My husband and I recently took a short three-day trip to the beach with our daughter, who is nine months old. We stayed in Seagrove, Florida, which is about five and a half hours from where we live in Atlanta. Considering the longest we’ve been in the car at any given time is two hours, it was
I’d give us a B+ overall on trip planning and execution, with some definite room for improvement. I’ve included our observations and learnings from the trip below:
- Find accommodations that offer baby-related amenities. We rented a condo through Airbnb and chose it in part because of the amazing baby equipment the owners provided: a Pack ‘n Play and high chair. When you’re packing for another human, the less you have to bring from home, the better. Other must-haves were a bath tub (a must for our night time routine), a large beach umbrella (important for that delicate baby skin) and large-ish bedroom that had enough space for our daughter to sleep in the room with us. Our one regret with our lodgings was that the bedroom window didn’t have curtains, so the room was really bright during the day…not ideal for naptime.
- Plan out your car ride. Since our daughter is so good in the car, we never expected the extent and magnitude of meltdowns that we experienced during our drive. Chalk it up to us being naïve. Only you’ll know what works for your baby, so the only advice I’ll leave you with is: build in stops along the way to get out of the car and reset, load up on toys/entertainment and way more food than you expect to need.
- Arrive early. I really regret arriving at our destination so late in the afternoon. We got to the condo about an hour past our daughter’s bedtime, so we rushed through bath time and put her to bed (or tried to) immediately when we arrived in an attempt to keep her on schedule. Big mistake. We woefully underestimated how curious she was about her new surroundings and unsettled she was after spending most of the day in the car. In hindsight, we should’ve arrived with ample time to show her around and get her comfortable in her environment before sticking her in a dark room by herself.
- Replicate your normal routine to maintain some degree of familiarity despite your new surroundings. We were very intentional about which toys, blankets and bath time equipment we took with us, specifically those that are bedtime associations for our daughter. At nighttime, she always takes a bath, has her favorite bath time toys, wears the same PJs/sleep sack, has the same white noise, etc. We did our best to replicate her morning and evening routines, with tons of flexibility for fun and exploring during the rest of the day, to anchor her and help her day feel familiar.
- Consider your typical schedule and plan your meals accordingly. This is mainly an issue if, like us, you typically have most meals at home. In other words, none of us is accustomed to dining out. We took into account our daughter’s sleep schedule, our condo’s proximity to dining options, whether they were kid friendly and their hours. We also had to factor in a one-hour time difference since we crossed time zones going into Florida. Bottom line, meals can get complicated and you can end up hangry and in a bit of a lurch like we did on the first night. Ultimately, we prepared breakfast at our condo every day since we expected to be up by 5:30 am local time; we at lunch out and we got takeout for dinner each night since our daughter’s bedtime was about 5:00 pm local time. The ability to comfortably eat meals where we were staying was such a life saver.
As you can see, we’re definitely still beginners at this, so please share your tips as well!