The thought of a vacation sounds great, doesn’t it! Especially after all the restrictions we’ve had to live with over the past many months. But those thoughts of sun, fun, and relaxation start to wane when you begin thinking about all the extras you have to bring along to make sure your little ones have everything they need. The diapers, stroller, baby food…. It’s amazing how someone so small needs so much stuff, isn’t it?
These thoughts, along with thoughts of whether or not you will arrive to find clean and hygienic accommodations (thanks to a shortage of workers in most places) are enough to make you decide you would be better off staying home. Or if you are like thousands of other people, you have decided camping is the better way to go, which leads to even more packing, which then leads you to start asking yourself if it’s really worth the trouble.
The answer is yes. Yes, you need to take a break from the norms of life and enjoy the treasures of nature and the arts. And yes, you can do these things with a baby or toddler in tow…as long as you don’t set them up for failure and set yourself up for disappointment and frustration. Here’s how…
The first rule for vacays with little ones is to reduce the amount of stuff you take.
- Purchase travel-size lotions, shampoos, soaps, sunscreens, etc.
- Pack only what you use on a normal day. Unless you are camping in the backwoods of the most remote area of the world (which you aren’t), you will be able to find what you need within a few minutes’ drive.
- If you plan to stay more than three or four days, do laundry while you are there. Most places have laundry facilities for use by guests.
- Limit toys to a minimum. One small bag of new toys to keep their attention will do. But don’t try to get away with leaving that one special blanket or lovie at home. You’ll be sorry.
- Keep the routine of meals, naps, and bedtime as normal as possible.
The second rule of thumb is to plan your destination and sightseeing according to your child’s age. For example, newborns and infants up to age 4 or 5 months are relatively easy to travel with. Their immobility makes them complacent and unaffected by a change in scenery. As long as they are dry, have mom to hold and soothe them and their tummies are kept full, you can go just about anywhere.
Once your baby becomes more mobile-crawling or walking—it can be a bit more challenging to spend more than three hours in the car at one time. You will need to make frequent stops for stretching their legs and using up some of their energy. Special toys that are allowed only when in the car seat, letting them listen to silly songs, nursery rhymes, or audio books are also great boredom busters.
If you have toddlers or preschoolers you will need to take vacations that require less travel time. This age also requires frequent stops for potty breaks and running off some energy.
Finally, here’s an option a lot of families choose no matter what age the kids are: Traveling at night while they are sleeping.
Three: Location, location, location. Most tourist attractions and vacation destinations say they are ‘family-friendly’ and promote that sort of atmosphere, but the reality is that there are simply some things you and your baby will not enjoy. The key is to keep it simple.
Vacations on the beach are great as long as you remember your baby’s skin cannot tolerate excessive exposure to the sun. That means choosing your times to be outside, using plenty of sunscreen, providing shade and cool drinks or wraps for them.
Hiking trips to places such as Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon are too strenuous for a little one. You cannot get a stroller in some of these places, it is expecting too much of a little one who can walk, and you will get tired of wearing them. Besides, don’t you think it would be better to go to places like that once they can actually enjoy and appreciate what they see?
Trips to the city to take in the zoo, museums, botanical gardens are all stroller-friendly and keep a little one’s attention. Places such as these also make it easy to stop and feed a baby, change diapers, and so forth.
Vacationing at Grandma and Grandpa’s house is also a prime choice. You have the comforts of home, grandparents get the joy of making memories with the littles, and you have the option to have time alone as a couple thanks to some willing babysitters. Visiting grandparents also gives you a home base, so to speak for day trips to nearby tourist destinations, to visit childhood friends, or to experience things you don’t get to experience at home. So remember, as long as you have a good relationship with your parents, going home is one of the best vacations you can take with your little ones.
In short, vacationing with your baby or toddler can be fun…for all of you! It is simply a matter of choosing the right place for everyone.