Planning for the big 1st birthday

It’s hard to believe we’re already thinking about a 1st birthday party. It seems like yesterday we were walking out of Mount Sinai, getting into our small and very un-family friendly VW Golf, which has since been swapped for a mid-sized crossover (how cliché, I know).

There are two schools of thought on this milestone celebration. Either you go all out, like sweet sixteen, riding in on a camel, or you do something simple and low key, family, friends, a BBQ.

The latter is my pick while my wife is keener on a hybrid version. Dad’s, if you have a daughter, you need to be prepared to concede creative control since Mom is more in tune with the different types of pink and how they need to match your “theme”.

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Theme is where the planning starts. Are you having a luau with pineapple drinks and umbrella straws? We landed on a throwback carnival bash. Cotton candy, popcorn machine, old-fashioned streamers. That’s the all-out part. The location will be my parents simple yet spacious backyard. And, since kids have a bad reputation for being messy, doing it outside makes the clean-up way easier!

If you’re stumped, visit parenting.com to get those ideas flowing or  Pintrest where I found this really cool party on the Style Me Pretty website.

A celebration for the parents

Lots changed this year. We’ve learned how to be functioning humans on minimal sleep, realized that no amount of cleaning will ever prevent spills and food from being smeared over every corner of your house and that there’s nothing wrong with going to bed at 8 pm.

So yes, this celebration is just as much about us as it is for the little one so plan accordingly. Invite your friends, stock the liquor cabinet and have some games for the over one crowd.

Buzzfeed has some great ideas  in the 20 Insanely Simple Party Games That Are Fun At Any Age.

My favourite has to be the Oinking game where you’re tasked with recognizing someone just by the sound of their oink? Full instructions here.

Lastly, the 3 most important parts… cost, who to invite and what to eat?

According to a poll conducted by babycentre of more than 5,000 parents, the majority — 61 percent —spent $200 or less, 25 percent spent between $200 and $500, and 11 percent dished out more than $500. If it’s budget you’re worried about fear not, they have some great tips on how to save too.

Invite your friends and family. Your kid is one and while you might think they’re already social butterflies, chances are they don’t have a deep crew at this stage.

Don’t skimp on the food! Guests love to eat. If we’re being honest, it’s probably the main attraction at your party. Sorry Amelia, watching you destroy your first cake will be entertaining and all but…..

This is all new to me so I’d love to hear your thoughts?

DBDB

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Q&A: Life as a single Dad

Every Dad is different. But, there’s one Dad type that’s like the quarterback of a football team. The single Dad.

I’m learning first hand just how hard it can be to raise a child, even with a partner. Doing it alone is a different beast altogether and takes the term “stepping up” to all new heights.

I figured, who better to give me the inside scoop into single “dad-hood” than my friend Mike. I’ve never talked to someone who takes this job more seriously.

He makes his son’s Halloween costumes from scratch,  takes him away on trips, to baseball games, basketball games and even had a t-shirt made with his son’s name inside of the Harley Davidson logo.  If there’s an outside the box, creative way to raise a kid, he’s thought of it.

(1) What’s the best thing about being a single Dad?

I love being able to raise my son on my own.  There’s no conflict in the house, there’s no debate on what’s right or what’s wrong for him, there’s no “But mom said it would be okay”.  It’s awesome to be able to raise him exactly how I want.  Plus I don’t have to share the good night kisses and hugs with anyone!

(2)   Dating. Is it harder or easier to get a date when a women finds out you’re a solo pops?

I’m not really into the dating scene (giving my son 100% of my time is my top priority), but on the rare occasion I do meet someone I like, I’ve found it’s tough to date anyone.  There are two types of women out there … moms, and those without kids.  Single moms understand the soccer practices, the bedtimes, the school concerts … while women without kids don’t always understand that you have a bigger responsibility.  That said, they have much more freedom to hang out whenever you do have time, while single moms have much busier schedules.  It’s tough either way.

(3)   Dad Bod, heard of it? Do you fall into that category?

*looks down*  Next question …

(4) I’ve seen you flex your Dad superpowers in the past. Tell me about what kinds of over the top ‘Dad of the Year’ worthy things you do.

