Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tips for Taking a Baby on a Cruise

We just got home from our first cruise with Boston and it was such a great time. It was a totally different vacation than what we were used to before we had him but I appreciate the changes.

I had tried to research before we left to find good advice about taking a baby on a cruise but I wasn't able to find much so I figured I would put together some tips for those of you who may be thinking about cruising with your little one.
Tips for taking a baby on a cruise

Tips:

  • Check the cruise line's rules regarding baby age restrictions. Royal Caribbean would not allow a passenger to cruise who was younger than 6 months. And they also had a maximum number of consecutive days at sea depending on a child's age. You should be able to find this info online but if you aren't having any luck, call the cruise line. How bad would it stink to get to the ship and be turned away because the baby didn't meet the requirements.
  • Research the amenities on-board for a baby. There are so many items that the cruise line can provide for you to limit the amount of things you need to pack.
  • See if there is a nursery on the ship. I believe most Royal Caribbean ships have a baby nursery (they call the program Royal Babies and Tots) but not all do. If you want a night or day away, they will watch your little one for $6/hour during the day and $8/hour in the evening. We checked out the nursery on the Allure of the Seas and it was awesome! They had a sleeping area with cribs, toys, tv's, and cell phones to keep the parents and nursery workers in constant contact if needed. We didn't actually use the facility though because Boston had developed a cough prior to our vacation and I didn't know if he was contagious or not. (And I believe once your little one is 3 years old they can go to kids camp which is free!)
  • Think about the weather. We traveled to the Bahamas and Virgin Islands in December and the weather was very nice. I would say it was around 70-80 degrees most days but one of the days we were at port it felt pretty hot so we got back on the ship early. Had we traveled in the summer, I would think it would be extremely difficult to keep a baby comfy and cool outside for very long.
  • Research ports and baby friendly excursions. The best thing we did at any port this trip was go to the Atlantis Beach Resort for an afternoon. It was nice, clean, and had tons of great things to do with a baby besides being outside. 
  • Check the ships policy on kids that aren't potty trained in pools. Our ship had a small splash park designated for babies not potty trained. It was perfect for Boston because they kept it heated, since babies shouldn't be in too cold of water. But it would have been a little too small for those older kids on the cusp of being potty trained. I heard one dad complaining about it because his son was not yet potty trained but a little too old for the tiny baby section.
  • Choose My Time Dining. This allows you to go to dinner at any time you want and not at a designated time. This was perfect for us because Boston never naps at the same time everyday so we would set our dinner schedule depending on when he woke up from his nap.
  • Spend some extra money and upgrade to a balcony room. When we traveled before Boston, we sometimes would save money and do an Oceanview or just an Interior stateroom because we were never in our room much. But with a baby you are spend so much more time in your room.
  • If you are traveling outside of the US, get the baby a passport. Yes they need one.
  • Pack as light as possible. This is my motto for just about every trip I take but it is especially important on cruises. I know us parents always try and prepare for every situation, and tend to carry around a ton of extra stuff for the baby, but keep in mind that the rooms are pretty small so the less luggage and things you have in there, the better. 
  • If you are not a fan of other people wanting to love on your baby, maybe a cruise isn't for you. So many of the people working on the boat have little ones at home who they are away from for months at a time. Because of this, babies seem to get a ton of attention. We loved it though and I think it was great for Boston to meet and see tons of new faces. He made so many new friends on the boat and I really enjoyed seeing peoples faces light up when they saw a cute, squishy baby. After all, I am one proud mama.
  • And most importantly, go with the flow. I honestly think attitude is the biggest game changer when you are traveling with a baby. If you go into it expecting things will be different, and knowing that everything will not go according to plan, you will be so much better off.
What to pack cruise with baby

What to pack:

