This blog is sponsored by the Hilton Beijing Capital Airport. Call 6450 4827 to book a Family Staycation.
Even the most well travelled, adventurous family can see the appeal of a relaxed, low key staycation. These seasoned vacationers may love to share tales about the exotic sights, far off sunsets and strange new vistas that they have witnessed with their little ones. But it doesn’t take much prodding for them to ruefully describe the challenges of having their children tag along on those journeys. Below, we’ve compiled a few amusing highlights from wanderlusting families who have also developed a taste for the occasional, far more restful staycation at a local hotel.
Mingsha Mountain towered over Jincan Zhang and his family as they arrived before daybreak. The owner of the Dusk Dawn Club
stood at the foot of that Dunhuang peak with eager anticipation. But as he, his wife and their toddler began the hike, he soon began to question his choice in vacation destination. Zhang isn’t one to check in at a resort and waste his vacation sitting idly by a pool, but the unsteady path up Mingsha left him more than antsy.
“The slopes were steep and the road was full of sand. It’s difficult to describe just how hard the climb was,” he says. “In the beginning my wife had to carry our son, but then we traded and I carried him, all the way to the top of the mountain. Finally, when we saw the first rays of morning sunshine, we enjoyed the sunrise together and felt like it was one of the most touching moments in our lives.”
This is the trade off that Zhang deals with time and again on his vacations. He loves driving into the country side, hiking up hills and gazing at the panoramic views those peaks provide. It’s a hobby that he revels in sharing with his family.
“These experiences are enriching and they broaden our horizons,” he says.“ What we are most concerned about is the intimacy of our family. Our good memories on these trips, and overcoming the difficulties we encounter along the way, help us grow together.”
Yet, he readily admits that those hurdles can be taxing, and not only for his son.
“The most challenging thing is that little kids need to be carried. It’s very tiring, and requires the parents to have a lot of strength and energy,” he says. “So we would consider doing a staycation for a quieter holiday. This would work best people with really little kids, maybe under five years old.”
Hong “Hill” Chen also enjoys holidays with his family, and one of the first big trips he took with his daughter was coupled with huge challenges and pleasant surprises. Hong — who is the manager at Blue Frog
restaurant’s Sanlitun location — fondly recalls taking his daughter on a ten hour flight to the UK from Beijing.
“She was so young, and didn’t have much of an idea of what flying was about,” he says, adding that that lack of familiarity became quickly became apparent: “Soon after takeoff, she started screaming her head off.”
The change in air pressure was hurting his poor little girl’s ears. Hong did his best to console her, but she continued wailing in agony, even an hour after takeoff when the plane had long since stabilized. As he rocked his crying girl back and forth, a flight attendant approached them. And suddenly, the situation began to improve.
“She offered us a free upgrade to premium seats, so the baby could lie down and get some sleep,” he says with a laugh. “I didn’t know my baby’s screams would ever get me a free upgrade.”
Will Yorke, owner of the Vineyard Cafe
, says such lucky breaks are all-too rare for many families on flights. “When you get on the plane with children you can see the look in people’s faces. Everyone dreads a screaming child on a plane,” he says of the cumbersome mile high journeys. He said the worst such trip didn’t involve the fussiness of his own baby, but that of another couple that was far less courteous than most. Yorke recalls that “their children screamed the entire flight, from the UK to Beijing. “It was a nightmare. The parents refused to get up and take the children for a walk around the plane, and the mother was trying to sleep with her screaming daughter cocooned behind her bent legs. I had to get up once in while holding our child just in case everyone thought it was us.”
Yorke says the biggest factor for flying families has little to do with cabin air pressure or lack of adequate snacks. In his eyes, age is the most decisive aspect, explaining: “Babies can sleep a lot of the way, and elder children can entertain themselves a bit more so the parents can read a book or watch some TV. The worst time is when the child has just learnt to walk and cannot sit in one place for very long. You end up walking round and round the plane, and of course the child goes to sleep 20 minutes before landing.”
