We recently took our first true family vacation. Some wonderful family friends loaned us their home in Seaside, Florida as a belated wedding gift. And I, in all of my naïve motherly wisdom, thought a 12 hour car trip to Seaside, with a pit stop in New Orleans, was the PERFECT thing to attempt with a fresh one year old. For the record it didn’t go nearly as poorly as people anticipated it would. I’ll walk you through our little adventure and somethings I learned along the way. Probably a lot of things I wish I had known before leaving as well.
Going to the beach with a kid can be as daunting as the actual travel itself. How do you keep a one year old, with the attention span of a goldfish, occupied? Clearly that meant I needed to pack his entire toy collection for our 7 day journey. While that’s not entirely true, I did feel more comfortable driving with all of the gear I did bring than packing it up and hauling it around the airport.
The good news is leading up to the trip I was rehearsing for a little ballet recital, so I didn’t have time to panic. I made a packing list for me, a list for Bode bear, a list for the car, and a list for the beach. We won’t go into my list because it’s embarrassing. However, here is an idea of what I packed for the little one, the car, and for the beach itself:
Bode: Diapers, Wipes, Pack n’ play, Butt Paste, Baby Tylenol, two outfits for each day (OVERKILL), pajamas, swim diapers, swim trunks, rash guard, hat, spoons
Car: Toys, ipad, dvds, pouches, goldfish, nilla wafers, yogurt chips, sippy cups, wipes, diapers, easy to reach change of clothes, lovey
Beach: sunscreen (adult and baby), aloe, towels, sand toys, baby float
I tried hard not to over pack but…LOL. We didn’t pack chairs because there were some at the house for us to use. The first day we brought them down with us, but honestly, we just ended up renting chairs. To me, that was worth every penny. Not having to tote chairs on top of everything else, just made life easier. The chairs were set up for us in the morning and taken down at night. We had to do nothing but show up! #worthit
I had my recital Saturday night and we were set to leave Sunday morning. Also a smart move, start that drive totally exhausted. We woke up, walked the dogs to starbucks. Here I hopped my kid up on sugar in hopes he would crash in the car…Ethat decision was a success! Plus its #vacay so who doesn’t need to start the trip off with a treat? Here Bode is trying his first Vanilla Frapp
When we got back home it was time to pack up the car. Talk about a way to test your relationship, this should be a test they offer at the engaged encounter weekends. In addition to our bags, the pack and play and the “stuff” we also had to grab my mom’s bags (she and my aunt flew and met us in New Orleans the next day). This detour to pick up the bag led to my parents informing us we are amateurs and totally mispacked the car. Delay number one…
So finally we get on the road. Things are going great! We are New Orleans bound, baby is sleeping, broadway show tunes pumping (my husband is a saint). Off we went. Things were great for approximately four hours and 28 minutes. That’s about how long it took to get to Alexandria, Louisiana. Here we proceeded to get off the highway for food. Turn left I said! This would take us into the downtown area. Delay number 2! we drove all over looking for open food places and they didn’t exist. We later discovered that had I turned right there would have been a multitude of options. At this point the baby is screaming bloody murder but we thought there would be food soon. We could not have been more wrong! Life lesson don’t assume anything!!!!
Bode rallied. We played at least an hours worth of peek a boo and I even resorted to using the bubble gun in the car. Two hours later we hit Baton Rouge, where we relived our law school restaurant of choice…Chili’s. #classic. This was followed by stopped traffic…delay numero tres. We finally made it to New Orleans around 10:45 p.m. Hooray! Good news, they didn’t have our crib ready and all of them were in use. Pack n’ play to the rescue. (Pro tip: don’t let a vacation be the first time you try to set that thing up). You’ll probably be shocked to hear that Bode didn’t want to go to bed at this point. After being packed In the car for 7+ hours who can blame him. My classical music Pandora station helped settle him down and we could finally rest.
Note: We found that getting him fresh milk and a snack any time we stopped (AND CHANGING HIS DIAPER!) were keys to our success that day.
Monday morning rolls around and we are off again to pick up the ladies. Hubs had never been to New Orleans so we couldn’t just pass through, and I certainly wasn’t going without a stop at Café Du Monde. Bode was super skeptical of the doughy greatness, but he caught on fast.
