November 26, 2014

Traveling With a Baby.

Traveling With a Baby.
Two weeks ago we took our almost 4-month-old baby to New York City for 5 days. We are new parents, so we weren't sure all the best ways to travel with him. I asked a lot of questions to those who had done it before, and I've compiled all the info that worked best for us. This entire post is about how to avoid excessive hassle (and germs!) while traveling with a baby.

For the Airport:

Check, check, check. 
It's a new era in your life, if you're traveling with children. The old habit of carrying everything on in order to avoid baggage fees just isn't feasible anymore. Make your life easier and just check everything you won't need for the plane ride. Seriously, this will save you so much hassle. I carried on my diaper bag, stocked specifically for the plane ride, and nothing else. And I mean, my baby, but then nothing else.

Check your stroller with your other luggage. 
I know some people recommend gate-checking the stroller (if you choose to travel with one), but I don't really see the reason to bring it all the way through the airport. It's just more stuff to lug. We purchased a travel bag for our stroller (which provides insurance in case the airline damages it during our travels), so we went ahead and packed it and checked it along with everything else. It was wonderful. And thankfully, the bag completely protected the stroller and there was zero damage to it during the entire trip. Money well-spent, in my opinion.

Wear your baby through the airport.
I wore my almost-4-month old in the Ergo Baby Carrier through the airport, and it was the best. It kept him calm and warm, and most of all, away from strangers. I am a bit wary of germs (I hate when people you don't know come up and touch your baby's hands and face. Like, what are they THINKING?! I don't know where their grimy hands have been! And then of course my child immediately puts his hands in his mouth... ugh so gross.) Note: You don't have to take the baby out of the carrier when you go through security, but sometimes they will still make you take your shoes off. I would recommend wearing something you can easily slip in and out of, like Keds.

We scored three seats on the plane. Everett didn't complain once.
For the Plane:

Ask for a Better Seat Rearrangement.
You never know until you ask, that's what I've learned from my husband. In our case, on both flights, the gate agents moved us so that we could have a row of three seats for the three of us, even though we only paid for two seats! I sat by the window, Stevie sat on the aisle, and we had more room to spread out a blanket on the seat between us with some toys and stuffed animals. We found that our little man loved stretching out on the middle seat & kicking up a storm (obviously, our hands were on him the whole time, making sure he didn't roll - incidentally, this is where I also decided to discreetly make some diaper changes, as well. More room!) Once you reach your gate, you can ask the gate agent if there is anything they can do to upgrade or rearrange your seat assignments so that you can be more comfy.  We found that Delta was extremely accommodating to our family - thank you!

Wait to Board.
Most airlines allow people flying with infants to board the plane first, so that you can settle in and avoid the crowds. However, why would you want to sit on that plane for 45 minutes while everyone else boards? It's just extra time in a tiny, cramped space. No thank you! My baby is a mover, and loathes sitting still, so I knew that wouldn't be a good option for us. Since we didn't carry anything on, we didn't need to board first to make sure our luggage would fit. So we waited until the final boarding call to make our way on the plane, and then 5 minutes later we were taking off. Note: If you are traveling with a partner who has some carry-on luggage, have them go ahead and board at the regular time so they can get their bag on board. But hold out and wait to board with that baby until the very last minute! You will be reeeeeeeally glad about this choice.

Feed during Takeoff/Landing.
Nurse the baby or give them a bottle during the takeoff/landing portions of the flight. Their little ears are really sensitive to all the altitude changes, so the constant swallowing helps ease that discomfort. A pacifier also works beautifully, if your child will take one.

Dressing the Part.
Dress your baby in a long-sleeved onesie, if you can. It makes for easy diaper changes, keeps them warm on the flight, and allows for a simple wardrobe swap in the case that things get messy. Make sure you have all kinds of back up onesies - I think I brought on three changes of clothes! Of course, when you're actually that prepared, you never need all of those. I also made sure to keep him in a hat, socks and shoes, and a coat, just because it was November and we were heading to NYC. Didn't want him to get too cold en route!

Stock that Bag:
Along with the many extra changes of clothes, I made sure to have my diaper bag wondrously stocked. I packed my nursing cover, a few muslin blankets, a burp cloth, a zillion diapers and wipes, pacifiers, diaper rash cream, hand sanitizer and a few comforting teethers/toys (Everett is really loving the Jellycat collection :)

My baby and his baby, Oscar.

For the Hotel:

Find A Killer Location.
It was really important to us to stay in a centrally located hotel while we were in NYC. I didn't want to stay in Times Square, because I was concerned about trying to get the baby to go to sleep amidst the lights and noise (also, who wants to stay in Times Square?) However, staying in midtown, just south of Central Park, was pretty perfect. The Warwick New York Hotel was extremely accommodating to all our baby needs, and made our first trip as a family of three extremely comfortable. It was also a super-cool boutique-y vintage-y spot with a glamorous history, so it made us feel hip (even though we're really not.) Yes, it was a super busy area, but the location made it really easy to go back to the hotel throughout the day if we needed to do a major clothing change or an impromptu nap. In years past, Stevie and I would have stayed somewhere far less posh and further away to save a few bucks, but in this new age of babies, it's worth paying a little bit more to stay centrally. That way, when you do have to head back to the hotel for the baby's 2-hour nap, at least you can still look out your window and enjoy the city a bit.

