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'Tis the season when parents of new babies and toddlers ask themselves, Do I dare take a real vacation with little Johnny? It's a tough call. You're several years away from Disney World and, if it's your first kid, you're probably not too many years removed from a pre-baby getaway to the islands, or a once-in-a-lifetime trek through Europe. You remember fun and happiness. Can you still find that sort of fun on vacation? Hate to break to you, but no. You can, however, manage to somewhat enjoy yourself. So here are some dos and don'ts to survive vacation time with a little one in tow.
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1: Don't expect to relax
You know those Corona commercials where the couple sits quietly before a gentle surf enjoying a sunset beer? Your vacations will be nothing like that for at least 20 years. Right now its all about preventing your son from drowning or walking your daughter up and down the hotel steps 11 times in a row.
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2: Do ship supplies ahead of time
Especially if you fly. You dont need half of your suitcase jammed up with wipes, diapers, snacks, and toys. Find out the address of the hotel youre staying at and how early they recommend sending packages.
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3: Don't fly
For years, youve hated those people who just wont tell their kid to shut up on the plane. Now you are those people. Drive — and crank up the radio. (If you must fly, do bring snacks, toys, a loaded DVD player, your iPad, whatever it takes.)
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4: Do stay at a nice place
Youre not backpacking through Europe anymore. Amenities are your friend. You need to embrace your inner snob — you know, the person who expects someone to set up their beach umbrella and bring them towels and drinks. Because youre busy trying to keep your son from being carried out to sea.
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5: Do spring for a suite
Its going to hurt your credit card, but without a separate place for junior to sleep, vacation days end when baby goes to bed. So unless you like spending your nights playing Angry Birds under the covers or drinking wine in the dark (with no hope of adult hugs whatsoever), pay for the extra room.
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6: Do let your kid play in the hotel crib first
Seriously, this works. Babies need to feel comfortable, and comfort comes from familiarity. Just dumping your little guy in a strange crib for the first time one night might not go so well.
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7: Don't go out to eat
Your hotel is within walking distance of a swanky sushi place. Theres a high-end steak restaurant youve had your eye on since you checked in. Forget about both and order room service. Unless you want to be the one taking the filet mignon to go after little Sophie throws her fourth buttered roll on the floor while screaming bloody murder. If you must brave a restaurant, effectively scare your waiter as soon as you sit down: We have to order NOW!
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8: Do overeat
Thats guaranteed fun. And youre already married, so no need to worry about that beach body, right?
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9: Do drink early
As a wise person once said, Vacationing with an 18-month old is simply parenting in a different place, where it may be hot. Thats why theres no shame in a little rum punch at 10 a.m. to take the edge off.
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10: Don't get drunk though
You really are still watching your kid and protecting his wellbeing. Getting sloppy is dangerous and could inspire your partner to look into the local divorce laws. Plus, babies who get up at 5 a.m. still get up at 5 a.m. in the tropics. Just something to think about before downing that last Mai Tai.
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11: Do locate the pharmacy before you need it
This way youll know how far a walk it is, and youll have the number for when you need your doctor to call in that pink-eye prescription.
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12: Don't whine if your kid doesn't like the pool, ocean, or lake
Youll have plenty of years to teach your young one to body surf, skim rocks, and build sand castles. Just be happy you dont have to watch for constant sunburn signs like the rest of us.
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13: Do give yourself an extra hour to go anywhere
Headed for the pool? Okay, so youll need to do a diaper change; slather sunscreen on your kid; slather sunscreen on yourself; pack the bathing suit, swim vest, water shoes, snacks, water, towels, and beach chairs; walk to the beach ...
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14: Don't be ashamed to spend an afternoon at the mall ... or Wendy's
Because all that prep to go to more tourist-y places will get old. And you can only order in surf and turf so many times. And you dont need sunscreen. And your kid can eat Frosties and throw them on the floor.
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15: Do blow some of your son's 529 fund money at the casino
You deserve it. (And hell never know.)
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16: Don't change a swimmy diaper alone
Whoever invented the swimmy diaper should be beaten or jailed. While its a lovely concept, that fact that the diaper doesnt open or close on the sides but must be slid off a wet, sandy, shivering, angry body while possibly loaded up with number 2 — well, that just creates a dangerous slingshot effect that no one should be subjected to without assistance.
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17: Do tip housekeeping well
Because with the constant wet clothing, diaper leakage, sunscreen spills, and food dumped on every inch of the floor, junior will end up treating the room slightly better than The Rolling Stones did on tours in the 70s. And youll always, always need more towels.
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18: Don't dress up
Youre not going out to eat — or anywhere nice at least. Those nice clothes are just going to sit in your bag torturing you. And if you do put them on, your kid will need his swimmy diaper changed immediately. Embrace that Myrtle Beach t-shirt you bought for $9.99 at the gift shop.
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19: Do dress your kid up
It will make you feel good, and more importantly, make her more tolerable to others when she tries to break things in the hotel.
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20: Don't bring a book you've always wanted to read
Youll never even break the binding. But do bring Big Red Barn.
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21: Do let your kid run around the hotel lobby
The staff will love her, and youll have 30 seconds of free babysitting to read USA Today.
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22: Don't bother with the sights
Baby Joshua doesnt want to see where the British, the French, and the Indians signed some treaty or built some wall in the woods. And really, neither do you.
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23: Do take turns having fun
When you are all together on vacation as a family, at most you can have moderate amounts of fun, with a constant sense of lifes limitations. But if you separate occasionally — daddy takes the baby for a walk while mommy sunbathes — then at least someone is having real, relaxing fun. For at least 10 minutes. Dysfunctional, yes, but effective.
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24: Don't separate too long
How was your 90-minute massage honey? Or your hour at the casino? Well, the baby wouldnt nap for me, had a dirty diaper, and hit her head on the side of the pool. Take her now! Relaxation, meet resentment.
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25: Don't go
Have you been paying attention at all? Does this sound worth it to you? A vacation with a toddler thats equal parts joy and hell for thousands of dollars? Skip it. Resign yourself to the fact that good vacations wont exist for a few years. Instead take a week off and stay local. Hang out with your family in your house. Drive over to your in-laws place. What? Are you insane? What the hell kind of vacation is that? One where youll sleep, possibly even get drunk, or go out — and know that somebody reliable is watching your little angel.
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