I think my greatest parenting moment this trip was strolling Lil’ Dude down Bourbon Street. On a positive note, since it was only 10 a.m., he wasn’t exposed to all of the area’s glory. We hit Acme Oysters for lunch where Bode promptly melted down. Perfect timing because we were about to hit the road yet again.
So off we went, but armed with two additional entertainers. The stretch from New Orleans to Seaside was fairly short, only made longer by a surprise stop at the Dirt Cheap of Gulf Port. If you don’t know what the Dirt Cheap is you are missing out. I LOVE DEALS! and this place has the greatest ones. It deserves its own post at a later date.
We made it to Seaside and naturally started our time there with food. But it was late and we had had a long 48 hours, so we did a little loop around the town and called it a night. Bode was definitely ready for that. He’s a pretty easy kid, but I soon realized I needed to be paying more attention to his cues (mommy lesson).
The weather in Seaside was beautiful! There was no rain the entire time, not much seaweed and almost NO Jellies! A perfect way for Bode to meet the ocean…aka the home of his people.
Unfortunately, Bode did not agree that the circumstances were perfect. He was a GRUMPY GILLS from the moment we set foot on the sand. He wanted nothing to do with the sand and definitely nothing to do with the water. I was devastated!!! I suppose I had it in my head that this kid would take one look at it and fall in love. It’s easy to forget how big the world seems to them and how overwhelming and over stimulating it all can be. That’s one of the biggest lessons I took with me: to remember that this is new, big, and scary. I’ve seen it before and he is living it for the first time. It’s a lot to take in!
No need to fear! Later on that day he was feeling better and by day two he was ready to take on the beach no sweat. We settled into a pretty nice routine that involved sleeping, breakfast, beach, lunch/snow cone, beach, nap, dinner bed. This is a little unlike me as I prefer to be on the go 24/7. But for Bode I think it helped him to be on a schedule the whole time.
Of all the toys we brought/bought the plastic sand shovels were by far the biggest hit. So our next step was to get him into the water, which (Spoiler alert!) he did NOT love either. Thankfully the water was fairly calm, but poor baby beluga was terrified, and it didn’t help the water was a tad cold. But one run through of our swim class song “The kids in the pool go…[insert splash, kicks, up and down, etc]” he did great! THANK YOU Jim Montgomery Swim School!!! We also found him a toddler float at the dirt cheap. The float worked great until he got pummeled by waves, it was HILARIOUS….he disagreed with that assessment and was officially done for the day.
(BTDubbs did y’all know about this infant float? I swear it didn’t exist last summer, but I’d keep it in mind for the baby babies. Infant Pool Float)
Leading up to the trip I wondered what we would do at night. Bode’s bedtime is typically, though not always, between 7:30 and 8:00. That’s quite a bit earlier than parental bed time. On this trip, we were lucky enough to have my mom who allowed us to have “date night”. But I had done some research ahead of time and there are several agencies or locals who can recommend babysitters for you. I have found that this service is available in many locations around the U.S. It makes me a little nervous to leave my child with a stranger, but our local online yard sale, for instance, was full of recommendations for many areas. Check for that on your next trip because you and hubby deserve some time too!
The town of Seaside is beautiful and we thoroughly enjoyed our time eating and beaching, but as the end of the week neared I was dreading our trip back. The goal was to attempt the full 12 hour drive in one day so everyone had a day to recover. This stretch we had my mom and aunt the entire way, which we seriously could not have done without. We took turns rotating driving and entertaining the baby. He did sleep quite a bit, but this was length of time was significantly harder on him. We tried to give him breaks and stopped to eat twice. But by the time we hit Tyler, Texas and needed to stop for dinner he was D-O-N-E. He was feisty at dinner and did not want to get back in his car seat. Ultimately, I let him crawl around, yes on the ground, for awhile and that seemed to help to let him stretch his legs. I imagine this is easier on you if your kid can walk!!
We made it home in one piece and all in all the driving wasn’t terrible. Bode had his moments, and there were stretches of screaming/crying that were almost unbearable. But I think It was worth it in the big picture. And now we have all of these memories to share! If you are thinking about road tripping with an infant don’t be afraid! But definitely be prepared emotionally and physically :). There will be tears, there will be giggles, there will be screams, but there will also be sleep. Take your cues from the baby and be prepared to be flexible. You’ll do great. From the pictures below you can tell the baby was really scarred from his time in the car 😉
Happy Summer and good luck on all your summer adventures! Do you have any tips for traveling with kids? We’d love to hear them!