Our family recently embarked upon our first mini-vacation since little Johnny’s birth. At four months old, we felt it was high time he was exposed to the trials and tribulations of traveling as a family, even if it was only up the road to Milwaukee.
Older sister Cassidy has long been a fan of Ancient Egypt and Cleopatra. With the recent opening of the Cleopatra exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum http://mpm.edu/cleopatra/ and hotel discounts on hand, it was an easy choice to set the wheels in motion for a fun-filled weekend. To make our adventure even more exciting, we planned on meeting the cousins from “Up North” in Milwaukee. And although the trip was a smashing success, we were once again reminded that traveling (really, doing anything) with a small baby brings with it a host of challenges best forgotten as one’s children grow older.
One thing that became immediately clear during the drive was the fact that, even though you may think that full-body winter suit with the Tigger design on the front looks great on your child, chances are it’s bulk and the sheer difficulty of getting it on make it a less than ideal choice for traveling. To make matters worse, by the time we got to the hotel, little Johnny had a most incredible heat rash from the darn thing. His appearance was not quite what we had in mind upon presenting him to assorted aunts, uncles, cousins and great- aunts! Our lesson was learned though- travel in comfort and ease and save the impressive clothing for home presentations…
Another fundamental fact of traveling with a young baby is the breast-milk situation. As Johnny “Pickle” is a breast-milk guy and mom Erin did not want to be feeding or pumping in public all weekend, we had accumulated a stash of milk to bring with us. Although this was ultimately helpful, it’s important to remember where you’re going to put all that milk. We found that the mini-fridge in the hotel just didn’t accomodate both milk and refrigerated snacks for the rest of the family and spent the next three days constantly checking the ice and relative temperature of the small travel cooler we had brought with us. If your child is a “bottle-milker” make sure you bring bottle brushes and soap as well- items easily overlooked in the rush of packing.
Actually moving around the museums and public spaces in Milwaukee was quite easy for us; the Public Museum in particular was very easy to navigate with a stroller, even our 4WD SUV version. We also brought the Baby Bjorn so baby himself could spend at least some time out of the stroller during a long day at the museum. I highly recommend doing the same and splitting the duties if you plan on taking your baby someplace where you will be doing a lot of inside walking. It will make the whole family, including baby, happier to have the option.
One item that we lugged along with us to the hotel was our Pack and Play. We most likely will not make that particular mistake again. While it seemed like a great idea to give Johnny “Pickle” a confined play and sleep area, the truth of the matter is that we ended up simply putting him on a playmat when he needed to stretch out and letting him sleep in the “hotel-family bed.” The pack and Play simply separated our baby from the action during waking hours and he never would have slept in it in such a new, strange environment anyway. At least the current models are easier to fold and stick back in the car than the one’s our daughter grew up with ten years ago.
Without a doubt traveling with a baby can be a challenging experience. Planning ahead, making lists and checking those lists as you pack are definite requirements for vacation success. However, if you accept ahead of time that there will be some glitches, handle those gracefully and move on to the fun, you will find that it’s not quite so difficult as we are led to believe. Just be prepared to commandeer as many luggage carts as you can find when you pull up to your hotel!