Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Tale of the Traveling Baby

The second weekend in August was my friend/college roomate's wedding and I really wanted to be there for it. Plus, it had been 2 years since my last visit to Ohio. The original plan was that I would drive, taking two days to get there and back. My mom talked me out of that plan and insisted flying would be safer with it being just Connor and me. I finally agreed and bought a plane ticket and reserved a rental car. After the short road trip with Connor in July, I was thankful I decided to fly, but still nervous that Connor would scream/fuss the whole plane ride. When I booked my flights, I chose early morning times since that's when Connor is less likely to be fussy. I did have a connection in Atlanta and prayed everything would go well getting to the next plane.

So we get up bright and early that Wednesday before the wedding to head to the airport for our flight. I had managed to cram everything, including some cloth diapers, in my large rolling suitcase (with 4 swivel wheels) and a carry on. The diaper bag would be my personal item and I would gate check the stroller and car seat. Luckily Connor still fits in his infant seat, even though I've already moved him into a convertible seat, so that was the one I would take since it snaps into the stroller. I don't think I would have managed to get from the car to the ticket counter by myself if it were't for my set up. I carried Connor in the Ergo, put the diaper bag in the bottom of the stroller, the car seat snapped on the stroller and the gate check bags for them and my carryon sat on top of the car seat. I then pushed the stroller with one hand and the suitcase with the other. That was one heck of a workout! I got us checked in and found out my suitcase was 7 lbs over the 50 lbs limit... I could either pay $90 (!!!!) extra to check it as is or transfer stuff over to my already too heavy carry on. I'm by myself with a baby... so I chose to just pay and figure something out for the return flight. Ouch! Then it was off to security. I was so glad they have a special line that included those traveling with strollers. The security people were very nice and even helpful with getting my stuff all up on the line and didn't make me feel rushed at all. I even was allowed to wear Connor through security, I just had to get my hands tested for explosive material.... haha, like I would even have time for that! After that went so smoothly, I was feeling a little better about this whole flying alone with a baby thing. I still wasn't sure about how I would get the car seat and stroller into the gate check bags and get them down the ramp (while Connor is in the Ergo and carrying the diaper bag and carryon) but I figured I would drag them if I had too. Turns out there was another mom with a young baby who was also on my flight and she helped me get everything into the bags and down the ramp during pre-boarding (something else I was thankful for!) as she had a seat for her baby and was bringing the carseat aboard and had an extra hand. We got on the plane and found our seats and I prayed we'd get nice people beside us. Luckily we did have two very nice people sitting beside us... good thing too because as everyone was boarding, Connor (being overtired and probably overwhelmed at this point) started SCREAMING and nothing I did was helping. I did eventually get him to nurse and he fell asleep just before we taxied to the runway. This was when one of my last minute decisions before leaving the house that morning came in handy... I had grabbed one of my scarves (not the winter kind but the accessory kind) and it worked perfectly to cover me enough while Connor was nursing without actually covering Connor (which he won't let me do anymore anyways). I had hoped he's sleep the whole flight but he ended up waking up just as we reached cruising altitude. Luckily our first leg was short. I pulled out a new toy (Eric Carle ladybug) that I had bought after reading someone's tips on traveling with small children (bring along a new toy)... it worked for a little while and he really likes that new toy, but he fussed again on our initial decent and I finally got him to nurse while we made the final decent so his ears wouldn't get too messed up. We made it! Now I had to get us to our connection. This was when I was glad I had the set up I did. It didn't take too long to get everything out of the gate check bags and all piled up and ready to be pushed across the airport. We made it in plenty of time for me to change Connor's diaper before we boarded. The second last minute decision I had made that morning was to grab a couple of cloth diapers to have him wear on the planes... so thankful I did this because I found quite the poopy diaper when I changed him between flights and it likely would not have stayed in the diaper if he were in disposable. I'm not sure when he actually pooped but it was probably part of why he was so fussy on the first flight. The second flight was better than the first. One of the gentlemen from first class carried my carry-on aboard and even stowed it for me in the over-head bin! The middle seat was empty the whole flight which gave us some extra room which was nice. He still fussed a little but not as much as the first flight and did sleep for part of it. He may have slept longer but the beverage cart ended up parking itself right next to us, gee thanks. Overall, it went much better than I expected and I was SO thankful for the kind & helpful people who helped me along the first part of our trip.

I actually liked the rental car I got this time, a Ford Fusion, and if I were to buy a small car, this would be at the top of the list.

