Travel Tuesday – The Long Haul

I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about traveling with little ones. And yet one fact escaped me, one very important fact that could change the face of travel with an infant forever. Something that has the potential to make it ENJOYABLE… What is this wonder, you ask? The airplane BASSINET!

A friend of mine just booked a multi-leg, multi-country vacation. And coming along for the ride is his infant son.  In chatting about the trip, he mentioned: “Yeah, I was excited that we were able to secure one of the airplane bassinets”. HOLD ON, I said, Back that up.  Did you you say, “Airplane Bassinets”? What does that even mean?

Apparently- on some long-distance flights, airlines offer bassinets in front of the bulkhead seating. It would have to be a super long distance flight (think international, not domestic), because these bassinets are only offered on certain types of aircraft.  Which, being the domestic travel diva that I am, is probably why this fact escaped me. But this revelation totally blew my mind. And after Googling to find out what these bassinets look like, I’m even more impressed.  They’re pretty sturdy looking! No longer will I feel limited to domestic travel only with baby… with the possibility of a bassinet for international travel, the world is now our playground! (Ok maybe not our playground– but certainly more accessible than before!)

Have you traveled with a baby in an airplane bassinet? Were they as amazing as they appear to be? Please share your experience!

Travel Tuesday – Traffic. With a Baby.

With this past weekend being a 3-day weekend, I should have known that I’d be in for it if I went out on the roads. Sometimes though, there’s just no getting around it: you have to get from point A to point B, and you have to drive there. When baby is on board for a road trip though, there’s nothing that can throw a parenting curveball better than traffic.

You think you’ve got everything you need: Plenty of snacks. Plenty of drinks. Plenty of diapers (if your baby is still using them). I used to think pulling over to the side of the road to change a wet diaper during traffic was a pain. But what do you do when your potty-training toddler needs to GO and there’s no exit to be found? You’ve got quite a parenting conundrum on your hands at that point, and luckily, I haven’t had to find out the answer. My brief panic at the mere thought of what to do in that situation, has me coming up with a plan of prevention: make stops often and at regular intervals, even if the need isn’t apparent, so that in case of the unexpected, the dreaded potty situation will be less likely to occur. Fingers crossed that my plan works.

But it’s not just potty issues that can have moms stressing when it comes to unexpected traffic. Traffic can also be a concern for nursing moms. Babies have to be in their car seats, in the back seat when the car is moving. That’s just a fact. So it necessarily follows that the car needs to stop in order for mom to nurse. If your baby is sleeping peacefully for the first part of your trip, and then you get stuck on a highway where there’s no movement whatsoever, your options are pretty limited when baby wakes up hungry. This actually DID happen to me when my little one was 5 months old. I was driving with a friend who was visiting the Bay Area for the first time, and what I thought was going to be a quick, 30 minute drive turned into a 2 and a half hour ordeal. I stressed, and cried along with my little one, trying my hardest to get to an exit as fast as I could (it ended up taking a very LONG 20 minutes). Once we made it to the exit, I found a place to safely pull over, got in the backseat and nursed. (Yet another moment where I was grateful that I packed my nursing cover!)

Of course, with proper planning both of these crises can be averted. Regular potty breaks. Plenty of pumped milk on hand (and a travel bottle warmer for babies who are finicky about milk temperature, like mine was). I wish I could say I’m perpetually well-prepared, but even when I think I’m well-prepared, it always seems like there’s something I forget. As a first-time mom, I really am just learning everything as I go (at least I’m a quick-study). I’m just glad that I have a sense of humor for the times that modern life hands me a teachable moment. I’m sure there will be many more.

Travel Tuesday – 5 Tips for Traveling with Babies

Today is December 20th- and now that we’re in the “20’s” of December, that means that holiday travel is kicking into high-gear.

Traveling during the holidays is stressful for ANYONE– think of the lines, the cranky passengers, the potential weather delays making for even CRANKIER passengers.  Add baby (or babies) to that mix, and you’ve got a recipe for chaos–or at the very least, a very tricky parenting challenge.

As a travel-pro (and I make this claim only because I’ve flown almost 40,000 miles with my little girl, starting at 5 months of age -her first flight photo is above), I think I’m in a decent position to give some advice on how to get through those long airport and airplane hours. I’d love to hear tips from others as well- while I’m pretty good at traveling with one, I seriously suspect that traveling with multiple will be an entirely different story!

Tip 1- Book that extra seat.

Babies up to the age of 2 are allowed to fly on their parent’s lap on most airlines, but if at all possible think about booking a seat for your baby.  Not because the baby will actually sit in the seat, because in my experience, your kiddo will almost always end up on your lap, but to at least create what I call a “buffer zone” between you and another passenger.  If you’re traveling with another adult, the extra seat might not be necessary, but if you’re alone, a single-seat-sized space probably isn’t enough room for you, your baby, and your gear. Though– I’ve done it, with some luck and some cooperation of friendly row-mates, of course.

