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Go Ask Mom

Vacation Bound: Should you pack the kids?

Posted May 2, 2013

Editor's Note: Raleigh dad Billy Warden guest blogs for us about his family's trip to St. John.

When my wonderful, hard working wife and I needed a place to refuel the ol’ love jets on our 20th anniversary, St. John was just the ticket. Sunny, serene and well-stocked with beautiful beaches and rum cocktails, the island was a grown-up paradise.

Naturally, we resolved to return … often. But when my wife suggested we take the kids, I knitted my sun burnt brow. As noted, we had enjoyed a gloriously 'grown-up' getaway. Could we maintain the magic while adding kids to the equation?

Here’s a handy checklist for whether or not to attempt to kid-ify your favorite adult hideaway, with points ranging from 1 (Stop! Stay sane, don’t do it!) to 5 (Sure! Maybe take Rover, too!).

Will the trip kill you before you have a chance to relax? Any parent knows that getting there -- anywhere -- is at least half the battle. Long car trips can be murder, but marching a small army through an airport is worse -- especially with connections.

The logistics get even dicier once you touch down in St. Thomas, a necessary step in getting to St. John. Ahead is a cab ride, a boat ride to St. John and then, depending on your ultimate destination there, a windy trip over narrow roads.

Yes, all that could amount to a heck of a childhood adventure. But odds are at least one of the young’uns is going to puke. Sorry, St. John, here you score a 2.

Is there plenty for kids to do … sometimes without adult supervision? The ideal family get away shouldn’t turn parents into full-time babysitters. That’s not a vacation, that’s work. What Myrtle Beach, for example, lacks in culture, it makes up for in the pools, arcades, putt-putt and other unnatural wonders that keep the kids busy and allow mom and dad to chill.

St. John scores high here in terms of beaches. They’re gorgeous and captivating, no matter your age. Plus, there are amazing hikes to be had -- though some of the trails skirt along the thousand foot drops of rocky cliffs, guard rail NOT included. The author inspects one of St. Johnâs many wood ant colonies. Quasi-scientific explorations are always good for kids ... and parents who want to keepâem occupied.

St. John is on shakier ground, though, when it comes to accommodations. For our romantic getaway, my wife and I chose a handsome house high on a hill, complete with a small pool (around $3,200 per week). But kids catch cabin fever quickly, and there’s just not much to walk to in the immediate area. We’d probably have to switch to one of the resorts on the more populated side of the island. Here St. John scores a 3.5.

Are there enough of the staples to sustain your brood? Every parent knows the importance of affordable restaurants and easy access grocery stores, just as every Sea World guide knows the importance of having snacks for Shamu.

St. John has its share of tourist traps, but scores high for laid back dives like Skinny Legs, where you can linger over a surprisingly good burger and fries (around $10 per platter), a rum punch for the ‘rents ($5), a game of darts and plenty of loitering with colorful locals. As for grocery stores, there’s only one and it’s pricey. Hole in the wall convenient stores are plentiful, though freshness is not guaranteed: 2.5.

Are your kids up to the challenge? This one’s entirely up to you. Just ask yourself this essential question: “Are my kids mature/adventurous enough to accept the trade-offs that come with an offbeat/exotic vacation … or do they just want the conveniences of Myrtle Beach?” I score our family a 3 on this count, giving St. John a total of 11 out of a possible 20.

Hope this handy dandy guide helps. But you may be best served by drawing a line in the sand. There are family trip and there are grown up getaways. And never shall the sands co-mingle.

Billy Warden is a father of two youngsters based in Raleigh, but eager to conquer the world. He’s also a partner in the marketing firm GBW Strategies.

2 Comments

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  • ncfemale1 May 3, 2013

    I agree. Even small kids don't really appreciate a good Disney trip. Wait until they are old enough to remember it. Like 10 to 12 years old. It's easy to "create" an adventure with small kids that won't cost you anything or even take you out of town.

  • 123dnih May 2, 2013

    Billy...Give up your man card