Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Vacationing" with a baby

Last week we were in Indian Shores, Florida (just south of Clearwater) for a family vacation. I use the word vacation loosely because our definition of the term has evolved dramatically over the past year. Gone are the days of laying in the sun for hours, reading books and enjoying a constant flow of frozen drinks. Our new reality is finding ways to occupy our baby in a new environment, and trying desperately to maintain his sleeping and eating routine.

We stayed in the Sandcastle 1 condo with my parents, who rented it for three weeks. We crashed their corner of paradise for week two. I have to say, having an extra set of hands was the only way we were able to enjoy any downtime. An added bonus is that my parents got some much-needed time with their grandson that they only see every few months.

We flew out of Buffalo, NY, which was a fantastic decision on hubby's part. The flight was cheaper ($700 via Southwest vs. $1500 via Air Canada from Toronto) and we dealt with customs from our car at the border (very short lineup and babe slept until we rolled the window down at the guard booth). It also meant we had a shorter flight, which is essential when you're travelling with a baby who hates to sleep in your arms, and is now pulling himself up on everything he can reach.

Southwest Airlines was fantastic. The check in was quick, they permit two 50lb checked bags per person, and the staff are very friendly. We ended up checking two large and one small suitcase. The amount of gear we needed to bring was incredible, and we also rented gear once we got there! I was concerned about overweight baggage fees so I convinced hubby to add the extra case. And thank goodness we did!  If you're familiar with Southwest, you'll know that they don't have assigned seating, rather you're boarded in groups based on the letter/number on your boarding pass.  If you're travelling with young children, they allow you to board after the A group boards, which means it doesn't matter what assignment you have.  This means that you have very good odds of sitting together, and even getting your own row.  After all, who the heck wants to sit with a screaming baby?

Security at US airports is very accommodating for families. Both in Buffalo and Tampa, they offered family lines. This meant faster processing and fewer hassles. I brought a lot of baby food in the diaper bag and not one person hassled me about it. We also had more than the allotted carry on baggage, and again, no hassles!

The plane rides were as expected. Noah fought me as I held him tight upon takeoff, then slept for 1-2 hours in my arms. Once he woke, hubby and I took turns passing him back and forth, trying to keep him happy and occupy his attention. Thankfully the people around us were very nice, and many were smiling and attempting to occupy babe's attention.

My parents were waiting for us when we arrived. We rented a car seat from Visiting Baby, and they installed it in my dad's car before we arrived. This was a lifesaver! It meant that we didn't have to worry about transporting babe from the airport, nor bring his bucket infant seat.  I've found that a lot of cities offer similar services, just search "City baby gear rental" and you can see what local companies have to offer.

I'm so glad we stayed in a condo. Having a full kitchen, laundry and a separate room for Noah meant that we could maintain much of our home routine. My parents drove down and took our Phil & Teds Traveller playpen with them so we didn't have to lug it on the plane. He'd slept in it before so we knew he would be ok in it.

We rented a number of items from Visiting Baby, and boy did it make life easier. We got the toddler car seat (which they kindly installed), a bin of toys (they tailor by age - and Noah was very excited to discover the contents), a feeding booster seat (which we attached to one of the dining room chairs) and a jumperoo (which was great but now that he's pulling himself up and crawling, didn't get much use). For a week we paid around $120. It was WELL worth the investment!

Occupying a baby in a small condo is tricky, so we went for lots of long walks and spent many hours in the pool. Generally the trip was very smooth! There were only two hiccups: the food and sleep.

I make most of Noah's food, but he does get the jarred meat combinations for dinner. Once the food I brought ran out, we switched to food I bought at Target. And he HATED it! I bought stage 2 foods because I didn't see stage 3, and they were extremely bland and runny. Thankfully I brought a can of formula because I was paranoid it would taste different. So he drank well but his meals were challenging for the first few days. That said, he happily ate bits of food from our plates, so we just had to make sure we had baby-appropriate meals. When we went shopping again, I found foods exactly like his, and he devoured them!