Honestly, I think everything I do with my son isn’t “Dad of the Year” or “superpowers”.  I think it’s just being a great dad, doing what a dad is supposed to be doing.  Disney World, arts and crafts (like the Halloween costumes you’ve seen), many trips to Cleveland to see his favourite baseball team (go Indians), climbing the CN Tower … every weekend, we’ll go out and do something.  Whether it be playing baseball, going to the Science Centre, movies, concerts, mini-golf, dog-sledding, bowling, Canada’s Wonderland, fishing, random adventures – we’re always out having some kind of fun.  Just being together, no matter what we’re doing, is absolutely perfect.

(5)   How do you balance work life and fathering? Is there a secret?

Yep, this is an easy one.  Work always comes a distant, distant second to fathering.  You’re raising your kid for 18 years until they’re on their own.  Put work second, focus all of your energy on being there for your child.  Raising them into the best possible adult always needs to come first and you should never let work get in the way of that.  There’s time for your career after they move out, but you’ll never get those critical 18 years back.

(6)   What should a single Dad never do?

Never let anything get in the way of your relationship or take away any time you have with your kid.  Whether it be a woman, your job, money … nothing should ever interfere with raising your child.  And if something does get in the way, it’s your duty to make it right as soon as possible.

(7) There’s one thing every Dad needs to have. What is it?

Love.  You have to love your kid more than anything in the world.  And you have to tell them that, multiple times a day.  Tell them how proud you are of them.  Tell them how special they are.  Love them more than you could ever imagine was possible.

(8) What advice can you give other single Dad’s?

Although it can be tough at times, never give up. Be their father, as well as their best friend.  You have to be both the father and the mother, so you need to play both roles – give them that love and extra kisses that the ‘stereotypical man’ doesn’t do, but are so desperately required.  If the mother is still in his life, keep it that way – she’s very important to the child too.  Don’t yell at them, yelling never solves anything – talk to them in a voice that they understand.  Teach them how to be the best possible person they can be.  Study with them, help them with their homework – praise them for their good grades, help them if the grades are low.  Get involved in their interests – I’ve never liked soccer before, but now I’m the biggest fan because of him.  Spend as much time together as you can and give them 100% of yourself always – don’t let anything get in the way of that.  And love them.  Love them like you’ve never loved anyone before.  There’s bound to be many bumps along the way, but it’s your job alone to raise them and help them become an incredible adult, so do everything you can to ensure they turn out as best as they possibly can be.

First Easter, Day Trip & Chinese Food

It was Amelia’s first Easter. Ok, let’s be honest, at this point in her life, almost everything is a first but who’s counting. Normally we’re the typical Canadian family. Turkey is our go-to for every holiday occasion. This year was different.

My cousin and her husband moved out East and we found out they’re going to be giving Amelia a cousin of her own later this summer, Nana’s in the hospital (nothing too serious) and frankly I think the rest of us were in need of a change.

Even though the little one is too young to understand, she’s the perfect excuse to try something new. Cue a trip to Kortright Centre and the ever exciting Maple Syrup Festival…. I’ll admit, I was skeptical and even more jarred when I saw the lineup of cars waiting to get in. But, it was 15 degrees and sunny so life could have been worse.

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Once in, you navigate your way through trails in the forest with occasional pit stops to learn and watch firsthand how the liquid gold was made back in the day and what production looks like today. Did I mention they give you fresh warm samples?

From there, we broke off from the masses and did a little exploring of our own. A classmate of mine recently blogged about 7 reasons why you need to throw out your selfie stick and there was a point not too long ago where I would have 100% agreed but damn they come in handy for moments like this.

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After circling around as a family to watch a falcon devour a quail for dinner (long story), it was back to the house to start making plans for our meal because keeping with the theme of the day, we had no plans. This is where our spontaneity went slightly off the rails. We had a couple of drinks, Amelia opened a few little Easter gifts and we went back and forth for a good hour debating between going out vs. staying in, Portuguese food, steaks, Thai were all in the mix but like any good family, we couldn’t agree.

So, Chinese it was. Nothing says Easter dinner like chicken balls, right?

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Another parenting lesson learned today: if your kid is so pumped up all day and refusing to sleep, they will eventually crash and it might not be pretty. Let me re-phrase, it WON’T be pretty. After a quick departure to save my family from permanent ear damage, I took the scenic route home to make sure she was fully TKO’d in her car seat – I need to start tracking the number of km’s being devoted to “baby stop crying” mileage…

When’s the next long weekend? Not soon enough.

