Do I even remember our trip to Honolulu? It’s a sweaty blur off the top of my head – me sweating on Baby K and her on me. Turns out long days in the sun and sand aren’t exactly dreamy when you’re with a baby. My beach time was spent sequestered under the shade of a tent with a very thirsty (dehydrated?) barnacle attached to my boob.
We were in Honolulu way back in January. It was the vacation we took to introduce Baby K to her paternal grandparents, aunt, and cousin. We got lucky – a beach vacation was the get-out-of-cold-smfoggy-China ticket that Iggy and I needed at the time. (When don’t we need this?)
For all the family fun and sun-kissed bliss, this was the vacation where we learned that kids KILL vacations. At least when they’re young because going anywhere other than your own home means your workload doubles. Everything from nap times to meal times to diaper changing times to in the car times become a challenge to be worked around. Or, sometimes, suffered through.
Outings with the baby turned into a game of Jenga. Instead of playing against the laws of gravity we were up against the incessant needs of our little person. Crucial lessons were learned on our first family outing to the beach, for example, which might help other new parents decide if a beach vacation is right for them.
- Suntan lotion: putting it on a squirming infant and/or trying to squeeze chubby arms and legs into a cute little body swimsuit is like playing with these weird and hard to hold “water snake” balloons from our 80s childhoods.
Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/62980094761920595/
- Swim diapers: don’t put one on until 30 seconds before you dunk the baby into the water. Why? They don’t hold in pee. In the haste of getting my beach babe ready, I forgot. Yes mom brain is real, but it’s not an excuse a baby appreciates when she’s sitting in a puddle of pee in her stroller.
- Swimming: babies mostly don’t like being submerged in chilly open water, no matter how calm ones’ parents are about it (despite what any grandparent might tell you).
- Gear: you can never have enough. A single towel and a bottle of suntan lotion are no longer all you need. Pack a tent or umbrella and, if you’re nursing, definitely a chair. Plus, 14 bottles of water if your baby nurses like mine because you will get thirsty. Probably hangry, too. Don’t forget the diapers (swim and regular). Or wipes. Or toys. Or hat for the baby. And yourself. Or sunglasses (why didn’t we have these for the baby?). Or suntan lotion–both your chemically laced bottle and the nontoxic one for the baby.
- Sun, sand, and water: babies hate all of them. This makes for a FUN couple of hours minutes on the beach and makes you so glad you lugged along all that gear!
Thank god Baby K’s grandparents live in the heart of Waikiki. The 10 minute stroll to/from the beach was an ideal location given all of the above. Iggy and I would’ve avoided this kind of central tourist trap like the plague pre-baby. Post-baby, staying near one (or more) McDonald’s, Starbucks, and [insert every other ubiquitous chain store here] is a sanity saver.
A fellow mom friend* tried to explain this to me countless times while I was pregnant. I remember feeling sad for her when she told me how awesome it was to go away for the weekend and stay at a hotel connected to a mall. She could go eat and shop while her kids stayed in the hotel room playing video games. This sounded tragic to me. Then I found myself munching on an Egg McMuffin early one morning while sitting on Waikiki Beach. My coffee was still hot. Baby K was sleeping. The other tourists weren’t yet out. The beach chairs and surf rentals weren’t yet set up. Our only neighbors were the homeless, most of them still asleep in the sand. Even the strung out awake ones who were walking around saying some crazy sh*t didn’t take away from the otherwise quiet morning, complete with quintessential Hawaiian views.
Sunset on Waikiki Beach (because I don’t have a sunrise photo to include)
It was in this moment that I got it. Convenience. That’s the key to making travel with kids doable. Enjoyable even. That’s what my friend was trying to tell me, and, damn, she was right. Waikiki had everything we needed — the laid back beachy atmosphere, some good shopping if we were so inclined (we weren’t), and lots of good food.
On Tuesdays and Thursday, we picked up salads, jalapeño poppers, samosas, and other random treats at the Waikiki Farmers Market. At the Kings Village market on Wednesdays or Fridays, we shoved malasadas into our greedy faces. These are Hawaii’s famous take on Portuguese donuts. They lack a hole but are filled with decadently sweet, exotically flavored custards. Grandma and Grandpa introduced us to another Hawaiian favorite – garlic shrimp. As with malasadas, locals have go-to places they swear by. We were partial to the Pacific Garlic Shrimp sidewalk location on Liliuokalani Ave for no other reason than its proximity to “home” and the beach. We could eat there or take it back depending on Baby K’s and her older cousin, Toddler A’s, moods.
Best of all were all the home cooked meals Grandma served up. I’m not saying this to suck up. Most of my time in China is spent cooking meals on a single hotplate and washing dishes by hand. Pre-baby, I accepted my fate. Post-baby, these mundane tasks are hard to accomplish willingly. In Hawaii, I didn’t have either to psych myself in to doing.
Every day we ate on the 20th-something floor balcony, which spanned the length of the apartment. We could look to our left to see the moody clouds that hung low and more often than not blocked the Ko’olau Mountains.
Or to our right for the ocean view.
We watched the sun rise and set from the balcony. On several nights, I nursed Baby K on it. Scooping her hefty body out of the Pack-n-Play (another new piece of gear we travel the world with) and walking out through the opened sliding door was obviously more enjoyable than the middle of the night nursing sessions I do in China. Likewise, staying in an apartment was obviously more enjoyable than being cooped up in a hotel room. I’m sure AirBnB is the brainchild of parents who spent one or more sleepless nights in a single hotel room with a crying baby or cranky kid. (True story: Iggy and I once ate dinner in our hotel bathroom in Shanghai due to this very situation.)
We could’ve happily stayed in Waikiki for our three-week vacation considering the effort it took to get out and about with Baby K. That was tempting but we didn’t allow ourselves to be that lame. We ventured to other parts of Honolulu and even to other parts of Oahu. I’ll tell you more about those excursions in my next post. Let’s hope it won’t take another six months.
*In case you didn’t click on the link above, here’s another chance to check out my friend’s new and incredibly helpful, pretty damn funny blog. If you’re an expat moving to or living in nearby Qingdao, be sure to visit http://qingdaoexpatsurvivalguide.com/.