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TAKING THE KIDS

A Vacation Becomes an Adventure : Counting on a relaxing holiday with the baby? Forget it. Best bet is to plan ahead carefully and lower expectations.

April 25, 1993|EILEEN OGINTZ

The weather was perfect and the setting idyllic: a tiny island off the coast of Puerto Rico. Her entire family had gathered for a much-anticipated reunion. But Julie Faude couldn't wait until it was over.

"I felt such relief when we got home," said the 33-year-old Philadelphia psychologist. "I like new places. I've traveled all over the world." But that was in a different life. This time, Faude and her husband had their 10-month-old daughter along and that changed everything.

"If she was unhappy, I was unhappy," Faude said. "It's not like having a fight with someone and going off down the beach to read a book. You can't leave a baby."

And 10-month-old Margot was unhappy plenty. She caught a cold. She attracted so many insect bites, she looked like she had chicken pox. She couldn't sleep, waking her parents in the middle of the night . . . every night. Nor would she eat. She'd nap at a different time every day, wreaking havoc on her parents' efforts to plan any outings. "It was exhausting and very stressful," her mother said. "I wouldn't do it again with a baby that age."

Minnesotan Rob Reul recalls getting stranded at the Ft. Myers, Fla., airport for six hours--without diapers or food for his baby. "We just stuffed paper towels in her diaper," he said. But he learned an important lesson: No matter how brief you think your trip will be, always carry an emergency bag stocked with food and diapers. "If you're going on vacation to relax," Reul said, "it's not going to happen with a baby."

"It was a rude awakening," agreed Cindy Yingling, a Chicago public relations executive who took her 8-week-old daughter to Florida for a family visit. "You think you'll sit in the sun and relax and rejuvenate. But you can't do that with a baby. She needs something different every 15 minutes."

When Yingling returned home from that trip, she was so pale, people told her they were sorry the weather had been bad. The weather had been beautiful. "I laughed," she said, "and I finally understood what it meant to go on vacation with a baby. You don't get any you time." But a change of expectations could be helpful, Yingling said. "Think of it as a change of scene, not a vacation."

"It's work to take a baby. You've got to think of it as an adventure, not as a vacation," agreed C. Wayne Jones, a psychologist and colleague of Faude's at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Center.

"Travel as soon as you can with your baby," Yingling suggests. That way, you can more quickly adjust to the change.

Exactly how different it will be, will be clear the minute you leave the house. "I used to be a guy who'd grab a carry-on, jump off a plane and into a cab," said Joe Clark, a pet supplies manufacturer from Northridge. "Now it's a car seat, stroller, two carry-on bags, a diaper bag and three suitcases. And you're constantly over-tipping because you feel so guilty about all of the people who are helping you schlep." His advice: "Stay home."

At the very least, travelers with tiny babies might want to reconsider where they are going. "Babies can get sick, very quickly," warned Chicago pediatrician Diane Holmes, herself the mother of three. "You want to go somewhere where you can get good medical care quickly." That might mean heading for Florida rather than a tiny Caribbean Island; Paris as opposed to a remote French village; grandma's house rather than a cabin in the mountains.

And you need to rethink your requirements once you get there. I never gave much thought to a crib--other than asking for one--until a trip to St. Maarten where 9-month-old Reggie didn't sleep through the night for two weeks straight. The port-a-crib supplied by the hotel was just too small for her. I would advise anyone planning a trip with a baby to think through exactly what they need and ask for it very carefully.

With a baby in tow, it makes sense not to travel as far or plan as much as you would were you going it alone. Remember that babies' internal body clocks might not adjust as quickly as yours. And that what's comfortable for you might not be comfortable for them.

And whatever you do, don't leave home anticipating leisurely dinners on moonlit terraces or romantic mornings lazing in bed. Joe Stark put it bluntly: "The baby kind of ruins the romance."

That's unless you've got a sitter, of course. Isn't it about time for a visit from Grandma?

Taking the Kids invites reader questions and comments about family travel. Address them to: Taking the Kids, 2859 Central St., Box 119, Evanston, Ill. 60201.

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