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Things I Learned on Our Family Vacation

on October 16, 2016

Driving in LA can turn a sweet “no really, YOU go” Midwest driver into a horn honking, “I WAS HERE FIRST,” shove your way in when there’s really no room, “Oh, I’ve got this” driver.

Driving in Mexico is just like driving in Kansas City. Except that the street signs – well, you pretty much have to guess on most of those since they’re sometimes there and sometimes not. Driving lanes? They’re marked every once in a while. And everything is in kilometers. Why is it that we haven’t switched to the metric system yet?

All drinks taste better when using a pineapple or watermelon for a cup. Also a good idea to learn enough Spanish to ensure said drink doesn’t have alcohol when being purchased for your teenager. Relax. It didn’t. I’m pretty sure.

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Apparently, In & Out Burger has two menus: one for those dumb tourists who think what they show on their board is what they serve and then a super-secret one that has something of a cult following and secret code words.

Buying anything in Mexico gives one a whole load of sticker shock since the prices are listed in pesos, but the symbol for pesos is $. Had to think long and hard about getting a $200 quarter tank of gas, indulging in an $18 Coke or using the Mexican equivalent to Johnny on the Spot for $8. Can’t pee for free, people!

Towels folded into cute animals are a delight. Towels folded like a ninja and left dangling from the ceiling will freak out the teenage daughter who just wanted to change her clothes for the third time that day. Thank you, Juan, for adding some excitement to our tiny closet of a room on the ship.

The little stand off the side of the road in Mexico is indeed the best place to get tacos, but when they tell you the sauce is spicy, probably a good idea to take their word for it. Or buy an $18 Coke to put out the inevitable throat fire.

Lunch in Catalina just might break the bank at nearly $100 (that’s not pesos, people!). Lunch in Ensenada comes in at slightly less than I would pay to eat lunch at my kids’ school. Thank you, taco stand on the side of the road.

When exiting international cell phone areas, the first thing that must happen is to check the phone. Many things happen in the course of a few “put your phone on airplane mode or you will lose it for a month because international charges are going to break us” hours, and those things must be checked. Diligently.img_47801

Mom is usually right about what will be fun, so just shut up and go with it. If mom was wrong, she’ll beat herself up enough about it for all of you. No need to make her cry more.

When you tell your kids to pack their chargers and portable power banks, make sure they did. Because It will be your fault when their phone dies and they can’t get to a charger because the only available one is charging your phone (which is being used for directions).

If your kids don’t already know what marijuana smells like, Hollywood Boulevard will give them a crash course. Other classes along the street: Sawing Off the Top of a Van to Make a Convertible Tour Bus, Grab Your Mini Academy Award or Shot Glass with Your Child’s Name on it NOW because the Sale Is Only Today (the incredibly worn out sign said so) and How to Thoroughly Un-Impress Your Teenagers with Handprints of People They’ve Never Heard of. Like John Wayne (follow up course in the annex titled “You Have Failed as a Parent with Your Children’s Cultural Education”).

Food included in your cruise ticket price convinces your body that ice cream for breakfast and pizza for a midnight snack are basically the best idea ever. Until you have to cram yourself into a tiny airline seat. “Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seat belt and pull to tighten.” Or just be fat. No tightening required if you did your vacation duty and had some hot dogs and fries at 1 am. Every night.

Teenagers can’t parasail in California when it’s windy. Rather, they can take a boat out on choppy waters, vomit and then come back for a refund.

Zip lining in Mexico is way cooler than parasailing in California. Cheaper, too. Also vomit-free, so bonus. Beaches, turns out, aren’t that busy in October, either. Go figure.

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When you have to pay per checked bag and that fee is more than your airline ticket, you start thinking about shipping dirty laundry home. Or buying a ticket for your luggage and buckling it in. And if you check that bag, you find out just how many pairs of dirty shorts can fit in a bag. Looked like a dirty shirt clown car in the laundry room once we got home.

When you get a chance to be President of the United States or part of the Friends cast on the couch at Central Perk, you take it. Also check out Sheldon’s spot. After paying $20 to park. Even if it means you have to don your “Yes, I am from the Midwest and want to pay lots of money to have someone show me fake streets and the Gilmore Girls gazebo at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour” sun hat. Because that LA sun is STRONG, and they’re proud of their TV sets!

The Santa Monica Pier is an exercise in fabulous marketing, akin to the “I caught a fish THIS big.” Website: TONS of fabulous activities for everyone. Actual things open and available on Thursday evening in October: about three. But you can sure find a plethora of $20 parking spaces. That have stairs that lead you out to dark alleys and entrance doors that lock you out after being closed. On a positive note, the McDonald’s there was the bomb diggity with some pretty impressive gourmet burger choices. The teenagers still got chicken nuggets.

In LA, when the map shows your destination as 12 miles away and drive time is 1 hour, 20 minutes, no, you did not accidentally look up walking time. It will take you that long. Longer if you make nice while you’re driving. Honestly, consider walking. Might get there sooner. We got lapped by a few folks out for a leisurely stroll a few times. Then again, you might love that quality time in the car and paying $20 to park. Not going to tell you how to live your life.

Access to free cheeseburgers and Juevos Rancheros right before dinner make for a yummy appetizer. And also a need to roll oneself back to the room. img_4723

If you tell your husband in no uncertain terms not to yell about your driving because you are “a little freaked out and apparently too nice to drive in LA,” when you slam on you brakes to avoid hitting someone who is not too nice to wait his turn to merge, he will inevitably look up from his game of Candy Crush, shout out an expletive, and ignore the driving anxiety rolling down your cheeks. And because you don’t want to die getting shot by someone with road rage, said bleeping husband’s comments really do need to stay in the vehicle at all times.

People who work in the places you stay, ride, park, eat know LOTS of things. They’re usually pretty excited to share those things if you ask them. Especially if you aren’t a total jerk about life. Or the parking fee.

Teenagers will most likely be thoroughly unimpressed with the fantastic views that Griffith Observatory offers of LA. Unless it’s of the Hollywood Sign and they can get a decent selfie out of it. Otherwise, call that visit a bust and hang out in the café.

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When your son’s Hollywood crush does not have a star on the Walk of Fame but a dog does, all those super friendly tour givers will hear about it. Because apparently they all had a say in Anne Hathaway not getting a star yet, and “Dogs aren’t even real actors!!”

Pictures are only okay if teenagers have properly posed. And have good hair days. And are not wearing something awful. And have good lighting. And don’t have a terrible expression. And have the right filter. And can be Snapchatted. Photo ops are work, people.

If you spend time and energy worrying about if flights are going to be on time or if the GPS is going to give you directions you can actually follow or if the airport security line is going to frisk you because you had nail clippers in your purse, you will be exhausted. And will probably override joy with anxiety. A lot. Don’t do that. Crack up when the kid farts in the back seat. Laugh at the runaway roll at the dinner table. Giggle when the guy on Hollywood Boulevard asks you what country you’re from and seems horribly confused when you reply with, “This one.”

And the most important thing I learned on our family vacation:

I love my family, and it was one of the best weeks of my life. I am fortunate that we could take such an amazing trip. And yet, I was so very happy to drive on a highway that has fewer lanes than I have fingers, and quite frankly, I missed my dog. But those clown car suitcases don’t unpack themselves, and so post-vacation work life begins . . .

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One response to “Things I Learned on Our Family Vacation

  1. Shawn says:

    Great perspective on your trip. Anyone traveling this itinerary should read this before booking.

    I couldn’t help but notice that Lucille Ball holds a special place in your world. She had a home here in Sedona, AZ – I suspect because she loved the red rocks.

    Like

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