Baby's First Holiday Season
Keeping It Simple
The winter holiday season is a beautiful time to share with friends and family. For parents of new babies, this is an exceptionally precious time. Despite the warmth of the season, the holidays can sometimes be stressful—even for families without new babies. With a little extra planning, you can rejoice while relaxing in your new family environment. The advice that new parents as well as seasoned veterans dispense, is nearly always, “Keep things simple; do what you feel is best and don’t worry about making everyone happy.” Easier said than done, right? Not necessarily.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
To travel or not to travel is truly dependent on how you, as new parents, feel. If you are up to the adventure, pack the diaper bag and your suitcases and take to the air, rails, or highway with your little one.
If you are considering air travel, first check with your pediatrician. Baby’s ears are still developing, and flight can sometimes be painful. You and your doctor can decide what age is best for your child to experience her first plane trip.
Some airlines offer free passage to babies if they sit on your lap. Others offer fares at a discount for infants in their own seat (with a car seat). Contact your travel agent or airline and ask about current regulations regarding car seats, bassinets, and diaper changing facilities—some airlines supply all of these added amenities. Also inquire about pre-boarding procedures and if you will be able to board your stroller in the cabin, or if you may check it at the gate and have it brought to you shortly after landing.
Air travel is very dehydrating. And drinking during ascent and descent will help your little one’s ears pop, making this rough part of travel easier on her (and your fellow passengers). But new airline regulations may limit carrying on water and milk or formula for you and your baby. Contact the airline before you pack carry-on luggage and learn what’s OK to bring on board.
Taking the train is a second travel option and may be less overwhelming than air travel with a baby. Amtrak offers family or bedroom sleepers for longer train trips at costs comparable to flying (coach seats cost much less). However, train travel is best only for those families without a pressing schedule—it takes longer to reach the destination (a five-hour plane trip from the Midwest to the West Coast translates into a two-day trip by train).
If you are taking to the roads during the holiday season, be sure to double check the installation of your car seat. Most local fire and police stations will install your seat free of charge or double check your installation. You can also visit your car’s dealership for help in positioning and securing your car seat. (Read on for more hints on safe car seat installation)
If you are taking an extended trip, be sure to have your car fully serviced before departure. And before leaving the house, check current weather conditions and pack emergency gear and blankets in your trunk—it never hurts to be prepared for any possible crisis.
If you live close to your extended family, travel during the holidays may be as simple as setting a schedule. Katy Leder-Holmes, a Wisconsin mother of one, lives only hours away from her parents. “We plan on spending Christmas Eve with one set of grandparents and Christmas Day with the other,” she says. “Thanksgiving weekend will be divided up as well—this will keep all the grandparents happy.”
Sometimes you can spend part of the holiday with relatives nearby and still fit in a long-distance trip to visit the other side of the family. “Last year, we spent Christmas with [my husband's] side of the family and then flew to Florida to spend five days with my parents around New Year’s Eve,” says Julie VanderZanden-Iris from Wisconsin, of her first holiday with her son Jordan.
You can also consider setting up an unconventional schedule—spend Thanksgiving with one family, Christmas with the other, and the following holiday season by yourselves. Elizabeth White-Jones of California, mother of 17-month-old Ella says, “I think it is best to trade off with one of the holidays and take the other one off from the family altogether.”
A favorite solution for many new parents is to host their own holiday gathering. This provides the opportunity to forego travel of any kind during this busy season. Molly and Trevor Tuttle of California live hundreds of miles from their closest relative. They plan to celebrate their first holiday with their son Maxwood at home. Rather than trying to fit in several trips to visit relatives, they instead look forward to inviting family over for a small and intimate gathering.
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