Have a little one? You don’t have to give up weekends away

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About Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

family on the beach
Photo by Tom Eppenberger, Jr

The following is a guest post from Emma of Baby Log.

We used to travel a lot. Hardly one weekend per month was spent at home; we were always hiking, camping, rock climbing and going on nature trips of all sorts.

Then my son was born – and we just stopped.

When Tsh published a post about the connection between productivity and quality down time, I thought, “Why aren’t we enjoying life as much as we used to?  Why aren’t we going away for the weekend, camping or fishing like we used to do before the baby?”

The answer was this – because now, going away can’t be as spontaneous and requires much more work. In fact, a weekend away can be so busy that hardly any time is left to rest and enjoy the views, to stop doing stuff, and to just be.

This problem needed solving. We have at least a couple of years ahead when the baby is still little, and locking ourselves at home is not a solution. I was convinced that with some preparation and planning, we could make the most of our quality “nothing” time.

The first task was to break down the problem.  I made a list of what I didn’t like about going away with a baby. Here it was:

1. Breaking my boy’s routine makes him grumpy and cranky.

2. Cooking for the kid is inconvenient when we’re away because I don’t have the right utensils (taking everything I need from home is not an option, because it won’t fit in the car.)

3. My one-year-old starts misbehaving in the car because he’s bored and has been sitting on his bum for too long.

4. Cooking our food takes time away from rest end enjoyment. If you ask me, it takes all the fun out of the weekend. The same applies to washing the dishes.

5. We always forget to pack something, and I then have to improvise to get around not having it.

6. We arrive home hungry, which means I need to cook the minute we walk through the door. I hate it, because I’m still exhausted from the trip.

7. After we’ve returned and before we’ve unpacked, it is impossible to find anything. It just drives me crazy.

The simple thing to do was find a solution. We really didn’t want to ditch our weekends away, so we needed to compromise and find a system that worked for us.

kids playing with leaves
Photo by nd.strupler

Our solution for weekends away with the baby

1. Keep the routine. There is no need to break the kid’s routine for a trip. The list of places to go can be limited to anything within two hours of driving. This way we can get there before his nap time. The rest is easy – all the walks and the activities should be scheduled so that he gets his two naps, no matter what.

2. No cooking for the boy on a weekend. As a working mom I don’t have time to cook every day, so I usually cook for Eric once a week, make enough food for seven days, and freeze it. That means that I only needed to work out the right number of meals, fetch them out of the freezer, and put into a cooler that we take with us.

3. Entertain the kid in the car. I bought a couple of new toys, some hand puppets, and brought some books that play tunes, his MP3 player with more music, and some snacks (celery stick, crackers, apples and carrots). That kept him busy.

4. Cooking for us should be quick. No meal should take more than 15 minutes to prepare, which is achievable:

Breakfast: yogurt and muesli, milk and cereal, or ready-made pancakes that only need heating and can be served with honey or jam.

Lunch and dinner: Instant soups/noodles/rice/couscous (only adding water), ready-made salads (only adding dressing), and marinated meats that only need to be put on barbecue and turned a couple of times. If we light a campfire, then we make some baked potatoes – wrap them in foil and bury in the coils. The simpler, the better. Of course, the gourmands may disagree with this menu, but it works for our family.

Doing the dishes: I always make sure that the accommodation I’ve booked has a fully-equipped kitchen with a dishwasher.  It’s worth every penny, because we don’t need to pack or wash any dishes. I’ll sit on a veranda and enjoy the sunset, and “mama’s little helper” will wash the dishes. Thank God for the wonders of modern technology!

5. Nothing is forgotten if I have a list. I start it on the Monday before our weekend away, and I keep adding items until Thursday. With this list I remember everything, and on Thursday we go shopping for the trip.  Even if I do forget something, I still have Friday to buy it.

6. Cooking on arrival is banned. Before leaving on a trip, we prepare and leave some food in the fridge to eat when we’re back. Quickly pop it in the microwave, and it’s ready in two minutes.

7. Regain order – the sooner the better. I have noticed that if I don’t unpack the bags right after we return, they’ll be sitting there for a week, constantly reminding me what a lazy person I am. So I unpack the very first evening we’re home, and I feel an amazing relief when it’s all done.

I also leave some clean clothes and towels at home, so even if we bring back nothing but a pile of dirty clothes, there is no need to do any urgent washing on arrival.

