The stress, anxiety, and just basic wear-me-down of parenting gets to you in the first year, which was why we thought going on a family vacation with my mom and siblings was something we both wanted to do. We worked the cost into our budget and decided it was worth the money to escape the daily routine of parenting.
Sometimes for your mental health and overall wellbeing, it’s important to step out of the rat-race of your life and have someone else cook your meals, lay on a beach, and not have to think about every little thing and moment of your day.
This was not our first trip with our daughter, we had taken ReeRo on a plane when she was barely two months old so we could go and visit my husband’s family in Nova Scotia. This vacation was very different. When we went to the East Coast to see his family, there was little stress around the packing process, because we knew that if we forgot anything, we could always run to the store and pick it up.
This destination was different. We were going to Santa Maria, Cuba and I would be able to run to the store and grab diapers, wipes, and other baby necessities if I had been so careless as to forget.
Packing, to say the very least, was quite stressful. She basically has a small carryon case and half of a larger suitcase all to herself. It was packed with diapers, wipes, baby wash, teething medication, bug sprays, lotions, toiletries, snacks, toys, I had to anticipate her every need for the upcoming week and make sure we were prepared for it. A destination like Cuba meant I knew she couldn’t eat a lot of their food options that had come in contact with their water, and she also couldn’t have any of their dairy. Goldfish crackers, Gerber Puffs and Cheesies, and breastmilk were her main diet for the week, despite me trying to get her to eat things there, she just wasn’t having it.
One thing I will say is I did anticipate her diet when travelling. Cuba is a bright and colourful place and I knew she would be overwhelmed with it all. She left our Canadian winter and was suddenly in the sun, free to explore the entirety of our resort on foot. Usually, when something changes in our routine, she gives me a hard time when it comes to eating, so I did arrive there knowing full well she would want to breastfeed more than anything else. I wasn’t prepared for her to not want any other food.
The only thing she would ever eat was their pancakes and bread.
What also made this trip very different is my baby girl was no longer the baby she was. She was this little person who got bored and had her own routine she liked to stick to. She was stubborn, and she more often than not, let you know if something wasn’t exactly how she wanted it.
She started to walk around the beginning of November, thank goodness. Her finally walking meant that there was no need to pack a stroller, and it also meant that a sense of independence would result in less tantrum and more exploration.
The fact that she was walking made the airport a breeze. She wanted to walk the length of the big windows, watching all the planes and other vehicles on the tarmac. With her new explorative side, I was worried she wouldn’t want to sit still on the actual flight.
Our last flight she was so small, she breastfed the whole short flight and I don’t think she knew we weren’t just as home sitting on the couch. This was very different, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well she did.
I packed her little princess backpack (that she could carry herself had she wanted to, of course, she didn’t want to) with two of her favourite books Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and Baby Bear, Baby Bear, some snacks, and of course the iPad with some interactive games and a few videos that we knew she liked and would keep her busy. We brought her noise-cancelling headphones because they have been said to help with the air pressure on take-off and landing. She did her own thing for most of the flight and did take a small nap on both the way there and the way back.
There seemed to be a lot of kids on our flight and she seemed to be amongst the best behaved, so I definitely felt good leaving the plane knowing how well she did.
I think whenever you travel with one of your littles, it’s important to just prepare. Over prepare! If you even think maybe you need something, pack it. It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
I think a lot of parents, especially new parents worry that travelling with your children may take away from the feeling of it being a vacation. Sure, it’s not as relaxing and you are never really off-duty, but there is this different feeling of bliss watching your child(ren) experience things for the first time. That sense of wonder is really so special.
I loved watching her see lizards scurry across the grass or the walls. Watching different, more colourful birds fly around and watching her try and walk up to a frog. We went on an excursion and swam with the dolphins after seeing a dolphin show, which I wasn’t sure if she would be okay with. She only had a small freak out when it swam by and her fingers grazed the underbelly (even though she had touched it’s back several times and was completely okay and even excited about it).
All in all, it was a wonderful trip. I prepared. I made sure she had more than enough for the weather, and to keep her busy and I am so happy we decided to take the trip.
If you’re a parent and you just aren’t sure, it’s a good time to test out travelling. Why? Because usually children under a certain age stay free and all you have to pay for is their tourist visa which costs under $30CAD in Cuba. And you DESERVE it!