Category Archives: Travel

Baby Travel Learnings

Well, we did it.  Completed our first trip with the baby.  And it was like ripping off the band-aid; we didn’t want to do it, dreaded it, but once it was all over we realized it wasn’t that bad.

We chose an “easy” first trip.  One hour flight to a city I know well, San Francisco.  An added bonus – no need to worry about rental cars or taxis.  Public transportation in the form of BART did the trick.

So, how did it go?  Well, 8 hours is the new time to beat from wake-up time at home to ready-to-go-out time at our destination (I suppose we have nowhere to go but up).  And, what did we learn?  A few things – which I will share below:

  • Take the First Available Flight:  We took Virgin America’s first available flight to San Francisco.  Baby was alert, curious, happy, and just an all-around bundle of join.  Coming home, we took the 5pm flight.  Big mistake.  Baby was cranky, screaming, and crying – and no amount of comforting, jiggling, or singing could calm him.  Yes, we got the looks and yes, the guy in our row finally grabbed his backpack, frustrated, and left to find another seat.  Going forward, if the flight is after 9am, we ain’t taking it.
  • Ensure Filled Bottles are TIGHTLY Sealed:  Yes, you can bring breastmilk or formula bottles through airport security.  And yes, you can even bring ice packs to chill the bottles.  But they WILL check the bottles.  In my case, they stuck them into some sort of machine that I am told detects consistency levels.  Apparently one of my bottles wasn’t up to snuff since they opened it to test the contents.  It wasn’t sealed tightly enough and soon formula was all over the place, and only a half bottle remained.  I spent the next 15 minutes using tissue paper to clean up the spills in the bin, ice pack, and all over the bottle.  OH and by the way, TSA is not supposed to handle the bottle.  Apparently the guy that tested mine was in training and didn’t know (nor did I) – he was promptly corrected by a superior that only the MOTHER is able to handle the bottle.  Good to know for next time; as soon as he began digging around in it with his gloved hand, I knew that was one bottle down the drain.
  • Pack Doggie Bags:  I thought we had accounted for everything in our packing.  But we missed something.  Who wants a trash can full of stinky diapers all day and night until a maid comes and cleans the room??  Not me.  We promptly purchased a package of doggie bags from the local drug store.  Dual purpose… Wraps up dirty diapers in the hotel room, and then can be used on walks with our little dog once we get home.
  • Early Dinners:  In the past, late lunch and drinks would at times linger until 5pm.  Now, 5pm is the new dinnertime when it comes to dining out in a restaurant.  Good for a couple of reasons: A) Baby is still in good spirits and is less likely to have a mid-dinner meltdown, and B) Most diners have hours until dinner; so if your little one DOES melt down, the only victims are likely to be fellow parents of young children themselves.  An added bonus – who knew that there were so many restaurant specials before 6pm??
  • Stroller and Baby Carrier on Long Days:  Would YOU want to spend the entire day confined in a stroller while sightseeing?  Yeah, neither does your baby.  We quickly learned to bring both the stroller and a baby carrier when we planned a full day of walking.  Most of the time, the baby can be worn (I recommend the Ergo Original Baby Carrier for infants over about 10-12 lbs).  But around naptimes or during fussy periods (or when Mommy and Daddy simply get tired), the baby can rest comfortably in the stroller.  Good to have options.
  • Confirm Crib Type at Lodging:  Based on a tip I had received from a friend, we untied, packed, and carried the baby’s breathable crib bumpers with us for our trip.  A good idea, definitely.  Except if your hotel provides you with a Pack ‘n Play type crib instead.  So those crib bumpers laid on the couch the entire week, and then I had the joy of reassembling them on the baby’s crib once home.  So note to self for next time: Call the place of lodging ahead of time to confirm what type of crib will be provided – traditional or portable.
  • Consider Hotel Alternatives:  When we were still a DINK couple (Dual Income No Kids), we had the pleasure of trying out the swankiest hotels that we wanted while vacationing.  We really took advantage of this too, spending time perusing TripAdvisor and like sites to find the hippest hotels at our destinations.  Now, these hotels would be the absolute worst places for us to stay.  Sterile, too loud (if a party-type hotel), too quiet (if an ultra-luxurious resort), and without the suddenly necessary amenities: kitchen or kitchenette, washer and dryer, and extra room or space.  While in San Francisco, we stayed in a hotel but were upgraded to a suite which included the kitchenette, extra room, and access to the concierge lounge (much more important now for those quick and stress-less meals and snacks).  Even that was not completely ideal – it would have been better to have had a washer/dryer or at least coin laundry available.  So we’re learning as we go.  Next trip we’re going to move away from hotels completely – instead looking into furnished condos with all the kid-friendly amenities (think VRBO and AIRBNB).
  • Inflatable Bath Tub:  One thing we completely neglected to consider was the need for some sort of bath tub while on vacation.  At home, the baby is bathed in a hard plastic tub that mounts over the dual kitchen sink or sits in the bathtub itself.  Obviously that contraption could not travel with us, but we naively assumed that we could simply bathe the baby in the bathroom sink.  How wrong we were.  He didn’t fit.  Then we tried to bathe him in the tub – one parent in with him and one out holding him.  This proved to be an incredible challenge.  Not fully reliable when sitting up, someone had to prop him at all times while someone else washed and rinsed him.  Not easy to do with a wet, slippery, squirmy baby.  For the next bath, we resorted to a simple sponge bath.  After lamenting to my nanny, she made the best recommendation – an inflatable bath tub!  What a great idea!  I haven’t purchased one yet, but something like this should do the trick.