Later this week I’ve got a great Q&A for every Dad out there, you won’t want to miss it!

Until next time.
DBDB

Dad Style: Spring tips for a stylish Dad

Just because you’re a Dad, it doesn’t mean socks and sandals are suddenly cool. It doesn’t mean that tucking a golf shirt into a relaxed fit pair of khakis for every summer occasion is the right move.

If you’re looking for a good laugh, check out Fashion Dads on Instagram. There are so many classic Dad styles that we’ve all seen at one point or another. But, this is 2016 and we’re not wearing New Balance walking shoes with orthotics anymore.

All I need to get by is a nice pair of sneakers, jeans, sunglasses, joggers, blazer, watch and hat. Sounds simple enough, right? By no means would I consider myself a style guru but here are a couple of my essentials for this spring/summer. Oh, and they won’t break the bank which always helps.

Gap Utility Jogger – I have a few pairs of these and for $70 they aren’t exactly cheap but they’re nice and light and can do double duty for an afternoon at the park and dinner out.

Brathwait Classic Slim Watch – My favourite find! Great quality and design in a watch that could easily cost a whole lot more. You can switch between the leather and cloth band which is nice.

Nike Flyknit Roshe Run – Ok, these are my one real indulgence…. It doesn’t matter if you’re in jeans or shorts, these shoes are comfortable and you can throw them in the washing mashing machine for a quick clean.

Ray-Ban Wayfarer Classic – A staple that I can’t live without. Gun metal grey polarized shades for those beauty summer days. These never go out of style and will last you forever… as long as your little one doesn’t get their hands on them.

Levis 511 Slim Fit Jeans – These jeans are another versatile piece that you can wear for everything casual this summer – throw on a plain white t-shirt and you’re ready to roll. Just don’t show up wearing them at a black tie event…

Lululemon Chamber Ball Cap – This hat keeps you cool and absorbs sweat really nicely. Great afternoons at the beach or if you can find time for a quick workout.

Zara Slim Fit Blazer – I was introduced to “cheap and cheerful” last summer while tasting new wines with the cottage neighbours. This is just that. Comes in three nice neutral colours and can be paired with just about anything.

What’s in your closet this season? Any must-haves I’m missing?

Happy shopping!
DBDB

Getting rid of dad bod in time for summer

I wanted to start by explaining what exactly “dad bod” is. I guess I naively assumed that everyone was up to speed but I’ve had a bunch of people ask the past few weeks.

The top definition on Urban Dictionary sums it up perfectly:

“A guy who has kids and was once in shape and still has guns that can crush beer cans but also with a belly that says I drank those beers and I can eat 6 slices of pizza in one seating.”

Hopefully that clears the air.

Sunday marked the first official day of spring. Granted, we’ve been pretty spoiled this winter with some amazingly mild weather. Regardless, many of us, especially new parents have taken those months to hibernate, enjoy some pie and catch-up on Netflix. House of Cards anyone? As a result, there’s some extra baggage we’ve acquired. Mostly in the stomach, some in the hips, some… who am I kidding, its spread all over.

Not to worry, all hope isn’t lost. There’s still plenty of time to get back into the mediocre shape we were.

Baby or not, this has been my routine dating as far back as I can remember. I feel like in a different life I was born in a warm climate and am still struggling to adjust to Canadian winters.

Now that I’m 100% back on the wagon, I’ve stepped my workout routine up a notch. I appreciate now more than ever how little time there is in the day. With work, school and spending two night’s a week hanging with Amelia I really need to make time and be creative.

A good portion of my exercise is happening outside of the gym. I’ve been strapping the extra 15 or so pounds known as my daughter onto me and venturing out.

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Here we are last weekend doing 10 km down to Lake Ontario

In the gym, I’ve been following this really great 6 day workout from Men’s Health:

The Killer Kettlebell Workout (Day one)
The Two-Dumbbell Muscle Maker (Day two)
The High-Octane Metabolic Fat Burner (Day three)
The Workout to Light Up Your Legs, Shoulders, and Abs (Day five)
The Ultimate Blood-Pumping Workout (Day six)

I find the routine easy to follow and since I’m certainly not working out 6 day’s a week you can go in, watch some of the videos and pull the exercises that interest you most.