I’d like to finish up by saying – thank you, Tsh, for the wonderful views I saw this weekend, for the icy cold water in the creek, and for the beautiful sky full of stars I can only see in the country. If it wasn’t for your inspiring words, my family would be missing all of it.

How do you handle getting away for the weekend with little ones?

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Emma used to be a success driven go-getter and never intended to have kids. But once her son was born, she became a stay-at-home mom, and writes at Baby-Log, an honest story about a life with a baby.

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Comments

  1. This is soooo true. Taking that special time away creates the fond memories that can get you through any tough times later on. Great tips!

  2. I have been traveling around with my kids in tow since they were born. Ideally it would be great if I could offload them to their dotting grannies so hubs and I can spend the weekend away but since this is not possible we work them into our routine. The best part of babies is that they are more adaptable then we think they are even with disruptions to their normal routine they are able to settle in fine after a day or so. It is us adults who take longer to re-adjust. I would normally start packing for a trip 1 week in advance or do research on the place a week to a month in advance so I know if and when I do need to buy stuff, bring them to the docs etc I will not be at a lost.

    Dominique´s last blog post…Encouraging your reluctant preschooler

  3. For our family (five children), I make sure the house is spotless when we leave, and also (like you) that there is a meal ready to go for our return home. A spotless home makes me feel relaxed when I walk in after time away, and it makes unpacking and putting away a lot easier, too.

  4. Nice post Emma! We too like to get away on weekends or for small vacations. I find that we are much more relaxed living out of a tent then in our house it seems!

    One thing that works for us is to not try to DO so much- instead of trying to go to London and visit all the museums, we might just go to LOndon and visit a park or two. Or instead of going hiking, we’ll go to a nice campground and stay put for the weekend- puttering around the campsite.

    Kelly from Almost Frugal´s last blog post…Frugal Tips for College Students

  5. My kids are 6 & 9 now but with my dh’s family almost 3 hrs away and mine 1000 miles away – we travel a lot. There were definitely hard times like traveling to Canada with a very tiny baby and driving straight through the night in order to take advantage of some longer baby sleeping times.

    Being that our kids are generally very “active” I am surprised at how well they can do sitting in the car for hours on end. When they were real small I would wrap tiny “presents” (toys/snacks/activities) and give them out once in awhile. Now we stock up on books on CD, and tons of books (gotten cheap via garage sales and the like) they haven’t read yet. Usually there are also some special activities/toys and lots of food/snacks!

    We spend a lot of time planning ahead so that even our trips to visit our family don’t end up with us just staying in the house staring at the tv for a week.

    Edi´s last blog post…Bento Box Lunches

  6. We mostly just sucked it up and went anyway. When we traveled to my mom’s or mother-in-law’s houses, we could pack most of what we needed or they had it at their house (blankets, crib, towels, plates, etc). We did a week-long camping trip with our 13 month old daughter and it was wonderful. We strapped her high chair to the picnic table and gave her things to hold/ play with while we cooked. Yes we broke the routine and yes there were times when she was a little cranky, but it was really worth it. We have broken the routine some with both of our kids and they are very flexible now (they’re 2 and 4 years old). On the other hand, my sister-in-law rarely deviated from the routine and her girls are difficult about travel and not easy to deal with when the routine changes.

    Tracie´s last blog post…Hats everywhere

  7. i’m a camper married to a non-camper. we just have never done this type of getaway yet. plus, with my husband being a pastor, weekends away are quite a rarity. our time away is more likely to be a few weeks of vacation all stuck together, and we head north to family and live in civilization, so none of those things are issues for us. if we do a short trip, we’re likely to head to Boston, stay in a hotel, and eat food that someone else is cooking :)

    Krista´s last blog post…Book Review: The Moon Shines Down

  8. We have also cut out hiking, day trips and the spontaneous whatever. We would love to do more with the kids this year and your list will be very helpful. Thank you so much for your practical tips.

    Lia´s last blog post…My Grandmother’s scarves

  9. Thank you for these great tips. I love travel, too, but with two little ones it has definitely taken a backseat, because of many of the reasons mentioned here. It’s good to have new manageable ideas.

    Linn´s last blog post…Ordinary Time

  10. Great post Emma!

    So far my little man has come with us to Chicago (12 days), St. Louis (overnight), and Miami (5 days). All this before he was even one!

