Vacations before baby: relaxing on the beach, eating leisurely gourmet meals, wandering around museums, fulfilling your thrill-seeking side with a roller-coaster ride or white-water adventure.
Vacations after baby: not quite the same.
Of course, nothing is quite the same after the baby arrives. As Corinne McDermott of Toronto says, “In the early days, just leaving the house seemed like a big ordeal, let alone leaving the country.” With the end of her maternity leave looming, though, she and her husband wanted that first family vacation with their 11-month-old daughter, so they booked a trip to Cuba.
They learned so much during that adventure — and from the other parents they consulted before the trip — that McDermott created a website, havebabywilltravel.com, to help other new parents finesse the challenges of vacations with little ones.
“I think the number one thing people want to know is ‘Am I still going to have a good holiday with a baby?’” says McDermott. “If you want to duplicate your pre-baby trips, you’ll be disappointed. But in some ways having a baby or child along improves your vacation. You slow down. You see things through your child’s eyes. We’ll never forget the first time we took our daughter to the beach — her reactions to the birds and the flowers and the way she scurried across the sand like a crab.”
Travelling with a baby or child also “opens many doors,” says McDermott. “We had so many conversations with people in Cuba that wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t had a baby.”
Kathleen Finlay, who took her son, Loïc, just two, to Paris for an entire month (and photographed him for us while they were there), also found that having her son in tow helped her connect with the locals. “People love children no matter where you go,” she says. “People were so gracious to Loïc, and they would help us on the bus and the subway. People are friendlier when you have a small child with you, for sure.”
So, yes, you can make this family vacation fun for everyone, especially if you invest some time in preparation and planning.
Location, Location, Location
Your first trip with your new addition may not be the ideal time to head for an exotic location — sticking with the tried-and-true will be more relaxing, McDermott says.
Getting there (in one piece)
You made it (now what?)
Will your little one remember this vacation? Probably not. But you will. You’ll have the funny stories about the challenges you faced and solved. You’ll have the photos of your baby in Mickey Mouse’s arms and your toddler’s expression when he saw the ocean for the first time. And you’ll remember the pleasure of an entire week — maybe more! — with your whole family together and focusing on each other without work interruptions. A time to treasure.
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