The Family Vacation

The best vacations for families with young children are less about location than about realistic expectations. Your one-year-old will not care that she's zipping down the Autobahn or driving along Highway 1 in California. She will not care if she's on the sand in Florida or Bora Bora. Her experience of a vacation will be very much about the new sensory experiences you expose her to. Save the expensive trips for when she's older and focus on giving you what you need. This might be a rest from cleaning, in which case resorts are good. You might want a chance to visit and catch up with friends, a great way to vacation for those with young children — it's cheap! Or you might look forward to getting in some workouts and pampering at a day spa while you visit family, who can be counted on to watch your baby for free.

Like a day trip or a family outing with a toddler, you need to keep your child at the top of the priority list when you plan the details of your family vacation, especially when it comes to packing. Consider each day with his needs in mind, including naps, feeding, and time for play. How many days will you be away? Figure that you'll need two to three changes of clothes a day, as well as toys, a place for him to comfortably sleep, a stroller, food, and a supply of toiletries, including emergency medicines. Some things to take along include the following:

• Diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream

• Extra food

• Bottles (if your baby uses them)

• Pajamas

• Socks

• Hat

• T-shirts

• Another warm layer, like a sweater

• Pain reliever

• Any prescriptions your child uses

• Soap and shampoo

• Toys

• Your baby's comfort item

• Pacifiers if your child uses them

• Books (if you read before bedtime)

• Pediatrician's phone number and insurance information

Don't let the long list of things to bring with you on a trip dissuade you from traveling. It's good to teach your child how to travel and to expose her to lots of experiences so that she feels at home in the world. The keys to a successful journey are organization and a spirit of adventure, as well as the ability to roll with the punches.

Just as you do when planning to eat out in a group, be sure the people you are traveling with have realistic expectations about what a day (or a week) with a one-year-old is like. Your friends will appreciate your explaining, in advance, how much time you'll have for partying and how much time you plan to spend parenting so that no one is surprised by the trip's itinerary.

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