Must Haves

  • Umbrella Stroller. This is way easier than having to lug around and store our full size stroller.
  • Baby Carrier. If your kid loves the stroller, I envy you and you can skip this one. Boston isn't a huge fan of it for real long so this was my saving grace. I carried him around in the airport, all over the ship, and at most destinations. He naps so good in this thing too so it was a great way to get us out of the room during nap time.
  • Baby Sunscreen. For obvious reasons.
  • Sanitizing wipes. The first thing we did when we got to our room was wipe down the light switches, surfaces and remote with sanitizing wipes. We do this anytime we travel because those are always the germiest of places even in the fanciest hotels.
  • Formula for the entire cruise (obviously if you aren't breastfeeding). I did not see any formula for sale on our boat but if you really get in a bind I am sure most destinations will have a place for you to purchase some. I would just recommend you pack more than you think you need because the selection at ports is not always the same as back home. We learned this the hard way.
  • A couple of bottles (again if you aren't breastfeeding). Having 2 bottles was good for times we were gone for a couple of feedings and didn't have a place to properly wash out a bottle.
  • Bottle Soap. In travel size.
  • Small toys. We brought a few small toys to entertain Boston mostly just during meal times. Other than that he was pretty entertained by everything going on around him. But if we had needed it, we could have gone up to the nursery and played with a larger variety of toys there.
  • Baby medicines. Tylenol, Motrin, Gas Drops. Boston was cutting 2 teeth along with having a cold so we really needed help to get him comfortable a few nights.
  • Swim diapers. I did not see these sold anywhere on the boat and they will need them to go into the splash park.
Ergo Baby Carrier Review

Not needed

  • A bunch of extra clothes for baby. They offer laundry service on-board and they will do an entire bag for a reasonable price. So if you really get in a bind, and the baby has blown out his diaper more than you had anticipated, you can just ask to have a load of laundry done.
  • Pack N Play. They will provide this for you. Ours was even brand new and still in plastic when it was delivered to our room. This wasn't only ideal for nap times but for when we wanted to hang out on the balcony when Boston was awake. We would pull it outside and put some toys in with him. It was so nice for all of us.
  • Baby food. We brought a few packets but we didn't need it. Royal Caribbean has teamed up with Gerber and they will deliver food directly to your stateroom for a fee. And we even had the main dining offer to make Boston fresh purees at dinner. Each night they would ask us if he wanted chicken and veggies or steak and veggies and the waiter even would ask me after the meal if Boston enjoyed it. So sweet!
  • Diapers and wipes for the entire trip. Royal Caribbean also has a Huggies partnership and they can deliver diapers and wipes to your room. But of course, if you have a specific brand you like then bring them with you.
Ergo Baby Carrier Review

Optional

  • Carseat. If you are going somewhere where you will need to take a cab then I would suggest you bring one. But if all of the transportation will be public (like buses) there isn't a need. And actually most of the time you can request a taxi with a carseat. Research before you go.
  • Grandma. We asked my parents to come with us on this cruise but they had already booked their own. Next cruise though, they will be coming with. Boston loves them so much and it would have been nice having them there to give us a break when needed. The boat did have a the nursery service (as stated above) but he wasn't feeling well and we didn't want to leave him. So if you aren't sure you want to use the nursery service on board, you may think about bringing along a family member to give you some relief if you would like to have a night or day out without the little one.
We had such a great time on our first cruise with Boston that we are already planning our next one for sometime next year. We are thinking either Europe or Alaska... Can't wait!!
Cruise with a baby
XOXO,
Summer Ann

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Boston's 8 Month Update

Weight: 21 lbs

Teeth: He has 5 teeth now! He has his bottom two and 3 up top. He ended up getting the 3 up top while we were on vacation which is kinda a bummer but he was such a trooper. We just made sure to keep him comfortable with some things to chew on and an occasional dose of Tylenol or Motrin.

Words: He says "mama" all the time and a few new words I am sure he has no clue he is saying is "wow" and "bye, bye". Dustin is still working like crazy on "dada" with no luck so far. Most of the time Boston will respond back with a huge smile and a "mama". And of course I eat it up.

