Last summer, my husband and I took our three kids on a road trip to Sesame Place. At the time, our twins had just turned 1, and our son was 2.5. All three kids were at a prime Sesame Street-loving age. We posted the obligatory happy family photos on Facebook, and a few commenters said they were considering taking their kids. They asked, “Is it worth it?”

It took me awhile to answer the question.

We arrived at the hotel after a long and fairly uneventful drive. The kids ran around the room, excited to be somewhere new, and they jumped all over the beds after being cooped up in the car most of the day. We went for a swim in the hotel’s pool, which they loved. They slept all night and had a great breakfast at the hotel in the morning. Then finally, we were off to the park!

It was August, and the weather was especially hot and humid. As soon as we got in line to get into the park (which was more like a mob of people), my son started crying that he was hot. And it all went downhill from there. The heat and crowds, combined with the abundance of stimulation, were the perfect storm for my toddler. The 1-year-olds whined about being in the stroller, as they had just learned to walk and wanted to be on the go. We brought them to a shaded play area, and they spent a good hour playing there. My son begrudgingly tried a few rides and then asked to go back to the hotel. It was lunchtime anyway, and everyone was happy to return to the hotel.

Round two came after a good rest. We had learned from our experience earlier in the day that we needed to find the least hot and least crowded spot in the park. We ended up finding a quiet wading pool in the shade, and all three kids had a blast splashing around. The next day, we went back for more. As soon as we hit the mob of people again, the meltdowns started. We took it slow, enjoyed a few shows, and took some photos in front of the facades. Then there was the expensive lunch with the long wait. Then, finally, the day-long drive home that took double time due to traffic and rest stops. 

So was it worth it?

For my kids, I’m not so sure. My son still talks favorably about the trip, and all three kids like to flip through the photo book we made to commemorate the vacation. But truthfully, they probably would have had just as good of a time at our local park, library, or even our own backyard.

And was the trip worth it for my husband and me? Yes. When we are too close to home, our to-do lists loom over our heads when we are trying to spend time with our kids. When we are away, there is nothing else to do but soak up our kids, and that’s exactly what we got to do for three days. No laundry to wash, no meals to make, no work to do. We also learn more about our kids when they are put in these new situations, which helps us better navigate future outings, both near and far. Although there were meltdowns, there were some magical moments, too. For us, that makes it all worth it.

So would we do it again? Sure. Just not in the August heat.