upon reflection of our family Christmas vacation to Costa Rica, the farmer and I have come to the conclusion that family vacations are similar to giving birth…  you swear you’ll never do it again and next thing you know you are up in the middle of the night with a child wondering how you could have forgotten your oath to never do this again…

I’ve decided to at least write down some of the pitfalls of family vacationing… in hopes that if we ever find ourselves on another one we can avoid making the same mistakes…

I’ve titled this – ‘ten simple steps to ruin your family vacation’

Step #1 – take your children on your family vacation

this is a sure fire way to ruin your family vacation, particularly if you have babies or teenagers…  those are the ones you absolutely need to leave at home in order to enjoy your well deserved vacation

Step #2 – ‘unplug’

otherwise known as ‘no devices’, this is when parents tell their children that even though there is free wifi at the resort, we are going to leave our iPads and iPhones in our hotel room and bring books, games and beach toys with us and see how it goes…

you generally only take phones away from kids when you know you won’t be around them – this is a classic move the farmer does to me all the time – confiscates the boys phones and then proceeds to leave me alone with them…

but for some reason, we decided it was a great idea to do on vacation… when only one of our children enjoys reading…  (this only lasted three days… before we came to our senses and stopped punishing ourselves on our own holiday)

Step #3 – work out for 3 months to get your beach body and then let loose on the buffet

before heading out on vacation, you workout, starve yourself and try to fit into your bathing suit only to throw caution to the wind when you arrive at your destination and attempt to get your money’s worth out of your all inclusive buffet…

the farmer, being rather frugal, insists on everyone eating every meal, every course and attempting to order the most outrageous items off the menu because ‘you’ll never get this at home’

the result is I get asked by day three if I’m ‘with child’…  no sir, I simply have not stopped eating since I got here…  thank you for noticing…

Step #4 – leave your ‘all inclusive paradise’ to venture out on 10-14 hour ‘excursion’

resorts love to offer their guests chances to see the sights and mingle with the locals…  ways to travel more even though you have just spent 8 hours in a plane…  ways to not have you eating at their buffet all day…

on this particular family vacation, I had booked three of these excursions… all involving hiking, horses, rainforest, bugs, zip-lining, mud baths, local meals (another way of saying rice and beans) and brushes with death in a foreign country…

the farmer, upon realizing the family schedule, cancelled the one 14 hour excursion saying he got a sense of the countryside on the 1 1/2 hour drive from the airport to the resort…

when you arrive back to the resort after your brushes with death, you wonder why you ever left in the first place…

Step #5 – go to the Spa and forget to do your seat selection for the plane ride home

I forgot to do the seat selection on the way there and the way home…  when you do this, your family will be given the back seats of the plane adjacent to the bathrooms…

if you are a child, you apparently can sleep through anything…

if you are an adult, the changing of babies diapers, the people that get onto the plane and immediately use the washroom (like they were holding it just out of excitement of using the washroom on the plane), the stewardess’ that have a very loud conversation about their ex-boyfriends with their lights on while you are trying to sleep, the older fellow who has a leaky bladder and uses the washroom every 28 minutes and the combination of the entire passengers body odours wafting to the back… this is your punishment…

Step #6 – pack 2 extra of every clothing item for the whole family

‘just in case’...  just in case you decide to wear something other than your bathing suit in thirty degree humid weather… you need options…

just in case your kids don’t pick their favourite bathing suit and one tank top and wear it the whole vacation…

just in case you think anyone at the resort remembered what dress you wore the night before and is waiting with anticipation to see what you are going to dawn this evening…  at the buffet…  you need to pack 8 dresses…

because this is fun to come home to… clothing that got dirty just by being packed in a suitcase and never worn…

Step #7 – be brutally honest on your custom’s form

this is good advice when you have less than a one hour connection to make…  go ahead and check the boxes that say you’ve ‘been to a farm and are returning to a farm‘…

because you are an honest Saskatchewan farmer that went for a horse back ride and feel like you should let the proper authorities know this… 

what happens when you do that is you have someone go through all 5 of your bags and assist you in missing your flight home…

Step #8 – let the airline decide what ‘star rating’ of hotel your family is comfortable with after missing your flight

WestJet decided our family looked like we would enjoy a 26.3 km taxi ride at midnight into the bowels of Mississauga, Ontario to find us a 2-star Comfort Inn…

I’m assuming that was the closest 2-star hotel they could find near the airport…

our first clue that this was going to be a frightful layover was when it appeared we were the only guests at the hotel and many families were just living at the hotel…  relatives of the owner we were assuming…

the surprise on the faces of everyone at the hotel when we arrived was something I will always remember…

4 1/2 hours of ‘sleep’ and back to the airport to find we were in a snow storm…

as it turned out, the vouchers WestJet gave us for our dinner and breakfast at the airport were double what they had to pay for our hotel room for the night…

Step #9 – don’t fly direct

if there is anything that will bond a family on your family vacation, it’s connections in airports…

WestJet does offer direct flights from Calgary to Liberia, Costa Rica… which we did on the way down but in order to get an extra day I decided that a pit-stop in Toronto on the way home sounded like a good plan…

27 hours of travelling in order to have one more evening at the Italian restaurant is not worth it we have concluded…

Step #10 – vacation during peak seasons

I love to book during Christmas, New Years or Spring Break…

this way you never miss a sunrise when you are attempting to save pool chairs with books, sunscreen and flip flops…

I really should follow this up with ten ways to enjoy a family vacation…  but really it’s just one way… and it’s called Gin…