Baby Travel Essentials

Must-Haves for Traveling with a Baby

My husband and I traveled quite a bit in our pre-baby days. We’d try to log two trips to Europe plus a handful of domestic trips every year. And while we’re not quite that zealous now that we have a baby (yet!), it’s important to us to get our daughter equally intrigued by travel. After all, we’d feel kind of guilty leaving her at home with a baby-sitter when we go to Italy or another destination du jour for two weeks.

Thus far, she’s been on a small handful of short-ish road trips (five hours max, give or take) and one airplane trip. She’s only three months old; give her some time! Those few trips have taught me a lot, though, in terms of absolute must-haves for traveling with a baby. You might feel like the Clampetts — or a pack mule, as my husband refers to himself — because babies are pretty high-maintenance in terms of their travel essentials. But all of this stuff will no doubt make your life much easier en route or when you arrive at your destination.

  • Dapple Surface Wipes and Pacifier Wipes are in my diaper bag at all times, whether or not we’re traveling. I love that their products are natural and non-toxic, and unlike some “green” products, they don’t cost an arm and a leg. I can’t tell you how many times we used the pacifier wipes on a recent flight. Lifesavers!
  • Travel bags for strollers and car seats are well worth the money. We bought one of each but don’t be fooled, they aren’t nearly as streamlined as the pictures on the boxes might portray. Our Britax bags are big and cumbersome. You will not look like any of these people casually strolling through the airport with your happy family. Again, think about the Clampetts because that’s what you’ll look like. You will, however, arrive at your destination with your stroller and car seat in perfect condition.
  • Travel size diaper wipes, formula, medicine — you name it. Anything you can buy in a travel size will make your life easier. Your diaper bag will be so jam-packed that it will be impossible to fit full-size wipes along with everything else you need. I especially like the packets of powdered baby formula; you can fit tons of those in your diaper bag.
  • aden + anais swaddles are my favorite day in and day out (and they were long before Prince George started causing them to sell out), but they’re especially great for travel. The light muslin fabric makes a perfect “tent” over your stroller, and I like to drape mine over my daughter when she sleeps on the plane (I wish I had a photo to share because she kept pushing it off her forehead and she looked like Mother Theresa). The muslin fabric will keep your baby cool in the summer and warm in the winter. (aden + anais has other great products besides swaddles, too, like muslin crib sheets, bibs and more – love it all!)
  • Dog poop bags serve double duty as dirty diaper bags when you’re in a bind. And since the roll is so compact, you can easily fit a few in your diaper bag.
  • Some sort of entertainment is a must if you’re traveling by plane, and exactly what that entertainment is will vary depending on your child’s age. But dear god, please do not let your child be the one who is supposed to be entertained by a packet of peanuts (besides, most airlines don’t even hand them out anymore). Our three-month old loves her Taggies blanket right now.
  • The Trunki is genius. It’s luggage! It’s a ride-on toy! It will keep your tot entertained at the airport! Our daughter will have one of these when she is old enough.
  • A Baby Bjorn or other type of carrier will not only be useful on your trip, but also en route. If you gate check your stroller, it’s very convenient to pop your baby into the carrier until the stroller arrives. I personally love the Baby Bjorn Active Carrier because it offers a little extra back support.

Friday Faves: September 27, 2013

I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but fall has officially arrived in Chicago and I am loving it! Still haven’t had my first PSL of the season, but I suspect that it will happen soon.

I never got around to making something pumpkin-y last weekend (though I did make Rice Krispie treats which I haven’t done in ages), and I doubt that I will this weekend, either. Because my weekend is jam-packed. And while everything on the agenda is necessary, I really look forward to a weekend of nothing. Someday.

In the mean time, here are some links for your Friday.

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Last weekend’s Apple Fest really got me in the mood for all things fall. Next on the agenda — apple picking. And pumpkin carving. Though, living in the city, I never know where to go to do these things — until now. Choose your state for a complete list of pick-your-own farms.

