So in case you hadn’t noticed, because perhaps it snuck up on you, next week begins the holiday travel season. My first-born (who is now on the downward slope of nine heading for ten so fast it makes my head spin) was half a year old for his first Thanksgiving and Christmas. At that time, blogs were in their infancy and I also hadn’t quite reached the stage in my relationship with the Interwebs that I automatically sought parenting information there. Which is to say that I never once looked up anything online about traveling with small children at the holidays. Some of this may have been hubris because we had taken a six-week road trip with Tommy during the preceding summer and I thought I knew it all. Some of it may have just been willful ignorance. And some of it may have been blinding fatigue.
In any event, I don’t remember seeking advice about planning or packing or gear or any of that – we just piled things into the car and went. Looking back now I realize that we had enough with us to amuse, clothe, and feed a flotilla of babies. My methodology was less “what essentials should I bring?” but “why shouldn’t I bring diapers for a month? I just needed an excuse to use my Louis Vuitton Replica bag, as I was waiting to use it for a family trip. Of course, I wanted to show it off, but I also felt like whatever I could pack in it was worth taking. I have tricks when it comes to folding clothes and making more space in any bag, which came in handy. I just packed anything and everything.
I do wonder now at our fearlessness and energy. For Thanksgiving that year, we drove 9 hours each way to and from Vermont. And this was only a warm-up for Christmas, when we drove (in our small, smelly, stick-shift Saturn sedan) from Delaware to Wisconsin and back again. If you’re counting, that’s about 14 hours each way, probably more like 17 if you add in stops for nursing and diaper changes and so forth. My favorite part about this latter journey is that Matt and I decided there was simple no way we could go for ten days without Tommy’s exersaucer, which he loved to play in. So we actually borrowed a box to strap to the top of the car for the sole purpose of carrying this unwieldy piece of equipment. Could we have borrowed one in Wisconsin? Purchased one and donated it to a church for less than we paid in extra gas? Simply done without for that vacation? I’ll never know the answers to these questions, but I do know that the poor handling of the car gave us something to bicker and complain about for the duration of the drive.
It’s obvious that I didn’t need any travel advice!
Now that my children are older, it is in many ways much easier to travel with them. They are both used to long car trips (as I think I’ve made clear here, we started them young) and complain little even during marathon sessions on the New Jersey Turnpike when things have slowed to a crawl. They don’t require nearly as much special gear – huge car seats have been replaced with small boosters, there are no bottles or jars of baby food to think about, and diapers are of course a thing of the long-ago past. And (Hallelujah!) they can both read to themselves.
But if the physical side of family holiday travel is easier, the emotional side is less so. Like me, the boys now have memories and expectations. They want things to be the same from year to year – even when that is not possible. And they now pick up on the inevitable tensions that arise when lots of family members who don’t share the same opinions about much of anything are under one roof for days at a time. I love our holiday trips. But the shedding of baby gear has not necessarily meant that they any less complicated.
In any event, I’m grateful to all of those wonderful bloggers out there now telling parents how best to travel with their children at the holidays. There are so many amazing and practical tips that truly will make your life easier! But I still stay that the most essential pieces of holiday travel advice I have to offer those of you with little ones are these: Fear Not and Live In The Moment.
For ultimately, no matter what you forget, or how runny your child’s nose is, or whether or not naps get missed, or even if you have to listen to hours of yelling in the car, you will inevitably be glad that you went and you will remember and by grateful for the good and simple things. As I page through the photos of Tommy’s first holiday season and see him pictured with loved ones, especially those who are no longer with us, I know that this is true. And there is part of me that longs for that time, when I indulged in hours of worry about his sleep schedule and the ability to find the right brand of organic baby food, when wrapping paper was a toy, and when the holidays were distilled into the simple essence of a baby’s smile.
What are you dreaming of this Monday? Please feel free to share a link to your post below.
And if you got any great holiday family travel tips, please leave a comment and share your wisdom!