We just went on our very first family vacation with Nicholas. I have so much to share about it that there is no way that I can cover it in one post. Look at this little beach bum’s happy face:
This picture was taken post-yogurt popsicle.
I am so thankful that Nicholas is exactly who he is, because he is the perfect baby to take on a vacation. I can’t wait to share the amazing memories that we made with you all, but first, I want to share a bit about how I prepared, and how I would have prepared differently so that you won’t feel my pre-vacation jitters taking your baby on their first big trip!
A few months ago, my in-laws had the idea to get a condo in Ocean City, Maryland for a family vacation. Although I never said it out loud, I was extremely nervous to bring Nicholas out of our comfort zone. We have never been more than an hour away from home. Now, we were traveling 7 hours away!
Before the trip, I was looking up tips for taking a child with special needs on a long vacation. The fact of the matter is, none of those tips applied to Nicholas, because none of those children in the articles were Nicholas. What was I thinking? I should know by now that what is found in research is never the “norm” because Nicholas has proven this to me many times. But, in response to some of your emails, here is how we did it.
If you have been reading this blog for some time now, you have probably figured out that any “unknown” factors can make me very anxious. I didn’t know how Nicholas would do on a long car ride. I didn’t know how he would do on the beach. I didn’t know if messing up his perfect little baby schedule would ruin everything for me. All I had to go on were the beautiful pictures of the condo we were renting for the week.
My husband was able to get four days off, which is unheard of for him. To make sure that he could have the most time on vacation as he could, he flew there. I wasn’t alone in the car, thank goodness, but I was in charge of preparing for the long ride. I wanted to make sure I was prepared for anything that might come our way and I learned a lot about traveling with a baby.
In the past, Nicholas has become upset when he is around a bunch of loud noises, especially sudden and unexpected ones. In a vacation town like Ocean City, I thought that this would be a common occurrence. I was afraid that Nicholas getting upset would cause everyone on the trip to have to leave places that they were excited to go to because of the noise, and that would have made me feel terrible.
So, I purchased these:
I wanted to make sure that just in case we were somewhere noisy, I would be able to soothe Nicholas somehow without putting a damper on their trip.
We practiced beforehand, which I highly recommend, so that Nicholas would feel comfortable in them. They are cushioned all the way around, and Nicholas does not mind them at all!
Guess what? Those bad boys did not leave their travel bag for the entire trip! We went out to eat every single night of vacation, and this kid is a champion restaurant-goer. I didn’t even think about getting them out of the diaper bag once!
Actually, after this trip, I wonder if he will need these again. Maybe for a concert or something? When do your kiddos use them?
Going out to restaurants.
Nicholas is sitting up pretty independently, but not to the point where he can sit in a standard restaurant booster seat. I was traveling with six people who absolutely love holding Nicholas, so I wasn’t too worried about where I was going to put him in the restaurants. I also knew that the carseat was an option for him to sit while we ate, but wanted to keep him out of it as much as possible.
If you plan on feeding your kiddo meals of solid food in the restaurant, but they aren’t physically ready for a highchair, I would recommend bringing a boppy travel chair.
I own one of these because our physical therapist preferred it over the bumbo. It helps him sit straight up so that he does not undo all of the hard work he has done in therapy.
This is one of the items that I wish I brought in hindsight, because we could have sat right up with us in the booths and I could have fed him solid food more often than I did. But, it stayed in our living room and we managed anyway. At least with the car seat he was able to nap through some of our restaurant experiences!
One of the nights we went to Carrabas, and that was the only place that he got a little salty, which my brother-in-law so lovingly took a picture of. The restaurant was at max capacity, and the music was extremely loud.
But, it was nothing a little playtime in the booth couldn’t fix! He loved laying there and getting tickled while we enjoyed our appetizers!
Nicholas is eating solid food in the day, and having bottles in the early morning and late evening when we are home. We are working with a speech therapist to widen his range of eating skills, but this is where we are currently.
His diet was one thing I was able to be super lenient on on vacation. To be completely honest, it was for the sake of my own convenience. It is way easier for me to whip a bottle out of the diaper bag than it is to feed him solid food in a restaurant.
Don’t feel bad switching up a diet for he sake of a trip! Nicholas was able to eat on the go, and I loved being able to feed him no matter where we ended up in our travels. I even had to feed him a bottle in the carseat on the road at times.
I tried to time these out so that they were a little bit before a rest stop. That way, I could take him out to burp and stretch afterward.
Do you think I wanted to walk my big heavy chunky monkey through the hot sun back up to the condo every time he was hungry? No, I did not. So, every day he had a little liquid lunch while under the tent on the beach.
Even though I felt a little bad about giving my growing boy a baby diet while we were on vacation, I do not regret it. I was on vacation too! I deserved a little rest and relaxation! However, bring LOTS of bottles if you are going to go this route. I spent a lot of my relaxing time at the sink washing the bottles that I brought.
I wanted to continue the self-feeding practice that we have been doing in therapy on vacation, so we brought these awesome things and filled them with vanilla yogurt!
He absolutely LOVES these, and they are a great motivator for self-feeding!
Since we have returned from our trip, Nicholas has fallen right back into his normal feeding schedule without a hiccup. Don’t let other people’s feeding horror stories scare you out of having amazing experiences. Actually, don’t read them at all.
There was no nap schedule really, and there usually isn’t in my house anyway. When he seemed tired or a little cranky, I laid him down to sleep. The only difference on this trip was that I could do this while reading on the beach!
He slept a ton in the car, and whenever we stopped at a rest area, I let him stretch as much as I could! I was nervous that he would start to hate the car seat after this experience, but that is so not the case! The car seat will always mean that we are going somewhere, which is a good thing!
Have you noticed that I haven’t mentioned Down syndrome much in this post? That’s because I don’t need to. Traveling with a baby is different no matter their genetic makeup. Sure, Nicholas is different than other kids. He was different than the other kids in the restaurants that we went to because he was sitting calmly and not crying. So, is different always so bad?
What an amazing experience it was. I worried about it for weeks, because I am still learning how to be a mother to a special-needs baby, and had no clue how to travel with one. Despite the thousands of worries that I had prior to the trip, I learned one major thing about myself:
I want to take Nicholas to as many different places as I can.
I have been to the beach before. I have even been to Ocean City before. However, there is nothing like watching Nicholas soak in new sights, sounds and experiences, such as feeling sand for the first time.
More than I want to see all of the amazing things that the world has to offer, I want to see Nicholas see them. I want to see him discover new things, taste new foods, and feel new climates.
Sure, I still have a few uncomfortable thoughts and fears when it comes to taking Nicholas from our comfort zone. But, with a little preparation and an open mind, I think I have overcome most of my fears.
Nicholas may be different than other kids his age, but he has one awesome skill that a lot of “typical” babies might not, and that is the ability to be happy no matter where life brings him. I am forever thankful to have him around to teach me this skill, and I can’t wait to rediscover the world through his brush-marked eyes.
Stay tuned for more stories about our vacation!