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Whether you're crashing with Grandma or an old pal, remember two things when traveling with baby in tow: Be prepared and be considerate. Follow these tips from parent coach Alexandra Blumerncranz, and your hosts might even be sad to see you go.
#1. PREP YOUR HOSTS
Where's the bed?
Never assume the folks you're staying with know just what to expect – even if they've raised kids of their own. (And if they don't have children, of course, they may be especially in the dark.) First off, "ask where you would be put up," advises Alexandra, owner of Positive Parent Coaching Inc., in Clearwater, Florida. A new baby will likely be hitting the sack before the rest of the household, so she recommends trying to snag a quiet locale for baby to snooze. If you'll be staying on the fold-out, work with the hosts to find a solution—be it a portable crib on the office floor or a pack-n-play in the walk-in closet.
Hide the valuables!
"Definitely let them know how mobile your child is," says Alexandra. "Make sure there isn't anything really valuable on the floor. Give them a heads up to put anything away that would be dangerous [to your baby] or valuable to them." Be clear about the need for babyproofing. It will keep baby—and your hosts' stuff—safe.
Need a gate?
If baby is on the move these days, Alexandra recommends asking if you should bring along a baby gate (or two) to fence baby in, or to fence off stairways, rooms full of breakables, or other no-babies-allowed zones. And—like with the babyproofing—remember to ask nicely. Make this about keeping things convenient for them, not you.
# 2. PREP YOUR FAM
"When you're going to someone else's house, don't arrive with an entourage of stuff," Alexandra laughs. You probably can go without the swing/rocker/jumper/tub/wipes warmer/Diaper Genie. Instead of packing the entire nursery, whittle it down to the (real) necessities.
So what should you bring? "If you're staying with someone that doesn't really have any toys, bring them," says Alexandra. "Bring some old favorites, and maybe some new things that will really hold your baby's attention." She also recommends packing in a large blanket for floor play. And don't forget any baby care goodies like diapers, wipes, baby wash and whatnot! If baby is mobile, you might also want to bring along simple babyproofing items like outlet covers or corner guards.
#3. BE NICE
Hide the poop
Well, we told you not to bring the Diaper Genie. So does that mean you should just plop that stinker in the nearest wastebasket? Maybe tied up in a plastic grocery bag? No! Don't do it! "Find out where the outside garbage can is," urges Alexandra. "Don't throw stinky diapers away in their kitchen!" No outdoor bin? "Ask for a garbage bag and find a spot on the corner of the house and keep them outside." (Staying in an apartment? Ask where to find the incinerator, or—if all else fails—seal the smellies up in Ziploc bags.)
The key to being a good guest: Respecting your hosts. When it comes to baby's schedule, for example: "It's really better to try and keep them on a routine, but you're not in your own home and you're dealing with someone else's routine and environment. You have to be a little bit flexible," says Alexandra. In other words, a slightly rearranged nap time won't kill you. Also, always keep an eye on baby when she's scooting around. Your hosts might not feel comfortable saying "no," so you'll need to step in if baby starts tugging on blinds or slobbering on nice fabrics.
Leave a gift
Of course a gift and a nice note are a rule of thumb for any house guests. It was very nice of them to make way for you and baby, so be sure to thank them properly for putting up with all the pouts and poops. If you're only crashing for a night or two, it's fine to go for something sweet and simple, like a bottle of rich bubble bath (try the Lavender Harvest Foaming Bath from L'Occitane) paired with a bottle of your favorite Bordeaux. To score an invitation next year, slip the wine into a nice tote, like the super-cute Pottery Barn Wine Bag, along with one (or two!) of the festive Botanical Bottle Stoppers from Crate and Barrel. Or, if you're shacking up for a longer stay, come bearing a gift that also sticks around a while. Add a classy addition to their holiday décor with a whimsical art glass ornament from Artful Home's exclusive collection, or provide a bit of entertainment with the Stacked Wood Game Box from Restoration Hardware. No matter the gift, be sure to include a thoughtful hand-written note (with a scribble or two from baby for good measure).