You know you’re on family vacation with young kids when…

Sisters playing with perlers. 6 a.m.

Sisters playing with perlers. 6 a.m.

1. You wouldn’t be caught dead in a restaurant without paper and crayons.
2. You order that second Manhattan at dinner to go so you can drink it up in the room during books and songs.
3. You implore loved ones to use “inside voices” way more than you’d like.
4. You hear—and share—more poop and pee jokes than you’ll admit, even to your best friend.
5. You and your partner snuggle up in bed at 8 p.m. to watch separate movies on separate mobile devices with headphones (so as not to disturb anyone in the next bed).
6. You use Suave watermelon shampoo/conditioner on your own hair AND YOU DON’T GIVE A SHIT.
7. You listen to the same playlist in the car over and over and over and over again.
8. You consume French fries (and ice cream) at least once every other day.
9. You are awakened before 6 a.m. every day, usually to officiate an argument.
10. You have an adventure on each trip to a public restroom.
11. You (reluctantly) accept that the process of applying sunscreen takes more than 15 minutes.
12. You tip servers more than normal to assuage your guilt for leaving such a mess.
13. You relinquish all semblance of privacy in the bathroom (or otherwise).
14. You explain new stuff you encounter. In great detail. Frequently.
15. You step on small toys (or Perler Beads) daily, and cannot bring yourself to curse about it when you do.
16. You find yourself justifying how pasta really is its own food group.
17. You have to call housekeeping for help to replace marker-stained pillowcases.
18. You visit every toy store in a five-mile radius of your destination.
19. You realize museums and playgrounds are unbeatable diversionary tools.
20. You expand your family limits to include a litany of stuffed animal friends.

The best hotel-room diversion of all time

The morning ritual.

The morning ritual.

We just got home from a week in Hawaii—a week that included some early mornings in some pretty fabulous family-friendly hotels (including this one).

We could have passed the time by having the girls draw or paint or play dress-up. Technically, I guess we also could have let them watch TV (though that’s not our style). Instead, we put them in a position to entertain themselves with another diversion: Perler beads.

If you’re not familiar with Perler beads, they’re fusible plastic beads, each about the size of a chocolate chip. You can do a whole bunch of things with the beads—such as string them and weave them and melt them. We usually go for the third option; the girls arrange beads in particular patterns on a variety of different peg-boards, and when the arrangements are finished, we (parents) melt the beads together with a clothes iron (and wax paper in between).

The iron is what makes Perlers such a fun activity for hotels; every hotel room in America has one, and it’s totally free to use. We rolled into Hawaii with 3,000 beads and six peg boards in different shapes. We rolled out of Hawaii with a few hundred beads and more than two dozen original creations in various forms.

It doesn’t really matter what we do with the finished products (though most of them likely will end up as Christmas tree ornaments); what matters is the fun we all have while making them.

L took her designs incredibly seriously, inventing elaborate patterns every time. R crafted hers with more whimsy, frequently spilling her designs back into the master (gallon-sized) Ziploc to start again. In case you’re wondering, I’m big into color-blocking mine. And Powerwoman really likes symmetry.

As a family, we Villanos became so obsessed that Perlers became a morning ritual—the kids would wake up, Powerwoman and I would set them up with Perlers, and the three or four of us would create designs until breakfast (and sometimes beyond). We couldn’t go to the beach until each of us had made a design. And we couldn’t eat lunch until my wife or I had ironed the creations to make them whole.

Trust me: If your kids like art, try the Perlers. You’ll be surprised how addicting and engaging they are.

What are your go-to hotel-room diversions on a family vacation?

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