What I Did on my Winter Vacation (2011 edition)

I took my family to Hawaii. I know, right? It’s awesome. Palm trees, warm breezes, sunset dinners overlooking the ocean.

Our hotel, the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, had a lot of family-friendly activities. Kids can help feed the koi fish, make leis, and ego to a free pineapple tasting. The chefs built an enormous German-themed gingerbread village, complete with two model trains. And there’s free outdoor music and hula dancing every night.

Shopping? We were right next to the International Marketplace, so: check. Took a trip to a “swap meet” (read: flea market) which has 700+ vendors located in the Aloha Stadium parking lot, check. Ala Moana shopping centre? Check. And yawn.

Trinkets and T-shirts are as exciting to me as an Internet outage. Me, I love just going to a grocery store to see what’s interesting. A huge pile of papayas! Key lime pie gum! Haupia yogurt! Macadamia nuts! And of course, that delicious Kona coffee--the only coffee grown in North America.

We saw to the zoo, the aquarium, we even went swimming with the dolphins. Well, we tried to, anyway. Turns out some kids get really freaked out when they are within touching distance of 7-foot aquatic mammals, and have to get out of the water immediately. This brings me to...

The bad news. Before you start to both hate me and envy me, let me tell you that this vacation was not all mai tais and hibiscus. Oh, no my friend. There were downsides.

The cost: Hawaii is expensive. From the flight to the hotel to the meals, everything is pricey--even though the CAD-USD exchange rate was holding steady around $0.98.

The beach: I’m not a toss-my-beach-towel-on-the-sand-and-flop-down-on-it-for-the-day person. I’m more of a sit-in-the-shade-and-read-a-book-while-sipping-an-iced-coffee person. I don’t enjoy spraying sticky sunblock all over me; it makes me feel like a licked lollypop that fell onto the floor. And the sand. It gets everywhere. Just...everywhere. But my kids like the beach, so off I go. Oh, and it rained almost every day.

The catamaran ride from hell: It was pretty windy that day (there was a wind advisory, actually) but I didn’t expect our 1-hour tour to hit 8-foot swells. There were free drinks, but when you’re holding on to a railing for dear life with one hand and holding on to one of your children for dear life with the other hand, it’s kinda hard to sip your drink. Plus, seawater splashed into mine. Yuck.

The hotel: I love to sleep--I really do--whenever I get the opportunity. And what better opportunity than a tropical getaway? Alas, Waikiki is not a quiet place. It’s a tradeoff: if you want to be close to a lot of activities, you’ve got to be in the city, with all of its sirens and car horns and trucks beep-beep-beep backing up. Unfortunately, the lanai doors at our hotel were only single-pane glass, which offers no soundproofing. So when the street performers (including, but not limited to, drummers, singers, and what apparently was a troupe of synchronized shouters) started their night shift, we were forced to listen to them, even with 29-dB NRR earplugs. Hilariously, every night, they started just as we were trying, in vain, to put the kids to sleep.

The kids: Think you’re a seasoned world traveler who can handle anything? You haven’t traveled until you’ve traveled with kids. Well, with my kids, anyway. For example, try having the two-year-old decide to start ignoring you, run away, scream at her 129 dB max volume (yes, I measured that; I’m a scientist), and vomit all over her shirt. And this was in the departure lounge before we even got on the plane. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. Showing them the diversity of the world is a blast. But it’s not easy. I’m seriously reconsidering Disneyland in 2012, girls.

Finally, I missed Christmas. No matter how much you decorate a palm tree, it ain’t a Christmas tree. I actually started to miss snow. (Really!) And not just that; Christmas is about friends and family. There’s something a bit...hollow about sharing your Christmas dinner with dozens of strangers in a hotel restaurant. Yeah, I’m glad to be back. (Also: the U of Hawaii Department of Psychology has no Faculty Lecturer positions open.)

How was your holiday break?

Why aren’t you studying?


Pomai said...

Aloha Karsten, I think you hit the nail square on the head in your summary of the pros and cons of a vacation in Waikiki. I live here and experience exactly what you're talking about on a daily basis. The cost of visiting (and especially living!) in "paradise" is indeed astronomical. And I can only imagine how annoying it must have been staying in that hotel location at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, with all the street performers making a racket just footsteps in front, right as you're trying to go to bed. Especially the ones who bang hard on their drum sets. Ack!

If someone asked me where I'd recommend to stay on a first-time visit to Hawaii, I'd DEFINITELY tell them to steer clear of Oahu and choose either the neighbor island of Kauai or Maui. Oahu's great if shopping and nightlife is your priority. Otherwise, you can't beat the much more laid back and more authentic "island experience" of the neighbor islands mentioned above. There's just a whole different pace on the neighbor islands, that I feel at this point Oahu is just to crowded to capture. Lucky you didn't drive on Oahu. That's a WHOLE nother ballgame!

Overall though, it sounds like you and the family pretty much enjoyed your stay. Good to hear.


Anastasia said...

Mine was good. I slept in a lot and also started watching the greatest show on television ever - Once Upon a Time. I highly recommend it.

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