Most children probably never utter the phrase 'Can I be a real kid?' Mini coined this phrase while we were on our recent spring break trek to D.C. and Virginia. She begged me to choose her to be 'a real kid'. No, we weren't role playing parts in an upcoming Pinocchio play. She wasn't hallucinating while suffering from a high fever either. (Thank goodness!) We were simply checking into a hotel . . . big family style.
In order to travel and not blow our life savings on hotel rooms, we generally fudge how many members we include on our reservation. The kids know the drill. After a long day of driving Coach and I might be relieved to finally disembark from our 12 seat, white, former-airport-shuttle van, but the kids groan as we roll into the hotel parking lot. Rather than pull up to the front door and spill the whole gang curbside, we park and plot our mission. Typically the older kids are charged with making a delayed, casual entrance. Their instructions usually include an acceptable time stamped entry, alternate routes in case the main lobby is compromised, and where they should wait for the coast is clear signal or the actual room number. All the kids hate playing the 'I don't know those people' game. Odd, because there are plenty of times when they successfully tune me out. Not sure why it is such a stretch to go from not wanting to hear me to pretending not to know me?
Perhaps it goes along with the 'we don't get out much' fame of mind, but our offspring crave a bazaar sense of satisfaction supplied by catching the first glimpse of the room, flopping on the bed before another sibling, and inspecting the bathroom layout. Apparently no one likes to waltz into the soon-to-be-overcrowded space after the rest of the excited bunch has given it the once over. Competing voices share with the kid who posed as a non-family member what TV stations have been discovered and whether or not the pool looks inviting. The late arriving siblings play it cool and act uninterested in the 'look-what-we-found' conversation. Envy at being 'a real kid' is tough to disguise.
After our attempt to fly under the radar was discovered a few years ago, we have learned to be more careful. We splurged and took all six kids to Disney World for 5 or 6 days when Laddie was in 8th grade. Because we stretched our budget to include a hotel on Disney's property, we decided to stay near the airport on our arrival and departure days to cut down on the cost. The airport shuttle gathered us from Orlando's airport and delivered us to the near by hotel door around 8pm. We were the only hotel guests on the shuttle. Any fool could do the math and calculate that these six children all belonged to us. Therefore the one room we had reserved would not be adequate as far as the fire marshal was concerned. The front desk gently informed us that it would be against their policy and safety regulations to allow us to cram into one room. Ouch.
The complimentary breakfast feature is typically a big draw when we hunt for a room to reserve, but we typically divide up and instruct the kids to avoid eye contact during the continental breakfast in case some over eager hotel employee is counting family members. If the breakfast area is crowded, I give the kids the go ahead to switch back to family mode. This allows them to compare notes and offer recommendations to teen age late sleepers about what food items deserve four stars.
Now that a few of our family members are the size of full grown men, assigning beds and floor space is increasingly challenging. Certain combinations won't work. Some prefer a sleeping bag to fighting for space in a double bed. I've found myself up a creek without a paddle before by paring off all of the bedmates and rewarding floor space requests only to discover that I'm left with two kids who can't possible share a bed without major issues. On our latest family adventure, Laddie and Tetonka were in the bed opposite Coach and I for one night. Mini and Curly were on a pull out in the living room portion of our room. Eddie and Reggie stretched out in sleeping bags. By morning Coach and I were reminded of what it felt like to survive on barely any sleep due to the constant disruptions of a newborn. Laddie and Tetonka argued all night about who was hogging more space or pulling too much blanket real estate. Lesson learned.
After staying in hotels in Pittsburgh, Erie, Montreal (OK, perhaps this shouldn't be considered part of the list because only Reggie and I each enjoyed our very own double bed while we were in Montreal for the World Championships of Irish Dancing before rejoining the rest of the gang in DC. Meanwhile, Coach was in a hotel in Erie with the other five kids while looking at colleges with Laddie. Still, the Canada pit stop was part of our very convoluted and multi-layered trip), and DC we headed to a Sheraton Suites in Williamsburg, VA. I spent a great deal of time investigating what hotels we should stay in on our forced march through this historic part of the country. As I mentioned, a complimentary breakfast was weighted heavily. Location was paramount. Knowing that uncomfortable sleeping arrangements make for long nights and grouchy days, I researched establishments that offered a suite with a pull out in the living area. Two kids sleeping on the floor beat four bodies strewn every which way in a cramped room, making a late night bathroom visit a dicey adventure. Thanks to some incorrectly input information on mapquest, our drive to Williamsburg was lengthier than anticipated. I invited a few kids to join me as I checked in. Mini jumped at the chance to be real, and Tetonka lost the opportunity to Curly once I discovered that he had no shoes on. It was after 10 pm, I wasn't waiting for him to scrounge up a pair of shoes. Coach admitted that he was nervous seeing as it was so late. How could we sneak kids in without raising eyebrows when there was very little foot traffic?
I overheard the manager explain to a woman ahead of me in line that the hotel was full and so was the hotel across the parking lot. This unfortunate woman left in search of a vacancy. Then the manager turned to me. Despite my reservation, I was informed that the hotel had oversold. The girls stared at me blankly waiting for me to lose it. Fortunately, the manager was quick to resolve the situation by promising us an upgrade at the Residence Inn across the parking lot. We would still have access to the Sheraton's pool, since the Residence didn't have one. There would still be a complimentary breakfast. Our room would include two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, a pull out in the living area, and three TV's. Bliss. The manager smiled and assured me we would be more comfortable because the girls would have more space in the upgraded room. I flashed a smiley look at the girls, but they knew better than to spill the beans to this lady about their four 'unreal' brothers who were hiding out in the car.