Do you ever have that feeling where you think becoming a member of your family could have been a huge mistake? Like maybe you should just dial it back a few years, maybe move back in with your old roommate and start living on beer and oven-bake potato wedges again? No you’ve never thought that?…yeah me neither, pretend I didn’t say anything. I’ll tell you something though, if you really want to test your dedication to your family, book a 6 week trip to America so you can spend 42 days within a self inflicted 10 metre radius of each other. I don’t think the rest of my family are really the issue, I’m pretty sure I’m the type of person that is fun to be around for about 6-8 hours a day. Enough rambling, onto the trip.
Flying over couldn’t have been any easier with the kids. I know people stress about long flights with young children but I found that there is a really easy solution to that, don’t sit with your family. We board the flight, I shake my wife’s hand, wish her luck and head my private bar and movie cinema for 12 hours. During the flight if you hear children stirring that could be yours, be sure to make eye contact with a fellow disgruntled passenger and exchange eye rolling, head shaking or derogatory comments about parents that can’t control their kids. Some of my favourites to use are “licence to breed I say” or “sounds like we’ve got some of those new age parents on the plane, too scared to smack their kid into line”. When we arrive Kristina looks like she has had zero sleep which is weird because I got heaps.
We’ve hired numerous cars throughout the trip and this will be my first experience driving in America. The concept of driving on the opposite side of the road whilst sitting on the opposite side of the car is something that has been giving me mild anxiety for some time, particularly on the flight over. The exciting side effect of anxiety for me is my ability to turn solid food into gas and liquid at record-breaking speed (not that airplane food usually needs any help); not an ideal situation for passengers seated near me or lining up outside the bathroom after me. You get to watch the soul of the person in line after you die when you’re coming out of the cubicle and make that friendly eye contact, and you just mouth the word to them, “sorry”.
The great news is driving is way easier than I thought it was going to be. Hiring the cars is pretty easy too, although if our “budget” for the trip were a heterosexual male human named Mr Budget with no previously known desire for arse play, the hire car companies thoroughly enjoyed taking turns rectally penetrating him. Sorry, that might not have been very clear. What I am trying to say is that we assumed we had paid for the hire cars before we left aside for a few little fees, but between taxes, one-way drop-off fees, child seat hire, roadside assistance and fuel pre-pay, the rental car companies quite deeply penetrated poor Mr Budget.
See, not a bad car for $14,o36 per day +fuel.
This will be my 4th trip to Los Angeles and solidified its position as the attractive homeless prostitute of America. It’s dirtier than you remember, a little scary to go inside some areas and it smells like urine and weed all over…BUT there is just something beautiful about it that makes you keep coming back though. Maybe it’s just because it’s cheap and feels good in short bursts? Clearly somewhere we needed to bring the kids. Ok that might be a mean description of L.A. but I promise you an accurate one.
L.A. is probably where I realised that my abilities to budget for this trip were flawed. Like if Mike Tyson’s accountant 15 years ago and a Joe Hockey had a child together, that child stood a better chance of forging a more promising budget outlook. I swear when I did the food budget I must have thought both kids were still breastfeeding…maybe I had hopes of some breastfeeding myself. Also my previous times here I didn’t do any sightseeing, so much to my surprise tour operators and theme parks aren’t free. THIS IS BULLSHIT! I watch as our poor Mr Budget, still sore from the car hire companies takes some hefty kicks to the ball sack.
There were 5 big drives on our trip ranging from 4-7 hours. Now you can hate on it as much as you want but when we go long car trips the kids get iPads. You can play as much eye spy as you want with your kids but for me, when I’m 15cm away from 7 different trucks driving at 70 miles an hour and 10 minutes into trying to figure out what the fuck starts with B and is outside the car, my ability to drive is impaired. For the safety of everyone on board, we salute all Apple products. It’s not without it’s flaws though; Iggy for instance chucks a real Chris Brown when you try to take it back off her. To her credit she became more accepting of it by the end of the trip. Juliet on the other hand, being older we ask for hers to be put away an hour or so before the drive ends so that she can take in the sights of heading into a new city, in a country she has never visited before…a big ask I know. Poor kid has got it tough and worryingly must have some hearing issues; what she seems to always hear is “Hey Juliet, show us your impersonation of an ungrateful tween who’s parents are a giant burden on your Candy Crush way of life”. Killer impersonator though, real talent.
