On the spectrum of pleasurable summer activities, vacationing with a baby falls somewhere between getting a filling and waiting in line at the DMV in August, when the air conditioning is out. Which is to say, it’s an exceedingly comfortable endeavor, painless and quite relaxing.
The relaxation starts the moment you conceptualize the trip and start making calls to various B&Bs, only to find that most of them won’t accept you as a guest. The problem, it turns out, is that people go to B&Bs for R&R. And you know what the biggest impediment to R&R is? Your baby.
Once you manage to secure “family friendly” lodging (code for “lodging that’s not nice enough for people without children to agree to stay in”), the zen feelings continue to roll over you as you pack. Packing for your family only takes about 10-12 man hours, which is really great and not at all irritating, because even if you take the full 12 hours that’s only half of a day, which is like 50% of a day. The other half is wide open! Spend that open time however you’d like, folks. The options are limited only by your imagination.
You need all this prep time because packing for a family vacation is like moving to a foreign country where it’s unclear if you’ll have access to basic supplies (Do they even sell batteries in Peru? Who knows! Better pack 50 Duracells!), and you can’t risk being caught unprepared so far afield. So you overcompensate by packing enough shit for the Gosselins and the Duggars combined. Think you’ll need a few dozen diapers? Might as well just pack 200, in case your baby and all the other babies in the region are struck by explosive stools simultaneously.
The first time we took Nolan on vacation it was to a
dumpy family-friendly bed and breakfast in North Conway, a small ski town known for its shops and mountains. We said, “It will be quaint, it will be simple, it will be LOVELY!”
And yes, it was quaint. What’s not quaint about spending from 8 PM on every night trapped in a tiny, pitch-black room with your tenuously sleeping baby, unable to turn on the TV or even a light, lest you awaken the beast? What’s more relaxing than living in fear that your child will start wailing through the paper thin walls of the B&B, disturbing the other guests (who you will not be able to avoid on account of the fact that you must eat breakfast with them)? It’s a slice of heaven, really.
Parents, there is a better way. A legitimately relaxing option for vacationing with a baby. The key is this: skip the B&B and rent a house. Moreover, screw the intimate family time for just you, your spouse and children. You see enough of them as it is. Book a vacation with an entire network of babysitters (grandparents, aunts, neighbors, newspaper delivery boys, etc.), and stay in a house that is already way better stocked than your own house. This is exactly what my family did last week, and the results were stellar.
My sister’s good friend Meg was nice enough to rent her vacation house on the Cape to us for the week. What was awesome about this arrangement was that the house was completely set up for a family with a baby; it had the crib, a nursing chair, diaper station, bouncy chairs and swings, creams, powders, Elmo towels and inflatable tubs. Basically every item that Meg had set up for her own baby was either an item that we owned and left at home, or a nicer version of an item that we had on hand. By the end of the week I wanted to sell all of Nolan’s things and buy all of Meg’s things.
Even better than the setup was the excess of loving, willing hands eager to spend time with Nolan. One morning I woke up to a fussy baby and immediately had the thought, “I wonder if Grandpa Dan is up already and can entertain Nolan.” As soon as I come down the stairs, my dad says, “Maybe I can take Nolan for an early walk!”
“Sure, what a great idea!”
As if the idea hadn’t even occurred to me. Ha! It’s the ONLY thing besides a coffee run to Dunks that I’d thought of so far that day.
And it continued in this fashion. My mom got to read to Nolan and cuddle him. My sister gave him a bath.
Somebody gave him ice cream and entered him into a corn hole tournament.
Who the hell knows if anyone changed his diapers. Diffusion of responsibility, ya know? But let’s keep our eye on the big picture, here. Family fun/parental laziness.
The vacation was as close to flawless as it could get. Although poor Nolan didn’t poop for the first 4 days, which I think we can all agree is a classic struggle for travelers everywhere. Better to learn this lesson now, I guess, when he’s only digesting milk and pureed veggies, instead of the way I learned it, on a trip to Argentina when I was backed up on two weeks of steak.
This was one of those trips that, simple as it was, I will remember. It gave us time to all be together without the pressure of doing much of anything. And isn’t that what sometimes makes for the best trips? The ones where you do nothing instead of doing everything. The ones that don’t need visitors guides and itineraries. The ones that just need family and friends. Also beer and yard games. But mostly, family and friends.