Monday, February 21, 2011

How to vacation with a baby, part 1: staying in a hotel

 It's been a busy couple of weeks!  Apologies for the lack of posts.  Happily, we just had a treat:  my father and his girlfriend came to visit for the long weekend, and treated us to a couple of nights in Napa.  I was reminded that I've been meaning to write a multi-part "how to vacation with your baby" post, and this is part 1:  staying in a hotel.

Where to stay?
Our choice of where to stay this time was complicated by the fact that we were traveling with our 2 dogs, and making reservations at the last minute.  Usually, my preference with dogs and a baby would be to rent a house or apartment at our destination.  That way, you have a yard, you have a kitchen, and you have laundry.  Nice.  AirBnB is a great place to look for such places.

But there were no more dog-friendly rentals available in Napa for this weekend, so I looked for a hotel that would take us, and booked 2 rooms at the new Westin Hotel in Napa.  While I was making the reservation, the clerk informed me that they would provide 2 comfortable dog beds for our pooches.  "Great!," I said.  "Could you also provide a crib?"   No, they don't provide cribs, "But could we have the names of your two dogs so we can prepare a welcome basket?"

Sure!  I gave her the dogs' names, and then asked hopefully, "Would you like my baby's name?"  Nope, no welcome baskets for babies!  Sheesh.

Where does baby sleep?
The answer to this depends somewhat, of course, on the sleeping arrangements you've chosen at home.  At night, we co-sleep with our daughter nestled in between us.  But ever since she's been able to roll over, we've been putting her down in a crib for naps as well as at her bedtime (around 9), and then bringing her into our room for her last feeding of the night, around 11:30.  So we don't absolutely need an extra sleeping place for her--it's possible to build a pillow barricade around her on a bed at nap-time.   But it's safer and more convenient to have somewhere else to put her.

But where?  I'd say to forget the pack 'n play.  Those are nice for occasional use at home, but they are super heavy and bulky.  Not great for a car trip and pretty much impossible on a plane, if you ask me.

Enter the baby tent.  This is just a sweet idea.  It's a pop-up baby-sized tent with an inflatable mattress that weighs less than 5 pounds and packs easily into a small circular bag.  Totally doable to bring on a plane.  An added benefit of this over a traditional folding crib is that, in a single hotel room, it can give baby a dark place to nap without having to turn off all the lights.  Also, we haven't used it this way yet, but have heard other people like it for shade & insect protection on the beach or out camping.  Anyway, it's brilliant, and not too pricey at $57.

Diapers diapers diapers
We use cloth diapers at home (that is...when baby is wearing diapers), and have done various things when traveling depending on what's available at our destination.  When we went to Taiwan for 2 weeks, we just bought disposables there, because we weren't going to have washer/dryer access.   It was such a relief to get home to cloth!  I find disposables kind of gross now--their smell, the way they sometimes leave little crystals on baby's skin, their scratchiness.  Plus, our daughter invariably gets a diaper rash whenever we put her in disposables.  Yuck.  Anyway, when we traveled to the east coast over Thanksgiving, we brought cloth with us and just did laundry every couple days.  It's kinda fun to travel with cloth, because people notice the diapers when you're changing your baby in a public toilet, and you can proselytize a bit about how cute and convenient cloth is.

So, for our 2 night get-away, we just brought cloth with us.

Whenever we've traveled, I've usually set up a changing area on the bathroom floor, with a plastic bag for dirty cloth, a small pile of clean diapers, and a changing pad with an extra folded diaper at the head to rest baby's head on.  For the most part we don't have to worry about wipes, since our daughter uses the toilet most of the time, and we just wipe her with a couple squares of toilet paper.

As far as bringing a potty, I still don't bother.  We hold our daughter over the regular toilet at home most of the time, although she's getting heavy enough that it's time to think about transitioning to her potty full-time!

I'm not a germophobe, so I have no problem letting my daughter play on a hotel room floor.  That said, she's still not crawling, so we don't have to worry much about babyproofing...I guess I'll save that post for a month or two from now when we face that problem!

If you have a younger baby who's still happiest lying on her back and batting at hanging toys, you can try something we figured out on our trip to Taiwan.  Take a kitchen or dining chair and lay it on its back on the floor.  Put a blanket over the back legs of the chair (which are now on the floor), and lay the baby down between them.  You can hang toys off the front chair legs or tie a shoelace between the front chair legs and hang toys from that.  It's like an instant play station!

I'm really glad we got a free hand-me-down baby tub, because it turned out to be useful for a grand total of 5 days.  At first baby seemed too small for it, and it was easier to just get in the tub with her.  Then she was too big, and it was easier to just lay her down in the regular tub, on a non-slip mat.  Anyway, we now use the regular tub for her bath, so that doesn't pose any special difficulty in a hotel.

Milk storage
If you're going to be pumping on your trip, and will need to store milk in the hotel fridge, it's a good idea to mention this when you check in, so that they can take out a few mini liquor bottles to make space for your milk, and make sure that you don't get charged for minibar items when you've only done some rearranging.

Hotels: fun for the whole family!

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