Last month we took our first vacation as a family of four and aside from my travel anxiety issues, we had a really great time. We spent four days at Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos, it's basically a huge indoor waterpark that is super fun! We highly recommend it for families with kids of ANY age.
Overall, William (just under 3 years-old) did a great job while we were on vacation and Daniel (9 months old) did great, as well. We really prepared for the trip, mentally and with what we packed, and I think that helped everyone do well.
The biggest thing I suggest doing is preparing yourself mentally and emotionally because vacationing with a baby and a toddler can easy go south (and I don't mean as in going to Florida). When I say that William and Daniel did great it does not mean that they were perfect. HA! William had multiple tantrums and didn't nap well and Daniel definitely got fussy at inopportune moments but my husband and I prepared ourselves for that. We knew that being somewhere new and out of our normal routine would really throw the boys for a loop, especially William, so we prepared for extra tantrums and fussy fits and because we were ready, we were able to handle them fairly smoothly.
Aside from the mental and emotional preparation, there are ten things we did that helped make our vacation not suck. And stick around for the end of the post where you can learn how to nab a free traveling with kids packing list.
Ten Things We Did To Make Our Vacation Great
1. We Planned For Naps + Quiet Times
When at home, William goes down for a nap sometime between 12 and 1:30 and sleeps for about two hours. We knew it would be hard to get him to nap at the hotel but we also knew that he would need that quiet time, especially after spending a few hours in the water park. After lunch my husband would lay on the sofa with William and basically force him to rest and watch a movie. William only napped one of the days we were there but the "forced" quiet times helped him rest up for more fun at the waterpark or playing at the hotel.
Since Daniel is still pretty little, he is still nursing fairly often (while we were on vacation he was still at the point where he was getting two servings of baby food (the pouches were perfect for traveling!) each day) and he couldn't really handle more than an hour and a half at a time in the pools so once he started getting fussy, he and I would dry off and I'd take him up to the room to nurse him and then he'd fall asleep. I knew he would need a bit more quiet time than William so we made it work.
And I need some alone time as well or I get super overwhelmed so I used the time while Daniel napped and Seth and William finished up at the waterpark, as my quiet time.
2. We Brought Their Favorite Foods
William is such a picky eater. Like super picky. He will only eat particular foods so to avoid too many food-related meltdowns, I made sure that we brought things that he would eat. Some of the items we brought include those microwavable mac 'n cheese cups (yes I know, not healthy. But we never buy them except in situations like this), bananas, pretzels, chocolate chip granola bars, and oatmeal packets. We made sure to get a room that had a mini fridge and a microwave so we could eat breakfasts and lunches in the room.
We also brought Daniel's favorite baby foods in pouches, the pouches meant that we didn't need to bring baby spoons since he can slurp the food right from the pouch. And we didn't forget his puffs and teething wafers.
3. We Went Somewhere SUPER Kid Friendly
This is essential. You need to be realistic and really think about where your kids would do well. Not only does it need to be kid-friendly, it needs to be the right place for your child. The waterpark was the absolute perfect place for William who is adventurous and high-energy but for some kids it may be too overwhelming or scary, and that's okay! Really think about what your little one would enjoy because even if something seems super cool to you, your child may be totally disinterested or overwhelming.
4. We Brought Our Apple TV and iPads
Say what you will about little ones and screens but we use them, it works for our family. We brought our Apple TV and hooked it up to the television in the room so we could watch Netflix and Hulu
on it. It was perfect to have for William's quiet time, we put on his
favorite movies and tv shows so he would sit still and rest.
5. We Made Plans for Each Day
Because it was vacation, my husband wanted to be flexible and relaxed and just kind of go with the flow but I also have terrible anxiety and William has ADHD. We needed some sort of loose plan for the day so that we somewhat knew what was happening when. Don't forget to include those quiet times!
6. We Got a Room with Plenty of Room
If you can, I recommend getting a room that has a bit of extra space, something that is more than just beds. If you can get a kitchenette you get extra bonus points! Make sure there is room for your little ones to play during those quiet times so they don't feel so cramped up because that can make a kid (or adult) cranky.
7. We Were Flexible
I knew that taking a 9 month-old on vacation could be a little tricky, I knew he wouldn't quite be able to keep up with the speed his big brother goes at so I knew we would need to be flexible. He would want to eat or nap when William wanted to keep playing so my husband and I tagged teamed it and I took the baby back to the room and he played with monkey boy. The point is, you just need to be flexible in both your schedule and expectations.
8. We Packed More Than One Outfit for Each Day
I actually ended up packing just about the right amount of clothes for all of us, no one ran out of clothes and there was very little left unworn. For the boys I packed two outfits (or at least two shirts) for each day and it was perfect. I also packed two swimsuits for each of them so I never had to try to get the boys into wet, cold swimsuits, ha!
9. We Packed Plenty of Wipes and Diapers
Sure, we could have run out to the local Target to get more diapers and/or wipes but it made it so much easier that we didn't have to leave the lodge.
10. We Packed Treats for Ourselves
Lastly, we didn't forget about ourselves! I packed myself chocolates and other little treats and candy for my husband. We deserved it after dealing with those two kids of ours on vacation ;)
Follow these ten tips and it's sure to help your vacation to go fairly smoothly, although I can't promise that your kids will not throw tantrums...If you have traveled with a toddler and baby, I'd love to know what other tips you have! Any other items that are essential to pack? And do you have recommended vacation spots that are super kid-friendly??
And to help make your trip even better, I've put together a packing list to help you plan for your summer vacation for your toddler and baby. Grab it in the resource library in the "for the kids" section. Don't have access to the resource library? It's FREE! Get access here!