Monday, October 27, 2014

Cranky Snippets about Travel

I love to travel, even with my kids, but there are a few things that just make me cranky. This post includes the cranky-making things from my most recent trip, which was our family vacation in Colorado. Yes, that was in July. I meant to post this earlier, but I got distracted by two book releases and what not.

Anyway, here are my top five cranky things about travel:

1. Restaurants: if you have a kids menu and it includes "plain buttered pasta," 99.99% of the children who order it will be disappointed to the point of refusing to eat it if it includes little flecks of parsley. Or little spots of pepper. Or anything except for pasta and butter, really. Yes, I know that is boring. But this is why it is on the kids menu. Similarly, if you list a grilled cheese sandwich on the kids menu, there is a high probability that the child ordering it does not want it on your artisan seven-grain bread.

2. Hotels: if you advertise a room as a suite, there should be a door between the sleeping area and the living area. Otherwise, the grownups are reduced to drinking beers in the bathroom after the kids go to bed. 
Yes we really did this. In our defense, it was a rather large bathroom.
3. People at busy gas stations on popular tourist routes: after you have finished getting your gas, pull out of the fueling bay. If you need to buy something in the shop, pull into one of the parking spaces that these gas stations almost universally have. Otherwise, the people in the cars waiting to get into the fueling bays will hate you. I might make an exception if you're pulling a trailer, but if you just have a car and you leave it parked in the fueling bay while you go get your drinks and go to the bathroom, I will hate you.

4. People parking at popular trailheads: don't park all strange and take up three spots. That's just mean.

5. Google: for the love of all that is good, can you please figure out how to make it possible to search for "playgrounds near X" in Google Maps and get reasonable results, i.e., actual parks with playgrounds, not stores that sell playground equipment? The parents of the nation will love you for it. Right now, our method for finding playgrounds in the cities/towns we visit or drive through involves some combination of these steps: (1) searching for the city's park and rec website and hoping they actually include this info (many do not), (2) looking at Google Maps near our destination, finding a green area that looks like a park, flipping into satellite view and trying to guess if that fuzzy shape is a playground, (3) asking the receptionist at the hotel and/or the waitress at the place we eat and hoping for the best. 

Corollary: city parks and rec departments, be sure to include amenities such as swings and slides on your web pages about your parks. Also, include the address!

And here's a bonus cranky thing. Restaurants: if you put a baby changing station in the women's restroom and not the men's restroom you are evil. We are past this stage now, but it bears stating, anyway.

OK, tell me your cranky things about travel in the comments!

29 comments:

  1. I actually kind of like some of the snack boxes for sale on airplanes, but why god why do they never have child-friendly options? A cold cheese sandwich, if they don't want to have PB? Something a child could eat for the love of god? For transatlantic flights? My kids ate goldfish crackers and M&Ms all the way to Europe and back again. (it's not like they don't know in advance if there will be children on a flight.)

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    1. Ah yes, airplane food. Even when you get hot meals on your flight, the "kids meals" are delightfully optimistic about kids' eating habits! I travel with a stash of go-go squeeze and other healthy-ish snacks my kids will actually eat, because yeah, they probably aren't eating what the airplane has.

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  2. Have you tried walkscore.com to locate playgrounds?

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    1. No! I'll have to try that. Thanks for the tip.

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  3. oh my gosh, I love the photo of you guys camped in the bathroom.

    We're trying to book a holiday (South African!) for December and I'm also so tired of wading through website upon website looking for suitable "suites" that are not pullout couches in the main bedroom................ ugh!

    Also, you guys have plain pasta on the menus? My kids would be in heaven!

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    1. Sometimes we have plain pasta on the menu. But in general, if a restaurant has pasta on the menu here, you can convince them to make it plain (and charge you the full price for the pasta dish... but hey, I'll take what I can get).

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  4. Yes, a million times yes to adding playgrounds to Google maps + city parks/rec info on playgrounds. My method - ask my map-scouring better half to try & locate playgrounds, and I'm pretty sure he uses a similar method of just looking @ satellite view. Sigh.

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    1. We've found some real gems by asking at restaurants and hotels- but it is quite variable. Basically, if the person you ask has kids, you'll probably get a great answer. If not... you're out of luck.

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    2. Remember when I suggested eating at the Chautauqua dining hall and mentioned the playground right next to it? Did you catch that? Or was the brew pub too noisy? I think the best referrals for playgrounds are other parents.

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    3. @badmomgoodmom- indeed I do! That is why brunch there went from a "maybe" to a "let's do this!"

      The problem we have is that it is nice to plan ahead and stay near a playground, or incorporate a stop at a playground on a long drive- and then there are no friendly local parents to tell us where to find the playground!