It was a busy trip and we tried to visit with as many people as we could without making it too overwhelming. I enjoyed getting to spend time with my sisters and even got to see my nieces briefly. We also met up with some of my cousins from my dad's side of the family that I haven't seen in many years and it was nice to see them and meet their kiddos too! I missed getting to see one of my best friends from high school because we were running late and then the rental car alerted me to low tire pressure and by the time I found a tire gauge and filled the tires, it put us too far behind and we missed each other (insert sad face here). I did get to show Connor the duck pond I used to go to sometimes as a kid that was right across the street from my elementary school (not that he'll remember it, lol). Connor did great at the wedding and it was so nice to see my college friends. I was super thankful that one of my sisters came with me to help out too. On our last day in town, we went to the zoo I grew up with and it was fun to see Connor actually watching some of the animals.

I wasn't as nervous about our trip home, but it was earlier and this time I had two suitcases to get to the ticket counter. There was no way I was paying another $90 for a heavy bag so I bought Connor his own suitcase at Target while we were there. It was carryon size with a long handle and four spinning wheels so I figured I would just put that one and my big one back to back and roll them together. We dropped off the rental and I managed to get across the parking lot and almost inside the rental car building that I had to pass through to get to the shuttle that would take us to the airport (yes, if you get a rental car at the Cleveland airport, they are all in their own building off the airport property). I was attempting to get everything onto the curb when a lady from Hertz who was outside taking a break, saw me and offered to help. Then she decided there was no way I should take a shuttle and that she would have someone drive me over to the airport. OMG, THANK YOU!! This wasn't even the rental company I rented my car with (Budget) and she was going to have someone take us to the airport! So we got to the airport and the gentleman who drove us over made sure to tell the Delta agents that I would need help with my luggage. We got checked in and through security just fine and had some time to play before boarding the plane. As I sat on the plane, I wondered if I would maybe run into someone I knew since I hadn't run into anyone by accident during my stay, but then thought, no probably not. Connor was doing well while everyone boarded and next thing I know, I look up and who is walking down the isle of the plane? My friend who just got married and her husband leaving on their honeymoon! And where are they sitting? In the row right behind us!!! How crazy is that? She was so excited to see us since she didn't get to visit with us much at the wedding (we had to leave early and hey, it was her wedding day!) and she felt bad that we had come all that way. So what does she do? Asks her new husband to switch seats with me so she and I could chat on the flight to Atlanta. He of course agrees and we get to talk the whole time and catch up a little. I'm still amazed how that happened. Once in Atlanta, they helped me to the tram and then we parted ways as they headed for Mexico and Connor and I headed home. He did pretty well on our trip home with just a little fussing here and there. He seemed so happy once we got back to our car (which I managed to get all the luggage and what not all the way to the parking lot on my own... quite a workout!). He even let out a squeal of laughter as we pulled into the garage and was thrilled when we got inside the house.

Ok so based on my experience of traveling alone, by air, with a baby... here is my list of tips...

Airplane Tips

  1. Wear your baby through security and the airport: it's easy, frees up your hands, and gives them that sense of security in a new/strange place.
  2. If baby is still in an infant seat that works with a travel system, gate check the infant seat and stroller so you can use them to help you get your things to the plane.
  3. Use gate check bags for your carseat and stroller if you don't want them getting scuffed up or dirty.
  4. Make sure baby is sucking on something during takeoff and landing (landing is more important than takeoff). Connor doesn't take a pacifier so I nursed him on takeoff and landing.
  5. If you are breastfeeding and want to be discreet without having to cover baby's head, use a scarf (put on backwards, crossed behind your neck and draped back to the front). I wore a nursing tank that doesn't cover anything so this was a huge help for me. 
  6. If you can manage to have just the diaper bag as your carryon and your purse as a personal item, do it. I couldn't so I had a duffle bag for my carryon (purse inside) and the diaper bag was my personal item. 
  7. Bring a new toy for the plane ride. Make sure it's interesting and interactive so it keeps baby entertained (at least for a little while!).
  8. Bring something to read for yourself in case baby sleeps the whole flight (an e-reader would be easiest).
  9. If you use cloth diapers at home, use them on the plane too, they'll contain the messes better IMO.
  10. If you can't pack everything into one rolling suitcase (make sure it has four swivel wheels), then make sure your second suitcase has a long handle and four swivel wheels or will attach to the bigger one.
Other Travel Tips
  1. Try to stick with baby's daily routine as much as you can (notice I said routine, not schedule... be flexible). Expect crankiness when naps or bedtime are missed/delayed.
  2. Some babies (especially high-need babies) may be more clingy on a trip around people he doesn't see often and in a new place so make sure you offer him reassurance that he needs to know that he's still safe.
  3. If you use cloth diapers at home, use cloth on your trip if you have access to a washer/dryer... your baby's bum will thank you :).
  4. If you're renting a car, double check to make sure all the tires have enough air in them... apparently they don't check this when refueling. You might even want to check the fluid levels too.

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