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Too bad I already got Nora’s Halloween costume, otherwise she could totally dress up as her dad. The chin dimple they share is just the beginning… If you’re still looking for an idea, these kids can offer some inspiration.

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And in that same vein, I think this is one of the funniest pet costumes I’ve seen in a long time.

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This weekend I’m walking in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s, in memory of my grandma. It’s a terrible disease and I can’t even fathom how those who suffer from it feel. Donations still being accepted

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Also on the agenda for the weekend, a wardrobe update. I need one desperately. Even though I’ve lost the bulk of my baby weight, my body just sadly isn’t the same. Plus, this fall weather has me ready for layers and cozy sweaters, so its a good thing Lands’ End has a 30% off Friends & Family event all weekend. Happy shopping!

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I have to thank my sister for sharing this gem with me. #tgif

Baby Travel Tips

Tips for Traveling with a Baby

It was with the slightest bit of trepidation that I decided it would be a good idea to take our baby on her first trip — via airplane — at 14 weeks. All of the cons I could think of were heavily outweighed by the pros — both those that friends had shared, and those I had determined as fact in my head. Our friends said to travel with her while she’s really young because it’s so much easier; she’d mostly sleep on the flight. Others said that it’s best to start her off young to get her used to it. Knowing our travel lifestyle, the latter really resonated.

One round-trip flight down and I’m hardly an expert, but I learned plenty of lessons along the way. And I’m happy to report that I have no regrets, that it was pretty easy and she was a (mostly) good little traveler.

I’ll bucket my learnings into three categories: Before, During and After. In other words, what you need to know before your trip, while you’re in the planning stages; what you need to do during your trip; and what you need to think about once you get home.

Before Your Trip

  • Where will you go? Your days of last minute getaways are likely gone; vacations with babies take some planning, and the first thing you’ll want to nail down is where to go. For our first trip with our daughter, we had a rule that we didn’t want to subject her (or us!) to a flight that was longer than two hours. Luckily that still gave us plenty of options since we’re based in Chicago. You’ll also want to think about weather; I doubt you want to take your little one to Phoenix in the dead of summer, or Boston in the cold of winter.
  • If you’re flying, timing is everything. Try to fly at non-peak times. For example, don’t fly out for a weekend trip on a Friday evening flight and return on a Sunday evening flight — everybody else will be doing the same thing. And remember that the earlier in the day your flight is, the less likely it is to be delayed. Give yourself plenty of extra time at the airport, too. It’s amazing how much extra stuff you have to take with you when you have a baby, and how much extra time that eats up when schlepping through security.
  • Stick to your baby’s schedule. If your baby is on any sort of schedule, keep that in mind when booking flights. For example, our daughter, probably like most babies, gets sleepier as the day progresses. It seems that she does best on morning flights.
  • Find a family-friendly hotel that is actually family-friendly. And by that, I mean a hotel that actually has amenities for families, unless you want to lug a pack ‘n play with you? Look for hotels that, at a minimum, offer a crib or pack ‘n play for your baby to sleep in. My dream amenity at a family-friendly hotel (yet to be seen) — rocking chairs! That would be a god-send when trying to rock my baby to sleep, as skilled as I am at “rocking” her in my arms. It’s amazing what some family-friendly hotels have to offer, though.
  • Splurge on a suite, if you can. It makes a world of difference if you have a baby who has an early bedtime, and you and your spouse presumably don’t share that early bedtime. Unless, of course, you like to sit quietly in the dark while your baby sleeps.
  • What can be shipped? Think about ordering diapers and formula — the big things that take up serious luggage space — from someplace like Amazon or Diapers.com and have them waiting for you at your destination. Caveat: if the hotel is going to charge you an arm and a leg to accept a package on your behalf, it might not be worth it.
  • Think about germs! I’m not a germaphobe, but having a baby has made me borderline. And I’ve always found airplanes to be grotesque germ factories. I made sure my diaper bag was loaded with Dapple Toy and Surface Wipes (for the grody arm rests and tray tables) and their genius Pacifier Wipes.

