It is the time of year that many families go on vacation. Currently, I am in the midst of planning our next trip. In our situation, traveling with a former micro preemie presents its own complexities. I regularly find myself reworking and figuring out the minutiae. In addition to Charlie, I travel with our pooch (she’s the big sister) and a finicky husband. When everyone is packed in the car, I often feel like I am traveling with a circus. Despite the complications, we have so much fun that I would not have it any other way. The success of the trip (and my sanity) is contingent on preparation and planning.
First, a destination must be chosen. This task is usually left to me. I try to incorporate an aspect that my husband is interested in, something I want to do, make sure the trip is baby appropriate, and is dog friendly. This seems more difficult than it really is. With some ingenuity and thoughtfulness, each family can find a destination that is right for them. I will explain what works for us. There is a set of questions that I ask myself when I try to decide if a destination is baby appropriate. Will having a baby present detract from other peoples’ enjoyment? If Charlie acts up, can I quickly remove her from the presence of others to minimize disruption? Can Charlie actively participate and be enriched by chosen activity or destination? Additionally, the length of the trip is important. We usually schedule a long weekend trip because that length works the best for us. I have found some advantages to be that my husband’s vacation days are used sparingly, we can take many trips through out the year, and we do not become exhausted.
Next, we have a tight budget like many families that have kids with special needs. Things like OT, PT, speech, home health nursing, music therapy, and hypoallergenic formula do not come cheaply. Five star resorts and room service are memories of my pre-baby life for now. My husband does not enjoy camping and can be picky when it comes to accommodations which forces me to find a balance. We regularly use two national chains (we have a third one as back up) that are pet friendly, clean, smoke free, comfortable, safe, and are reasonably priced. We aim to get rooms that have a mini fridge and microwave. This saves us cash on drinks and snacks (a microwave sterilizer is an easy way to sterilize bottles on the road). We love grilling, cooking out, and picnicking where we further save on food costs. With some creativity, money can be saved on vacation activities as well. We are fans of our state’s diverse park system and invested in a yearly pass. We have ocean beach access, mountain hiking, lake access, river access, and historical places within short drives for next to nothing. Even though our pass is six months old, we have not grown bored or run out of ideas of places to visit. It was definitely a good investment for us.
Third, we have to accommodate Charlie’s special needs. I have found this to be trial and error. The first time I packed too much of some stuff and failed to consider other things. As Charlie grows, her needs change and I must adjust accordingly. However, there are a few rules that have remained constant. I ALWAYS carry a sealed plastic bag containing medical information in Charlie’s diaper bag. It contains her discharge summaries, her doctors’ names and phone numbers, her medication list and dosages, her allergies, and any other pertinent information at the time. Next, I prioritize packing her specialty items (not readily available in stores such as meds, medical equipment, and special ordered necessities) and plenty of them. I try to have enough for two days longer than our itinerary. Then, I familiarize myself with the medical facilities of where we are traveling. Is there a major medical facility close to where we are traveling? What would I do if Charlie needed urgent medical care? It is reassuring for me to know our options should we (hopefully not) need them. Finally, there are the special considerations that can not be packed. In the past, we needed boiled water (electric kettles are great) and a way to sterilize bottles (microwave bottle sterilizers work well). In that case, we preferred hotel rooms with full kitchens (there are reasonably priced chains that provide full kitchens).
Lastly, remember that traveling with the family is meant to be fun. Once all the preparation and planning is done, relax and enjoy the ride. Use knowledge gained from prior experiences to prepare for future endeavors. If a big trip seems overwhelming, start small. For example, try an overnight trip that is a short distance from home to build confidence and get ideas. Our travel plans are never executed flawlessly but we have learned to deal with issues that arise. Sometimes, we encounter unforeseen hassles or frustrations. Nevertheless, I love traveling with my circus.
This photo was taken on our first family overnight trip. There will be more pictures to follow. We have several trips scheduled this summer.