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  5. I once led tours at a popular destination that had recently remodeled and expanded their visitor center. They were very, very proud of their extensive new parking lot. I had to point out to them that when they remodeled the bathrooms, it might have been a good idea to include changing stations. Instead, when I brought the 20-month-old for whom I was a nanny, I had to change his diaper by laying him down on the bathroom floor.

    On a related note, we don't go to Outback Steakbouse a lot, but when we have, they have always had changing stations in the men's rooms.

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    1. There really should be a tumblr of shame for places that don't have changing table, or worse- only have them in the women's room. But my media empire has already grown a bit out of control, so someone else will have to start it!

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    2. Anonymous2:27 PM

      Governor Brown apparently doesn't think this is an issue (or, an issue worth passing legislation about.)
      http://daddydoinwork.com/ppdads/

      -Sally

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    3. There should. On this trip, discovered a *rest stop* with no changing stations. But with vending machines, because priorities, apparently.

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  6. Our family has totally been there with #1, 2, and 5. We're growing out of playgrounds, but you just pray the photo was taken in the winter, late in the afternoon so there's a great shadow on the ground you can see.

    And I'll add a child rant to the list. Why do you always have to tell you have to use the bathroom, just AFTER we're passing the rest stop, instead of just before?

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    1. Even my husband does that sometimes- it is like seeing the rest stop sign reminds him!

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  7. We've had good luck with https://mapofplay.kaboom.org/ . In addition with listing playgrounds at parks and such, they also list schools, and an elementary school might have the only public playground in a small town (as long as school is not in session).

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    1. Thanks for the suggestion! I've tried a couple of playground rating sites, but they are often data poor. I'll check out this one for our next trip!

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  8. Green flecks in general, be they parsley or basil or oregano or who knows what, on pasta or pizza, are a deal killer. We switched brands of frozen pizza for precisely this reason. It's like the company didn't even think about who actually eats frozen pizza. It's not the gourmands who want their green flecks! We were once warned by a waitress about the mac and cheese at a restaurant. We were going to order it for the kids and she reported that she kept having to take it back basically untouched, because it had bread-crumby type things, and flecks, and such. The kids just want Kraft.

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    1. My younger daughter will eat non-Kraft mac and cheese as long as it is free of breadcrumbs and green things. We've had good luck w/ restaurants leaving those things out when we ask. One place was even able to make regular mac and cheese although the menu item said lobster mac and cheese. It is so hit or miss, though!

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  9. Zenmoo9:40 PM

    I HATE auto flushing toilets. It is really hard to convince a little kid to stay on the toilet when it randomly goes off because the sensor freaks out because they're so small.

    I also get annoyed by places that seem to think fries & nuggets = kids menu. I actually have a good eater who would be perfectly happy to eat a chicken breast, mash & buttered veggies but not many places do that. (Here I will insert a rave for Valentino's in Christchurch who have a good kids menu and do smart things like take the kids orders first)

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    1. Ah, auto flushing toilets... My older daughter was terrified of those.

      I also had a "fun" experience of needing to pump on a business trip and finding that the only place I could do that in O'Hare was the bathroom. Which had autoflushing toilets. Good times, good times....

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  10. As a corollary to your playgrounds rant (which I heartily endorse), I would also like to ask why, in 2014, nobody has yet developed an app that will show you the locations of the closest fast-food restaurants with indoor play areas.

    Seriously, app developers: I would pay cold, hard cash for this app. Think about it.

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  11. Anonymous9:38 PM

    Hotels who advertise cribs and then provide a 10-year-old dusty, germy pack-and-play with no sheet. Hotels that provide a crib but make it up with a queen-size sheet. (!) I did point out to the manager how unsafe it was to have a baby on a mattress that tilted every which way because of the sheet bunched up underneath.

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  12. We've occasionally had luck with Yelp for finding playgrounds. Weirdly. Google is useless...

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  13. I thought of you: http://www.sheldoncomics.com/archive/141031.html

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  14. Commenting much later (I'm catching up, spottily, here and there) to add: If you work in an airport and a nursing mother asks if there's a private place she can go to nurse, and if you reply that the airport recently updated some "family restrooms" to make them quite nice? My goodness, I'm thinking some kind of a lobby area with chairs in that restroom.

    When the toilets, like most public ones, don't have lids (and either way, yuck), there's a small changing station that can't really be used as a seat, a tiny little chair against the wall you can strap your toddler into while you use the toilet, and nothing but sitting on the floor if you want to nurse? No, direct the mother to some kind of lounge, instead. (Which I probably would have asked for, but couldn't remember the word at the moment. And I hadn't wanted to nurse in the public areas because they were so VERY public at the moment, as this was a hub in Texas in the middle of the Polar Vortex, which wouldn't have been so bad in Texas, except that all of the flights were delayed due to attendants and pilots and such being stuck elsewhere. Anyway. You get the idea.)

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