Favorite Things:  
He still loves the 7 month favorites I posted...
A few new favorites this month to add to the list...
- ERGObaby Baby Carrier - We have loved the Ergo ever since B was born but we have an even greater appreciation of it since our vacation last week. He is getting super heavy to carry around in your arms (and he doesn't like being in a stroller too long) so this came in handy. Not only does it make it easier to navigate busy places, it also frees up both of your hands, and it doesn't even feel like you are carrying around a 20+ lb baby all day! Boston will let us carry him around in this for hours and he takes great naps in it too. He has always loved being held close to me so this is a total must have.
- Zeta Zebra - New Little Wonders sent me one to have Boston try out and he loves it! He liked the Sophie pretty well but this one seems to really keep his attention. It is pretty similar to the Sophie but it is a little softer, black and white, and has a louder squeaker. He loves his squeaker toys so I am thinking this may be part of the reason he likes it better. And the contrasting colors may be more visually stimulating to him.

Dislikes:  He has become so much more aware of being alone and hates it when you walk out of the room or stop giving him attention. It's pretty cute and frustrating all at the same time.

Milestones:
- He took is first cruise this month. And it was a blast!
- He is rocking back and forth on his hands and knees so I am thinking we may have a crawler soon.
- He is now strictly formula fed (not by choice) but he is doing very well with it. We use Enfamil Gentlease and we haven't had any issues with it. We did have to use Similac Sensitive when we were on vacation because we were running low and the place we were at didn't have Enfamil. He seemed to be more fussy with it and I noticed when we would shake the formula in the bottle it would make a ton of foam so I wonder if it was doing the same thing in his tummy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas Eve

I hope all of you lovely ladies are having a great Christmas Eve. We have had a week full of holiday fun and we are finally ready to chill out and celebrate Boston's first Christmas. 

We've finished our shopping. Which was exhausting.
Wrapped gifts.
Admired the tree.
And the baby.
Partied with some of our favorite people.
And sat on Santa's lap.
Tonight we will go to a church and then head back to D's house for our annual Christmas Eve celebration complete with tamales and all of the fixin's.  And tomorrow we will spend the day with my side of the family in our pi's opening gifts, watching movies and sipping mimosas. I couldn't think of a more perfect ending to what has been my favorite year yet and I wish all of y'all a very Merry Christmas.

XOXO,
Summer Ann

Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: Sally Hansen Miracle Gel

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Review
I was a little leery of the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel because I thought there was no way a polish would come anywhere close to my love for the salon stuff. But since my mom and best friend swore by it, and since running to the nail place every few weeks can get pretty expensive and pretty hard to do once you have a little one, I thought I would at least test it out. 

I first tried purchasing the polish at Ulta but they didn't have the special top coat so I had to pick some up on one of my frequent trips to Target. Target had a ton of colors to choose from and I ended up choosing "Creme De La Creme" because it's very neutral and almost identical to one of my favorite Essie colors, "Fiji".

Applying the polish was just as easy as normal nail polish and actually I think I might even like their brush better than the typical brushes. This color was a little opaque so I had to do 3 coats instead of the recommended 2. (Tip: If you do need more than 2 coats, make sure you apply them really thin because if you get the polish too thick it takes forever to set properly. I made the polish too thick on one of my toes and it was a smudged mess even though I thought it was dry.)

Day 3
Pretty, shiny and chip-free. With regular polish my nails would have already looked awful.
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel
Day 7
By the end of the first week I had a couple of chips. Nothing compared to how bad my nails would have looked if I had used regular polish though. And in all fairness I was really rough on my nails that week. I had been busy painting and hot gluing Christmas decor and had to scrub all that off my nails a few times. (Oh and please excuse my awful cuticles... That's what happens when you constantly have your hands in soapy water cleaning bottles.)
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Creme De La Creme
Day 10
I had major chips by the 10th day so I went ahead and repainted them so they would look nice.
Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Creme De La Creme
Compared to Salon Gel
Pros:
- Cheaper.
- Removal is easier and doesn't ruin your nails.
- You can paint them in your own home.
- And you don't need any special UV light to set it.
Cons:
- It doesn't last quite as long.
- It isn't quite as glossy.
- Doesn't dry immediately which can be tricky if you try this any time other than nap time.

Compared to Regular Polish
Pros:
- Lasts a lot longer. Most of my polish will chip after the first day but this made it to around 7 days without major chipping.
- I feel like it is a little thicker which helps my brittle nails not break as easy.
Con:
- It's a tad more expensive.

