So you remember how I took that vacation? And how I kept asking for tips on traveling with the kiddo? And how I never seem to shut up about it? Well, turnabout is fair play. So, in the interest of sharing information, here are my tips for vacationing with your infant (mine is 9 months old, so your mileage may vary. I think many of these would also work for a toddler, but you guys with older kids will have to tell me).
- Choose your hotel wisely. If it’s possible. If you have the option, choose a hotel that has large rooms. If it’s within the realm of your financial means, a suite or a bathroom that is big enough to close the door on the crib will save your sanity. And of course, family friendly hotels are going to make you feel more comfortable when your kid wakes up at 3 am screaming.
- If it’s not possible, make the best of what you get. We did not have a suite. Nor was the bathroom big enough for the crib. We were lucky enough to have a little tiny half wall thing between the rest of the room and the bathroom area, so we put the kid there at night. Look around the room/hotel and see how you can make things work for the best–can you use the closet doors to block off the crib from the rest of the room? Can you ask the staff when you check in for a room that is out of the way (for consideration of other guests) or away from noisy areas (to prevent waking the baby at random times)? Often times just saying “I have a baby with me, what options do you offer for XYZ” can bring about results.
- Figure out the nap situation early in the trip. If possible, spend the first day of your trip learning how your kid will handle the nap situation. We did this by not straying too far from the hotel. We did our walking around, and figured out that Jackson wasn’t going to sleep in his stroller during his standard nap times, so we headed back to the hotel for a nap. Of course, we then figured out that he wouldn’t nap in the hotel either. Through some trial and error, we were able to figure out that our kid wasn’t going to nap his normal amount, but that he was also not too adversely affected by it in terms of demeanor or fussiness, instead preferring to do a couple of micro naps throughout the day in the stroller and then crash hard core at night. (I know, I know, we’re lucky). By taking that first day and not planning too much and keeping ourselves close to the hotel, though, we were able to play around with things to see what worked.
- Now is not the time to underpack. Especially if it’s the first time you’re vacationing with your kid, bring everything you think you’ll need and then some. Bring more clothes than you need. Bring more diapers than you’ll need. Bring more food than you’ll need. Bring comfort items. Bring toys. Bring medicine you might need(our kid started cutting three teeth while we were on vacation. Thank goodness for pain killers). You may find that you don’t need as much as you bring, but you don’t want to find out when you’re there that you forgot the music your child always falls asleep to, or the book that calms them down from a freak out, or run out of diapers only to find that everything in the area you’re in is closed on Sundays. Underpacking is the enemy.
- When dealing with eating out, noise, off times, and outdoor seating can be your friend. You’re on vacation, you’re probably going to be eating out a fair amount. If you’re like me, you DON’T want to spend your vacation eating at the chain restaurants you can get at home–what’s the point of going on vacation if you’re just going to go to the same Chili’s or Subway you can have any old time? But how to find a place where you can bring your kid without disturbing other diners while still enjoying the experience of vacation eating? First, look for places that have a dull roar to them when you open the door. When there’s already a noise level that is humming when you come in, your kid’s noises have a good chance of going unnoticed. Outdoor seating is another good option. This doesn’t always work but outdoor seating can offer you the camouflage of the outdoor noises sounds (especially on a sidewalk cafe that has some road sounds), and if nothing else, can often offer some distractions for your little one (honey, look at that pigeon! Ooh, a TRUCK!). And finally, don’t forget our good friend the off-peak times: lunch before 11 or after about 2, dinner before 6-7 (depending on the city this can vary).
- Make feeding the baby as easy as possible on you. Request a refrigerator in your room before you arrive for bottles, fruit, or left over baby food. If your kid is eating finger foods at this point, order them their own food when you go out for your dinner–they won’t eat it all, but it will be one less thing to carry around (and you can finish what they don’t). Stop at a grocery store or deli and grab some fruit to carry around with you if that’s something your kid will eat. And don’t forget to stop and eat! When we’re on vacation, we often end up losing track of time–this is not great with kiddos! (For my personal salvation in the food while traveling department, check out The Essentials).
- Don’t try to do vacations like you used to. Before we had the kid, our vacations were one of two things–super duper lazy with lots of relaxing (see: hours on the beach, drinks by the pool, long dinners etc.) or gogogogogogogogo vacations that had us hitting every major “must see” location. Neither one is totally possible with an infant, so you’ll have a better time if you adjust your expectations in advance. They can still be fun, they can still be relaxing, you can still see things, but it’s all different. Don’t try to plan a full 12 hour day with no breaks. Don’t expect that you’ll just get to relax by the pool for a full day. Be realistic and adjust your hopes for the vacation before you get there and get disappointed.
- Be flexible. Some people may not agree with me on this one, but flexibility will be your friend. You may not be able to keep to your normal routine and schedule, and that’s ok. Figure out what will work and what won’t, what things you can give on and what you can’t. You may end up with one hell of a readjustment when you get back to the real world, but while you’re there, it’s ok to get off schedule/routine. For example, for us, it was more important to try and not disturb our neighbors in the hotel than it was to try and let the kid put himself back to sleep at 3 am. But messing with bedtime and the bedtime routine wasn’t something we were willing to futz around with too much. Find the things you’re willing to give on to make the vacation smoother for everyone.
- You don’t have to make your vacation totally about the kid. As an infant, they’re not going to care about theme parks. Depending on their age, they won’t care for long about zoos or aquariums. This is the vacation when you can plan as much for yourself as you can for the kid. Have some things in the schedule for the kid, yes (we hit up parks and went to the aquarium and visited the sea lions), but you can also do things for you (we went to museums and galleries and botanical gardens).
- Above all, know thy own child. If you know your kid doesn’t do well in the stroller all day, build long play breaks for him into your schedule. If you know your kid is a monster without a nap, don’t try to do without just so you can see the sights. Don’t try to force your kid to react differently just because you’re on vacation–it’s just a recipe for you all to be miserable.
While vacationing with your kids may take a little more planning and work than in your past life, it’s totally worth it. They get to start experiencing new things, and you get to see the world through their eyes. Just make sure you’re prepared before you go!
As always, more lists can be found over at Anna’s at abdpbt!