On any of the shorter trips we are obviously willing to participate in the parent/children relationship a little more. It’s really cute, even with an 8 year age gap the kids are great friends and like to play this game called “who can use their voice to rupture mum or dad’s eardrum first?”. It’s always so innocent and cute at first, they’re like tickling each other and singing Disney classics then within 4 seconds Iggy is, from the restraint of a child seat, attempting to kick her sister in the head. As a resolve I came up with a really fun game I like to call “If you keep screaming, the next homeless person that comes to the car window asking for heroin money gets a free iPad”.
Throughout the trip our accommodation was nothing short of amazing. I remember at one point in Portland thinking how lucky we were that only 30,000 prostitutes had a chance to use our room before us. Unlike previous guests, there was definitely no sex going on while we were there though. Actually that could be the slogan for the entire trip. When we would arrive to some hotels I would think what the fuck did I search to find this place? “Rooms that ensure my wife can see my children’s innocent sleeping faces from virtually any location? Preferable to have paper thin bathroom walls so I can audibly make sure the entire family is keeping regular?”
New York was a highlight destination to visit, although sadly the destination where we would farewell our well and truly deceased friend Mr Budget. Realistically his blood was all over our hands, we were having so much fun we just forgot he even existed. Aside from transport, virtually everything in New York is expensive. Taxis are super cheap, although you may just at some point have to pay for a taxi with your life because they appear to have had the same driving instructor as my wife.
How we made it 6 weeks without anyone getting sick was mind boggling to me. Especially Iggy in New York, there must have been 47 times we caught her licking a subway train handrail. A TRAIN HANDRAIL! I would lick Forest Whitaker’s lazy eye before I would stick my mouth near a train handrail! Just another reason why I don’t believe in god; if he is SO almighty, wouldn’t we be born with the preloaded knowledge that licking the handrail of a subway car is a shit idea?
One thing you can never prepare yourself for when travelling for 6 weeks is that you have a minimum of 84 restaurant meals to get through with kids in a row (not including breakfast). IN. A. ROW. We used to go out to dinner at home and I’d have to take 3 weeks of personal leave from work after just to recover. All of a sudden your favourite thing to do twice a day is watch your 11 year old screw her face up because they got fancy and put fruit in her lemonade, while your 3 year old yells at you for ordering spaghetti when she told you 17 times that she wanted…spaghetti. And if you think the kids are bad, we went to lunch one day with 2 friends and Kristina spilt 60% of the drinks on the table just after they arrived. 100% of that liquid went on our friend’s laps. I tried to get some of the liquid to spill onto my lap so I could remember what it felt like to have something other than myself touch that area.
Food in America was, (although a little more expensive than anticipated), exactly as wonderful as we had imagined. We had watched so much Man Vs. Food before we left that I had only actually budgeted to be alive for the initial 3 and a half weeks of the trip, then I would die with a drunken smile of either a heart attack at Shake Shack in New York or choking on pork rib bone at Salt Lick in Austin. Much to my dismay and my wife’s disappointment I survived though, and even with some weight gain I can still look at myself in the mirror and see how lucky my wife is to have a young Joe Manganiello for a husband. Steven – 1 , American food – 1 also…because I did actually get kind of fat…but totally Leonardo Dicaprio sexy dad-bod fat.
Worst times were without a doubt the 3 separate occasions we had to get up at 4am for flights. When you’re sitting in the comfort of your lounge room, half way through a bottle of sauvignon blanc and trolling the endless travel websites booking flights, accommodation, hire cars and tours for an American getaway, you tend to romanticise the skills your children possess. 6 weeks later you’re on a wildlife tour of Yosemite at 2am having to explain to the tour guide that although you promise to have read the terms and conditions when booking, your sleeping 3 year old has never actually held her breath underwater for 4 minutes, shot and skinned a deer OR started a fire with contact lenses. Maybe that never happened but those three 6am flights were really stupid of me knowing full well that I am the only member of my family that possesses the ability to wake up before 9am. Even then, 4am isn’t an early morning, it’s the middle of the night.
Here I am though, back safe on my couch with my computer. I hope this post didn’t come across as one big complaint about having to go on holidays with my family. It is without a doubt one of my favourite things to do in this life. I think the big lesson for me after what was our longest trip yet is that no matter whether you’re family, friends, lovers or enemies, there is only so much time you can spend with people directly in your personal space…aside from my wife. She is more than welcome to get right into my personal space whenever she may feel the desire to do so.