During Your Trip

  • Stick with a routine. If your baby is old enough to have any semblance of a routine at home, stick to it as much as possible when you’re traveling. Naps really tripped us up; our daughter simply didn’t get them like she does at home and we paid the price.
  • Be flexible. While you should really try to keep up with a routine as much as possible, know that that’s impossible the entire time. Your baby will miss a nap, or she might not get to bed at her “normal” time. You just have to go with the flow. Isn’t part of the fun of travel the adventure?
  • You have a baby with you. Remember that. Seem obvious? Yeah, I know, but this is especially true if you’re on your first trip with your baby. In your mind, you probably have lots of grand plans laid out for how your vacation is going to be, but you forget that you have a baby in the mix who will inevitably throw that plan off course. Case in point — I didn’t wear a single one of the four dresses I packed for our trip because we didn’t go out to dinner one single night.
  • Don’t make it all about the baby! My husband and I have some couple friends who are amazing at not letting their lives be run by their two children. From day one, it seems, they’ve made their children fit into their lives instead of the other way around. Make sure to take some time for yourselves on vacation so that you enjoy it, too. My husband and I both indulged in glorious 70-minute massages on our vacation. Yes, we each went on separate days so that someone would be with the baby, but it was nice to still be able to enjoy some R & R.

After Your Trip

  • Let her get her groove back. You know how it takes you a little while to get back into the swing of things after vacation? The same is true for your baby. Even if you didn’t travel across time zones on your vacation, it may take her a day or two to get back to normal.
  • De-gunk ASAP. Although we got home from our trip past our daughter’s bedtime, I still threw her in the tub for a quick scrub down to get rid of those pesky airplane germs before bedtime. Perhaps I was being overly cautious, but it at least made me feel better putting her to sleep clean!

Friday Faves: September 20, 2013

It has been a long week. I’m still getting used to going to work everyday, especially on those days when I didn’t necessarily get a good night’s sleep the night before… thank you, Nora. But only one more full week to go before I start working three days per week. And I. Cannot. Wait. It will be nice to have more time at home with my little bird. As it is now, I only see her ever so briefly in the morning, and then for maybe an hour in the evening for the bath and bedtime routine. Quite a switch from seeing her all day, everyday, like before. I miss her. Have I mentioned how unfair maternity leave in this country is?

I digress.

The weekend, which will undoubtedly go by too quickly — per usual — isn’t entirely a blank slate, but I don’t have a ton planned, which is nice. It looks to be filled with crisp, autumn weather, so I’m itching to head out for a nice long walk. And maybe I’ll make some kind of pumpkin dessert to match the weather. While I ponder what to make, enjoy these links.

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One good thing about this week? (Aside from the fact that it’s over.) New fall TV! I had high hopes for The Mindy Project last year, and while I felt that it got off to a slow start, I was hooked by the end of last season. The premier this week did not disappoint, although I felt like the Dr. L/Dr. Castellano non-flirting flirting was a little over the top. The other show I’m excited for is Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which is still waiting patiently in my DVR queue so please don’t ruin it for me. Last week was the amuse bouche to next week’s premiers which I’ve really really been waiting for — Modern Family, yes, but even more so, my favorite show, Parenthood. Queue the tears. I also really want to watch Derek, but that means we have to upgrade our Netflix. Grr. (I’m glad I suddenly have an interest in multiple television programs, now, when I have a baby, yet TV somehow barely interested me before.)

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This article on Whole Foods seems to have made its way all over Facebook this week, so maybe you’ve already seen it. But I couldn’t have said it better myself, especially this part, “Whole Foods’ clientele are all about mindfulness and compassion… until they get to the parking lot. Then it’s war.” Yeah, the parking lot or any given cramped aisle within the store, and then those “compassionate” shoppers glare at you for having the audacity to go down said aisle, or worse yet, they leave their cart in the middle of said aisle and wander elsewhere in the store. Every time we go to Whole Foods, I feel like the other shoppers have left their brains at home or checked them at the door. Apparently I’m not the only one.

