We recently went on our first vacation as a family of three! To say I was nervous is an understatement. I tend to be a worrier (which is an excellent characteristic to have generally as a mom! *sarcasm*) so the idea of flying and staying in an unfamiliar place was eating away at me for a while.
But others have done it before me so we went for it. We not only survived but we had an amazing trip! I scoured the mom-osphere, Pinterest, and grilled my friends and here are the top tips we received and used. (P.S. these are the top five DOS because I'm all about the positivity. No room for DONTs on this blog!)
| 1 | DO check your own carseat.... and pack that sucker up!
This was an absolutely genius tip I received from a friend who is an avid traveller and has even done so solo with her two young ones. She's basically my hero (If you're reading this: mad props, Hil!). Not only did having our own carseat with us give me piece of mind rather than worrying about the one Hertz might have provided; it also allowed us to pack a bunch of stuff and save room in our bags. I'll explain..
I personally prefer to have carry on because I've been in a new city sans spare, clean undies on more than one occasion (you burned me too many times, United!!). So lesson learned, we always carry on and pack like minimalists if we can. We backpacked through Thailand for two weeks for our honeymoon. Those were some stinky beach pants after an elephant ride. Stinky baby clothes though is not exactly my idea of a good time.
Here's the genius tip. An airline will check your carseat free of charge. We bought a gate check bag at Target (<-- link here) to cover it and keep it from getting grimy in transit but BONUS you can fill the seat of the carseat with tons of stuff! I carried on a handful of diapers and a ziplock of wipes but packed whole packs of both plus some extra bibs and whatever else I could fit in the bag. It was perfect!
| 2 | DO your research when booking.
I'm generally an organized person when it comes to traveling. My husband even complimented me on all the planning that went into this trip. I'll be real with you on this one if you promise not to tell him.... I totally procrastinated on booking this trip and definitely would have done things better if I booked in a more timely manner. If I'm being even more honest with you, the reason why I procrastinated is because I was SO nervous about taking this trip that I thought if I dilly dallied long enough my husband would maybe change his mind about wanting to go away. Is that nutty, or what?!
Enough about my neurosis, here are two big misses on this trip that might have gone better if I booked sooner:
- About a week before the trip I called the hotel to reserve a portable crib only to be told they don't have any. That was problematic considering we have a very, very mobile 10 month old. Pickins were slim by the time I booked. I forgot to check the fine print which very clearly stated that this was not something they offered. Oh. Um, oops. Enter my work friend who had a similar issue with his family last year. He recommended using Babierge. Some genius is making money off of ill-prepared moms like me and rightfully so! We originally planned on bringing our own stroller (which is a good idea if you're needing to push things through the airport especially if you're solo and then you just check it at the gate). However, after being introduced to Babierge, we ended up renting both a pack n play for B to sleep in and an awesome stroller. They were clean and could be delivered right to our hotel. Amazing. And a humongous life saver!
- My only other complaint, which was totally my fault, was that we didn't find a hotel with a heated pool. I'm from Philly so I just assume that everywhere south of Virginia is 80* the majority of the time. This is not the case in northern Florida it turns out so the pool at our hotel was pretty chilly. B had the time of his life dipping his toes in though so it was worth it! But in the future when he's really a swimmer that is something I'll think of!
| 3 | DO overpack
What? You just said you carry on? Yes, I do but hear me out. Overpack things you don't want to have to buy. I do a carry on but I pack those suckers to the gills with extra clothes. Not to mention baby clothes are tiny. Some days at home B makes it morning, noon, and night wearing the same threads. Some days we're on outfit three by 9 am. So outfits, bibs, and extra shirts for mom were three things we overdid it on. Or at least it seemed like we overdid it, until we wore almost all of it in the three days we were away.
Once we were close to the hotel we scoped out somewhere to buy formula (we only brought about a day's worth on the plane in a ziplock) and swim diapers which are no where to be found in Philly in March/April but I knew would be abundant in the Sunshine State. I was really glad we had as many outfits as we did because we ended up taking hikes, hitting the beach, and doing a ton of activities that left us wanting a shower and a wardrobe change more often than I originally anticipated.
| 4 | DO take advantage of your babe's tricks
This happened to be somewhat coincidental but B started waving hello a few days before our trip which ended up making him a local celebrity in St. Augustine. I actually saw a grandma melt before my very eyes. It also kind of cut the tension more than once in some sticky situations. Like, when a restaurant ran 30 minutes behind on our reservation. I'm not exactly at my best when I'm hungry but as we were being seated B was busy charming the pants off the hostess with his new waving trick and our convo helped break the ice.
Trick #2 is that B is a super foodie like mom and dad. Before he was born I was totally into the "Food before one is just for fun". If that's your jam, rock on. But our buddy has been interested in food for a while now and we've just gotten into the habit of letting him try all the things! This was majorly helpful considering our favorite vacation pastime is eating our way through town.
Our waving, food scarfing little boy made this trip so much more enjoyable than I even imagined. So whatever it is your little one is into, embrace it!
| 5 | DO take some time for yourself
Our two criteria for this trip were warm weather and a deck or balcony to sit out on when B went to bed early. This was the BEST decision because we were able to work in some mom and dad time every night. Wine, the sound of the waves, and adult conversation! Heaven.
Most of the time on our trip B would take his naps during brief car rides here and there or in the stroller. However, one afternoon we had no choice but to put him down for a nap in the hotel room. My husband decided he needed a nap too. I had two glorious hours by the pool sans needing to reapply sunscreen on my porcelain skinned little ginger!
This was a family vacation but I couldn't have been more thankful for the time to myself so if you can work any into your trip you should absolutely do so!
BONUS DO: check out St. Augustine, FLA!
If you're on the east coast, it's a quick plane ride. It's a walkable little town with everything you could ask for: plenty of restaurants, historical sites, mild weather, and beaches and national parks nearby. Three days was a perfect amount of time to spend there and the perfect length for a getaway without totally losing our routine and sanity!
To sum up, take the plunge and take that babe on a trip! Remember how the awfulness of the newborn stage is a foggy memory and when you look at a pic of your brand new little you get all the feels? Your vacay will feel the same way. Some moments might be trying but mostly you'll just look at your pics and remember the smell of sunscreen and how your little boy waved like Miss America for three days.