diversion for any child, but for our recent trip, I was excited to know that half way through our trip we were moving from a rather ‘nice but regular’ hotel to a fancy ‘slap-on-the-extra-charges-like-peanut-butter-on-bread’ type of hotel. Or, as they say, a ‘resort’. Calling it this, at least for me, justifies paying nearly 3 times the price per night yet still getting two queen sized beds, a bathroom, windows, extra parking charges… So as excited as I was to jump into a ‘resort’ pool, to the girls, if it’s a hotel and it has something larger than an average bathtub and it’s holding warmer than room temperature water, that’s all that matters. To them, there’s no such thing as an upgrade when it comes to pools. That’s unless it has a water slide (um, no), diving board (um, no again), or extended hours (once again, no. In fact, the hours of operation were shorter). Sigh…
Our first hotel pool. The palm trees were a nice touch, but the girls would
have had the candles (positioned to make an ordinary pool look classy)
out after at most two cannonballs.
Our next pool. More palm trees, slightly bigger space, but sadly
no candles.
 In conclusion
Like children having more fun with the cardboard packaging that their Christmas gifts come in, any parent’s hotel choice can suffer the same results. So if you’re traveling as a family, forget the fancy stuff - keep it for the trips for you and your partner! If you want to keep the kids happy, skip all that and keep to the basics. It’ll likely keep more green in your wallet and put more smiles on their faces. That is, until they lose the tv remote.