There is a sigh I’ve been known to breathe upon entering our apartment after a long trip. A sigh that says “Finally! I can relax!” A sigh that means it’s time to take off my shoes and hang up my coat. This sigh has only become louder and longer after becoming a parent. Maybe you do it too, because going on a relaxing vacation can be downright exhausting. Add a baby and it feels like an almost impossible task.
Still, we embarked on a week-long ski trip in hopes that it would be a restorative start to the new year. I’m happy to report — miracle of miracles — we left our week in the snow less stressed and more bonded as a family.
I entered our apartment on Monday and I did not sigh.
In the days since returning we’ve been talking about what worked and why. How did the stars align that we all three enjoyed a vacation? We desperately want to replicate the results every time we pack a suitcase (and a diaper bag), if possible. Here is what we learned.
Location. We chose a spot where the main attraction is nature, which coincidentally is best enjoyed during daylight hours when the baby is awake. I assure you, we didn’t go to Flaine, France for the nightlife. The weather obliged with fantastic skiing conditions, but we did not need snow to have a good time. Even just looking out the window of our hotel with a cup of coffee was a treat. Which brings me to my next piece of advice…
Lodging. Book a place to stay where you would be happy if, for some reason, you were locked in your room the entire vacation. That sounds crazy, but you will feel like that if you are stuck in nap prison in a hotel you do not like. For me, I love a view and maybe even a balcony. This time, we stayed in an apart-hotel — Les Terraces d’Hélios — that provided a crib, baby bathtub and high chair. There was also a grocery store on-site, a spa, an indoor pool and a nursery (for toddlers). Our room had a kitchenette, living room, balcony and most importantly, two bedrooms. A bedroom for just the baby is KEY.
Parenting in shifts. Since babies cannot ski, we were forced to ski and parent in shifts. Our daily formula was:
7 – 9am: Wake up and eat breakfast together.
9am – noon: Parent #1 goes skiing while Parent #2 puts the baby down for a nap.
Noon: Eat lunch together.
1 – 4pm: Parent #2 goes skiing while Parent #1 plays with the baby and puts him down for a nap.
4 – 6pm: Family hike, pool time or trip to the local watering hole for a glass of wine.
7pm: Baby goes to bed. Parent #1 and Parent #2 cook and eat dinner together at home.
I thought skiing solo would be too lonely to enjoy, but it was awesome! When I skied I chose my favorite runs and stopped for a snack or a vin chaud whenever I wanted. When I’d return, I’d be refreshed and ready to play peek-a-boo. I really savored my one-on-one time with the baby and when all of three of us were together it felt extra special. Moreover, the baby was a happy camper as long as he was well-fed and well-slept. We might have to try this parenting in shifts thing on future vacations.
Our week wasn’t perfect. The baby woke up five times one night and I twisted my ankle on our last day. But overall, it was the restful, special family vacation I had envisioned.
What are you up to this weekend? We’re laying low and trying to watch as many Oscar contenders as possible. So far, this movie made me smile and this movie gave me nightmares. What should we watch next? Meanwhile, here are a few, fun links to get you to the weekend: