Hora feliz con ninos

14 Apr

My baby has survived infancy, toddlerhood, and preschool. She started Kindergarten in 2015, which put a serious cramp in our happy hour action because she was EXHAUSTED after school. Six hours is too long for 5 year olds. I can (and will–oh, yes I will) opine about school another time. Right now, I want to write about being happy.

I probably had postpartum depression. I most certainly struggled with a major depression between my daughter’s 2nd-5th year, and I’m still figuring out mood stuff and self care. I’d love to have a series of “Really Good Days” like Ayelet Waldman but unless one of you sends me a little blue bottle that’s going to take some effort. Even if you do, which would be creepy (but cool!) I still need to work on building a happy life.

We just returned from 7 weeks in Costa Rica. I’m not going to say every minute of every day was pure bliss, but I was happy a lot of the time. I need to break down why I love travel so much (for myself, though I might subject y’all to some of the navel-gazing) but right now I really want to share my brilliant travel hacks.

Pack light

This isn’t exactly original advice, but there’s a reason so many people recommend traveling carry-on: it’s awesome. It doesn’t have to be hard, but it takes some planning and trial-and error. The goal is to pack only what you and your child(ren) can carry by yourselves, from plane to bus–upstairs, downstairs, in the rain, on the sand. You’ll save time and money, and you’re going to learn what you really value and need.

Plan

  • How will you ditch extra stuff?
    • ship it home (this is a great way to unload cold-weather gear when you’re moving on to warmer regions)
      • NOTE: shipping is expensive and can be time-consuming.
      • You almost always need your passport at the post office–plan ahead.
    • give it away (ask around–does anyone need or want your hoodie?)
    • throw it out (you do not need to bring that half-full tube of sunscreen home)

I try to avoid carrying any toiletries if I’m going somewhere that I can buy them–especially if my first stop will be a hostel or hotel that provides the basics. It’s cheaper and much easier to buy a bottle of shampoo or sunscreen than to check a bag. If you’re going somewhere really remote and/or have extremely special needs and 3oz of product won’t last your entire trip, consider shipping yourself your special products in advance.

Souvenirs & gifts

Your friends and family back home would rather get a postcard in the mail than anything you’re going to haul home. If you’re committed to supporting the local economy & really really really want to purchase a gift or momento, ship it back. Don’t carry it around in your luggage. Yes, it can be expensive to ship things. It’s also expensive to check bags.

Some of our favorite souvenirs: free maps of the small towns we visit, coasters, stickers…flat, light stuff. I’ve started collecting bottle caps from my favorite beers. Every member of our family is allowed to buy one thing during a trip. Coming home from Costa Rica,we brought a stuffed bat & the kid got a stuffed sloth. We also grabbed some coffee and chocolate at the airport store for teacher gifts.

We do not bring home nature items: shells, rocks, etc are part of the ecosystem. They need to stay on the beach. The kid likes to collect her favorites during a trip, then make a big ceremonial fairy castle the night before we leave.

We take a ton of pictures of the cool stuff we see and do, and keep notes and journals. We’re not going to forget just because we didn’t buy that shirt, or the hammock chair.

Laundry

Most of us don’t go on vacation because we want to do laundry in exotic places. However, even if you pack your entire wardrobe (not recommended), you’re going to need to wash clothes. I buy the smallest possible amount of laundry detergent (dry) and a package of clothespins, then wash laundry in the sink wherever we’re staying. Many places have laundry service, which can be a life-saver if the climate (or your time) doesn’t allow for line-drying.

Happy Hour travel essentials

In the purse/pockets/diaper bag–carry with you always

  • multi-function tool with a minimum of scissors & bottle opener
  • plastic utensils & cloth napkins, small snacks
  • hygiene supplies: roll of medical tape, mini-pads, alcohol wipes, large bandage, small bandage, ziplock bags
  • entertainment: ballpoint pen, paper, playing cards, tiny toys
  • ID, a little cash & your bank card

In the swim bag/at the beach (use a tote, backpack, plastic bag, large purse…)

  • sunscreen stick
  • towel
  • water bottle (your fancy insulated bottle or reuse a plastic bottle)
  • extra plastic bag for storing wet clothes/sandy shoes
  • dry shirt or dress for the kid/s (who WILL complain of “freezing” the very moment the sun comes down, before or just as your drink arrives)

Random notes

I dislike wearing wristbands, so I cut them off while I’m out wandering and then reattach using the medical tape. The medical tape is also useful for small cuts. Use the mini-pad as a sterile gauze pad for larger injuries, using medical tape to keep it in place. Large bandages are very useful; small bandaids only exist to help someone feel better about an owie.

Entertainment

On the beach, in the forest, etc we do what we’re there to do: hike, swim, build castles, look at animals, play with rocks & sticks, talk to people, play with animals, daydream…there’s really no reason to pull out an electronic device unless you’re taking photos. (In my extremely biased opinion.)

I’m not a complete Luddite (obviously) but I don’t want my kid (or myself) plugged into a phone all the time. We don’t give her (and we don’t use) devices in public places, with the exception of transit (bus or plane) and even then limit the time. Screen time during this last trip was pretty much reserved for siesta–the hottest part of the day. We hung out in the hammock with a book, game, TV show, or homework activity.

Since we also don’t carry a lot of paper books, it can be challenging to keep ourselves occupied during the many situations where we had to wait. Since we only have one kid, we needed activities that everyone would enjoy (or at least not hate).

Some games we played with the almost-8 year old during long restaurant waits/layovers/hotel stays, etc:

  • gin rummy
  • UNO (oh, how I LOATHE the UNO box)
  • dots
  • tic tac toe (sparingly)
  • chess or checkers (we actually bought a mini chess set this trip)
    • draw a board on a piece of paper if you don’t want to carry a board–which you don’t

 

 

 

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