Hahah. Maybe if I were Angelina Jolie and 23 again. But really, cruising with a 5 month pregnant lady and 2 squirrelly boys is it's own PG-for-the-whole-family brand of awesome & fun:
I had quite a few fellow momma's (who are considering a cruise themselves with children- brave women) ask me for some tips about cruising with LITTLE kids. So here is my two (and a few more) cents!
- Don't over pack the swimsuits. I packed every swimsuit my children own. Even the ones that they had kind of outgrown. I didn't want chafing! I didn't want the poor little guys to feel damp! I wanted to prevent pneumonia! We needed two. That's all. Hang them up to dry overnight. Save the precious space.
- This was my moment of pure genius. And I came up with it all by myself- not even Pinterest brought me such wisdom!----
---> Bring a hanging shoe rack! I used one we had around the house that looked a lot like this with 10 spaces. 2 kids, 5 day cruise. I packed an outfit for each DAY and each NIGHT in a cubby. The kids clothes are so small they fit in easily and there was no searching for matching clothes, smell-testing if the clothes are clean, or trying to figure out which outfit was for formal vs. semi-formal night (i.e. totally husband-getting-the-kids-ready proof)
Shelf 1: Day 1 boat clothes for both Jamin & Owen
Shelf 2: Day 1 casual (but nice and clean!) dinner clothes for both
Shelf 3: Day 2 day at sea clothes for both
Shelf 4: Day 2 formal clothes for both
Shelf 5: Day 3 Mexico/Beach clothes for both
Shelf 6: Day 3 casual dinner clothes for both
Shelf 7: Day 4 Georgetown casual clothes for both
Shelf 8: Day 4 casual dinner clothes for both
Shelf 9: Day 5 day at sea clothes for both (2 sets, one for Saturday morning leaving ship as well!)
Shelf 10: Day 5 Semi-formal dinner clothes
This probably saved me numerous, over-the-top-and-unnecessary, melt-downs. It sounds kind of silly but the kids clothes would have really stressed me out. They usually end up in a jumbled mess on hotel floors, covered in sand, wrinkled and representing, to me, mom-fail. The shoe rack worked out perfectly and was beyond easy. Not to mention it saved SO much drawer space and closet space for our own clothes! Those ship closets are tinnnny and we were really able to maximize space. Also, designate one empty suitcase as the hamper and make sure dirty-beyond-rewear clothes go in there and out of reach of the kids.
- Make a game plan for dinners. There's always lots of kids at the dinners on cruise ships, but it doesn't make it any less stressful for mom and dad, who want to make sure THEIR kids aren't disrupting any meals. My kids are very active- they like to stand on chairs, throw forks and bang on the table. (i.e. They are 3 and 1). Don't get me wrong they are delightful- but depending on their level of tired/hungry, or the terrifying combination of both, they can be little devils at dinner. We made sure they had an appetizer RIGHT away, gave them non sharp butter knives to "cut" their food with (this is bizarre but it was such a novelty to them it kept them entertained for a few precious minutes), and bribed our way through dinner with promises and threats regarding desserts (we were on a cruise after all!). Also, sitting near a window was top priority for our 3 year old. He never got tired of looking out.
- Every night when you get back to the room to start showers and get the kids ready for bed put in a room service call for milk. Even if your children just drank 5 glasses at dinner they will inevitably want it before bed. Just call in the order- it may take half hour to arrive and it will work out timing wise perfectly, every time. Also, on night number 4 order your kids milk, and a plate of chocolate chip cookies, and watch their little hearts light up with happiness. Dessert number 2 right BEFORE bed!? It is a magical vacation for them too, after all.
- Take some me time. Every morning my husband and I each got an hour to ourselves, sans kids. Our cruise was awesomely unique that there was amazing workout sessions each morning. I would go to one for an hour and my husband would go to one for an hour and we alternated who got to first depending on the workouts offered. I recommend this me time in the morning when the kids are happy, willing to get dressed easily, ready to head out to breakfast and are easy to single-handedly wrangle in a ship dining hall. It allowed quiet time for adults and really got each day started off calm and on the right foot.
- Make it special for each kid and have at least 1 night of "us" time. They have excellent kid programs on the boat for different age levels and Jud & I definitely took advantage of this a few times and usually alternated which kid to send in for a couple hours. For dinners we had 2 dinners with both boys, 1 dinner with just Jamin, 1 dinner with just Owen, and one dinner with just us. This was the perfect mix. Each boy had a special date night with mom and dad, lots of fun together, and on formal night we didn't have to spend half our conversation guiding the kids. We also split up around nap time- Owen would nap and rest with one parent and the other parent would take Jamin out for a special second trip to the splash park.
- If your kids wake up really early in real life, they will wake up really early on the boat. It's just good to remember that going in. And FYI, the rest of the ship does not wake up at 5:45 am. Take the early morning time to take advantage of otherwise-crowded hotspots on the ship. For us, this usually meant a round of mini-golf in the morning. I would say 3 of the mornings it was JUST us on the upper-level gym area for at least an hour. The kids could roam freely and we could relax.
- Bring a baby carrier. Jud was the brilliant idea behind bringing a baby/toddler backpack instead of a stroller. Owen easily napped in it, had a great view, wasn't struggling to get out and really enjoyed being in it. We used it shopping in Georgetown and it was ESPECIALLY useful during the long wait to board and depart the ship on the first and last day. It kept my husbands arms free to carry more luggage of course! It was so much smaller than a stroller that would have easily taken half our room, much easy to maneuver through small ship hallways and Owen just enjoys it more. Happy babies=happy parents.
There's a few of my tips! Enjoy setting sail with your little ones!