Our first night there, Noah slept from 8:30-7, his normal sleep routine, From day 2 onward, he started waking 30 minutes earlier each day. We managed to leave him in his bed until nearly 7, because we didn't want him to adjust to this new wake up time. We knew that a major factor was the brightness of his room. At home, we use room darkening blinds. In Florida, the blinds weren't great and his room was on the sunrise side of the building, which meant he was wide awake when he saw the first glimpse of light. I'm also convinced (but hubby thinks I'm nuts) that he was adjusting early for daylight savings time. It took two days once we got home to get him back to "normal" (8:30-7). Thank goodness for that!

When I was packing for the trip, I looked at a lot of blogs and websites for lists and suggestions of things I might forget. So here's a list I hope you'll find handy for your next trip. Please let me know if I've missed anything!

What to pack for baby:
- diapers (enough for the plane, and if you have room in your case, enough for the week)
- swim diapers (again, only if you have space in your luggage)
- shorts
- socks
- light pjs (consider if your room will have A/C)
- light pants (for cool morning walks)
- light hoodie
- sun hat (with chin strap if your child doesn't like hats)
- long and short sleeved onesies (long sleeved are handy for walks - protects babe's arms from the sun)
- multiple bathing suits
- sunglasses (if babe will wear)
- water shoes (if babe is walking/cruising)
- fast-drying pool hat with chin strap
- shoes/sandals
- formula
- baby food (many companies now offer pouches which are lightweight and easy to pack)
- baby sunblock (i liked Aveeno, it rubbed in quickly)
- after sun/aloe (in case the sunblock washes off and babe gets burnt)
- baby powder (apparently it helps to remove sand, but we weren't at the beach much)
- mini toiletries (baby wash, cotton swabs, creams)
- first aid kid (thermometer, advil, teething meds - just in case!)
- large reusable/waterproof shopping bag (to use as a beach bag - you need to bring a lot to the beach and you'll have wet stuff to bring back up)
- waterproof blanket (for the airport and by the pool - the JJ Cole one is awesome)

What to pack in your diaper bag:
- diapers
- wipes
- mini toiletries (baby wash, cream, hand sanitizer)
- extra outfit
- pajamas
- small toys, book
- baby lunchbag (empty bottle(s), pre-measured formula, pouches of food, bib, spoon, bowls - nothing that needs to be cooled)
- lots of treats (easy way to distract/calm a bored baby)
- light blanket (in case the plane is cold while babe is sleeping)
- travel pillow (for under the elbow of whoever is holding babe while sleeping - you'll get uncomfortable fast otherwise)

Things to buy when you get there:
- beach towels
- swim diapers (if your case was full)
- pool toys/inflatable boat (preferably with a sun shield)

We brought a DVD player with an assortment of discs, and it kept Noah's attention for a while on the plane. Southwest didn't have TVs on our planes, so we had to get creative to occupy Noah. I also brought an assortment of small toys that he could shake and chew on. The DVD player also came in handy in the condo when he got bored, or needed distracting while we ate our dinner.

As you can see, travelling with a baby is quite the process. But in the end, it was worth it! We had a great week with lots of sunshine and happy memories. If you plan ahead and try not to sweat the small stuff, you can have a fun (but not terribly relaxing) family vacation!

When can we go to the beach??

Fun with mommy

Water baby - he couldn't get enough of the pool

Enjoying his boat

Smiles for grandma
Enjoying the Fisher Price play gate at the Buffalo Airport

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh...and that is why I delay travelling with a baby! lol..that being said, we're planning a Florida trip in September to Fort Myers, L will be 18 months by then so should be a tad easier...but thanks for the visiting baby link, will definitely check that out...I was already thinking how am i to lug his highchair playpen, stroller, carseat etc...
    In the end despite all the hassles it is worth it to see their faces experiencing new things!! Great pictures!