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.