This past week in the Outer Banks of North Carolina was Cassandra's first time away from home and our first vacation as a family of four. The first vacation with a new child is both a huge accomplishment (we're so on top of it we can actually travel) and a really nice break (we're so on top of it we need a break from our great routine). I like to take that first vacation not too long after the baby is born and think of it as a family honeymoon--a time to get away alone, build that sense of clan and strengthen the parent team as we experience everything together in a new and strange land.
I thought I'd come back with a whole list of creative ideas for keeping a toddler busy and inspired on the road as well as lots of tips for traveling with an infant. But instead I come with a few insights:
- There's a reason collecting seashells is part of every memory of a beach vacation... no matter your age or how many times you've done it before, it's magical to find treasures along the beach. Same goes for all the beach traditions: taking a walk along the shore at dawn or dusk, eating ice cream on the pier, making sandcastles. It's great to try new things, but let's not ignore the oldies but goodies, especially when children are involved.. for them, it's all new.
- Part of the fun of visiting places is finding little things to bring back. So instead of bringing Sabrina's favorite toys and books with us, we found unique toys and books on site. We got coloring and picture books about the beach, some paper airplanes and a little flip book about the first flight at the Wright Brothers memorial, a kite, and beach toys. During the trip these purchases delighted her and now that we're back they are nice reminders of our vacation.
- It's fun to change the rules on vacation. Instead of eating breakfast and lunch, we slept in and had brunch every day. We had ice cream for snack almost every afternoon. We ate in bed a few times. We skipped naps and had really really late naps. We went to bed late. Against all the advice in parenting books, we let the baby fall asleep while nursing. We've been home less than 24 hours and everyone seems to have fallen back into their good and healthy habits... no harm done.
- Memories are more than photos. Instead of trying to capture this trip in photos, I really made an effort to take what Mimi Doe calls"mental snapshots." I resisted the urge to scramble for the camera ten times an hour to capture magical moments and instead took a deep breath and enjoyed being in those moments, capturing their magic in my memory forever. Still, I am grateful that my husband took some pics!
- The road part of a road trip is part of the pleasure. I've always loved going for long drives with my husband, and now that we have children find that driving is the one part of the vacation that is just for the two of us (well, almost). The children usually sleep a lot in the car and we can talk uninterrupted for hours. Some of our best plans and ideas first emerged during road trips and, even with lots of stops for nursing, this drive was no exception.