Tip 2- Pack light, but pack smart.

In the early days of traveling with my little one, I packed EVERYTHING I thought she could possibly need- including clothes for every single day we’d be away. But if you’re going somewhere that you’ll have access to a washer/dryer- don’t feel obligated to pack the whole dresser. Bring the essentials for about half the days that you’ll be at your destination and just plan on doing a load of laundry while there (and in my experience, if you’re visiting family, you’re going to get gifts of cute outfits upon arrival anyway!)

The on-the-plane necessities actually add up to quite a bit on their own anyway. In my experience, the following are must-haves:

  • a diaper wallet (lugging a giant diaper bag down that narrow airplane aisle and maneuvering it in those tiny bathrooms is just too difficult)
  • lots of liquids (one less thing to carry if you’re nursing)
  • snacks if the baby is on solid food
  • a changing pad
  • diapers
  • wipes
  • a change of clothes (for your baby, and a back-up shirt for you)
  • hand sanitizer
  • a nursing pillow (totally worth the space it takes up in the seat, because once you’re done nursing, baby can snooze on it and your arms get a rest)
  • a nursing cover
  • baby’s favorite book
  • a blankie (it gets cold on planes!)
  • an umbrella stroller if baby is big enough (this will get you all the way to the plane, and then you’re on your own) and, if all else fails-
  • your smartphone

Tip 3 – Nurse your baby on the way up and the way down to prevent the “ear pops”. Changes in altitude have been known to affect even adult ears, so there’s potential that those “pops” can make baby very uncomfortable.  If you nurse, or give your baby a bottle on the way up and down, the swallowing motion eases the pressure build-up and can make the altitude change less painful (for both  of you).

Tip 4Accept Help When it’s Offered. 75% of the travel that I did with my little one was travel alone. My vacation schedule was different than my husband’s, so I often flew back east on my own to see family while he stayed home and worked. This certainly complicated matters– and for those first couple trips, I tried to do it all by myself. Its not easy once you have to turn over that stroller at gate-check and you’re left with all your bags (purse, diaper bag, carry on) AND little one in your arms. Other passengers had offered to help and at first, my reply was always “oh thanks, I have it though”- after a couple trips, I was more than happy to let a nice co-passenger help me get our bags to where they needed to go, and when other passengers didn’t offer, the flight attendants were always happy to help (though, they often wanted to hold the baby, as opposed to the bags, but help is help!) Take the help when its offered and seek it out even if its not offered– it’s definitely worth it!

Tip 5- When all else fails, it really is ok (at least in my book!) to take the “easy way out”. Yes, I’m going to admit to you here that when I traveled with my toddler, when she was done coloring, when we’d read her books twenty times each, when she was bored and near melt-down, I pulled out my smartphone. Yes, I let her watch a movie. Sometimes, we let her play with baby flash cards on the phone. We had always said we’d stick to the American Academy of Pediatrics advice about no screen time before 2- but on the plane, while surrounded by strangers who just wanted some peace and quiet, and no possibility of escape, and with a solution at my fingertips, I took the easy road. And it worked.

Traveling Tuesday: Early Inheritance

We are “traveling” back in time today…!

Now that I carry my SLR around me most everywhere I go, my shoulder bags and totes just aren’t cutting it any more. It’s literally a pain in the neck to keep it from sliding off my shoulder while trying to capture THE shot that requires the use of both hands. Thus, I decided a crossbody bag would better serve my purposes of shlepping my possessions around with me — a tan leather crossbody bag to be precise. While I really like this bag, tan leather will better round out my modest handbag collection and I like that it’s a timeless look that spans seasons as well as decades. Proof? I was admiring these at the Coach website

when I recalled that my mom carried something similar around at one time. I rang her up and hey, not only did she have a tan leather bag, she had THE ORIGINAL Original Rambler’s Legacy bag by Coach! In tan! See it up there in the top row? The best part was that she was thrilled to give it to me because it’d been neglected in the back of her closet for the past 20 years. It’d been a gift from my grandma to my mom 40-something years ago and now my mom was handing it down to me. :D


**Okay, I lied. The best part wasn’t that she was thrilled to pass it along to me and it was mine (for free!) just a week later. The best part is when it arrived… You know how they say scent is a powerful way to trigger memories? After being tucked away in her closet for years, the bag smells just how I remember my mom smelling from my childhood in a really lovely way. It particularly reminds me of all her hugs because I’d literally be enveloped in that scent, in her arms, feeling safe and loved. And that makes me happy to carry this bag around with me wherever I go now :)

{The author and her mother circa 1986.}