There are so many things are NOT covered in What to Expect When You Are Expecting, and new parents are left to their own devices to figure out. Like how to go on vacation.  Before kids, my husband and I would decide whether we wanted an “adventure” vacation (camping in Alaska, driving the Pacific Coast Highway) or a chill vacation (sunset sails in Cabo, lying on the beach in Aruba). We looked forward to driving around and seeing the sights, trying new restaurants, and enjoying a place we had never visited before.

We just returned from a week an a half on the west coast with our 13-month old.  Boy, do we need a vacation after that adventure!  I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything – he started saying hiyee to people, learned the word “gorilla,” and splashed in the ocean for the first time.  But I do wish I had known a few things in advance.  Lucky for you, I jotted them down so I can pass along the wisdom to y’all:

It’s about breakfast, not dinner.  First of all, everyone is in a good mood when they first wake up – even if it’s at an ungodly hour. Second, there is ALWAYS caffeine at breakfast, and most babies like some sort of breakfast food – who doesn’t?  And you are kidding yourself if you think you are going to check out the trendy restaurants about town unless your kid likes to sleep through ambient noise in a stroller shoved in a corner near the kitchen.  And please note, not every restaurant is baby friendly, so appreciate the ones that are!  We went to one place that didn’t have high chairs.  Holding your squirmy toddler in your lap while trying to simultaneously feed him and yourself without ending up being covered in food, water, and milk is pretty much impossible.  Tip:  Don’t rely on “Good for Kids” filter on Yelp or you will be limited to big chains, which aren’t bad, but there are definitely baby-friendly restaurants that are a little more interesting.

Time zones don’t apply to babies that can’t tell time.   If you are flying west, do yourself a favor and scope out 24-hour restaurants like IHOP in case your nugget wakes up at the crack of dawn.  If you are flying east, you might want to find some places that serve breakfast until noon.  Because you really don’t want to miss breakfast (see above).  We woke up at 4am nearly every day that we were away, which meant that we were back in the newborn phase of “nap when the baby naps.”

Hotel rooms are your worst enemy and your best friend.  Sleeping in a single room with your 13-month old means that you are all on the same schedule.  Unless you get creative. We put the pack and play in the bathroom so we could watch TV and order takeout after the nugget went to bed.  Speaking of which, ask the hotel which restaurants deliver – cheaper and more delicious than room service.  And make sure you get a real fridge in your room.  We were able to have cheese sticks, milk, and other favorite snacks on hand for those early mornings or post-nap.  But bring or buy DISH SOAP. Sippy cups will start to stink if you wash them with a bar of handsoap.  :)

Flying is like Russian Roullette.  Your nugget may cry or sleep or grab people’s shirts with his sticky hands as they pass by. Some people will be nice and sympathetic and some people will roll their eyes and give dirty looks to you. Niceness goes a long way. We ended up with a full row to ourselves by making nice with airport staff.   Most humans don’t like to sit still for hours either, so you can’t really blame your little one for getting antsy.  We packed TONS of snacks, old toys, new toys, books, an iPad, 2 iPhones, and he was most entertained by a Starbucks coffee cup and lid.  Go figure.

Now that we are back, I have a newfound appreciation for stay cations, renting a house with friends, or spending a week with the grandparents. One good friend noted that the difference between a vacation and a trip is whether or not you improve your quality of life.  On the one hand, waking up at 4am, eating at IHOP, and living in one room is not exactly an improvement.  But on the other hand, watching our son enjoy his first ride on a bike, walk into the ocean without fear, and smile his face off at dogs, birds, and strangers without having to worry about cleaning up the house, going to work, or checking email was definitely an enjoyable experience!