First Trip with Baby
As I got into the rhythm of motherhood - I began itching for a trip. We took our first official family 'vacation' to New Orleans, when baby was just shy of four months. The "preview trip" was a success though we endured two hurdles: 1) Our baby has trouble sleeping in new environments, which automatically means less sleep for me and 2) Going through security is especially unpleasant with a baby and his feeding needs.
This preview-rip set the prelude for our first real family vacation: Skiing on the famed slopes of Colorado! Yes, with my 5-month old baby. Apparently this trip raised a lot of eyebrows so I will refer to a Q&A themed post below.
My husband and I have a tradition of celebrating milestones, like birthdays and anniversaries, with travel. I did some research and between several 'Best Places to Travel in December' and 'Best Places to Travel with a Baby' lists - I came across ski message boards that raved about the stellar on-site nursery facilities at ski resorts. Since neither of us have skied before and Colorado is only a short flight away - the choice was easy. Breckenridge seemed like the most popular choice among families so we went for that. (It's not as expensive as Veil or Aspen but had a lot more to offer than less expensive places like Keystone or Winter Park).
How to Plan a Ski Vacation (with a Baby)
(1) RESERVE the nursery. There are three nurseries at Breckinridge Ski Resort and I was able to secure two full days at the Breckinridge Child Care and Nursery from 8am to 4pm within a month's notice. The best way to reserve is to call them and provide some information like dates and the age of your child. At this time, the childcare was accepting babies as young as 8-weeks to three years old.
(2) BOOK the Flights. Once I had a good idea of our itinerary, I booked our flights and made sure I added the infant on lap option before confirming payment. (It's easy to forget if you've booked a million times pre-baby) Texas has so many frequent flights to Denver since it is a relatively short trip (2 hours) that finding a good price was pretty easy. I also called the airline to explain the situation and asked for the latest policies and rules regarding baby travel.
(3) Accommodation. Then came the most expensive part of the trip, the hotel. Breckinridge is a popular ski resort town and by the time I started planning, a month before the trip, 90% of the hotels were booked! So I paid a premium for this unfortunately. Because of the baby factor, I called the front-desk to make sure we can get a pack 'n play reserved for our room.
(4) Transportation. Breckinridge is a two-hour commute from Denver International Airport and it's always best, especially if you have children, to consider flexibility that comes with manning a vehicle yourself. Even during peak-snow season, the roads are very safe to drive through.
(5) Skiing Fun and other Winter Excursions. Plan to have a good time. Since we have two full days without baby, we could pretty much do any snow activity during the day including but not limited to ski lessons, snowmobiling, dog-sledding and snow-tubing. For Ski Lessons, you have to book classes, buy ski lift tickets and rent gear in advance. There are different grades of equipment and remember that they are all safe and if you're a beginner - it won't make a difference. Many people will attempt to ski for two or three days but I like variety in my trips so I went ahead and booked a Dog Sled Tour for the following day. Dog Sledding is extremely popular and gets booked up really quick so make sure to reserve your spot as soon as possible. And if you're wondering if it's worth it, YES IT IS. It was the highlight of our trip. Because you won't need a full-day for this, plan another one or two activity for the day. Consider snow-tubing down 1,200 foot tubing lanes or ziplining for the ultimate winter rush. Other popular excursions include themed-dinner sleigh rides, which is great for families with kids, snowmobiling and ice skating.
(6) Buy Snow Pants. Because winters are mild in Texas, we don't have an extensive snow-appropriate wardrobe. When you're excited about skiing for the first time, it's easy to get carried away and spend obnoxiously on a series of NorthFace and Columbia clothing lines but all that you really need are a pair of snow pants. There are no alternatives to snow pants. You can find modestly priced snow pants at Dick's Sporting Goods. Everything else is common sense. (fleece, layers, water-proof socks, etc.)
The Good, the Bad and the In-Between
Starting with the flight, it was pleasant as expected and baby slept through both the 2-hour duration. Things soured a bit when we arrived at the airport as we had to wait almost two hours to find our 'lost' luggage followed by a less than stellar customer service experience at Advantage Car Rental. But as soon as we hit the wheel, we drove into downtown Denver for some delectable breakfast at Snooze at AM Eatery before heading to Breckinridge. Driving by mountain vistas coated in white powder as they glittered during the late sunrise is very romantic and set up the ambiance to our winter getaway. Once we arrived and checked in our baggage, we took it easy and dipped in and out of Main Street's shops, picked up latte's and devoured the delicious Doubletree chocolate chip cookies.
