A Bad Family Vacation Might Be Worse Than No Trip at All

Looking at family travel blogs on the internet, a reader sees a lot of “best vacations with children” types of articles and posts. But they can’t all be the best, can they? And – what about some bad family travel experiences – they happen, to be honest. What about when bad vacations happen to good people?

The worst family vacation I’ve had as a parent was quite a while ago, when my daughters were 6 months old and almost 3 years old. It sounded good on paper: My parents were renting a condo in Puerto Rico (they found a good deal), and my brother-in-law was coming along too. Instant built-in babysitting! Who’d look at that cock-eyed? I didn’t hesitate, and my family looked forward to this family vacation in Puerto Rico with no skepticism. And…we learned our lesson.

The reason the condo rental was so cheap was because it was rainy season in the Caribbean. Of course! It rained every single day. Every single day, that is, except for the one I spent with my older daughter in a Puerto Rican hospital’s pediatric ER. THAT day was bright and sunny. Too bad that was the day her uncle thought it would be funny to play the game, “Let’s pretend this penny is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

Well. My Spanish isn’t usually too bad, at least in the present tense, but at the hospital my panic set in and the best I could muster was, “Comer dinero! Me nina comer dinero!” (Translation: “To eat money. My girl to eat money.”) By the time el medico had assured me, through a mix of wild gestures and loud clear Spanish words I kind of recognized, that the penny should safely pass through my daughter’s system, the rain had set back in.

This same daughter was later bitten by a bunch of little red ants, and on the last day in Puerto Rico, a waiter accidentally got her drunk. Long story short: If you order a virgin tropical drink for your toddler, take a sip to ensure the drink is, indeed, alcohol-free. I learned my lesson when my child said “that was sweee-” and then clunked her head on the table, fast asleep. I will send a free surprise to the first person who guesses exactly what the drink I ordered was, by the way. Hint: It’s ironic.

I still feel bad about the time my young child got drunk in that restaurant in Puerto Rico – although she’s heard about it often enough now to retell the tale herself. What she doesn’t retell is how the ceiling leaked right over her bed, and her little sister’s crib – supplied by the condo association – was an older, unsafe version with large gaps between the metal slats, and a crib mattress that had somehow shrunk in its antiquity. Result? SoCalDad and I shared a double bed with both children each night. Except the night he gave up and slept on the shag carpet in the main room, also not fun for him.

Now, Puerto Rico as a Caribbean vacation island has a lot of things going for it. Culture, restaurants, beautiful beaches, etc. Despite all this tropical fun and splendor, this family vacation was beyond low-rated. It was the worst trip we’ve had as a family…at least so far. My kids aren’t teenagers yet, and I’m sure once I have two adolescent girls on my hands, there’ll be a doozy of a family vacation for us that tops this one. I can hardly wait.

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