Things I learned on my 6 hour drive

…I don’t care if you pass me on the interstate, I really don’t. When you pass me and then proceed to go the same speed as me (or slower), then we have a problem.

…Even at 10pm, you will still sit in traffic for roadwork, somewhere.

…No matter where you are, all interstates are boring as hell. They are even more boring at night.

…That mini heart attack you have when you see flashing lights of any kind is up there with bending a fingernail backwards or smacking your knee on a table corner for “feelings I’d like to avoid.”

…It is possible to use the bathroom while holding your baby.

…5 Hour Energy does not last the full five hours.

…The “Range to Empty” function on my car is completely inaccurate.

…On a similar note, the “Expected Arrival” time on my GPS is also completely inaccurate, or it is in a totally wrong time zone.

…I love all the songs on my iPod until it’s in the shuffle function. Then I only like approximately one of every five songs.

…It’s a great idea to leave at your baby’s bedtime. Until you are trying to wrestle them in bed at 2am because they now think it’s playtime. Then it seems like a very, very bad idea. It’s the worst idea ever when they wake you up at 6am after only three hours of sleep (so….tired….).

What’s in my travel diaper bag

My “What’s in my diaper bag” is probably one of my most popular posts on this blog. Apparently people Google “what’s in my diaper bag” a lot, and it sends said people here. (If you found my little corner of the internet from that post, welcome! I hope you stuck around.)

Seeing as it’s still such a popular post, I thought I would do it again with what I packed in my travel diaper bag on our flights. Packing a well stocked diaper bag for air travel is extremely important, as there really is no way you can “restock” in a terminal. If you run out of something…you are kind of screwed. On the same token, you don’t want to pack so much you feel like a sherpa, because running through an airport with a baby is already exhausting enough. There’s a happy medium where you feel well prepared but not over packed. That happy medium kind of depends on your baby, but here is what worked for me and my eight/nine month old.

First things first, here is the bag I used on both flights:

shishubag

It’s the Shi Shu Style Everything Tote, and It. Is. Awesome. The bag itself is huge and has six generously sized pockets on the inside, so it’s easy to keep organized. It has a wide opening so you can shove a lot into it without it feeling overstuffed, and it still fits underneath the airplane seat in front of you. The straps are long enough so it’s a comfortable bag to carry over your shoulder for extended periods of time.

(A word about price: Apparently, this bag retails for almost $100. Suffice to say, I did not spend this much money on it. I got it from babysteals.com for $30. I’m sure you could find something similar for much less than what this retails for, but if you can find this bag on sale like I did, it’s a great bag. Baby Steals still has some available in one color scheme!)

Secondly, I kept things organized inside the bag with clear zippered bags. I got these from Amazon, but anything similar will work. I packed diapers/wipes, toys, and snacks in separate bags so I could easily grab what I needed. Everything else got packed in the pockets.

And now, for the contents:

diaperbag

1. Aden & Anais blanket: Always have one in my bag, traveling was no exception. A pretty much passes out on planes, so it was helpful to have to drape over her. ETA: This was also handy to spread on the ground at the airport so A could play during layovers.

2. Various wipes: I brought wet wipes to clean off pretty much anything I knew A would be touching since planes are notoriously germy. Boogie Wipes are a product I would probably cease to function without (I may or may not use them myself when I have a cold), and they were super necessary on this last flight since A had a little cold. And of course, regular baby wipes (which I actually used in a travel case, but the regular container was closer for photography purposes).

3. Diapers: I packed 5-6 Target brand diapers (I have better luck with these than most name brand diapers with leak control) for these flights. I figured 1 for before take off in New Orleans, 2-3 for layovers, and 1 for after landing in destination city. This formula worked pretty well for A. I either used all the diapers or had a couple left over, but never ran out before I reached where we were headed.

4. Toys!: I didn’t pack all of these for both flights, but a combo of them were used for each flight. My thought process was to pack a variety of toys, some she loved, some she hadn’t played with in a while, and one new toy, on each trip. The two things these toys had in common: Compact and quiet.

5. Things to keep/stay clean with: I never leave home without a few burp clothes, a couple bibs, and a change of clothes (for me and A). Traveling is no exception.

6. A’s lovey: Pretty self explanatory. If your kid has a lovey, make sure you have it. I don’t think she would have napped on the plane without her Aden & Anais security blanket.

7. iPad/charger: I brought the iPad for two reasons: 1) I have a few apps for A on there which keep her occupied when nothing else will, and 2) I use it as my e-reader now, so when A napped on the plane I could read. I am in constant fear of my phone dying while being stranded in an airport, so I always pack a charger in my carry on.

8. Stuff to eat: I packed Plum Organics Super Puffs, Cheerios, and Baby Mum Mums for A to snack on. Not pictured: Baby food pouches; she can suck the food right out of them so it’s not messy. I also packed myself a few snacks, like granola bars and trail mix. I packed A’s formula in the Avent formula dispenser. Not pictured: Bottles.

*Now, a word about bottle feeding and flying.

Bottle feeding on plane kind of sucks. First you have to actually pack bottles, which take up beaucoup room in your bag, then you have to worry about fixing the bottles in the airport. Then you either have to rinse bottles in the airport bathroom (gross) or carry around dirty bottles in your bag (less gross, but have you smelled formula recently? It doesn’t smell better the longer it sits there). The TSA says you can go through security with a “reasonable” amount of prepared formula, but I never could find out from anyone how much a “reasonable” amount is. On the Boston trip, I actually bought really cheap bottles from Wal Mart (3 for $2.87, you really can’t beat that), and threw them away after A used them. I would have done this for Indy too but I didn’t get a chance to go to Wal Mart before we left. I really liked this “disposable” bottle method over using our regular bottles on the Indy trip.*

Not pictured: I packed a baggie of liquids with hand sanitizer, lotion, and Infant Tylenol. I am by no means a proponent of drugging your kid, but I did give A some infant Tylenol before our flights. I was not only worried about ear pain, but I knew she was cutting her teeth on both flights.