Sleeping Situation.
You can opt for a suite if you're concerned about the baby waking you up at all hours of the night. We didn't want to shell out the extra cash for a suite, but in hindsight, it probably would have made a big difference in terms of (at least Stevie!) getting better sleep, especially since this was a work trip for him. But if you are going to sleep in the same room as your baby, make sure you pack their sleep essentials. We made sure to bring Everett's white noise machine, his sleep sack and a few extra blankets to drape around the crib, just so that he didn't get distracted by the TV, etc.

Note the blankets draped around the sides. He slept like a baby.
Reserve a Crib.
Make sure to contact your hotel ahead of time and vibe them out about the baby gear. Most hotels have cribs that you can reserve in advanced, but not all hotel cribs are created equal. Some are old and rickety and not up to code. Make sure you really check out the crib when you get to the hotel, check for cracks in the wood and loose screws. I brought our own crib sheet from home, so that Everett would at least smell the comfy "home smell" in a foreign crib.

Snacks & Drinks.
Buy a big pack of bottled waters and leave them in the room. Then you can grab one to go each time you head out. This way you can stay hydrated and cut down on out and about costs. The same goes for healthy snacks. Eating out while traveling can really deplete your energy and make you feel sluggish, especially when you know you aren't making the best healthy choices. I stopped by the Fresh Market before our trip and stocked up on Kind Bars, energizing trail mix and whole grain crackers. When we arrived in NYC I found a deli and stopped by each day to purchase a fresh-cut container of organic fruit. That way I was snacking really healthy and eating lighter, cleaner meals. It made those Magnolia Bakery treats just that - a treat. Not a necessity for fuel.

We are in a honeymoon stage with our stroller. WE LOVE IT.
For Getting Out & About:

Carrier.
I really love babywearing. Not only was this completely essential for the airport, this was definitely the most seamless way to go places with the baby when I was by myself. I just strapped him in the Ergobaby Carrier and away we went! But keep in mind, with all that walking, you will probably get tired easily. Wear supportive shoes, especially if you will be walking the entire time.

Stroller.
We brought our big mamma-jamma stroller, in addition to the baby carrier, and I am so glad we did. Walking around for hours and hours can get a little bit tolling on your back, even though the Ergo is incredibly supportive. For a city like New York, where walking is my favorite mode of transport, it was really helpful to have my stroller and load it down with the essentials. I could strap Everett in (all bundled up in his JJ Cole Bundleme), hang my diaper bag on the hooks and have plenty of room in the basket underneath for whatever else I wanted to bring along. At one point, I was carrying shopping bags, a few gifts to bring to friends, his Ergobaby carrier (just in case), my coat, a picnic lunch, my SLR camera and a book (ha, as if I was going to read on this trip) all in the stroller basket. It made going to the park really fun, because we had enough gear to get out and stay out for hours and hours. And like I said, we purchased our stroller's travel bag, which provides insurance in case anything is damaged while we travel. Which made it a no-brainer to have along with us.

Pace Yourself.
Plan less activities for your day. And make flexible plans. I wish I could say that having this baby hasn't slowed us down in the least. I wish I could say that we are still livin' la vida loca, that this baby can easily go along with our schedule, that nothing can alter the vigorous way we like to travel and explore. But I would be lying. Having this baby has slowed me down more than anyone else I know that has a baby. We do everything slower. We do fewer things. And those slow, few activities really wear us out, so then we have to nap a lot (when I say "we", I am mostly referring to me and Stevie. I have already established that my child would prefer to never sleep and always play.) Don't plan on leaving your hotel at 8 in the morning to sightsee, meet friends for lunch, shop in the afternoon and then meet more friends for dinner. Because you will spend the majority of your trip (like I did) apologizing by text to everyone you have to cancel on. I'm working on not being too hard on myself about it, this is just part of traveling with a baby. Be flexible. Pace your schedule.

Lessons Learned + What I Wish I had Known.
I wish I would have known about the post-travel crash. I realized that Everett & I could run on adrenaline throughout the trip, but coming home and getting back into a routine was kind of a nightmare. He experienced what some people call the 4-month sleep regression, but it was even more than that. He stopped taking a bottle for a few days. He was mega fussy. He had some whack diapers. He was literally up every hour of ever night for 7 days straight. And it was super un-fun. It's taken a full 10 days to get back into a normal sleep routine, which has helped with his eating and the fussiness. I wish I had better answers for why this happens and what to do about it, but nothing really helped us get through it, other than time. It just took time, attempting to get back to normal. Best thing you can do? Pray. Pray and sleep the very best and most you can. Especially during the daytime, when your baby goes down for a nap. There is tons of info out there about how to cope with baby jet lag, but nothing worked for us. Nothing but prayer and sleep.

Seems like a lot of stuff, huh? It is. But we had such a blast on this trip. I feel much better prepared for the next time we travel. The bottom line is that having this baby is the greatest gift I've ever received, so if he slows me down for a few years, so be it. Traveling with him was an absolute wonder and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Happy holiday travels to all of you this week!

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