I don't like to brag, but I have become a sort of well-oiled machine in advance of my travels with my husband. A list-making, organized, well-prepared traveler I am, but all of that is going out the window as we count down the days until our first family vacation.
I don't feel like travel agent, seasoned traveler, or champion packer. I just feel like an overwhelmed mom of a preschooler who is joining us on her first vacation. In one of my many (MANY) texts to a frequent-client-and-fellow-mom-turned-friend, I confessed that I don't even feel like I do this for a living. I was looking to her for advice. We had a good laugh over that, and I am hoping she still trusts me with her travel arrangements. (Kidding!)
I started packing about a month in advance (I normally pack about 2 days before travel), started shopping about three weeks in advance for small necessities, made about 15 lists, and then hounded my husband to just get done too (he normally is packing 8 hours before departure). I was a ball of stress, basically.
Part of this is because we booked our DIsney cruise about six weeks from departure, and it was a whirlwind from then on - between planning for and making Fish Extenders and FE gifts (that will be a whole 'nother post), buying new wardrobes for everyone in the house (next size up for the 3yo, clothing that isn't from my husband's high school days, and a few sizes down for this weightloss mama), procuring all of the little odds and ends needed for travel, and dealing with the multiple components of this vacation (transfers, airfare, baggage, the cruise, Port Adventures, our night post-cruise) it has been a real juggling act.
We are checking luggage (2 bags) for this vacation. We are normally carry-on travelers, even for 8 night vacations like this one. We pack lighter and do laundry on the ship halfway through, which is always our preference. BUT, checked bags cost less with our carrier than carry-on bags, and we need a whole section of a bag for nighttime Pull-Ups, so larger luggage it is. Even the needs of a little tiny 3yo take up real estate, and we're not even packing formal gear or costumes.
I have picked up some "vacation surprises" for our daughter. Dollar Tree trips have been in the rotation in the days leading up to departure, and I have found so many fun surprises for our daughter - between goodies for her airplane backpack and throughout the cruise, I was able to indulge on extra magical touches without spending much money. Some of my favorite finds? A magnetic drawing board, Fancy Nancy markers, a Doc McStuffins magic towel, Mickey Mouse bathtime color-changing tablets, glow bracelets, and Disney-themed workbooks.
An entire medicine cabinet is coming along. I normally pack an abundance of medicines and first aid items when we travel, but now with our daughter coming along, I need to make sure she also has anything she might need. This includes Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Zarbee's, and Dramamine. (She has never shown signs of motion sickness, but she has also never been on a ship, so I am being cautious here.)
We are staying one night in Orlando post-cruise. Yes, I love the idea of getting home and having both Saturday and Sunday to grocery shop, unpack, do laundry, and decompress; however, there are no flights that work for our family on this day. We need a late enough flight to allow us time to travel from Port Canaveral to Orlando International Airport (and allow plenty of time for security!), and nonstop flights are always our preference, especially from Florida. We searched for a hotel with an included airport shuttle to make this easier on our family.
I am trying to keep my expectations in check. My husband and I have anxiously awaited traveling with our daughter for the first time, and we have long desired to make travel an important part of our family...but we waited until she was 3.5 to start taking her along with us so she can really begin to enjoy our time away.
That being said, going into this I have some concerns about our 3yo - she tends to be on the quieter side and is sometimes cautious about joining in, she likes routine, she prefers organized activities to just running amok and making her own fun, we are facing an extremely long travel and embarkation day, and overall I just fear she will get overwhelmed. I plan on taking each day in stride, and will try to keep her meal times, rest time, and bedtime on a similar schedule to her regular day-to-day.
I will be writing a follow-up post to this detailing our experience traveling with our daughter for the first time.