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I just got back from vacation and I'm still wondering what happened to the stress-free, tanned self that used to return from these beach trips. This was the first major trip we've taken with the baby (10 months old) and while we were planning, it all sounded very serene: a week with family in the Outer Banks, in a beach house -- the water just two blocks away to better enjoy the sand and surf every day.
But, in the end, I spent most of the week prying things my son shouldn't put in his mouth away from him (sunscreen lotion bottles are like designer teethers to this child!), trying to keep him from skinning his knee by crawling on the pool concrete, changing wet swim diapers and doing umpteen baths to get all that sand, sunscreen and chlorine off him. Where did my snoozing-in-the-sun-time go?
My husband and I did plan ahead to make the trip less stressful and slightly more adult-fun-inclusive. We rented a crib, stroller and baby gate (and the house was equipped with a play-yard) so we didn't have to haul ours on the eight-hour-drive (which turned into 13 with holiday weekend traffic!). We broke up the roadtrip into two doable chunks, staying overnight in the middle. We designated "date night," and had one nice dinner out, which was long overdue. And we bought a pop-up beach tent for easy seaside naps. Those all definitely helped. But what else I should have done to make the trip more like those pre-baby, margarita sipping, time-to-tan-my-other-side vacations of times past?
I consulted Shelly Rivoli, author of Travels With Baby: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers and Pre-school Age Children. for tips on how to make vacation time with baby a little bit more like, well, vacation.
-- Upgrade to a balcony room, especially if you’re taking a cruise. You'll value the extra space and be able to enjoy the scenery, sun/moonlight and fresh air while baby takes her morning/afternoon nap.
-- Get room service. At least one night, keep things simple and dine in. No hunting around for a restaurant, waiting for a table or juggling a fussy baby in a noisy restaurant. And if baby goes to bed early, it’s all the more relaxing and romantic for you.
-- Amp up the romance. Request a room with a fireplace (as long as it's baby-safe) to enhance the ambience of your room and enjoy the ambiance after your kid goes to sleep. And bring along slippers, bath salts and a silky robe, for a fun bath for two. Even the most basic roadside motel can become a relaxing retreat when you get the right mindset—and accessories.
-- Hire a sitter. Maybe Grandma or your nanny can come on the trip with you and watch the babe for a bit. But if not, check out organizations like CARE.com, SitterCity.com, and Nanny.org to find pre-screened and qualified caregivers at your destination.
-- Pay per view. Treat yourselves to a recent release you probably, for obvious reasons, haven’t made it out to the theater to see yet.
In the end, it wasn't all bad -- we spent the week away from computer screens and deadlines (well, mostly). And my parents got QT with my son and his cousin. Plus, my son took his first steps in that beach house -- and that's what I'll remember most.
How do you make "vacation" more like "vacation before kids"? Tell us your tricks and tips! Chime in below!