    The big thing I wish we had of done was invest in a pack and play or some sort of travel crib. My son is fine sleeping in the bed with us, but it made nap time so difficult.

    I also try to stay somewhere with a washing machine and dryer – being able to pack up all our clean clothes makes things so much easier when we get home.

    Lucie @ Unconventional Origins´s last blog post…Fatherhood Series :: Introduction

  11. We just never stopped, especially after we were experienced from the first child.

    We even went camping with our 2 and half year old and our 5 month old and another couple with the same age children in the same tent with no problem. It takes a little planning, but the main thing is that it takes is a good easy attitude. You do forget things and make do, but that is part of the interest and the memory. Sure we make a list and try not to forget anything, but just don’t stress about it. All four of us have had to sleep in the car, because it was raining when we arrived at 7:30 at night. Sure we were a little tired, but that uniqueness is what makes it special and interesting.

    Vacation is about attitude. Just my opinion.

    You can even backyard camp too if you have the space as long as you leave life behind and mentally get into vacation mode.

    The Happy Rock´s last blog post…Think Fix It First, Replace It Second – Replacing A Bathroom Fan

  12. We’ve cut out weekend trips, too. Not that we were that great about going on them before. But, the point is, we COULD if we wanted. As the kids get older, it’ll be less work. I just keep telling myself that.

  13. Loved all your great tips Emma! We have never traveled very far {not more than 3 hours} just for the whole schedule/cranky baby reason, plus there is plenty to do near home. I like the commenter that said “Vacation is about attitude”. It doesn’t have to be far away to be fun.

    One thing that nobody mentioned is to invite another couple/family to go along! The kids have built in playmates, you can divvy up the cooking/bringing food/cleaning up duties & can take turn watching each other’s kids so that you can sneak away for some “couple” time!

    Rebecca´s last blog post…res-o-lute

  14. Great post – I loved it. Traveling with kids is hard work – what a great list of helpful advice. In December we took our then 3 month old daughter across the pond to the UK to meet half her family — and while we managed, it was definitely much more work than I had expected. I did the lists, but it was simply too hard to keep her on schedule with the enormous time change. So instead of trying to get her on Greenwich time, we just stayed on time in our home time zone. Yes, I was up in the middle of the night playing with my daughter while the neighbors slept, but it was so worth it because we didn’t have to deal with jet lag upon our return.

    christy´s last blog post…Exciting times in the life of a baby!

  15. We did a LOT over the weekends with one child. It has gotten MUCH harder now that we have two little ones …
    But I am inspired to try this myself – the thought process behind what you have done is amazing – find out why it does not work and plan to make sure you take care of the things that are making it harder. Like in all other cases I am sure this kind of planning will be painful – but I have observed that it is almost always worth it.
    Thank you for laying out your thoughts so well! I am really tired of feeling how much we have given up since we had 2 kids :(

    Maya´s last blog post…Preparing to Believe in Yourself: The Science of Ditchiness

  16. My sons are older now – 22 & 17, but I remember the days of traveling with little ones. We also camped, and traveled extensively (still do) to soccer tournaments & on business trips. I have one suggestion that works to travel with kids, dogs, just couples, or even alone.

    Buy duplicates when possible, and keep certain things that you need always packed. I keep a toiletries bag packed at all times and re-stock if necessary after each trip. This works for adults or kids and can be used for any trip – camping; visiting relatives; hotels, etc.

    If you camp keep a plastic box packed with basic dishes & cooking tools – frying pan, can opener, etc. and one with staple foods & spices. Another can be packed with old towels, etc. Update as needed.

    For kids, keep a toy bag packed that only goes on trips so the toys stay fresh and the bag is always ready to grab. Swap toys & update as needed. If you need certain utensils – bowl, cup, spoon, keep a set packed.

    For pets keep a travel crate with bowls, bagged food & treats, leashes, etc. stored inside.

    Obviously not everything you own can be duplicated, but this works for lots of things. Store your travel gear together where its always ready to grab & go. Build up your supplies over time or designate older items as travel stock when you buy something new.

    You can apply this to almost anything.