I think it is safe to say I am a new fan of the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel. Although it isn't a total dupe for salon gel, it still lasts way longer than regular polish and it is quite a bit cheaper. And if you'd like to try it out you can purchase some here.

*Update. So I am now on my second application of the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel and it seems to be lasting me way longer the second time around. I think I was really rough on my nails the first time I tried it. It still doesn't last as long as the salon gel but who can complain when you aren't shelling out at least $25 a pop for an actual manicure.*

XOXO,
Summer Ann

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cruising With A Baby - Part III

The next stop was St. Thomas and we had booked an excursion to take a sky ride to Paradise Point. The ship didn't dock until the afternoon and we didn't have a specific time to be at the excursion so we hung out on the balcony and had some lunch. 
Royal Caribbean Cruise
Royal Caribbean Cruise
Royal Caribbean Cruise
Royal Caribbean Cruise
Once we got off the ship we took a taxi to the sky ride. Let me tell you, that is an adventure of its own. They don't have regular taxis. They are more like small open air busses and they drive on the other side of the road which can be a little nerve wracking.
Cruise with baby
The sky ride was gorgeous and they had some shops, a restaurant and a bird show at the top. We stopped at the restaurant for a local brew with a beautiful view.
Paradise Point St Thomas
The next day we stopped in St. Maarten. We had initially booked an excursion to hang out at Orient Beach but we canceled it last minute because it was pretty hot and we weren't sure how well B would do outside that long. So instead we took a water taxi over to the main city for some shopping.
Royal Caribbean Cruise with Baby
We stopped for a pic with Santa.
Cruise with Baby St Maarten
And when on vacation you use the stroller to carry your beer. 
Cruise with Baby
Since the island is half french I decided to try my first macaron and oh my goodness. Delicious!
Cruise with Baby St Maarten
We spent the next couple days at sea. Playing in the splash park. 
Royal Caribbean Cruise with infant
Making the grandmas swoon.
Royal Caribbean Cruise with infant
Snoozing at the pool.
Cruise with Infant
Eating breakfast on the balcony.
Cruise with Infant
Eating. Again.
Allure of the Seas
And getting a stuffed animal made on the Boardwalk. We named him Royal.
Allure of the Seas
We had so much fun. Cruising with a baby was a totally different experience but I cannot wait to do it again. Gone are the days of trying to find a beach chair with the best sun exposure. Now we look for chairs in the shade. I no longer sip my glass of wine at dinner. I chug it before Boston can toss it to the floor. It is all new to us but we are loving every single second.

XOXO,
Summer Ann

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cruising With A Baby - Part II

One of the reasons we chose this cruise was because of the ports of call. The boat docked in the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. I felt more comfortable with going to those places because we had been before and I felt much safer there than some of the other Caribbean destinations we had been to. And also because we had been on this boat and it is just so amazing it doesn't even feel real.

Our first stop was the Bahamas and I really wanted to take Boston to the Atlantis. The property is gorgeous, they have a private beach, tons of pools, and an aquarium for when we wanted to get out of the sun. It was a perfect excursion with a baby. Another plus was we got there pretty early in the morning so we felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. 
Royal Caribbean Cruise
(view from the balcony)
Atlantis Resort Bahamas
Royal Caribbean Cruise
Royal Caribbean Cruise
Atlantis Resort Bahamas
Atlantis Resort Bahamas
That evening was formal night so we got all dressed up for a nice dinner. Boston finally got to wear one of the outfits my best friend bought him before he was born and he was totally a celebrity on the boat. Everyone loved the bow tie and couldn't resist pinching his chubby feet. But just as we got downstairs and sat down to enjoy a pre-dinner drink, B grabbed my glass and pulled it off the table and all over my lap. I am not used to him being in this grabby stage but I quickly learned my lesson and went back to the room to blow-dry my dress just in time for dinner. When vacationing with a baby you just have to go with the flow.
Royal Caribbean Cruise
Royal Caribbean Cruise
The next day was our first full day at sea which are always my favorite. I feel like they give you an excuse to relax because even though the ship has a ton of actives I never feel like I "have" to do anything. When I am at a destination I feel guilty for not getting out and experiencing everything.
Allure of the Seas
So we ate, played, napped, and ate some more. 
Traveling with Baby
And then we got dressed up for another amazing dinner. I was so excited to finally be able to wear this dress now that I'm done nursing and don't need to wear a nursing bra. ;P One of the bright sides of not nursing I guess.
Allure of the Seas
Up next… Part III. I guess we had way too much fun to fit into just a couple posts.

