Self-park Schlep

Two littler sisters, early in the day.

You’re not a truly intrepid family traveler until you’ve schlepped five days’ worth of gear and three tired kiddos from self-park to a hotel lobby, BY YOURSELF.

Such was life earlier tonight upon checking in at the Grand Pacific Palisades Resort & Hotel.

I’m here solo with all three girls on the sedentary part of a week-long road trip/family vacation. We left our home in Wine Country Thursday morning. After an overnight with friends in San Luis Obispo, lunch with a buddy in Santa Monica, and dinner with cousins in Carlsbad, we checked in here tonight around 8:30, well beyond the girls’ bedtime.

But tiredness wasn’t the real challenge. The true gauntlet was managing those tired kids while getting all of our stuff from the van onto a luggage cart, lugging cart and kids up the elevator and into the lobby for check-in, then getting everything and everyone out to our room.

I know what you’re probably thinking at this point: Why the hell didn’t Matty just do valet? The reason is simple: Valet is expensive, and most families don’t have the resources to go there. Beside, we had a coupon for free self-park for the duration of our stay. (For more on the logic behind this decision, see this post about what I’m calling the “Schoolyard Test.”)

Thankfully, I managed to find an underground spot right next to an abandoned luggage cart. The Big Girl and Little R got out of the van and watched (and complained) while I loaded our gear onto the cart; Baby G watched directed traffic from her car seat.

Once the cart was loaded up, I grabbed G and held her in my left arm while pulling the cart with my right.

(If you’ve never pulled a full luggage cart with one arm, let me tell you: It works your pectoralis muscles. Big-time. Like, I won’t need to bench press anything tomorrow. Shit, I’ll be lucky if I can raise my arm above my head.)

Somehow we made it to the elevator. From there, somehow we made it to the front desk. Following a snafu at check-in (which, in all fairness, was resolved quickly and painlessly), I trudged onward with the kids and cart to our room, a one-bedroom suite that quite literally was the farthest possible accommodations from the front desk.

By the time we managed to round the bend for our wing of the hotel, I was literally dripping with sweat. My right pec was burning. My left arm was numb from carrying the baby. In my head, I heard the “Chariots of Fire” theme song as I reached for the room key and swiped it through the lock.

Now, here I am.

I could go on about how the Big Girl claimed the pullout couch, Little R grabbed the bedroom floor and Baby G passed out on the bed. I could take a picture of myself sitting on a dining room chair in the bathroom, where I’m writing this post (and soon will write a newspaper article, as well). Hell, I could wrap the night by doing 30 burpees on the balcony outside, and all of it would pale in comparison to the self-park schlep I endured earlier tonight.

In doing so, however, I saved nearly $40 per night, or $160 total. I am family travel warrior. Hear me roar.

One-on-one-travel, take two

Can't wait for one-on-one travel with this girl.

Can’t wait for one-on-one travel with this girl.

A few years ago, when L was the only child in our family, I made a big deal (privately and publicly, on the predecessor to this blog) about traveling solo with just her.

We took a number of trips just the two of us. The biggest of the bunch: An epic sojourn to Beverly Hills so she could gaze upon couture dresses at fancy boutiques and get inspired to sketch some fashion of her own (she was big into art even then).

In general, there are dozens of benefits to one-on-one travel with kids. The individualized attention. The unobstructed bonding time. The out-of-the-ordinary dynamic. Logistically, however, with two little humans running around (and two very different childcare schedules), this dream is a bit more difficult to attain. How will Powerwoman and I massage the wounded ego of the child who stays at home? How do we balance childcare when one parent and one child are out of the equation? These are the kinds of questions with which we grapple.

Not that the self-doubt slows me down. On the contrary, I just booked the first one-on-one trip for me and R—an early December escape to SoCal to visit family and report a story about Legoland California.

Our plan is simple. Fly down, check in to the Legoland hotel, and spend the day with family on Friday; while away the entire day in the park on Saturday; fly home Sunday. Considering how much R loves theme parks and LEGOs and meeting new people (and airplanes and Dum-Dum lollipops on airplanes), I’d say we’re in for a good time.

Not that the plan could have played out any other way; we couldn’t have taken L, even if we wanted to. For starters, she has school on Fridays, and we would have had to pull her out (which Powerwoman and I agree is not a good idea right now). More important, after this past summer’s back-to-back Hawaii and Disney World trips, L declared that she didn’t want to fly for a year, and Powerwoman and I don’t want to force the issue. (This is most definitely another blog post for another time, folks.)

Yes, it’s a bummer we all can’t travel together on this adventure. At the same time, it’s a treat to be able to bask in solo travel time with only one of my kids. I think one-on-one travel time with each child is an important part of life as a parent of multiple children.

Finally, after three years, I’m delighted to give R that chance.

To what extent do you prioritize one-on-one travel with your kids?

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