And those were really the major learnings.  Armed with this new knowledge and the confidence of having done it before, I’m expecting a least a small decrease in the 8 hour timeframe (don’t want to get too crazy).  I will let you all know.

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Traveling with Baby

Well, we’re gonna do it.  Travel with the baby.  After postponing and even cancelling other trips due to the anticipated hassle, we’ve decided it’s finally time to break the seal.  So hubby and baby will be joining me on a work trip.

Granted, it’s a short trip.  And only an hour’s flight away.  But for people who formerly rolled their eyes and inwardly cursed every time being seated next to a crying infant on a flight, it is daunting.  If Karma has any say in it, I will now be one of those parents with one of those babies.  (And yes, parents of infants, I now eat my curses and have a whole new empathy for you).

So the planning begins.  I almost want to cancel again.  But then what good is baby’s shiny new passport if we’re never gonna use it?  Armed with Google and the TSA website, I’m capturing my notes:

Flight Seating Arrangements.  It appears that the standard amongst domestic airlines is that children under the age of 2 may be permitted to sit on the parent’s lap, although it is “not encouraged” (I don’t think think that’s ever stopped a soul).  Many ask for proof of age, which brings me to my next point.

Copy of Birth Certificate.  Many domestic airlines say that they require proof of child’s age (in the form of a birth certificate copy) upon check-in to ensure they meet the under-age-2 requirement of sitting on a parent’s lap.  Now, I find this a bit ridiculous in the case of a little infant who is clearly no way near 2 years old, but I will comply and bring it.  That said, I’m not even sure how careful they are about asking for it… But knowing my luck, if I don’t bring it, they will argue that my 17 lb. baby is 2 years old and we will be off the flight.

Bottles of Formula/Breastmilk.  According to the TSA, these are permitted to be brought through security in “reasonable quantities” (e.g. only what may be needed for the flight) greater than 3 oz.  They need to be separated from other carry-on liquids, declared to a Security Officer, and then presented for further inspection.  Apparently these liquids fall under the same guidelines as liquid medication – a good thing, since I do recall reading news articles about horrified new mothers having their breast milk confiscated at security checkpoints in the past.

Ice Packs.  If you’re bringing prepared bottles to the airport, they need to remain chilled.  And ice packs contain that gel stuff, so I wasn’t sure if that fell under the bucket of liquid medication or not.  Turns out, it does.  As the packs are required to maintain the freshness of the bottles, you can bring them through.  That said, I’ve heard many stories of people having to discard them at Security (whether it be due to an uneducated TSA Security Officer or for other reasons).  In fact, I had one mother recommend that we also carry through bags of frozen peas to keep the bottles chilled in the event that our ice packs get thrown away.  I think we’re gonna risk it with just the gel backs, but take that for what it’s worth.

