Surviving Our First Vacation With Our First Baby

Taking your first family vacation maybe be a bumpy ride, but it's 100% worth it!

I had no illusions about maternity leave being a “year off.” But we planned for and budgeted to take our first family vacation before I returned to work.  Our daughter Megan was approaching her first birthday, so it was time to get planning.

We decided on Cuba, because we knew that Cuba was a safe and family-friendly vacation destination, and we believed (at the time) that Fidel Castro was on his death bed and the Cuba that we Canadians know and love would change overnight. Nine years later, Fidel may no longer be in power but is still very much alive. And Cuba remains a fantastic choice for your first family vacation.

Our daughter was a dream to travel with, but as a nervous first-time mom who packed a giant diaper bag for just a walk around the block, I had a lot of adjusting to do.

Naturally, I packed A LOT. Luckily charter flights for package vacations still (usually) include a checked bag and we sure utilized it! In addition to our daily diapering, dressing, bath and eating needs, I brought sun block, beach toys, crib sheets, baby pharmaceuticals, our daughter’s special blanket and wipes, wipes and more wipes. I separated all this among our three bags in case one got lost. We also brought our car seat and jogging stroller—seems a bit excessive but think about what you need just to get through one day with a baby!

The resort we chose is about a ten-minute walk from Varadero. We paid extra for a 2-level bungalow, which was handy for holding all of our stuff and provided a nice view since we were essentially held hostage every night while our daughter slept. Our pre-booked crib was totally rickety and its replacement proved no better, so we shored it up with end tables and pushed our bed against it and the wall for extra security.

It was a bumpy first few days. Megan refused to nap in the crib, but was incredibly tired and cranky. She was still on two naps per day at that point and really needed the sleep. Eventually we found, what I like to call, our “vacation routine.” She wouldn’t nap in the crib, but she’d pass out around naptime if you wrapped her snug in a towel, fresh from a splash in the sea or the pool. We had glorious mornings on the beach and afternoons by the pool while she napped in the shade. With the food and snacks I brought from home, combined with the ease and access of the all-inclusive buffet, she ate very well. And frequently!  

Eventually we all had a fun and relaxing vacation.

A lot of people thought we were nuts. “She won’t remember it!” they’d exclaim. “She’d be happier with Grandma!” But we are so glad we went for it and have absolutely no regrets. Our daughter doesn’t remember squealing with joy while scooting around the beach like a sand crab, but we will never forget. She may very well have had a nice week with Grandma if we chose to go away without her, but we would have missed her terribly and missed out on so many wonderful memories. Plus, we hadn’t spent that much time together since our daughter first came home from the hospital and it was so special to have this experience as I neared the end of my maternity leave.

Megan is now nine and is well on her way to becoming a world traveler. Her six-year-old brother went on his first trip at ten-weeks-old and has travelled like a champ ever since. Each trip gets easier and we are getting more and more adventurous with our itineraries. Travel is helping to shape them into the open-minded and adaptable adults I hope they’ll become, and we all still look forward to naps on the beach.

Corinne McDermott is the founder of HaveBabyWillTravel.com, a website with a mission to inspire, motivate, and help families travel with babies, toddlers, and young children.

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