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Have Baby, Will Travel

I'm writing from sunny Scottsdale, where I'm on a weeklong vacation with my entire immediate family -- a.k.a. the original Prestons and Gorensteins. My husband's parents ("the Gorensteins") live here 9 months out of the year, and my parents ("the Prestons") decided to rent a house in Scottsdale for a part of the winter, so we all came down for a week -- husband, baby, older brother, sister-in-law, and their three kids. First, let's clear up the confusion over the name: Preston Wolf Gorenstein (my baby) is named after both his maternal and paternal great-grandfathers, the late and honorable Judge Paul P. Preston (my grandfather) and the late and beloved Wolf Danziger (my husband's grandfather). Yes, we gave the poor kid three last names -- Preston Wolf Gorenstein. But at least he'll have no shortage of nicknames when he's older. I can just hear it: "Hey, Preston!" Or maybe it'll be, "Yo, Wolfy!" Or how about, "What up, Gorenstein?" See, the possibilities are endless.

Now, back to the trip: This is the first time since returning to work after mat leave that I've gotten to spend a full week straight with my baby. I know, poor me. I'm enjoying every minute of it, but I'm not gonna lie: Traveling with a baby ain't easy, even when said baby is very easy himself. From the packing (um, everything he owns) to getting through security (a nightmare) to trying to keep him on a somewhat normal sleep schedule (yeah, right), there's a whole lot of deviating going on -- as in, he's pretty much had all of his naps in his car seat thus far. Does that make us terrible parents? Yesterday he took all three naps in his car seat, and we kept him out till almost 10:30 p.m., so he even went to bed in his car seat. Of course, the minute we got home and attempted to move him into the crib, he woke up with a huge smile on his face with what seemed to be his second, or more like third wind.


Kicking back in Scottsdale last week.


Since the group is split up between two houses, there's been a lot of us going back and forth; the minute the baby gets in the car he falls asleep, though it's not like he seems to mind. But he is five-and-a-half-months old now, and has a pretty rigid sleep schedule, so I hope we're not totally screwing ourselves when we return home from this trip. Are we forming bad habits this week? God, I hope not, after all the work we've done to get here. He's always been a good sleeper but even he went through some rough patches when he turned four months, so we had to do a bit of sleep training, or "Ferberizing." I'd really prefer not to have to go through that again.

The other tricky thing about traveling with a baby, as I'm sure every parent knows, is trying not to over-pack. My husband left me in charge of this seemingly simple task -- throw a handful of outfits in a suitcase, a few extra onesies, how hard can it be? -- but I'm pretty sure I failed with flying colors. Preston wound up bringing more "stuff" than both of us combined. He has his own suitcase, but somehow even more of his stuff wound up in both of ours. This seemed to amuse my husband to no end. In my defense, a baby needs a lot of "stuff" -- and, um, don't leave a woman in charge of packing if you don't want to end up with more than you probably need. Am I right, ladies?

And yet, by our second day here we had already made two trips to Target to pick up yet even more baby stuff. And we've had to make two trips to a friend's house whose crib we're borrowing; I'm pretty sure the travel crib she lent us is (or if it's not, should be) on a recall list. The bars are spaced just wide enough apart to fit Preston's cute little feet, and I'm convinced he'll break his ankle when he doesn't realize his foot is wedged between two bars and then proceeds to flop around the crib. Convinced!

The other hard thing about traveling with a baby is getting comfortable in new surroundings. What people who aren't new parents don't realize is, it's crucial to the success of your household that all the moving parts in your everyday world have some organized chaos to them. Agree with me, moms? Organized chaos. It's the key ingredient to the family you’re cooking, albeit an intangible one. So when people, like my brother Michael, say, "See, he doesn't look tired, he's smiling at Joe (his middle cousin), he doesn't need to go down for a nap yet!" That would be my brother trying to disrupt this organized chaos, and that would also be my brother trying to annoy the hell out of me. That's when I need to stand my ground. Or when my mom tells me that I need to stop poking and prodding my son and "leave him be," when all I'm doing is what every mom does, cleaning his ears/picking his nose/wiping away eye buggers/putting Aquaphor on his chapped lips/filing his nails/cleaning his hands/picking lint out of his toes/you know the usual obsessive-compulsive mom stuff. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m doing it for his OWN GOOD. And I learned it from watching you, Mom. (Hi, by the way!)


Preston's first road trip to Michigan at two weeks old.


Yet every time I say this, it only comes out sounding like I’m a crazy person. And it just gives my older brother one more reason to taunt me. How is it I still feel like I’m 12 when I’m around him, even though I think becoming a mom has earned me more respect than that? (Oh, and hi to you too, Michael.)

You see, traveling with a baby is hard work, especially when you have your whole family chiming in about the way you manage your organized chaos. A friend of mine who’s on her second child won’t do it. She’s waiting till the younger baby is a year before she’ll travel again. At first, I thought this sounded a little nuts, I’ll be honest. But, even though this is our third trip with Preston since he was born (one road trip to Michigan when he was 3 weeks old; his first trip to Arizona when he was 2 months old), I have learned not to pass judgment on other moms for doing what they deem possible in their own life. Like I said last week, everyone is capable of different things. As hard as it is sometimes, I wouldn’t have missed this trip for anything.

But I would love to know how other moms feel about traveling with a baby. How long did you wait to take your baby on a trip? And do you make exceptions in your baby’s sleep schedule when you’re on the road?

Also, I found one great tip a friend gave me before I left very helpful. She lent me a bag full of soft toys for the airplane, stuff that rattled or made only soft noises and was easy to pack in his diaper bag – toys that he’s never seen before, so if he got fussy, I could entertain him with my bag o’ tricks. It worked like a charm. What are some other good traveling tips for babies? What must you pack, or what could you really do without?