Last week, Andrew, John, and I spent a week visiting family in Massachusetts. As you can imagine, packing for our road trip was quite the ordeal. After hosting friends and their families for the weekend, we had to pack in the short interim between long good-byes and our four hour car ride to New Jersey. A year ago, that wouldn’t have been an issue. A year ago, we could have been packed and in the car with just ten minutes notice. After tossing a few things in overnight bags, we would have tossed those bags in the trunk and hit the road. Now traveling is a whole process and requires an hour minimum to complete (unless you want to risk forgetting the bottle brush, like I did). In addition to our bags, there’s John’s bag (because it’s incredible how many outfits he can go through in just one week), his formula and bottles, diapers and wipes, his Pack n Play, bouncy seat and Bumbo, and then the countless other odds and ends that John needs throughout the week. Once all of those things are packed up in the car, John needs one last diaper change before being loaded into his car seat for the trip. We all then squish into Andrew’s Camry between boxes of diapers and wipes and bags of toys and bottles, and hit the road. Then you can count on an extra 30-60 minutes added to the predicted time of arrival to accommodate John’s eating requirements and at least one diaper change.
Andrew and I have already made a few trips up the coast since John’s birth, but last week was our first extended trip with him. We had plans to stay with Andrew’s family for a week with three planned day trips and two weddings during our time there. After weeks of struggling with nap training, John was finally putting himself to sleep with minimal fussing, and it seemed doubtful that he would be able to maintain this habit during our first little vacation. With so many activities planned, John would most likely take at least one, if not two, of his naps in his stroller, and a few late nights seemed eminent. Even as I thought about the grumpiness that seemed inevitable when dealing with a sleep deprived baby, I felt the waves of nausea hit. Before our little vacation had even begun, I was already stressed. The future didn’t seem very promising.
We rolled into Mystic, CT just after noon on Monday afternoon. We’d hit a decent amount of traffic on our way up from my parents’ house, and we had just enough time to purchase our tickets to the aquarium before the seal show began. Over the next several hours, we walked through the aquarium while John napped peacefully in his stroller. After we were finished at the aquarium, we walked into town and John spent the rest of the afternoon taking in the sights and sounds of the pretty seaside town. He napped again in the car on our way to dinner, and as we drove, I could feel the anxiety building. After a late night at my parents’ house, and then the four hour drive this morning followed by a long afternoon of sightseeing, just the idea of another late night was enough to make me want to curl up and go to sleep.
I’m not going to lie. Dinner that night was a struggle. John was content for maybe a quarter of the meal, but he was miserable the rest of the time. He was tired and cranky after a long day, and nothing seemed to be distract him enough. Andrew and I ended up leaving a little early, just so that we could get him to bed sooner. By that point, I was anxious to get home, even though I knew that we still needed to unload the car and set up the Pack N Play before John could go to sleep. He fell asleep within minutes in his car seat on the way home, and he could barely manage half of his bedtime bottle before he fell asleep, sleeping through the night until 6AM the next morning.
As the week went on, I tried to relax as much as possible. I quickly realized that John was fairly flexible with his sleep habits. He napped in his Pack N Play and in his car seat without issue, and for the most part, he slept through the night. He rarely cried at nap time or bedtime, possibly because of the sheer exhaustion of his busy days. In five days, we visited two aquariums and one zoo, attended two weddings (one with him, and one without), and ate out with the little man several times. I can’t say I’m overly surprised that when it was time to sleep, he slept. All I wanted to do was sleep too.
Vacation can be the stuff of nightmares for new parents. When your little one has just gotten the hang of sleeping, the last thing you want to do is disturb his habits. After finally discovering a routine that works for everyone, the idea of abandoning that routine can be daunting, even if it’s just going to be for a few days. The thought of having to deal with a sleep deprived baby away from the comforts of home can be downright appalling. But trust me, in the end it’s worth it.
I’m not going to lie- I was not the most laid-back parent during our trip. I was anxious that John should get in at least one good nap per day. I was also adamant that he have at least a few regular bedtimes throughout the week. Vacation does require that we abandon our daily routine in favor of day trips, meals out in restaurants, and occasional late nights. Those are some of the things that make vacation, well, vacation.
But we don’t need to abandon everything. With just a few solid naps and regular bedtimes, we were all able to handle the crazier aspects of our vacation with greater ease. John did stay awake until 11:30PM at a wedding reception one night, but he also went to sleep at 7:30PM the night before and the night after. He did take a lot of naps in his car seat and stroller, but he also took a lot of naps in his Pack N Play. After one week of vacation, it seems to me that the key to a good time is to find a good balance. You will be out late some nights, but you don’t need to be out late every night. Your baby will need to nap in his stroller (or in your arms) a few times throughout your vacation, but he can also take naps in his Pack N Play from time to time too. Now that we’ve spent a week on the road with Andrew’s family, we have one more trip planned with my family in Wildwood, NJ. As I write this, we’re just a day away from leaving, and I am much calmer than I was before our Massachusetts trip. Maybe that’s because I know what to expect. Maybe because I know that one week of vacation is not going to ruin all of our efforts with sleep training. Maybe because John is more flexible than I had assumed. Or maybe it’s just because I’m one day away from a long weekend at the beach. Yeah, that might have something to do with it.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!