Travelling with extra baggage by Paula Goldstein
I spent most of my 20s on the road (or, more accurately, in a plane). Living out of a suitcase was second nature to me, and I sort of adored it.
I didn’t really miss home. I was a whizz at packing, and had airport security down. I was a footloose and fancy free fashion editor…and then Luna happened.
Traveling with a child is something else, both literally and figuratively. You take the randomness of delayed flights, lost luggage, and wild taxi queues, and then you mix it with the randomness of a tiny human (who you care about a hundred times more than a first class upgrade). And suddenly, just hot-footing it for a weekend away with friends becomes exhausting, anxiety inducing, and no longer a holiday.
That leads me to my first tip of travelling with a small child: Just forget the idea of a vacation, and think of it more as a change of scenery.
You won’t get to chill out. They likely won’t sleep better with an ocean breeze. They might hate sand, suffer jet lag, and not eat the food. Forget sleeping in and ordering a romantic breakfast. It’s not going to be the relaxing time on a lounger of yore. But, as Maya Angelou famously said, if you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
If you go on a trip with your baby or toddler expecting a perfect, restful vacation, you’ll just come back exhausted and frustrated. However, if you go into it thinking of it as a change of scenery and a new place to be curious together; if you commend yourself because you did it! You made it!; if you acknowledge that you are seeing the world together and expanding their tiny mind; if you celebrate the beautiful moments of new understanding that light up their faces; if you cherish the memories you build together and the flip-flops you buy, it can actually be a sort of magical madness. Rookie tip: Drink rose through the rest.
MY SECOND TIP WOULD BE BECOME FAMILIAR WITH YOUR NEW COMFORT ZONE.
I’m very much the woman who was “anti-resort” before I had a child. I wanted to stay in the hard-to-get-to undiscovered place with no air conditioning; the island that you can only reach by taking three boats, eating locally at little holes-in-the-wall. Some of my friends with kids are still these kinds of people -- with a jolly baby tied to their back, exploring the world like the Swiss Family Robinson (hopefully with fewer shipwrecks, but certainly eating some bugs). I am not that mother, and my daughter is not that child. My child likes air conditioning and a double bed. She’s not sure about sand (or grass for that matter). She’s not a fan of masses of strangers, or being in a stroller. She has many feelings...and in turn that means I also have many feelings. So when we booked a trip to Hawaii this year, I was horrified to hear myself turn to my husband and say, “Does it have a kiddy pool? And room service? Is it a long drive? Ok. Big Island based resort complex sounds perfect.” And you know what? That’s ok. Know your limits. Know where the edge of your sanity lies. Soon they’ll be five, and you’ll be on a trek to greet mountain gorillas together (yes, yes, I know, please don’t burst my bubble just yet).
NEXT UP: IT TAKES A VILLAGE.
My friends who seem to have the best vacations with kids under three? They take their Mom, nanny, or best friend. They add other adults to the mix; people who will build sand castles while you swim out into the big blue with your partner, or jiggle a baby in the shade while you get 15 minutes of tan time. No spare relatives or hired help? Then go for the commune method. Find friends with children of roughly the same age and hire a big house together, where no one can hear you scream.
Too much? Ok. But seriously, there are many advantages to travelling with other families...and not just the back-up bags of teething cookies and extra wet wipes. It’s the shared camaraderie, and the fact that they don’t mind if your child screams at the table (in fact they’re grateful it’s not theirs). They are down with your weird transitions before and after bedtime, where you suddenly go wild past bath time but then must get to sleep by 11, as you know you’ll be up at 6. Kids are also hilarious; kids en-masse even more so. Get them together and they will exhaust each other and provide endless entertainment.
There are many hacks out there for dealing with baby jet lag, long hauls with toddlers, or amusement in a car. But really it’s not about that. It’s about letting go, ignoring all the crushing societal expectations of you as a mother, going someplace new, and having fun!
Paula Goldstein, Creative Director, Filmmaker, Mother of a toddler