Before going on a trip, carefully explain to your tot that she will have to stay still and quiet for hours on end. This might also be a good opportunity to discuss Bernoulli’s principle of aerodynamics. You know, preschool interviews are right around the corner.
(Disclaimer: I might have exaggerated a bit in my title)
Before having their first child, couples will often go on a babymoon. (What is a babymoon, you ask? It’s basically an excuse to go on a vacation. Like sprinkles, maternity portraits, and smash cakes, it’s something we millennials created to keep the celebration going and spend way more money than we need to.)
They tell you to go on a babymoon because it will be your last real vacation ever before you have children. It’s supposed to be a nice, relaxing time where you appreciate each other’s company and anticipate the arrival of your wonderful bundle of joy who will be a fantastic eater, reach all his developmental milestones early, and will never disappoint you in any way.
That’s great. Appreciate away. Dream your utopian baby dreams. But here’s one thing I wish I had known to appreciate before I had a kid.
Packing. Or should I say the lack of packing needed.
Before we had kids, our weekend getaway luggage looked like this:
Me: Change of clothes, Purse, Toiletry bag
My husband: Change of underwear (maybe), toothbrush
Now that we have added just one, teeny tiny person to our tribe, our packing list has expanded a thousand fold. Long gone are the days of the chic weekender tote slung effortlessly over my shoulder. Packing now takes a good two days prep time. And it really doesn’t matter if you’re going away for one night or for one week, if you’re traveling with a baby in tow, your baggage pretty much looks the same.
Now perhaps you’re a seasoned mom or a mom-of-many, and at this point you are silently chuckling in your “these new moms have no idea what they’re doing” fashion. Fair enough. I freely admit that I rarely know what I’m doing. But I also admit that I have fallen victim to Murphy’s Law of Motherhood (which I will be writing about at some point) so often that at this point in my life, I pack it. You know why? Because if I don’t have it, that’s when I’ll need it.
So here’s a list of everything you will need when traveling with a toddler:
Pack enough for every day and then 10 more and then 1 extra just in case and then 3 more for good luck. This should definitely NOT include your diapers in your diaper bag, which you are obviously going to need because of the impending blow out on the drive there.
Follow the diaper rule but also include clothes that can be worn in every season possible. Tropical climate? Doesn’t matter. I bet their restaurants are still freezing. You pack that anorak.
Don’t worry, children always sleep well in strange places. It does help, however, if your travel linens match those of the hotel.
Yup, you’re bringing your own one of these too. Sure, the hotel promised to provide it, but with your luck it’s going to be 1970s metal drop-down version and they will wheel it in 3 hours past the promised time. Plus you read that baby sleeps better when he’s in familiar surroundings. And you will do anything to make him sleep. So even though he is going to end up in your bed anyway with his elbow in your ear, make sure that crib is all packed up along with his mattress and own sheet set (because it smells like home!) and the
Good God, whatever you do, do NOT forget the sound machine. Remember, the goal of this trip is NOT to have fun or enjoy each other’s company or experience a new culture. Your goal is to get baby to sleep. So obviously you also brought his lovies, right? You know, those things that used to resemble cute stuffed animals and now look like and smell like chewed-up road kill? You brought those, right? No, I did remind you. Look, I wrote it on this list that I didn’t share with anyone but myself.
Wherever you go, make sure you have a beautifully arranged bowl of fresh vegetables. Your little one will love chowing down on them and it will let all the other parents know you are a good parent, you swear.
Even though we live in a country where we are never two minutes away from prepackaged sustenance, you might catch yourself out on a walk and baby might need to eat right that second. So you need snacks. You need so many snacks. First, pack the food you want your baby to eat (i.e. you want other people to think you actually feed your baby): organic freeze-dried kale chips, locally grown steamed broccoli florets, lavender-infused bean curd fermented by orphaned East Asian children who were, of course, paid a fair wage for their work.
Then pack items your baby will probably eat if he feels like it at that particular moment: Cheerios, string cheese, yogurt, more cheerios. Finally pack items you would never give your baby, but look, he’s at least eating something, okay?: Fritos, cookies, oh my God stop giving the baby cookies, gummy bears, pretzels, I mean it he’s never going to go to sleep with all that sugar. Do you even remember the goal of this vacation? To save time, make sure you ground some of those Cheerios into the back seat of your car. It’s going to happen anyway.
Children are great at entertaining themselves. One coloring book ought to do it! In fact, you will be so joyous during your travels, you will be asking yourselves why your family doesn’t hop on long-distant flights every weekend!
Good news! There are lots of other games to play with baby on trips besides Please Go To Sleep In This Strange Place! But it depends on what kind of baby you were given. Do you have sensitive stomach baby? Then you get to play Quick! Find the Nearest Rest Stop! Yes, Right Now! Do you have light sleeper baby? Then you get to play the shushing game.
You win when you have successfully “shushed” all the other passengers into submission. Your prize is slight resentment from them for the rest of the trip. Maybe you received constantly needs to be entertained baby. Then you get to sing and mime along to a string of nursery rhymes sung by adults pretending to be children! On repeat. Yay! And the fun doesn’t stop there.
Remember the game Don’t Wake Daddy? Good. Because that knowledge is going to come in handy once you reach your hotel room and your bundle of joy is asleep. The new version of this game works like this: Junior is on one side of the room, blissfully asleep…for now. You and your partner are in desperate need of a drink and some form of entertainment that does not involve adults singing like children. What to do?
Here’s how it works:
- Carefully open your boxed wine. (Not a bottle. Less noise, less fuss. Alright, Ms. Fancy Pants, put your nose down. You have no idea how low your standards will have fallen by this point.)
- TV needs to be well below a level 10. Whisper something. Now do it softer. There you go.
- Who are you kidding? Just put the close caption on.
- Oh, what does it even matter? You already have a vague idea what Detective Olivia Benson is saying anyway. You’ve probably already seen this episode. Oh God, I think it involves adults singing like children. (And, yes, what else is playing on a Friday night besides a Law & Order marathon?)
- I think I just heard him move. Did he move? Is he up? Is he on to us?
- Sit in dead silence for five minutes. Do. Not. Move.
- I think it’s safe. What, you’re hungry? Don’t you dare go for those chips. Are you crazy? A plastic bag? Way too much noise. There’s some fermented bean-curd in the cooler.
- Yes, of course, they were given a fair wage.
- I think I heard him again. Or maybe that was me breathing. I can’t tell at this point. I think that means it’s time to go to bed.
- Slink into bed to relish the 1.5 hours until junior wakes up and demands to lay in the middle of your mattress like a snow angel.
Also, no worries: They are also fantastic at transporting not only themselves but also their luggage. In a hurry to make your connection? Don’t worry, little Johnny has the rollercase and his ball. And he thoughtfully does not have to go to the bathroom right this second.