Update: 168 hours in St. John

My family left for vacation on June 18 and returned on June 25 — at which point I immediately took off for Las Vegas for a series of speeches. So I’m just now getting back (in time to go off again for the 4th…) Anyway, I wanted to post about our trip to St. John!

Longtime readers (and podcast listeners) know that my husband planned this trip. I planned the summer camp schedule; he planned the summer vacation. This came together fairly last minute (in May). We chatted with the kids and learned that they wanted to do a resort. I said it needed to be a direct flight, and my preference was to not travel internationally, given all the Covid testing rigamarole for international travel — though that was dropped in early June. All this is ironic since it turned out the U.S. Virgin Islands still had a testing protocol for everyone until early June as well, including US visitors, so choosing a “domestic” destination didn’t matter on that front (though fortunately that was dropped by the time we went), AND we turned out to sort of need our passports (you go through customs at the St. Thomas airport on the return flight to the mainland — apparently you don’t absolutely need a passport but it goes fastest with something showing citizenship, and how often do you travel with your children’s birth certificates?).

My husband searched the usual spots. We’d had the Westin St. John on our radar for a while but it was always booked up. But then, lo and behold, when he searched in early May, there was a 3-bedroom villa available for our dates. So we took it. The price was actually reasonable vs. many of the other resorts and there was a direct flight from Newark to St. Thomas with seats for 8 people (our nanny came with us, which was good since it turned out the kids club was mostly closed). Ferry service from St. Thomas to St. John is fairly frequent.

Anyway, we had a good time. There were some rough moments. Flying with a toddler is painful. I wound up nursing him for reasonable chunks of both flights, and he would then sleep while half-nursing. Perhaps the AAP should have included this in their recent guidelines about breastfeeding for two years — forget the nutrition, it’s about making plane flights bearable for your fellow passengers…He also slept in a crib in the room with my husband and me and the close quarters didn’t make for great sleep, though it was better than last summer during our resort trip when the longest stretch of sleep I got for the entire week was 3 hours. No kids got sick, which is great, but my husband got an ear infection from diving and wound up experiencing the finest of St. John’s urgent care facilities. We all got sunburned (except the toddler) despite our best efforts.

My goal (from the Summer Fun List) was to have at a few enjoyable moments, and that definitely happened. We did some great snorkeling — I liked Trunk Bay in particular (we rented a Jeep and my husband braved island driving — on the left side — to bring us to a few cool beaches). We rented a sail boat for a day. My husband and I went on a sunset cruise and saw a double rainbow over St. John. The certified divers in our group did several dives. I went on a night kayak trip with my oldest kid and we saw tons of tarpons under our clear-bottom boat. My husband and I ate dinner at Zozo’s, which is a cool beach front restaurant in the remains of a resort that was mostly destroyed in the double hurricanes a few years ago. That was an experience — parking, and having the shuttle take you through the ruins, which are crawling with deer. I enjoyed the Westin’s frozen margaritas and my kids really got into their smoothies sipped pool side. I read for 30 minutes on the beach hammock one afternoon. I developed a taste for the resort deli’s curry chicken salad sandwiches.

The trip home was long, but we made it, getting back to the house at 12:10 a.m. early Sunday morning. Then my husband and oldest kid left at 9 a.m. to go to the airport to get a flight to camp. Fortunately, we’d packed one duffle full of the dorm stuff before we left on vacation, and did the 15-year-old’s laundry in our villa, so we just had to add a few more cooler-weather items and he was ready to go. He seems to be enjoying himself. I was on a flight to Las Vegas that evening. Flying business class, solo, is a very different experience than flying in economy with a toddler!

In other news: Speaking of vacation, my Medium column this week looks at “The Question that Reveals if a Habit is Right for You.” Namely, would you do this habit on vacation? I did read my Shakespeare! I did not try to run five miles daily or anything like that. One habit is sustainable in my life and one just…isn’t.

Photo: Turquoise waters…I don’t know who this person is floating in the water but this was the closest I could get to a no-people shot…

6 thoughts on “Update: 168 hours in St. John

  1. Sounds like typical travel with family! Fun, and memories to last. Btw, read the first line of your post. Are you a time-traveling family?

  2. The habit question is great. However, I feel like I don’t have any “right” habits in that case, haha.

  3. Laura, this post came at the perfect time. I read this about an hour after I had UGLY CRIED at the end of a 2-week family vacation.
    It was a good vacation, but there were some really, really rough parts as well.
    I took a long hot shower (where I might have cried some more), and then read your post as I settled in for the night and one line literally stopped my in my tracks.
    “My goal (from the Summer Fun List) was to have at a few enjoyable moments, and that definitely happened”
    Wait a minute – we had a few enjoyable moments! We had lots of enjoyable moments, actually, amidst some disappointing and sucky ones. And that completely changed my mood for that day.
    I know lack of sleep and all the chaos of an 8-stops-in-2-weeks road trip were a big part of my evening meltdown, but your perspective really helped me 180 my attitude.

    1. @Elisabeth – sorry about the ugly cry, but yes, I’ve learned that if my goal is some sort of perfect vacation it will not happen. The kids will be ornery. Things will not go as planned. But there will likely be a few good moments, and if that is my goal, it is easy to reach!

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