That’s our travel diaper bag in a nutshell. It seems like a lot of stuff, but it actually all fit well in the bag and didn’t feel too crazy. And it all got used, which is how I really know I didn’t overpack. Next week A and I are road trippin’ to Florida to spend a few days at the beach with my two older nephews, so I’m excited to see how my new travel experiences translate to a different method of transportation.

An abridged guide to flying with a baby

Traveling can often seem intimidating. It can be doubly so when traveling with kids. In these situations, knowledge is power, and knowing what to expect can save a lot of time and tears. Logistically speaking, navigating airports under the best of circumstances can be a challenge. Navigating an airport with a baby strapped to you or while steering a stroller while trying to figure out where Terminal XYZ is in a whole different ballpark. Add in short layovers and delayed flights and you have a recipe for a disaster.

airplanes-work-1

With two flights under our belt, I feel semi-qualified to talk about this. For my money, the best ways to stay sane while traveling with a baby are pretty simple:

1. Plan ahead. When you book your flight, plan ahead. If you can, book any connecting flights* through airports you are familiar with, which will alleviate the stress of not knowing where you’re going. For both flights, we flew through Atlanta, an airport I have traveled through probably 11 billion times (okay, maybe closer to 10 billion…I’ve connected through Atlanta a lot is what I’m getting at here), so I knew I would be able to navigate it on my own should I need to for any reason. If you’re flying though unfamiliar airports, do some research. Check out their websites and look at airport maps. You may not know what terminals you’ll be arriving/departing from, but at least you’ll know how far Terminal A and D are from each other. Also the earlier you book your flight, the better seat options you have. The closer you are to the front of the plane the better, since A) It minimizes turbulence, and B) makes for a speedier exit with a restless child.

2. Figure out how long it’s going to take you from leaving your house to getting through security and plan accordingly. If you live in or around a major city, chances are you are within an hour or so from an airport. Maybe you fly all the time and know exactly how long it takes to get to it. If not, figure it out. Google map it, and factor in the time of day (more on that in the next point) you’ll be driving. You definitely don’t want to be “cutting it close” when it comes to traveling with a baby, so add in a few extra minutes. Add in ten more if you are checking bags, and 15 (at least) for security**. How are you getting to the airport? If you’re driving yourself, you’re all set, but if someone is giving you a ride, be sure to add a few minutes there, too. For instance, if you’re flight is at 10:00am and you want to be at the gate for 9:00am and you live an hour from the airport, you should leave your house around 7:00am. This should give you enough wiggle room if you hit traffic or security is horribly long. If you live more than two hours from an airport and plan on flying early, I would recommend getting a room at a hotel the night before your flight. Leaving at 4:00am for a 10:00am flight is probably bad news with a baby.

3. Figure out the best time to fly (for you). Everyone has different theories about this. It really depends on what kind of kid you have, where you live, where you’re going, and what time of year you’re traveling. Example: Weather gets worse in the afternoons in the Summer in Louisiana. Because of this, I flew early to avoid bad weather. Also, Boston and Indy weren’t that long of a plane rides (an hour to Atlanta, two hours to Boston; both legs one hour for Indy), so leaving early worked well with A’s schedule. Sometimes you don’t have options about flight times (international travel), so you’re kind of stuck there, but for most domestic flights you should have options you can fit to your travel needs.

4. Practice makes perfect. Planning on using a baby carrier or stroller you seldom use at the airport? Take it for a test spin. Or two. Or five. Practice getting baby in and out of it as well as breaking down/assembling, especially if you’re flying on your own. You don’t want to be scrambling to get to your gate dragging your kid and your stroller because you don’t know how to use it. I used my Ergo on the Boston flight in the hip carry position. The weekend before we left I used it on our LSU excursion. I made sure to get A in and out of it several times on my own, even though I was traveling with my parents. I used our new lightweight umbrella stroller, The First Years Ignite, on the Indy trip. I made sure I was able to collapse it and open it one handed, but I did get plenty of help from passengers and airport/airline employees with this.

5. Bring a lot of distractions. Your diaper bag is your arsenal of tricks, so plan accordingly. Bring a variety of small, quiet toys/things that will amuse your baby for a while. Snacks are also good. When in a pinch, A loved all the stuff in the seat back pocket (after I wiped it down with an antibacterial wipe, of course) like the safety brochure and Skymall magazine.

6. Don’t panic (go with the flow). You’re traveling, so hiccups are bound to happen. Maybe you hit traffic on the way to the airport and miss your flight. Maybe your baby has a total meltdown on the plane that you can only soothe by singing “The wheels on the bus” horribly off key at an embarassing volume. Maybe your baby pees so much her diaper leaks while she’s sitting on your lap in the plane (that happened on both flights). Stuff happens, so just take it in stride. Just remember no matter what, you’re making memories, so don’t forget to have some fun.

*There is a magic number for layovers. And it’s somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half. Shorter and you run the risk of missing your flight, longer and both you and your kid get bored. Finding flights that hit this magic number is harder than you think.

**A note about security: I didn’t have to take A out of the Ergo in either New Orleans or Boston. Instead of going through the bodyscanner thing, I went through the normal metal detector and they just wiped my hands and tested me for, I’m assuming, bomb residue. Easy peasy.