Again, just being conscious of how much you’re walking can make a huge difference. Get off one subway stop further than where you live, walk to the grocery store, even go into your back yard and walk in circles… well that’s extremely boring but you get where I’m going.

Is your dad bod ready for summer? What are you doing to get it there?

Until next time.
DBDB

A week of learning – falls & swimming

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To think, I really thought I had this whole parenting thing down pat….

It finally happened. My daughter took her long awaited first big spill. Don’t get me wrong, she’s fallen a zillion times but this one was different. You could tell from the sound of the cry and from the sight of blood – we’re not talking horror movie bloodbath but when you’re in the moment it sure feels like it.

We live in a small space so virtually everything in my house can be classified as a hazard. We’ve slowly started “babyproofing” where we can but aside from living in an empty room, it’s hard. The first thing to go was our coffee table. The corners were sharp and lined up perfectly with her eyes so to the curb it went. Likely not the first piece to bite the dust.

At this point, the one thing working in my favour is that she’s still a few months away from walking, so I’ve got a bit of time. My fellow Dad’s tell me once the walking stage arrives, everything in your house becomes a grenade.

Long story short, her lip was cut, there was a bit of blood, my wife narrowly avoided fainting and after an epic freak out all was back to normal.

This whole ordeal prompted me to read and watch-up on baby proofing. The funny thing is that I couldn’t find a tonne of helpful videos. Fear not! DadLabs has a great one. There’s a lot to think about and this covers all of the major ones in the rooms where you spend the most time. And yes, professional babyproofer is in fact a real career opportunity.

Learning to swim: the earlier the better

Every night ends with a bath. Like I talked about in an earlier post, I can’t stress enough how important a solid routine is.

Another learning this week… Babies aren’t used to fully submerging their heads in water. Who knew, right?

Now that Amelia’s a full-fledged explorer she no longer sits back while we give her a good scrubbing. She’s constantly moving, trying to stand, chasing her bath toys as they float out of reach. The other night, she fully dunked her head, swallowing some water and boy was she not ready for it.

So naturally, I figured I needed to start some daddy/daughter swimming lessons. After her reaction in the tub, I realized, I need to have a confident swimming baby by summer. Should be fun and I’ll follow-up with my thoughts after my first lesson.  I’m booking my lessons through Water Babies which is a great resource that helps you find nearby swimming classes by entering your postal code.

Until then, here’s some DIY info on how to help your little one embrace the water. There’s no harm in getting them used to it from a young age.

Enjoy the week!
DBDB

A Couple of my Favourite Dad Proof Recipes

I’m slow and somewhat disheveled in the kitchen. I’m the first to admit it. I can cover the basics, breakfast is my specialty. When’s the last time you heard of somebody botching bacon and eggs?

I’ve had to come out of my cooking shell of late and I’m taking ‘baby’ steps. It can be overwhelming, all of the recipes and do’s and dont’s floating around the web are enough to make even the most seasoned chef question their abilities – I like to tell myself that.

During my culinary journey, I’ve tracked down three recipes that I give an A+ to for being Dad proof. Before I start making anything, it needs to meet a couple of very simple criteria: Easy, Hearty, Healthy.

There’s a great site full of baby recipes called Baby Led Weaning Ideas which is where my first go-to recipe came from, sugar-free blueberry muffins.

Ingredients:
1 cup (or more, depending on your preference!) fresh blueberries
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
a pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
just under 1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/4 cup milk

Cooking:
1 Preheat your oven to 400F.
2 Mix all but the blueberries in a bowl.
3 Gently mix in the berries.
4 Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray.
5 Pour the mixture into the tins, about 1/4 cup at a time.
6 Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through.

The final product:

(Photos courtesy of: Baby Led Weaning Ideas)

Another gem I stumbled upon online. My daughter doesn’t have any allergies so I made these killer Sweet Potato Toddler Snacks with all purpose flour and regular baking powder – recipe from Little House Living website.

