Traveling soon? We’ve got you covered. Our Travel Hacks Series covers planes, trains, and automobiles—as well as tips to make life with the littles more comfortable once you reach your destination.
There is no place like home. Seriously. There really, really isn’t—especially when the only other place you’ve slept is a uterus. For parents, however, getting away is a dream come true. Since I had my baby, I made a conscious decision to devote 20% of my brain entirely to a screen shot of a Balinese beach. True story. I’m thinking about it right now. Vacation means clean sheets, poolside wait staff, 3-ply toilet paper, and never, ever running out of shampoo. Even if you try, those angels in housekeeping just won’t let you. For infants and toddlers, vacation can, well, flat out stink. The beach is too hot, the water is too cold, the crib is too small, the tub is too big, and the fish tacos are…well, fish tacos. It just isn’t really a baby’s thing. And who can blame her? The familiarity of home vanishes, sleeping and eating routines fall by the wayside, and all of the grown ups are acting crazy. As much as we all wish we could make Jamaica home, we just plain can’t. What you can do is pack a few things that will help baby stay safe and feel more comfortable in her new surroundings. Ladies, gentlemen, mamas, and papas, I present you with:
A LIST OF STUFF!!!!!!
Blackout Garbage Bags.
Can we all just take a moment to acknowledge that the fact that they even make these is supremely, supremely creepy? Okay, TWO moments. I know I’m not the only one having Dexter flashbacks. Blackout Garbage Bags are straight up gross, but unless you want to be Napless in Negril, you ought to put them at the top of your pre-vacation packing list. You see, that beautiful room you booked overlooking the Caribbean Sea with the sunlight tumbling in and dancing angelically on the walls is nothing short of enchanting…
Until you try and put your baby down for a nap, and she’s tripping hard on boat-shaped shadows before her head even hits the port-a-crib. She can’t sleep. She won’t sleep. Your world is falling apart.
Enter: Guerilla Curtaining. Using painter’s tape (it leaves far less residue than most other tapes) stick as many blackout garbage bags as it darn well takes over those picturesque windows until your ocean view suite looks like the Bat Cave. Creating an artificial night every time sweetie pie needs a nap might seem like a lot of work, but so is bouncing a sleep deprived, blood-thirsty infant on your knee while you’re trying to drink a mojito.
Most hotels aren’t exactly child-friendly; I’ve stayed in plenty that are barely even human-friendly. Since providing no fewer than 17 electrical outlets to satisfy our collective obsession with new-fangled gadgetry is now considered to be a basic amenity, it is important to bring along a simple baby-proofing solution to keep our tiny explorers out of trouble. That solution is tape. Tape?! Yes—good, old-fashioned TAPE. I prefer that lovely blue painter's variety but you can get away with pretty much any type that does not cause surface damage (test it out at home first if you aren’t sure). I use it to cover electrical outlets, shut cabinets (hair elastics work great for this too), and secure precarious lamp cords.
I know, I know. Why in the world would you need to bring baby’s fan/Sleep Sheep/lullaby record when you’re paying three ghastly figures a night to sleep right next to the roaring ocean waves? Answer: because while you might be rolling around in billion thread-count sheets and soaking up every ounce of Hilton you can, your wee one might find it tough to sleep in a strange place. Bring along baby’s slumber soundscape of choice (mine likes that Tell-Tale Heart-ish womb simulation sound), and keep her sleep environment and routine as consistent with home as possible. It doesn’t exactly scream “whimsy at the seaside,” but it can be the key to a restful vacation for everyone. Plus, those flimsy hotel walls practically invite your neighbor to cackle along to Jimmy Fallon at the top of his lungs all night. You don’t need to hear that nonsense either. (Tip: we use the Sleep Pillow app at home and on the go.)
I was recently the weird person at a baby shower. My sweet, pregnant friend asked all of us parents to chime in about our absolute favorite, can’t-live-without-it piece of baby gear. I listened to the other ladies rattling off a list of fancy muslin swaddlers, lavender bum creams, and organic play mats. When it was my turn, I gruffly spat out "CLIP ON FAN!"without hesitation. They were a little taken aback by its utter lack of cuteness, but once I explained that they make them especially for babies, everyone was on board. If you’re traveling to a balmy destination or intend to spend extended periods of time outdoors in a temperate one, just clip this puppy to the stroller/high chair/tabletop, and immediately be absolved of the “Is he too warm? Does he look flushed to you? Maybe we should just go back…” variety of mom-guilt. Be sure to bring batteries, and keep it FAR away from baby’s hair.
Other Important Items You Might Consider:
First Aid Kit – Make sure to include Infant Tylenol, an antihistamine, a thermometer, and Pedialyte powder packets
Pack N Play – True, they are a total pain to set up, BUT if you opt to bring your own, baby can practice for a few nights at home and get comfortable with it before her maiden voyage. Many hotels offer port-a-cribs, but they aren’t always in tip-top shape, so call ahead and request the make and model to make sure your child won’t be sleeping in glorified dog kennel.
Plastic Bib – You only really need to bring one of these if you wash it after each use.
Baby Utensils – I always forget these at home and wish I had remembered them when I watch my son fumbling with a fork the size of his entire arm.
Pen – Aside from the regular pen-type functions, you can also use them to ID your curious toddler in those congested areas where kids tend to meander. Seriously. Just write their name and your contact info (in a spot covered by clothing) just in case. It’s a temporary tat with a purpose. Even if your child is well versed in “I’m lost” protocol, she might clam up in front of strangers. Understandably, not everyone is comfortable with this, but when a sobbing tot wandered up to me on the beach with her name and a contact number on her forearm, I got comfortable with the idea really fast.
Corkscrew – I know you know why. Parenting away from home deserves a cocktail.
Home sweet home it ain’t, but with a little creativity (and a boatload of patience), you and your little one will be just fine in your new digs. Bon Voyage, friends!
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