After you have babies, it’s all about firsts: first foods, first consonant sounds, first time crawling, first time pulling up to stand.
When it comes to travel, I’ve written here about our firsts as new parents since the twins were born: my first business trip at 12 weeks postpartum, our first couples’ driving trip away without babies, our first trip by air since they were born.
At last, just as the twins turned 10 months old, I’m excited to share about our first holiday together as a family of four… which also included the twins’ first hotel stay, and their first time in the pool. (Spoiler alert: too, too fun and such a special and cherished family memory!)
Here’s what we did:
For Memorial Day weekend, we’d planned to stay in Los Angeles, given we’ll be traveling again soon for a wedding abroad. But after a stressful week involving two full-time working parents and our childcare provider on a vacation of her own, we needed a bit of head clearing and distance.
So we called an audible: We booked a last-minute stay at the La Quinta Resort & Club (in the Southern California desert about 20 miles from Palm Springs) — and our last-minute-ness in this case was rewarded with a super reasonable rate (right before the hotel sold out).
I stayed at this special place once before (while covering TEDActive, the sister event and simulcast of the TED Conference, when both were held in California) and was struck by it.
Back then, I wrote in this blog: “When I pulled in to the resort — with its vibrant flowers and palm trees against the striking mountain backdrop — I truly felt like I’d been transported to some kind of paradise after only a couple of hours in the car. You’d have to be deeply jaded not to be at least a little bit awed by the density and drama of the colorful blooms that line grounds of the massive property.”
All still so true. The lush property — which is featured in a to-die Harper’s Bazaar spread this month — looked pretty as ever.
After checking in (with a margarita welcome cocktail—heeeeey!), we followed a gentleman in a golf cart who directed us to our building within the lush 45-acre property. He helped us unload our (ahem, copious) stuff into what turned out to be the perfect room: an oversized king room with a seating area adjacent to a fireplace. The chairs there were easily moved aside by the staff who brought in their place two pristine-looking pack-and-plays. A kitchenette area included a fridge and freezer, plus a sink and bar where I set up our bottles and solid foods (plus filled the fridge with our own healthy foods for this May fitness challenge we’re on — isn’t it June yet?!)
A massive walk-in closet area adjacent to the bathroom allowed us to unpack, and to designate a whole area for collecting our trash and keeping it out of the way. (No petite hotel trash can was going to cut it.)
The babes were immediately thrilled: wall-to-wall carpet on which to crawl and explore (beats our hardwood at home), and a mirror at the end of a long hall toward the bathroom for checking themselves out. It was kind of like a baby catwalk, come to think of it. Werk!
I’m full of bad ideas (it’s the price I pay for having many good ones in the mix — you might call it a numbers game), but right away we knew that this time mommy had a very, very good idea. Mini break, woooo!
During the course of our stay, we took the kids in the pool for the first time (a huge hit), let them play on sprawling lawns (uh, never mind the drought?), strolled along the paths on the beautiful grounds, and generally made precious memories of our first little spontaneous family vacation.
Below, see some snaps of our adventures… followed by a few totally not-comprehensive and unscientific lessons I learned about taking babies to hotels!
What I Learned About Taking Babies to Hotels
1. Call ahead and find out everything you can borrow/beg/steal from the property. We brought our collapsable playpen thing, but it really wasn’t necessary with the pack-and-plays the hotel provided. Some full-service places also allow you to rent strollers and all kinds of baby-friendly amenities. (I’m a known luxury hotel snob, but it’s not just a justification to say that) you may even find cost savings by staying someplace more luxe that comes with more of the things you’d otherwise have to bring/buy/check in your luggage.
2. BYOB! Our babies go to sleep at 7 p.m. We do not. So after we put them down, we sat out on our patio and drank the daylights out of a bottle of red wine I’d brought just for the occasion. It was our chance to reflect on the day, unwind, connect as grownups, watch the sunset, and you know — drink wine.
3. Turn on the TV at bedtime. I had this idea that before the kids went to sleep, we should turn on the TV. That way, when we came inside from the patio, any noise we made would be camouflaged — and we could also just continue to watch TV ourselves without turning it on and alarming them. (Of course, if you get a suite, you can have more separation — even better idea.)
4. Bring some comforts of home, but don’t go nuts. A lot of that crap is peripheral, and if you rely too heavily on it as a crutch, you will never get anywhere, and who wants to live like that? I’m not foolish: I know babies come with gear. But I didn’t bring random stuff like the bottle sanitizer or humidifier or god knows what. Even as I was packing the babies’ favorite book (If I Were a Hippo), I was thinking, “They will be just as happy to pat the pages of the in-room magazine or book.” And sure enough…
5. Prepare, but don’t overthink. That last one speaks to a larger issue, and a pit I’m avoiding with all of my might: Babies are portable. You are not trapped. Being alive is fun. Bring what you need, forget some (hopefully unimportant) stuff, laugh it off, celebrate your life. It’s so full of love and adventure.
Bon voyage and godspeed!