We just got back from an amazing, week long trip to Maui. B and I both agree that it was probably the best vacation we’ve ever taken as a family. We went into it with very few planned activities or expectations other than to disconnect from social media (me!) and email (B!) and enjoy the time as a family and get as much beach time as was humanly possible. With B traveling for work, I am fiercely protective of our family time, and this week with just our five was exactly the refresh break we needed. Sometimes, in the hub-bub of everyday life, the things you have to do: the kid shuttling, the meal cooking, the house cleaning, the disciplining so that you don’t raise hooligans, can lead you to forget that family life is, at it’s core, supposed to be fun. I realized during this trip that this was our first trip that was purely us five. We’ve traveled a decent amount with the kids and always made vacations out of all of our trips, but often our vacation destinations were driven by seeing people we knew places, even if we stayed on our own. But anyway, back to the trip.
You can pretty much break our trip into two parts: the travel, and everything else. Let’s just touch on the travel quickly. Flights from Denver to Maui were absurdly expensive, we were kind of thinking they’d be lower since August is not Hawaii’s busy season, but nope. Due to the fact that the flights alone are usually what we budget for our annual vacation, and also not knowing if it would be better to have a quick layover to break up the sitting or do it all in one swoop, we didn’t splurge for the direct flight from Denver to Maui (lesson learned: splurge for the direct flight). So, on the flight out, we left Denver at 5:45 am and had a quick layover in Phoenix, before taking a six hour flight from Phoenix to Maui. The flights were torture. I’m not a great flyer. I’m not an anxious person usually, but flying brings out a certain level of anxiety that I’m not used to. Suddenly everyone on the plane is not to be trusted (I’m the same way in movie theaters now, too…to the point where we just don’t go to movies anymore), and take-off and landing tie my stomach in knots. But this isn’t about me. The big kids were awesome. We generally don’t allow technology for flights, but based on the fact that we’d be flying for 8 and a half hours, we broke our normal rule and downloaded as many Stella and Sam Sprout episodes to B’s iPad as we could. I also bought a few little dollar store activities, and the kids slept for about 2 hours of the Maui flight. It was a long haul, but the big kids didn’t complain once. Peter, on the other hand…made a name for himself. As soon as we took off from Phoenix, Peter fell asleep in the Ergo – he’d been awake for 5 hours at that point since we woke him up at 3am. He woke up an hour later, and I distracted him for a good hour with stickers. And then we reached sheer exhaustion but the toddler doesn’t want to sleep point. And I would say that Peter screamed on-and-off for two hours of our 6 hour flight. To the point where the next morning (at 5:30am) when I was on the beach with my time confused youngest two, a man stopped and said “Peter! I remember you from the plane. I’m not the least bit surprised that you’re awake at this hour.” At least he had a good sense of humor.
But the beauty of Maui is that the second we were in our rental car, the flight portion was behind us. We stayed on the Northwest side of the island. I grew up going to Maui for Christmas with my Dad’s side of the family and we always stayed in Kaanapali, and this time we were a little further North towards Kapalua. It was so fun to be back in a place that some of my best childhood memories are tied to with my own family. I think that’s what made this trip so special to me – exposing my kids to something that was a huge part of my childhood. But also, exploring a place I knew with my husband and seeing it through different eyes. It’s so neat to see how your view of the world changes as you’re exposed to new people and things.
So anyway, Maui. We mostly played at the beach and in the pool, with a couple little activities mixed in. Or room had a full kitchen, so we ate breakfast and lunch or dinner in the room and ate out one meal a day. We’d wake up (early…because…time change) and hit the beach within 30 minutes of being awake. We found a sweet beach early on that has a huge reef about 300 yards out, so it protects the shore from huge wave breaks and makes it the perfect, safe place for little kids to play in the ocean. I forced B (seriously – had to force him) to play golf at Kapalua on Monday, and that was the day I took the kids to the protected beach. We had the best time floating, building in the sand and pretending that we were a family of fish. The next day, Tuesday, I decided we should all go to Kaanapali beach. That beach is truly beautiful and the quintessential sandy beach, but the waves were intense. Tom, Nell and I all got knocked over and tossed by a huge wave as we were exiting the ocean: I realized the tides were getting a bit high for my comfort being in the water with a 5 and 3 year old, so we body surfed a wave in, and as I was carrying them out of the water, the undertoe combined with a huge wave behind it and we were thrown under, tossed around and landed on our backs (me still gripping the kids with all my might) with B and random strangers running at us to help. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life and from that time on, we decided to play it safe and stay at the little wave-less beach. We redeemed Tuesday by eating a delicious lunch over the ocean at Koa’s Seaside Grill on Front Street in Lahaina. Delicious food, and gorgeous views.
