Family Reunions: A Mom's Guide
Let’s Meet the Family
Your 4-month-old just started smiling at everything and everyone she meets, and she couldn’t be cuter. You’re finally ready to introduce her to the rest of the family—but before you fly halfway across the country to introduce your little one to Great-Grandma Florence or Uncle Anthony, take time to plan not only where to meet, and when, but remember that for a fun trip (and for your baby not to be labeled “a crier” by the rest of your family), you need to keep your baby’s schedule in mind too.
Location! Location! Location!
Thinking of gathering everyone at Grandma’s because it’s convenient and inexpensive? What you save in traveling costs may add up in stress when you’re trying to fit everyone into a house that is in want of air-conditioning and filled with Grandma’s prized collection of china dolls (which any toddler is sure to find!).
“It’s best if families can gather in a town or city that is neutral, meaning that no member of the family lives there,” suggests Laurie Van Horn. “This alleviates stress, believe me! Families should also choose reunion sites that offer activities for people of all ages.” Van Horn, Director of Marketing for the YMCA of the Rockies located in Estes Park and Snow Mountain Ranch, Colorado, is in the business of advising people of the best location for their reunions. Her centers will be hosting more than 800 reunions this year alone. They also offer a Family Reunion University™ in November for serious planners who want to know how to organize the perfect event.
Whether it’s a ranch in Colorado, cabins in Yellowstone, or even a trip to Disneyland, choose a place that offers something for everyone—including distractions for the rest of the family when you need to escape for a toddler’s much-needed afternoon nap or to nurse your baby. Naptime and feeding time are vital to keeping little ones happy while they’re being passed around to relatives and adored by older cousins.
Remember also to insist on a separate hotel rooms for your family—even if others are doubling up. Sharing a room with other family members (who may be up later than you are) may prevent you and your children from getting the rest you need.
What to Bring
Family reunions are not the time to pack lightly—there’s no way around it. In addition to your standard traveling stash, car seat, and diaper bag, if you have a baby you’ll also need a stroller or baby carrier and a portable crib. Don’t rely on a hotel (or a relative) for your baby’s crib. Often these cribs aren’t as sturdy and don’t meet your safety standards. Beyond that, babies tend to sleep better in something familiar. Liz Maravilla of Tuckahoe, New York, starts putting her baby to sleep in her portable crib up to a week before family gatherings. This makes bedtime easier for both her and her baby when it’s reunion time.
Some items such as diapers and baby food will be easy to find at local grocery stores. Other essentials, like your favorite brand of formula or diaper-rash ointment may not be as easy to find. Plan on bringing enough to last your entire trip.
If you have toddlers or preschoolers, considering packing sippy cups, small utensils, and some toys you know will keep them happy. If taking along a favorite blanket or stuffed animal helps your child sleep better, by all means take it—but don’t neglect to pack it for the return trip!
Don’t forget an emergency stash of medication for your child. Who knows when your baby’s first tooth will come in or when your preschooler might come down with a fever? Enclose your pediatrician’s number, along with the medicine, so that if you have a question, you can contact him or her easily.
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