The next morning, we dropped off the baby at the Breckinridge Nursery by 8am and picked up our ski gear from Alpine Sports while making it to our ski lesson on schedule by 10am. It's imperative to get this done as early as possible since ski rental shops gets crowded and getting sized for your ski garb takes time. And if this is your first ski experience, trying to break into and walk with ski boots will be very strenuous. Ski Rental Shops like Alpine Sports don't provide everything for rent, so you still have to buy some add-ons like snow-sunglasses and special gloves. (Unless you already brought some).
After grabbing a cheap breakfast on-site, we finally begin our ski lessons. They don't take you on any peaks (or even the ski lift) so ignore the skiers whooshing down seamlessly when you're guided to the 'ski for beginners' corner. I was afraid to totally suck at it - but I was in fact pretty good. And when you're good, you get confident and really enjoy it. But if you're like my husband, who struggled to get the hang of it, it can be very frustrating (especially considering how expensive it all is). If you get too tired of the lessons, you can always jump on the ski lift and enjoy the ride. It is spectacular with a side of scary.
You can ski for as long as there is some daylight, and in December, that means around 4pm - just about the time we have to pick up baby. Skiing is such a strenuous sport that by the time we picked up baby, we were exhausted-to-the-core. Even though I had planned for us to take a stroll around Main Street and have a nice dinner out, we just went back to the hotel and collapsed.
The following day, we picked up some breakfast at Breckfest 'n Bread and drove to Tiger Rd. for the Dog Sled. The drive into Tiger Rd., which was pretty remote as you receded away from civilization, was nerve-wracking. For a moment, I was scared because our phones completely lost signal and I watch way too many scary movies about remote cabins. There were also no signs of life or cars. But don't worry, if you follow the snow-brick-road, you are going the right way!
And despite the beads of sweat the whole way there, it was well-worth it. The Dog Sledding was the most amazing experience. Please, if there is one thing you do in Colorado, this is it. And I want to add that this company, Good Times Adventure made this dog-led escapade into the snowy wilderness the highlight of our trip.
|Dog Sledding in Breckinridge, Colorado December 2016|
The next excursion was snow tubing at Frisco Adventure Park in a city about 20-minutes North of Breckenridge. This is the real deal and while I thought it might be lame - it was almost as fun as the dog sledding. Keyword: Almost. The best part is that it's cheap and we can do it over and over again. (We capped at three runs). For lunch, we checked out Frisco's Main Street and were lured in by the amazing smells coming out of a little restaurant called The Lost Cajun. Oh My God. What better way to nourish your body after a full-day of prancing around the snow than some warm and spicy Cajun goodness. This gem is the best thing we ate during our whole trip.
After lunch, we drove back to Breckinridge and decided to try the famous Crepes a La Cart right in the heart of Main Street. The line was long - very long. But it was worth every minute. I'm not even a crepe person and I was in sweet-tooth heaven. It was a wonderful way to end the celebration of our anniversary.
As we enjoyed our four-day winter getaway, it was a different story at night where baby fussiness peaked, triggering constant throw-up. It was a nightmare. The high altitude, while considered safe for babies more than three months old, stimulated baby to induce chronic spit-ups throughout the trip. We ran out of fresh clothes by the second day. The hotel laundry service was way too expensive so we hand-wash everything and used a blow dryer to air them out. (This was a tiring and time consuming process that we could have otherwise spent doing more interesting things like sight-seeing or going out to dinner.)
Speaking of dinner, the two attempts of going out to eat with baby during this trip were disastrous. Due to a combination of several factors like the new environment and high altitude, the baby was fussing the entire time. At five months, he wasn't sitting yet but too excited and curious to stay put in his stroller. This meant one of us had to hold him and walk around to calm him down so one of us could eat in a hurry then take turns entertaining baby. It's a peculiar stage that amounts to frustration for baby and his parents. For two nights, we opted to order dinner from our hotel because it just wasn't worth it.
The VerdictNo matter what people tell you (or advise you), and no matter how much you read - you cannot ascertain what it is like to travel with a baby until you try it for yourself. Despite the blunders, some expected (running on little sleep) and the unexpected (heightened throw up and fussiness) - it was an overall enjoyable trip. Looking back, the best memories we have from this trip are my baby's fascination with snow and our exhilarating winter activities (especially the dog sledding!)
The only thing I would have done differently is packed more clothes and booked a little earlier. So if you want a romantic winter getaway with baby in tow, please do not be deterred and make it happen.