Ingredients:
1½ c. all-purpose flour
2½ t. baking powder
½ t. salt
3 T. water (may need a little more)
1 c. mashed sweet potato

Instructions:
1 Cook and mash your sweet potato. For 1 c. you will need about one large sweet potato.
2 Add the other ingredients to the mashed sweet potato and mix well.
3 If your mixture seems dry, add a little more water to bring it to the right consistency.
4 Cut into fun shapes with mini cookie cutters.
5 Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Then flip and bake another 5 minutes.
6 Let them cool before serving, store in an airtight bag or container.

Here’s a play-by-play from beginning to end:

When rolling out the dough make sure to use a lot of flour on your counter and rolling pin to make sure it doesn’t stick.

Roll the dough out nice and thin because they puff up a lot once cooked.

A couple of important things to remember when making anything for the little one: keep salt intake to less than 400mg/day & honey isn’t safe for babies under 12 months. I mention that because those ingredients appear in a lot of recipes.

Happy cooking!

DBDB

Turning your baby’s room into a palace

As a Dad it’s one of the few things you can do to make yourself useful before the baby arrives. Sure, you can take the easy route, throw a coat of paint on the walls and roll out that old carpet you haven’t looked at since the University days. With Pintrest, Etsy & Instagram, expect your partner to put more pressure on you to make something more Style at Home-esque.

The good news is that it’s not all that hard. It just takes time. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed, and I can’t imagine this is unique to me it’s that there isn’t one baby store where you can find everything you’re looking for. The quintessential one stop shop is non-existent. There are so many interesting things you can buy. Cool designs, interesting fabrics, handmade, made in Canada, you get the idea. But, to track it all down, you need to be willing to bounce from small boutique to small boutique searching.

I’m going to walk you through my daughter’s room (proud Dad moment). Let me first start by saying, I’m not an overly handy guy so what I’m about to show you doesn’t require a work bench or a tool belt.

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If you’re on any kind of budget, every room has a heavy IKEA presence. This room is no different so let’s knock those pieces off first.

HEMNES 8-drawer white dresser ($299): Offers tonnes of great storage and doubles as a change table. Win, right! It’s a pretty hefty sized piece so if you’re working with a smaller space this might not be the right pick.

PÄRLBLAD Curtains ($40): We finally landed on these after realizing that curtains are curtains. It took us a while. These are cheap, good quality and do the trick. The only thing is that they aren’t blackout.

Babyletto Hudson 3-in-1 Convertible Crib with Toddler Rail in White ($529): This was the best purchase we made, hands down. Even though Amelia has gnawed all the paint off along the railing with her sprouting chicklets. Not only does it look great, but it’s easy to set up and will last well into her toddler days. They will ship it right to your door from Lussobaby.

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Glider Chair: Here’s where we had to get creative. My wife had her heart set a glider chair called the monte luca – it was about $1000… yes for a chair in a baby room. After some research, I found monte luca’s doppelganger for a far more reasonable $289. Quality is good, look is great. This is where I got mine. Apologies to anyone outside of Toronto.

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Paint: The most tedious part of making this room happen. We used Stormy Grey by Benjamin Moore for the stripes and Oxford White for the background – we chose something neutral since the sex of our bean was a surprise. Those beautifully straight lines… yep those were just sweat and tears. Get good green painting tape, a laser level, measuring tape and some help. It really gives the room that extra pop, well worth the time in my opinion.

Owl Mobile: Handmade by a company called Little Hooters (fitting, I know) on Etsy. It can be fully customizable. Pick your own colours, wooden hanger and even the owls facial expressions. Sure beats some of the stuff you see in the big stores.

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Carpet: For some reason, finding a decent carpet was the needle in a hay stack. Either you fork out big bucks or head to Etsy and pick one up from one of the small shops. The women who I bought mine from seems to be out of the carpet game but I did a quick search and there are some other great options.

You can tie everything together with a few accent pieces from Pottery Barn Kids, Anthropology, West Elm, Home Sense and you’ve got yourself a baby room.

If you have any questions on any of the pieces I don’t talk about here, just let me know.

Until next time.

DBDB

Solo Saturday’s – holding down the fort with Mom @ work

I married a hairstylist. That in itself signaled the beginning of the end to my late Friday night exploits. Having a baby further put the nail in the Friday night out coffin. Amelia’s 8 months old now but believe me I’ve played with fire and learned my lesson the hard way…. more than once. I compare being hungover and looking after a newborn to the screechy sound of nails on a blackboard with no end in sight. Slightly dramatic, but live it and you’ll get on board.