On Wednesday, we woke up and headed straight to Baby Beach with B so that he would see that not all the waves were terrifying. And once B saw Baby Beach, that was our home base for the rest of our vacation. We had several people at the hotel with kids our kids ages who had similar big wave experiences ask us if we had found a beach that was good for little kids, and B told everyone about Baby Beach. I said, “Good thing we’re leaving in a few days, our secret little spot is going to be so crowded now that you’ve told everyone about it!” It truly was like a hidden gem that we had all to ourselves for most of each morning – which is funny because we found it by googling “Best Beaches for Kids in Maui”, but maybe not everyone googles? After spending the morning at Baby Beach, we headed back to our hotel and I rented a standup paddle board for 24 hours. The first day was really rough on the ocean outside of our hotel, but the second day was beautiful and we had a blast. Wednesday night we went to the Maui Nui Luau. I warned B that they can be a little hokey, but it’s a neat way to see a bit of Hawaiian tradition and culture. It was indeed hokey, but it was fun, the food was good, and the kids thought it was the best. Which truly, is all that matters. In the future, we’d probably skip the luau, but if we did do it again, we’d probably choose a different one.
Thursday was sort of a repeat of Wednesday – we woke up, went to the beach where B and I took turns snorkeling while the other stayed with the kids, swam in the pool, did some stand-up paddle boarding, and then went to Whaler’s Village and ate dinner on the beach at Hula Grill. Peter was not the most enjoyable at meal times this trip. He’s in a phase where he doesn’t eat much, and he’s squirmy. So B and I were passing Peter back and forth to try to keep him from ruining everyone’s meal. I’m sure we looked like a hot mess. When we were done, our server came over and said, “All done? Well, today is your lucky day. Another table has picked up your meal.” He told us that the table had already left, and we’re pretty sure it was a couple that was sitting behind us who at one point picked up a crayon Peter had thrown on the floor. B and I were both dumbstruck, and honestly felt a little guilty, but then we told ourselves, “They wouldn’t have done it if they hadn’t wanted to, and we’ll just have to remember to pass it on someday”. We laughed as we were leaving and I said to B, “They either saw us and thought ‘Man, those two are in way over their heads, let’s buy them a meal.’ or they said, ‘What a sweet family, don’t you remember when our kids were that age, let’s buy them a meal.’” We’re hoping it was the latter, but something tells me the first one might be more realistic.
Friday we woke up and went to breakfast in Lahaina, then went to our favorite baby beach. We spent the morning splashing, floating and sand playing. After naps we went back to Lahaina and had the most delicious Hawaiian Shave Ice at Ululani’s, then did a little bit of shopping and went to see the Banyan tree. It was our last night in Hawaii, so we ate dinner at the hotel overlooking the beach and watched the sunset and schemed about how we could extend our trip by another week.
Saturday we did our traditional wake-up, hit the beach and play. We came back and showered and did final packing before checking out of the hotel, then headed to the East side of the Island to look around. We ate at lunch at the Flatbread Company before heading to the airport. We decided that based on Peter’s age and phase, this was not the trip to eat at Mama’s Fish House, but we will be back someday, hopefully with a less scream-y Peter in toe, and then we will have our delicous fancy meal.
The flights home were long and made us ready to be home. So maybe that’s why you do it – so that once you’re on the flight, you feel ready to be home and not sad to be leaving Hawaii again. It was a red-eye flight with a layover in Dallas (yes, that’s past Denver. I told you the flights we got were awful. Next time, direct it is.) Peter screamed for about an hour, but did fall asleep for the part of the flight where everyone else would want to sleep. I didn’t sleep, and during that time Peter was crying and I was trying to settle him, I got plenty of evil looks from a not very pleasant newlywed bride. But what can you do? We’ll never see her again, and someday, maybe she’ll be traveling with a 17 month old and I hope that people treat her more graciously.
So what would we do differently? Direct flights. And we’d stay an extra week. Here’s a video I put together of our trip: