My husband and I love to travel. I’ve had the travel bug for years, backpacking through Europe twice. I’ve passed the bug on to my husband. New Zealand was by far our favorite.

Now, our trips are a little closer to home. If you look at our car as we set out on our modern-day road trips, you’d think we were headed to Alaska for three months. We have suitcases, beach tents, pack n play, toys, baby food, baby milk, and more clothes than you could ever wear even if you’re a baby that makes a mess!

We had a wedding in Key West recently, and planned to be away for four days. That’s a big adventure for us now that we have an infant. So, we took advantage of a friend visiting in Miami a few weeks before, and made it an overnight. A trial run with the baby.

We quickly learned, Priceline rooms might be a thing of the past. My deal-hunting days are over. It’s important to get a big bed with lots of space around it. Our daughter loves crawling around beds. The bigger the better. That way she stays on the bed rather than the floor. She mastered her 360-degree roll on the double bed at the first hotel. Good timing, right?!

We realized we can no longer book on value, but on amenities. A big bed is essential. Lots of space around that bad is important too. That way we can put a crib and a pack n play. Play time and nap time are most important with an infant. Although in our house, it’s typically all play time and no nap time. That’s another story.

Counter space, in-room sink, and refrigerator are also must have’s in a hotel room. With baby bottles and baby food, you need all three items. I never realized how important it is to read the description of a hotel room. Oh the things I’m learning. It’s no longer price, price, price when booking a hotel room.

We survived our first trip. Just a few hiccups. A forgotten beach hat. No baby shampoo to clean off all that sand. Two things we quickly picked up at the store.

Now for trip #2. Key West. A four hour drive. We left at 5:30 in the morning, hoping the baby would sleep. For the most part, she did great. Key West has a bit of a different vibe when you have a baby in tow. You and the roosters are about the only things walking the streets at 7 AM. No line at Starbucks. That’s a first.

My husband and I love to do nothing on beach vacations. We sit under our umbrellas, have a few drinks, read a few books, and listen to the ocean waves crashing ashore. On our honeymoon, we did nothing and loved it. The days of doing nothing on the beach are over. So our beach outings are a little more stressful. It’s a lot of work just to get to the beach.

imageWe always bring along an extra bottle of water to the beach. Not to drink it, but to clean off all those toys that hit the sand within minutes of arriving. Wet wipes don’t get the sand off. Water is a must. I also make sure to pack my patience and just expect our daughter is going to eat some sand.

We also bring along a BabyBjorn Baby Carrier. She loves to sit out front and watch what’s going on. Usually we have to walk with her in this position. She won’t let us sit with her in the carrier. It allows our hands to be free, and we might even get her to take a little nap!

We never bought a pack n play. It was just one of those things we didn’t buy. My husband wanted a play yard. It’s bigger than a pack n play, but works the same way. It’s easy to carry and pops open in seconds. The drawback is that there’s not a pad in it so sleeping in it is not an option, and you need to have it on carpet. The carpet part of it can be a challenge especially in Florida where tile rules homes and hotel rooms.

The benefit of this play yard is that it’s larger than a pack n play. Our daughter hates to be confined into a space or her car seat. She likes to roam. She’s curious and eager to explore. She can barely deal with being in our large play yard. We have to get in there with her. Never mind a pack n play. She would never be able to play in one of those. So, for us it’s worked out.

Without a pack n play, we rely on the hotel crib. That can be interesting. Usually they bring up these cribs that you know have been sitting in some dark storage room for years. They need a good dusting and wipe-down before the baby rests here head inside. The sheets at one hotel had stains on them. We bring our own sheets now too.

Our daughter loves to try to escape the crib, standing against the slats. At home, it’s dangerous enough because we have wooden crib slats. She’s had a few bumps on her head from standing against the slats and then falling in pure exhaustion. In the hotels we’ve stayed in, those slats are metal. A little more dangerous if you have a child who likes to try to escape.

So our must have’s — big bed, big space for pack n play and crib, refrigerator, sink and counter space in the room, and crib sheet, and infant carrier. Small things that help us enjoy our vacation. Happy wife = happy life. How about happy baby = happy mom and dad.

Now that we mastered an overnight stay, it’s time to hit the friendly skies. Well, at least we hope they’re friendly. We’ll find out tomorrow on our first flight with a baby in tow.