Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Combating vacation anxiety: Packing for a one year old

Over the March break Ollie, Chris and I were lucky to get to spend seven days in the warm Florida sunshine: taking morning dips in the pool, hanging out on the beach and checking out aquariums, wild dolphins and beautiful sunsets, courtesy of my in laws. We got in last night at midnight, and all agree (Ollie more implies than verbally confirms) that it was a very successful family vacation, which should be a no brainer, given the activities list I just provided.

Not such a no brainer for me, though. Since we live in an era of armchair psychology, I'm going to go ahead and diagnose myself with something I'll call "vacation anxiety", an affliction that creeps up every time I travel, avec ou sans the baby. My Dad thinks I don't like change, I think it is just that I like my life plenty as I have crafted it into its day to day, so "escape" doesn't really appeal. But whatever the reason, when faced with the excitement of an impending trip my emotions are best described as worried, stressed, sleepless and a little bit sad. I probably should at least take steps to google this and see if anyone else on the planet has a similarly ridiculous problem, but I'm all googled out this evening.

To combat this vacation anxiety, and give the appearance of being a normal, fun loving person, I make lists and lists and lists to prepare for every trip. I have a list for my carry on, wallet, makeup bag and main luggage - with sub-lists to itemize clothing categorized into outfits based on possible weather forecasts. Add the anxiety to my pride in my ability to pack light, and the preparations for a vacation usually take about two weeks and twenty drafts of each list. This is probably information that is really too embarrassing to share, but here it is.

With the addition of a little munchkin to take care of, my list of lists practically tripled as I came up with every possible item required to cover us off for every eventuality. But as is so often the case in my child-rearing experience so far, when my preparations were put to the test, it turned out that less was more and simple is best. Ollie was outfitted for every possible weather scenario, had every conceivable distraction for the airplane, and had natural remedies and snacks enough to keep him safe and healthy through an unpopulated jungle.

Naturally, he wore basically one outfit, plus pajamas every day, was most amused by all of the other passengers on the plane, and was happy to eat anything he could find, including actual crumbs from the floor. If I was packing for this trip again tomorrow, I'd only worry about having the following four items:

Badger Sunscreen
Ollie comes from a long line of translucent british/irish folk. Our skin comes in two hues: blue and red. I take my sun protection very seriously, and doubly so for little Oliver. On the beach a hat and umbrella just aren't optional. But since I know my little monster is an adventurer, he can't be trusted to stay in the shade for long. And although I fear the UV rays, I'm not crazy about the idea of slathering my organic fed son in chemicals I can't pronounce to protect him. I looked high and low for a sunscreen I felt comfortable using on Ollie, and ultimately chose to give Badger a try.

Containing only oils that I'm familiar with from home use (olive, jojoba), and zinc to provide a physical barrier from the sun's rays, this sunscreen's ingredient listing is 100% pronounceable. I was a little concerned about going completely natural for something that I take as seriously as sunscreen, but after using this stuff every day on Ollie's delicate skin, I have to say that I am actually blown away by how effective it is.
Creamy, great smelling, and water resistant, Ollie didn't pick up any unwanted colour from the sun and didn't take on any nasty rashes from the product. We reapplied about three times a day and the tube still has some product left, but before we left the states we ordered four more tubes (it's a bit cheaper there), because I can't imagine a summer without this stuff.

As if that wasn't enough skin protection, however, the second item I wouldn't leave home (for a hot destination) without kept Ollie covered no matter how far down the beach he chased a seagull....

O'Neill Sun Suit

I'll admit that as a kid I was guilty of snickering a bit at other children in head to toe sun gear. As a parent though, being able to slip (or wrangle) your child into one piece of full body protection is perfection! Plus, what could be cuter than the little sausage body of a toddler in his very own wet suit!? On this trip, if Oliver wasn't in pj's or naked, you could bet he was rocking the sun suit.

Ella's Organics Smoothie Fruits
I've definitely read about these handy little portable baby foods on other blogs, but I didn't fully realize their genius until coming across them at a Starbucks on Chris and my one baby-free day. Chris thought they were silly and gimicky, and although I know Ollie won't go for baby food anymore, I also know that he loves a novel treat to distract him from a funk, so I picked up a few for the plane ride home.
Of course, I tried one out on Oliver as soon as I got home to him and this little smoothie snack was a major hit. After I unscrewed the cap, Ollie could suck away at the tasty, organic goodness without any spills or assistance from his meddling mama, which made both of us verrry happy. I was also happy with the ingredient listing on each, which was simply the fruits that made up the flavor.
The downside of these little beauties is that they are individual packages to add to our trash, so they'll be reserved only for travel. But I have been starting to brainstorm ways I might create my own similar treat, and if it works out, I'll share that with you soon...

The last item on my travel essentials list is also one that made snacking easy:

The Ergo
I could seriously go on and on forever about how great I think baby wearing is. I've felt that way since before Ollie was born, and I suspect I'll be feeling that way even after he's waay too big to be strapped on my back. I've loved my Moby and ring slings for all kinds of reasons, but nothing is simpler for me than my beloved Ergo.

We brought an umbrella stroller with us on the trip, but from airport to plane to beach to Target, nothing made more sense than the easy portability of baby wearing. Front, side and back carries all got heavy use on this trip, and thanks to a walk to the beach in my bathing suit, Ollie realized that he can nurse whenever he feels like it if he's strapped into this baby. A great thing for keeping him calm and satisfied, although a little awkward when he's digging around in my shirt while I'm digging around my purse for my passport at customs.

My only regret with this item is that when I bought it I didn't go for a flashier colour. I'm hoping to wear it out before our second baby so that I can get a second chance at it, but given it's sturdy design (it has NO signs of wear after being used almost every day for ten months), I'm thinking I'll have to lose it if I want to replace it. 

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