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I am so, so glad I found these role models to inform my parenting as Nora gets a little older. Because we will definitely be instituting #5. Heck, maybe I can do that now to bribe someone else who lives in this house…

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There go the French, outsmarting us again. No Toddlers and Tiaras for them, no fair! If we have to be subjected to it, everyone should.

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And on a related note, the backlash towards Miss America just repulsed me. I think all of these people forgot how this country originated.

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I keep meaning to look into a meditation class. I’ve been told before that it would be good for me, and I’m sure it probably would be. In the mean time, a friend told me about calm.com which, admittedly, I haven’t tried just yet, but I think this could be a nifty interim solution til I find that class (right after I find that photography class I’ve been meaning to take).

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Back to that idea of making something pumpkin-y this weekend — this sounds delightful.

The Broadmoor with a Baby

The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs

Our daughter is lucky to have a mommy who works in the travel industry. Because my first trip as a child not only wasn’t when I was a wee 14 weeks old, but it also wasn’t to a AAA Five-Diamond resort! I’m pretty sure I was four years old or so, and we drove to Florida to visit my Great-Aunt Marge. Oh yeah, and Disney World.

The Broadmoor

But nothing but the best for our little one! The Broadmoor or bust.

Some people looked at us like we each had eight heads when we said we were taking our 14-week old daughter on vacation. But plenty of other people have traveled with babies younger than ours — and for greater distances. Our flight from Chicago to Denver was only about two hours, which is precisely why we decided to go to Colorado. And backing up a step further, we decided we wanted to travel with her when she’s this young because we travel a lot. And we want her to learn how to travel and to enjoy it as much as we do. That, and plenty of people told us to travel with your child when she’s really young because it’s easiest.

Once we decided to go to Colorado, we quickly pinpointed The Broadmoor. I had heard nothing but good things about it and the fact that it’s family-friendly catapulted it to the top of our list. What I didn’t realize is that The Broadmoor is really like its own little community within Colorado Springs. When you drive up to the property, you really get a sense of its grandeur.

We booked a suite, which was one of our smarter splurges, and it was in the west tower versus the main building. This ended up being a very good thing, I learned, near the end of our trip. The main building is just a lot buzzier and it seemed like there was a constant flow of people in and out. While the west tower was occasionally busy, it was incredibly easy to maneuver Nora’s stroller down the long, wide hallways (of fame) without batting an eye (or worrying about running into someone).

Hall of Fame at The Broadmoor
Hall of Fame

It’s a toss-up as to the best part of our suite — either the balcony with the incredible view (hello, mountains!), or the fact that there was a crib in the bedroom so we could put Nora to bed, close the door and hang out in the living room.

Nora's accommodations

Hotels like The Broadmoor that offer cribs are brilliant, in my opinion. And note, it’s actually a crib, not a pack ‘n play (although they offered those, too, if that’s what you fancy). Lugging a pack ‘n play along on your trip is one less thing you have to worry about.

Back to the view — it wasn’t too shabby. In fact, we ordered room service and dined al fresco our first night there.

Our viewWhile there are so many tourist attractions close by (Pike’s Peak, Garden of the Gods and Cave of the Winds, to name a few), we opted to mostly hang out and relax on property when we were there. The poolside drinks — and the view — at the infinity pool certainly didn’t disappoint.

The Broadmoor infinity pool

 

 

Friday Faves: September 13, 2013

Happy Friday the 13th! Friday the 13th! Yeah… not superstitious? Me, neither. (And I hope I didn’t just jinx myself.)

I survived my first week back at work. Day one was grand. I was ready to be there. By day two, I was over it. And missing my baby. Guess it didn’t help that I plastered my cube with five photos of her (and counting…). Needless to say, I am ready for the weekend to do nothing but cuddle with my little snuggle buggle. And go check out the Lakeview East Arts Festival.

In honor of Friday the 13th, I’m sparing you any lame horror links and am instead sharing these. Happy weekend!