Saturday’s are my day. When my wife first went back to work part time at about 4 months, I was nervous to be left alone. Changing diapers, feeding and scheduling naps weren’t on my resume at that point.

Don’t mess with the sleep schedule…

So much time and effort goes into making sure you’ve got a solid sleep schedule. As a Dad it’s tempting to throw that out the window when you’re at the helm. Don’t. Just because it’s a perfect day to be out shopping or at the park, paired with “what the hell I get one day alone a week so rules don’t apply” attitude, it’s not worth flushing that sleep training down the drain. Get those naps in. Your baby and more importantly, your partner will love you for it.

Solid, Solids!

We’ve had Amelia on a diet of solids for a while now.  The key here is to start off introducing a new food every four days to watch for any allergies or sensitives. It’s a complete mess. The majority of the food ends up on the floor, in their hair or smeared all over their clothes. The good thing, you can start making food for both you and your little one at the same time. This weekend it was chili, last weekend it was chicken soup. Just make sure to hold the salt. Just as much time goes into the meal prep as the meal clean up! Read more about solid diets here.

Rain, shine or bloody freezing – get outside.

This past weekend was uber cold. It’s February and we live in Canada but the timing couldn’t have been worse for everyone rolling through for NBA All-Star weekend. Finding the motivation to bundle-up, pause Netflix and turn off the fireplace to go for a stroll is hard but necessary. Just as much as we need fresh air to avoid cabin fever in these cold months, our babies need it even more. For me it’s a bit easier. Living in Roncesvalles, I’ve got some of the city’s best coffee shops right at my fingertips, which after a short night of sleep is exactly the kick in the butt needed to get moving.

4 must-haves when saying bon voyage with your baby

As a young Dad, sometimes it’s hard to shake that socks and sandals image your single friends have of you. So what do we do? We overcompensate. We buy the hippest, most unpractical things. It’s like we’re trying to show them that we won’t be defined by the puke stain on our shorts. When you’re travelling with the little one, practical is king, stylish is a perk.

Here’s what got me through my first vacation with my daughter Amelia.

Mountain Buggy Nano Travel Stroller

It folds into a carry on size piece. Enough said. Forget the umbrella stroller, which before doing some research, I assumed was the only travel option with a baby. Wrong! It’s got a super slick look, a nice big canopy that comes in a few different colours and is sturdy enough to navigate through sand and bumpy sidewalks. The downside? It comes with a pretty hefty price tag. At $300 it’s definitely an investment. In baseball terms, you already invested in starting pitching with your day-to-day stroller but your bullpen wins you games. The Nano is your bullpen. I couldn’t believe this video… it really is this easy.

Tula Baby Carrier

I’ll admit, one of my greatest fears about being a Dad was wearing a baby carrier. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be ready to rock a Baby Bjorn. Another instance where practical vs. cool went head-to-head. To date, this was their most spirited battle. Ultimately, they found a happy medium with the Tula Concentric Carrier. The black canvas is breathable and super easy to clean not to mention has a really clean, stylish look to it. The straps are very “nap sack-esque” and don’t make you feel like you’re trapped in a rope maze and, you can wear it on the front or the back. For $150, the price is right, too.

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Pack ‘n Play Playpen

As I delve deeper into fatherhood, this one seems more and more like a no brainer. Before you check into a hotel that offers-up what could easily be mistaken for a 1950’s era dog crate, BYOP. Bring Your Own Playpen. Your baby will love you for it and it folds into no more than a duffle bag size. Sure, you’ll be second guessing your decision as you lug an extra 25 pounds through the airport, but knowing your little one is safe and sound makes it completely worth it. Full disclosure…. I learned this one the hard way and ended up buying this Graco model on a recent trip (not my finest moment).

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Herschel Diaper Bag

This list wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to what I consider the best alternative to the traditional diaper bag.  It’s simple and light weight with tons of room to pack away the bottles and toys. It can even do double duty if you want to use it as a work tote or gym bag when the nostalgia of your time on the beach wears off.

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What are your baby travel must-have’s?