A vacation at an alpine ski resort, even just a three-day one, is not something I ever thought we'd do. But friends we haven't seen in ages were going (with boys near Mr. Pants's age), the website was persuasive, and it was only a four hour drive.
We didn't even use the free childcare(!) provided every morning and evening, but we were grateful for the kid-friendly options (and adult-friendly buffet) and cloth bibs provided at every meal, the bowls of fruit available for between-meal snacking, the wipes and shampoo and lotion and bathrobes for every family member stocked in the room, the multiple play rooms full of books and games and legos (which Mr. Pants could use on his own, though he scared himself once at the end being there alone and not being able to figure out the stiff door handle to let himself out), the quiet time observed for afternoon naps, the beautiful heated pool with a slide and a baby pool (Shmoogie was entranced with the full-sized Heidi statue pouring a watering can), and the general friendly understanding from the staff and other guests. Also, the arrangement of the room; we had the smallest one, but there was still plenty of space and the bunkbeds were in their own alcove with a light-blocking curtain!
I can't think of any other hotel I've ever been to where it actually felt easier to deal with the two kids by myself while Mr. Right was sick in bed (he's better now, yes, thank you) than it would have been at home.
I didn't have to cook or do dishes or clean anything. We just had to show up in the dining room during meal hours and if I looked like I was struggling to carry everything back to our table, a waiter would swoop in and grab it for me.
I could leave Mr. Pants in the room for down time with a video (his choice, I offered to let him come with us) and go spend a really delightful hour in the pool with Shmoogie, who almost never gets that kind of extended attention from me and who loved it (after we recovered from my stupid idea of putting her straight into the baby floaty thing instead of holding her - freaked her out).
We could bundle up and walk right out the door and grab a sled and whoosh down the hill to a playground (both Mr. Pants and Shmoogie seemed to enjoy a sled run with me, but had no interest in repeating it; sigh - it was a nice idea). Mr. Right rallied himself enough to sit huddled on the bench and supervise a VERY pissed off Shmoogie - she couldn't figure out how to walk in her boots so she just stood there scowling at the world - before it was her turn.
We could, after Mr. Right's fever finally broke (though he still wasn't feeling well at all), join in the starlit walk to fondue dinner at the Zirbenhütte, with the kids riding on sleds pulled by parents and the majestic rocky peaks just visible above us, dressed in snow. There was even a shooting star.
If I had pictures of any of that, it would have been it's own post but, perhaps understandably, we didn't take many pictures on this trip. Except of Shmoogie in her bathrobe. I took a lot of pictures of Shmoogie in her bathrobe.
All of this had me wondering why I've never heard of children's hotels at home (though it is quite possible there are some, I've run out of time to check - must prepare for party!) and it occurred to me that maybe having kids in Europe doesn't make you as poor as having kids in the US. And it turns out, if child poverty rates are any indication, that's absolutely true. (See page 4 of this 2000 UN report. And slightly more recent data from 2005, I found the chart on page 11 of that one particularly interesting.)