  17. For breakfast I like to make ahead egg, sausage, cheese and a little sour cream wrapped in a burrito shell, wrapped in tin foil. Warm it up on the grill in the morning, it’s very good and filling. We haven’t camped since our daughter was born, she would love it, but most of the summer the mosquitos are terrible and West Nile is disease is not uncommon in our area.

  18. Great tips! We are in the same boat and are learning to camp with a baby. Our “camping box” is an absolute necessity. It has all our kitchen supplies, paper goods, spices, etc. (and, I keep my laminated packing list and the list of contents inside the box for easy reference!).

    Joy (from Just Plain Joy)´s last blog post…Friday’s Fun Find: Invisibelt

  19. Fabulous tips! Great guest post ^_^

    Desiree Fawn´s last blog post…have I mentioned lately.

  20. We find now (with a 7 yr old) that she gets bored and/or lonely w/out a playmate, so that’s what we plan for when getting away. But I do remember the days of the portacrib, and other assorted “stuff” you tend to haul around when kids are small!

    Vintage Mommy´s last blog post…It’s Not My Story to Tell

  21. I always make sure we come home to clean towels, clothes and made beds. Nothing worse than coming home to a house that needs immediate work – I find that turns what is meant to be a relaxant into a stressor.

    Mistress B´s last blog post…Andrew John THOMPSON – Can you help find this missing child?

  22. it’s so true that travel with kids is a lot of work. the memories are worth all the effort.

  23. Kudos for getting out there! I truly believe that if you start kids traveling when they’re little (mine started at about five weeks) they become very, very good at it. The keys are preparation, some good tips (we have a lot on our site), and the ability to roll with things when you can. And to keep at it!

  24. I don’t even have kids and tips like this keep me sane when I travel. I agree with earlier comments that a clean house (with a purged fridge if you are gone for a long time) makes it all the better upon our return!

    Lindsay´s last blog post…Kitchen Artwork Project

  25. Just out of curiosity, why make special meals for the baby? Does he have severe allergies or special food needs? I made all my son’s food separately when he was 6-10 months or so, but by age 1, my son was more or less eating what we ate (ground up in a small, portable baby food grinder if need be, or just mashed with a fork). I didn’t worry too much about keeping food bland, particularly after I read babies in India start eating daal (curried lentils) at 6 months. My son always seemed to want to eat what was on our plate anyway, and seemed to like strong flavors more than plain pureed peas (which are pretty gross). He may have been used to it from my garlic and chili laced breast milk, who knows? There are obvious exceptions (no peanuts before 1, no raw seafood, etc.), but I started my son on real table food pretty early and now he’s almost two and eats everything (including spicy, garlicky, and sour flavors). It majorly simplifies our life not to have to worry about special meals– the only things we have to worry about when we’re away are keeping whole milk and some simple snacks like fruit, crackers, raisins and cheese on hand.

    I second the grab and go toy bag (we have a small mesh bag with a few small toys suitable for the airplane), the clean house (makes coming home so much nicer) and staying somewhere where you can do laundry. Since our son was born, we’ve found that renting a house/apartment or extended stay room with a kitchenette makes a lot more sense than staying in a motel/hotel. It’s more pricey, but worth having a place to retreat to for meals and naps if need be. We have yet to try camping, but are thinking of a trip in spring (car camping, of course– backpacking days are over until he can carry all his own gear :-)

  26. Such a great post and something I would have needed some years ago before I started stressing when going away. By now I have obviously gotten the whole routine under control. Not! :-)
    I found that too much organising and planning can have the counter effect… Read this post of mine from not so long ago…
    http://mindfulmimi.blogspot.com/2008/10/stress-is-ignorant-state-it-believes.html

    Mindful Mimi´s last blog post…A fistful of dollars: the story of a Kiva.org loan

  27. We’ve taken our girls (2 and a half and 6mos) all over……. from 18hr car rides south, 5hr ones to visit family or the 2hr one every summer weekend to stay at the cottage. Because it’s something we’ve always done they do pretty well in the car and tend to sleep at the usual nap time. We may have to stop more often and pack snacks etc, but we don’t want to put our travel plans off till that magical “someday”. The best car toy is a “magnadoodle” books, books on cd and music.

  28. Thank you. This is so helpful. This is exactly where my husband and I are now with our little one. These seem like such simple things, but I’ve never thought of a couple of your suggestions. I think we’ll try it out soon on one of his weekends off and see how it works.

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