Car Seat.  I had two questions here: 1) Can we check it at the gate, and 2) How difficult is it to install it into a taxi without a base?  For #1, yes, we can check it at the gate.  Apparently if the flight isn’t full, many airlines will even allow you to bring it and use it onboard.  I did hear that the car seat can get pretty dirty and banged if being gate-checked, so I just ordered a cheap car seat travel bag that should help prevent that from happening (there are several; I chose the Jeep version).   For #2, I don’t know yet how difficult it is to install a car seat sans base.  I’ve tasked hubby with reading the manual and watching a few YouTube clips to make sure we (he)  can do it quickly and safely while the taxi meter is running.

Stroller.  For the flight, we decided to bring the lightest and easiest stroller we own, the Graco Snugrider Infant Car Seat Stroller Frame (wow, until just now, I always thought it was called a Snap N Go – Turns out that is Baby Trend’s version).  Anyway, I digress.  Strollers can be brought to the flight gate along with car seats.  They can also be gate-checked.  For most domestic airlines, both the car seat and the stroller can be gate-checked with no fees and in addition to regular baggage carry-on and check-in allowances.  I’m sure there are probably travel bags to protect stroller frames also but, since I don’t really care if it gets a bit dirty, I didn’t purchase one.

Destination Cribs.  I was planning to bring our Graco Travel Pack N Play for hotel bedtimes BUT I was happy to find out that most larger/chain hotels provide cribs upon request, free of charge (who knew??)  I do plan to bring our own sheets and perhaps even breathable bumpers, but it’s great news that we have one less thing to carry.

Destination Refrigerators.  So back to the issue of keeping prepared bottles chilled, most parents of infants are going to want a fridge in their hotel rooms.  Fortunately, most larger/chain hotels have mini-fridges in the room (usually stocked with bar stuff).  I haven’t checked yet, but I imagine if I call the hotel and ask them to clear out the bar stuff before I arrive, that I could then use the empty fridge to store prepared bottles.  Since most of these mini-fridges don’t include freezers, my plan is to store ice packs in filled ice buckets.

Destination Microwaves.  This is more of a nice-to-have.  I imagine most parents would use them for heating bottles.  Fortunately, my little one enjoys his chilled bottles just fine, so we don’t have a need for this.  Except if we look at bottle cleaning.  We have a microwave sterilizer that we love to use because it’s quick and we don’t have to wait for the dishwasher to be loaded and emptied for clean bottles.  I haven’t looked into it yet, but I doubt most larger/chain hotels have microwaves available unless you go with the family-suite hotel brands.  Either way, something to consider.

Formula/Baby Food.  I use a slightly harder-to-find infant formula, so I plan to bring all that I will need for our trip with me.  For the more common formula brands, however, I would absolutely just bring enough for the flight and then purchase the rest at my destination.  Same thing with baby food – no need to pack and carry it if it can just be purchased at your destination.

Diapers.  Same as above.  No way I’m packing tons of diapers to bring with me.  Just what we need for the trip, and buy the rest there.

Packing List.  So now we need to decide what else to pack.  There go our days of carry-on only baggage.  So far, this is what I figure we’ll need to bring for our short trip with baby:

  • Clothes.  And more clothes.  Daytime clothes, PJs, and backups for inevitable spit-ups, bottom blow-outs, and messes.  Jackets and hats.  Sunhats and sunglasses if warm.  Wearable blankets for bedtime.  Socks.
  • Snuza.  See previous post.  Its portability is one of the main reasons I love it.
  • Bottles and Cleaning Supplies.  Bottles, nipples, cleaning brushes, soap, etc.  And if we can swing a microwave, the bottle sterilizer.
  • Blankets.  At least a few.  Thin, thick, for Tummy Time, and extra in case of accidents.
  • Baby Wash.  Although it’s tempting to go several days without bathing the baby, I don’t think that would be the right answer.  So will pack a bit of baby wash.
  • Baby Sunblock.  I just saw that Neutrogena has an SPF 60 formulation for infants (not sure how the formulation compares with regular adult formulation, but the cute pink bottle sucked me in and I bought it).
  • Toys.  Not going overboard here.  But a few rattles and teethers to hopefully keep him occupied (especially in airports and on flights).
  • Baby Carrier/Sling.  My son gets sick of sitting in the carseat all the time and, frankly, so do I.  So this will be a must to break it up and make him feel more a part of wherever we are.

And that’s what I have… SO FAR.  I’m sure there is more to come as the date draws closer.  We’re excited but nervous at the same time.  I’m sure I’ll have another post ready once our trip ends.  Until then, we just keep repeating our mantra: please sleep on the flight, please sleep on the flight….