XOXO,
Summer Ann

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cruising With A Baby - Part I

I live to vacation. Honestly my ultimate dream job would be to take over Samantha Brown's tv show one day. How lucky is that woman.  But since the Travel Channel isn't exactly knocking down my door I guess I will just have to stick to paying for my own vacations.

Dustin and I love traveling and it was a goal of ours to keep it up even after Boston was born and so far we have done pretty good. Boston is only 7.5 months and he has already been to Chicago, Disney World, and last week he went on his first Royal Caribbean cruise. Lucky boy!

The trip started Friday when Dustin picked me up from work and we headed straight to the airport to catch a flight to Fort Lauderdale. We ended up getting bumped up to first class which always makes traveling with a baby so much easier. The extra space is very convenient and the fact that most of the people around you are drinking takes some of the pressure off worrying that Boston may lose his cool. I mean aren't most of us a little more friendly after a few drinks? But we ended up getting super lucky and he slept through the entire flight which was allowed me to sneak in a couple glasses of wine, dinner and an inflight movie. Amazing!
Flying with a Baby
The next morning we woke up, had breakfast and headed straight to the beach to dip Boston's toes in the ocean for the first time. He was a little unsure about it but he didn't cry so I'll call it a success. 
Fort Lauderdale Beach
Fort Lauderdale Beach
The weather was perfect so we wanted to spend more time outside but wanted to get Boston in the shade so we washed off our sandy feet and headed to the hotel pool. We stayed at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort which was gorgeous and the pool did not disappoint. They had chairs in the sun and the shade along with private cabanas you can rent each day. We weren't in the market to rent a cabana since we can never tell how long Boston will be happy doing whatever it is we want to do, so we found a couple seats in the shade and the guy next to us was so sweet to scoot over and give B his very own pool chair. He lounged, played with some toys we brought and had what we call "poolside bottle service".  
Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort
That evening we went to dinner at a restaurant connected to the hotel called S3. They had some awesome sushi and we loved the lounge setup outside. And Boston made a friend with a sweet dog who had filet mignon for supper. 
Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort
We loved the restaurant so much we went back for lunch the next day just before our scheduled time to board the cruise ship but unfortunately right after our appetizers and drinks were delivered the place caught fire. No joke. We were sitting there and all of a sudden we started seeing white smoke and then all the cooks came running out of the kitchen screaming to evacuate. We grabbed our stuff and hightailed it out of there but I accidentally left my brand new sunglasses D had bought me for our anniversary. Such a bummer but I am glad we all made it out safe.
Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort
Since we didn't get to eat we were starving so the first thing we did when we boarded the boat was grab lunch. B loved the mashed potatoes. 
Royal Caribbean Cruise
And then we wandered around and had some fun while we waited for our room to be ready. We took the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas which has a full on Boardwalk complete with a donut shop, hotdog stand, Johnny Rockets, and a carousel. It is so crazy what they can put on a boat these days!
Allure of the Seas
They even decorated the boat for Christmas which was gorgeous.
Allure of the Seas
And then as soon as the room was ready we had to check out the balcony. This view is making me want to go back already. 
Allure of the Seas
We ended our eventful day with dinner. The dining staff was so great with Boston and they seriously went above and beyond to keep him and us comfortable each night. They brought him fruit trays, made him special steak and veggie purees, and even offered to hold him when he got fussy so we could finish our dinner. Seriously the best customer service I have ever experienced.
Allure of the Seas
After dinner we went straight to bed because when we woke up we would be in the Bahamas for another fun filled day. Stay tuned for part II!

XOXO,
Summer Ann