06/22/2012 11:50 EDT | Updated 08/22/2012 05:12 EDT

This Is the Way to Have the Vacation of Your Nightmares

I have had this recurring dream for the past couple of weeks. It goes like this: I'm finished work, and school is out for the summer. I'm in the shade, under a brightly coloured beach umbrella, and I am relaxing poolside with my favourite book of the hour and a cold, refreshing drink. The mid-day sky is a brilliant blue, and there are white, fluffy clouds that resemble exploding marshmallows dotting the picturesque backdrop. The summer sun is shining brightly, and song birds can be heard in the distance. I tilt my head back and allow my drooping eyes to gently close, as my weary bones and muscles ease into an afternoon siesta.

Ah, this is the life...

Through the haze of my dreamy stupor, something jars me awake. Far, far away, I can hear this sound. Piercing the calm of moments ago, it is an irritating, "fingers-on-chalkboard" kind of scratching sound. I try to ignore it, but it won't go away. What could be possibly making such a commotion?

"Mom, so-and-so won't let me get on the computer and it's my turn!" a voice wails.

"No, it isn't!" another shouts back.

"Yes, it is! You were already on for, like, an hour!"

"Gimme the mouse!"

scuffle, scuffle, scuffle....Smack!



Reality check. I am no longer sleeping, although I still find myself drooling on the couch, while the right side of my face has permanent pillow marks on it. I have fallen asleep in the fetal position on the sofa while "life as I dreamed it" falls apart around me. I can hardly move from the dreadful pain shooting up from my legs through to my neck and shoulders.

Someone please tell me that it's not really summer vacation already?

Alas, summer dream vacations are not all they are cracked up to be. But, if there were such a thing as an ideal summer vacation or fantasy trip to an exotic location in the works for me, here is what I would deem essential to making that vacation the stuff dreams are made of.

If you were going on a dream vacation, you probably wouldn't be willing to bring along four cranky, over-stimulated children. Unfortunately, I cannot make the same claim. What can I say? You are smarter than I am.

Can it really be considered a vacation, dream or otherwise, when you take children along? After all, nothing really changes. Reality still follows you to the ends of the earth. You still have to clothe, feed, groom, discipline, console, screech at, cuddle, bathe, snuggle, screech at some more and then potentially sleep with your kicking, over-tired offspring even while you are on "vacation."

This is no holiday, people; it's a change of scenery.

My husband and I took a vacation with our four children to Dominican Republic, and my youngest daughter threw up five times on the plane before we even touched down on tropical soil. The plane we had boarded was a party-plane, and the spring-breakers that shared our mid-aisle row of seats were understandably less than thrilled to be sitting in a section with the ill as we made trip after trip to the postage stamp-sized washroom at the rear of the plane. And I'm not even mentioning the smell of vomit that began right in the middle of the evening meal.

As if this was not enough to dampen our spirits and discourage us from vacationing with children, another daughter decided to follow suit mid-week, just when we were all starting to unwind. This time around, she had three days of all-you-can-eat buffets to enhance the senses. Thank goodness for daily room service and balconies with railings (and I will be forever grateful for that little spot at the bottom of the outdoor staircase that was just the right size for storing dirty, stinky bed sheets.)

Let's be serious. If you are really going to consider a dream vacation, take a little advice from me: Leave the kids with gramps and grandma. 'Nuff said.

As well, word to the wise: Try not to sandwich your dream vacation in between back-to-back demanding work schedules and extra-curricular commitments, as I have made the mistake of doing in the past. I have literally worked up to the minute before I have left on a trip and found myself collapsed on a seat somewhere in a vehicle or on a plane.

Or worse, I have found myself collapsing inside an overloaded truck cab hauling a tent-trailer while a screaming toddler grabs at my hair. With only six hours of daytime traveling to look forward to, this was a vacation I'd rather have done without. And along the same train of thought, I would suggest avoiding at all costs the red-eye flight home, particularly when you have four children in tow; or worse, an 8:00 a.m. appointment the following morning; or even more frightful, your first day at a new job. Can anyone say, "pass me the coffee, and prop my eyes open with a two-by-four?"

Finally, as this list could go on ad nauseum, I will end with this. Try not to imagine that your dream vacation will be anything more than a slight improvement over your normal life. In other words, don't expect to have too much fun. When you plan on having fun, nine times out of ten, something goes wrong and you end up feeling gypped and bummed about your dream vacation.

When my daughter threw up on the plane, I decided right then and there that this was going to be the worst vacation ever, so I was pleasantly surprised when she stopped throwing up, a mere five hours later, and the trip started to take a turn for the better. It also helped to put on some fresh shorts.

And so I say: Set the bar really low, and then everything you do will look and seem great. There is nothing quite like low expectations to brighten up a trip. Dream vacation or not. Happy summer vacation everyone!