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6 Lessons I Learned After My First Big Trip With My Kid

Photograph by Twenty20

While we'd toted our eldest son around on a few overnights, it wasn't until a few weeks ago—at the ripe old age of three and a half—that we took him on his first plane ride and first family vacation to New Orleans. I did a lot of crowdsourcing on how to make it through the plane ride, which we did, but I learned throughout the rest of the trip about what it's like to travel with a preschooler.

RELATED: Do This, Not That When Traveling With Kids

1. Investigate "vacation principles"

I packed extremely strategically for the plane ride based on a lot of advice I got on Facebook. I purchased new books, snacks and toys. I spaced them out between bags so I'd always have one on hand and that I wouldn't pull them out all at once. I loaded up the iPad with a season of "Peppa Pig," charged it, and brought some headphones. I bought lollipops for the ascent and descent. Happily, Paul was awesome except for two small things: he started getting worked up about something in a book he was reading, and then he didn't want to come to the bathroom. What I normally would have done? Probably just wait until he got over the book thing and try some "1-2-3 Magic" on the potty. What did I do this time? I distracted him from the book with the iPad and I bribed him to go to the bathroom with Oreos. Am I a proud woman? No. But I wanted to cut out as much whining as possible, because I wanted to make a good impression on the people around us.

2. Germs are going to happen
I'm glad I'm not a germaphobe because, man, my kid was not afraid of the filth of the city. It was pretty bothersome, to be honest, but we had to let it go to some extent because we didn't want to yell "Get your mouth off that!" the entire trip.

Unless you're fancy enough to rent a suite each time you go out of town, sharing a hotel room sucks with a kid or a baby.

3. Try to visit friends with kids or with access to kids and use all their stuff
Our friend came to our Airbnb before we got there to drop off a bunch of stuff for Paul, including an umbrella stroller, snacks, toys, and toiletries. It really made packing and travel a lot easier.

4. If possible, stay at someone's house or an Airbnb

Unless you're fancy enough to rent a suite each time you go out of town, sharing a hotel room sucks with a kid or a baby. Even under the best of circumstances somebody has to call it a night the time the kid does and realistically, the kid will futz about for hours because they're in a new place and everything's weird and in a lot of cases, the kid is a noisy-ass sleeper. We got an adorable Airbnb and it was pretty much the best thing ever. We didn't waste money on hotel or restaurant breakfasts, Steve and I could still hang out in the house when Paul was asleep, and the one we found was cute enough that it was really nice hanging out there.

RELATED: The 10 Worst Stories of Traveling With Kids

5. Your kid might have fun that is different than the fun you think he'll have

There were several times when we showed our son something we thought was delightful (the empty floats being driven down the road on tractors before the parade! People tossing toys to kids! The amazing birds at Audubon park!) and he thought was merely meh. What he did love? Playing with my friends' kid on their patio. Playing with the toys they loaned him. Watching "Peppa Pig" on our iPad when we were trying to get a few more minutes in bed.

6. Appreciate what successes there were

It was kind of a letdown, I admit, not to hang out with just my husband at the Sazerac Bar or at Ignatius House. But that doesn't mean it wasn't a good trip. We just had to adjust our expectations a little. The weather was great. Our Airbnb was a total success. Paul played pretty nicely with my friends' son. He got to ride the streetcar and enjoyed it. And most importantly, we were on vacation.

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