Sick Kids, Strange Food and Jetlag
Jenny Keane, an expat mother who came to China with her two sons (aged 10 and seven) last year, agrees that flying with children is no easy feat.
“The worst is when they seem fine at home, but then get sick on the plane,” she says. “It’s terrible once you’re in the air and they’re coughing and sneezing and infecting everyone around them, including you, so that you’re sick upon arrival.”
She adds that even the best case, illness free, flying scenario can still be arduous, explaining: “When you get home, and you’re exhausted from your trip, it’s also really tough when your kid is jet lagged. None of you can get any sleep then, and it just makes you think: ‘Why didn’t we stay home?’”
Another major struggle for Keane has also been finding food that will suit her picky little eaters. Not all of that is due to her sons’ fussiness, they have some legitimate allergies. But that, along with their non-adventurous pallets, can make finding a decent meal very difficult. This was especially true when she ventured to New Zealand with her then two year old son.
“I’m not sure if he ate the whole time we were there, aside from a few yogurts,” she says of the trip, adding, with a bit of sarcasm: “That can sure make for a fun vacation, worrying whether or not your child is slowing starving to death. It can be really tough to travel when your kid isn’t an ambitious eater.”
Philana Chen used to be as adventurous as Zhang, and as optimistic as Hong. However, after having three children, she’s made more than a few adjustments to her travel itineraries.
“When I had my first kid we’d go everywhere. She was like an accessory — just throw her on and keep going,” she says, adding that she and her husband visited an astounding ten countries with their eldest before she turned two years old.
However, the dynamic changed considerably after the birth of their second child. “Travelling was still doable then, but we’d have to divide and conquer,” she says of divvying up parenting duties with her husband on those trickier trips. She adds: “When you have your second kid less than two years after your first, travelling is no longer a vacation.”
Now that they have a trio of little ones, travelling can be downright exhausting. As she puts it: “Even going out to eat at a nearby restaurant is tough with three kids, just getting them to sit down and eat is tough.”
Theresa Ahdieh agrees. Her children are grown now (Monique is 17 while Ty is nine), but as youngsters they proved to be less than ideal travelling companions at the worst of times. “We could never do more than four hour drives. Otherwise they’d just be like wiggle worms,” she says, before explaining: “They’d need potty breaks, they’d be arguing in the car, sometimes they’d make a mess of their meals and we’d have to change their clothes. Not to mention all the toys and crap you have to take for the just-in-case moments.”
Ahdieh was saddled with a special abundance of gear during the “glamping” trips she would take with her little ones. This glamorous camping trend was highly popular when Monique was younger, prompting Ahdieh and her husband to pitch a tent at a local park and tote a variety of luxuries — shepherd hooks to hang solar lights, sand toys, tricycles, a king sized pillow top mattress, Ty’s portable crib, and more. Those trips required extensive packing, but even shorter jaunts called for coloring books and crayons, along with other toys.
“When my daughter was little there was no such thing as iPads, so you had to bring lots of stuff to entertain them because their attention span was yea big,” Ahdieh says, holding her thumb and forefinger a centimeter apart. She almost wishes that the staycation trend would have been popular then, instead of glamping, because “if you forget your toothbrush on a staycation it’s no big deal, the hotel has plenty right there in the bathroom. You don’t have to bring towels, they have a play area and you can order room service. It’d be way more relaxing.”
Keane agrees, adding: “It’d be great if they have a place for the kids to play. I’d also like that it’s close to home, so you have a bail out position in an emergency. Not having to get on an airplane, not having to change time zones, being in a novel yet familiar environment — all these things would absolutely make a staycation appealing. I mean, who doesn’t like a little luxury?”
Check out more Family Travel Horror Stories here.
Need a break but don’t want to travel far from home? The Hilton Beijing Capital Airport offers Family Staycation packages where families can enjoy the hotel’s luxurious rooms, fitness center and pool, play area, restaurants, weekend brunches and fun group events. Call 6450 4827 (weekdays) and 156 1197 9131 (weekends) for reservations and more information.
Photos: Jerry Chan and courtesy of the families and Hilton Beijing Capital Airport