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TAKING THE KIDS

When It Rains on Vacation, Pouring On the Indoor Fun May Save the Trip

May 07, 2000|EILEEN OGINTZ

The Guinns weren't about to let a little rain stop them. Not when they were enjoying their first not-visiting-the-relatives vacation in five years. Not when they were paying significant bucks to kick back at a big, expensive Hawaiian resort with a gigantic pool.

"I like looking at the ocean, even in the rain," Shelly Guinn said gamely as she headed to the water slide with her two daughters despite the downpour. This wasn't just a brief shower, either. It had been raining for days, and the Hyatt Regency Kauai, like other hotels and condos on the island, was packed with frustrated vacationers and their kids. Even the weekly beach luau had to be moved indoors to the hotel ballroom. "At least the air is warm," Shelly Guinn said, laughing.

Fourteen-year-old Kristin and 11-year-old Katie Guinn weren't letting the rain wreck their vacation either. The water slide would still be fun, they insisted, even if they couldn't work on their tans. "Sure, we'd like it not to rain," said their mom. "But what can we do? We can't change it."

Unfortunately, rain is a vacation reality no one likes to face but inevitably will on some trip. The weather can be just like kids on vacation--unpredictable, uncooperative and frustrating. But your hard-earned trip doesn't have to be ruined if it's raining.

Start by looking on the bright side. You're away from the office. You're not driving carpools, helping with homework or cooking meals. (Opt for takeout on a condo vacation.)

You won't feel compelled to go-go-go every minute, either, when it's pouring.

"The thing the kids enjoy most when it's raining is doing nothing together," said Mike Jay, who has survived plenty of rainy days over his years as director of Camp Kamaji for girls in Minnesota. Another surprising rainy day hit: board games. "They're so old, they're new," Jay said.

Sometimes bad weather makes it easier to tune in to the kids. "We spent more time playing with the kids than reading by the pool," Keith Guinn said.

Spend a rainy morning watching your kindergartner's favorite cartoon. Teach your grade-schooler to play poker. Linger over breakfast with your teenager. A little one-on-one time might get her to snap out of her mood. That tantrum? At least no one you know is around to witness your imperfect handling of the situation.

On the bad-weather day in Kauai, Barbara Lanlois planned to get out the books she'd brought from her Santa Barbara home. The Schwabs, also Californians, were happily going shopping with their grandchildren after having spotted whales from shore. "The girls have got to shop when the weather's this way. This isn't bad at all," Sandy Schwab said.

There were no grumpy faces, either, at Camp Hyatt, where supervisor Gregg Kobashigawa was keeping the dozen youngsters too busy to complain about their lack of beach time. If the weather didn't improve, he said, he planned to take them on a tour of the resort's gargantuan kitchen. "Kids love to get behind the scenes," he said.

Don't be shy about asking for your own tour of the laundry or kitchen, especially for young children. Call a local factory. The cookie or potato chip makers are often glad to accommodate visitors.

Park yourself in the lobby of the condo or resort and start to build a giant card house. You're bound to meet other families at loose ends--if you're lucky, some with kids the same ages as yours.

Such ideas don't always do the trick, of course. My gang wasn't interested in anything I suggested--certainly not swimming in the rain. (They looked at me as if I'd really lost my mind when I cheerily pointed out that they'd get wet anyway.)

They whined that it was too cold to snorkel. "Just flap your arms when you get cold," advised Susan Whisman, who was vacationing with her family from Fort Worth, Texas. "When you see all the fish, you forget that you're cold." My girls rolled their eyes.

My biggest mistake: I hadn't considered the possibility of rain in a place that gets plenty. No wonder it's so green, I thought grimly. I'd enthusiastically planned to kayak and hike with my two daughters. Kauai, after all, is a great place for adventures.

It rained even on the parts of the island that typically are dry. We had to throw out the entire itinerary. The kids would have thought our predicament funny if they hadn't been so bored. As I struggled to shift gears, I remembered other vacation weather disasters--the time it snowed so hard we couldn't ski at Lake Tahoe, camping in the rain in Maine, the Florida trip when it turned unseasonably cold and the summer trip to San Antonio when it was brutally hot.

What saved those trips? Our good humor. And a few bribes helped this time. Extra-frothy fruit-drink concoctions for 9-year-old Melanie and some new duds for Reggie. Pay-per-view movies in our hotel room.

But after three days, we'd all had enough dreary weather--and one another's crabbiness. The forecast for more rain didn't help. There are times to make the most of a bad situation. There are also times to show the kids it's OK to cut your losses.

We hopped a plane to Oahu, where the sun was shining.

Taking the Kids appears the first and third week of every month.

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