Recently, while on a trip to the beach with my family and three-year-old daughter, I heard a woman who was nearly hysterical over her baby’s behavior. She repeatedly screamed, “Make her shut up!” to her husband, and “You are being a spoiled little brat!” to her infant child. The infant, who couldn’t have been more than ten months old, only screamed louder when her mother yelled.
As easy as it would be to judge this woman as a bad mother, I realized that she was probably extremely stressed that her first vacation with the baby wasn’t going well. She came to the beach to relax, but the “vacation” was just as much work as a week of stay-at-home parenting. As a result, I imagine that the entire family’s vacation felt like damnation, not paradise.
You can prevent this calamity from happening to you. If your baby simply isn’t ready to go on vacation, have a nice staycation. Everyone, including you, will be happier. Here dare a few things to look for before taking your baby on her first trip.
1. How well does she travel? Some babies travel very well, and can easily endure long car rides and plane trips. But, if you’ve got one of those kids who screams like a banshee every time she’s strapped into her car seat, it’s in everyone’s best interest to wait until she’s ready for a longer trip. Believe me: the day will come when you can have her along for a pleasant car ride without much disruption. You can’t change the fact that your baby has difficulty traveling, any more than you can change the age at which she begins walking. Your only option, in this stage of her development, is to work within her needs and stay home when necessary.
2. Are you flexible with your plans? A vacation without flexibility is bound to end in nightmare, especially if you have a young child. If your baby falls asleep at the wrong time or needs her diaper changed ten times in one day, are you prepared to change your plans to accommodate this? Changes in plans happen, but, unless you’re prepared to accept them, it’s best to skip the vacation entirely until your baby’s needs and behavior are more predictable.
3. Can your baby adapt to change? Some babies only thrive when life happens on a predictable schedule. These organized babies must eat at specific times every day and asleep at specific times every day– otherwise, chaos breaks loose. If your baby adapts to change as flexibly as Stretch Armstrong in a shoebox, she’ll do well on vacation. If the world ends every time she doesn’t get a nap at 3:00 every afternoon, she’ll have difficulty on vacation and the trip won’t go well.
4. Can you meet all of your baby’s needs? A baby at the beach needs lots of drinking water, sunscreen reapplied every hour, swim-friendly diapers, games, entertainment, toys, blankets, constant supervision, and enough spare onesies to clothe a small country. If you’re prepared to provide all of these things, take your vacation. If not, wait until next year, when your baby’s travel needs and luggage load will be significantly lighter.
5. Is there help available? I highly recommend against taking your baby on a mom-and-me vacation; it’s too much of a hassle to be worthwhile. Make sure that other grown-ups are coming along on the trip, who can help with your baby when necessary. If your child’s other parent isn’t willing to give any help, bring a friend who is. As a parent, you deserve to pamper yourself and enjoy a few days off. If there’s anyone else in your child’s life who can help with supervision, bath time and entertainment, bring that person on your baby’s first vacation.
Babies are a joy, but many of them simply aren’t ready to go on vacation for the first time– and that’s okay. Your little one will only be this tiny and innocent once in her life. If you have to enjoy your first summertime together at home, watching movies and giving yourself pedicures, do so. A relaxing staycation at home is far more enjoyable than a stressful vacation somewhere else.