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Having been to India only once — and without our daughter because she didn’t exist at the time — I thoroughly enjoyed Danielle Dumm’s take on parenting in India. She brings up several points that I would’ve never thought about, and while it sounds like she’s enjoying her experience, I’m breathing a big sigh of relief that my husband and I are on the same page in terms of our daughter not visiting India any time soon!

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One day I will lose these last ten pounds of baby weight… one day. Here’s hoping that cooking up healthy (yet delicious) dishes like this kale mushroom frittata will help. Though, I guess if I eat two pieces that defeats the purpose of cooking healthy?

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Apparently cobalt blue is to fall what emerald green was to spring. I love this color and am 100% on board!

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My next big European trip is still two years away (though I’m hoping an opportunity for one pops up before then!), so I’ve got plenty of time to put some serious thought and consideration into where we’ll go when we’re in Italy. This castle that’s over 1,000 years old has made its way onto my list.

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I’ve heard of, but never used, airbnb. When a friend recently told me about renting a farmhouse through the site, I decided to take a look. The photos alone are amazing. Of course, I didn’t make it past London and my old neighborhood.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

When you travel with a baby, you quickly learn that you’re somewhat limited in what types of activities you can do or sights you can see. Months ago, my husband and I decided that we’d take our now 14-week old daughter on our first family vacation over Labor Day. We decided to travel to Colorado for a number of reasons, one of which was because we thought there would be plenty of things we could do with the baby. Well, that’s somewhat true, but while we thought Pike’s Peak would be on our agenda, we quickly came to realize that didn’t make very much sense. Let’s see, a half-day trip with a baby who is already an hour off her schedule and at a higher altitude… no, thank you!

Garden of the Gods, however, made perfect sense. I hadn’t been to Garden of the Gods in probably 20 years or so, but it’s a no-brainer with a baby. The park is a National Natural Landmark, filled with these amazing and unique natural rock formations in Colorado Springs. Ideally, you can park your car and hike around a bit, or just pull off to the side of the road like the rest of the tourists and take a look.

Garden of the Gods
Check out the dare devil on the top left.

It happened to be raining when we were there, so we didn’t have a choice as to whether or not we could get out and walk the trails, though there were plenty of people still doing that even in the rain. I remember when we went there when I was a kid, being amazed that people actually climb these rocks. And we saw plenty of people doing that, too — even in the rain!

The rock formations are pretty fascinating; they’re said to have formed millions of years ago during a geological upheaval. And they really stand out from the rest of the mountain scenery that surrounds you with their bright red color.

Garden of the GodsWe drove through the park in about thirty minutes or so, taking time here and there to take a few photos. And little baby sat contently in the backseat the entire time. Even still, had we been able to get out and walk, it would’ve been easy enough to pop her into the Baby Bjorn (no way would you dare take a stroller).

Garden of the Gods

 

Wanderlust Wednesday: New York, New York

I can think of no place other than New York City today. Probably like most Americans, I remember exactly where I was 12 years ago today — living in Houston, Texas, getting ready for work. My sister and niece were visiting and I remember my sister calling me into the living room when the news broke on TODAY. It was surreal, but that early on, it wasn’t really clear what was going on, so I went to work, only to return home around lunchtime when most everyone left our office.

The days and weeks that followed were unlike any others I’d ever lived or have since lived. I was young, only out of college for about a year, and it was the first major national event of its kind that I’d ever lived through, or recalled living through. Though I was pretty far removed from it all, personally; I merely knew people who knew people in New York.

At that time, I’d never even been to New York, but had long been dazzled by and drawn to it, I guess in the stereotypical way that a small town girl would be. Ironically, I went for the first time just a few months later, in November 2001 for a work trip. I traveled with my boss, who unfortunately did lose a close friend in the World Trade Center. We saw the rubble and smelled the awful smells.

Years later, I would move to Hoboken, New Jersey and wake up to the beautiful sight of the Big Apple every morning. And I have more than my fair share of wonderful memories there.

New York City