Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Travel Tips, Before I Forget Them

We recently got back from our first extended trip with Emmett. We spent about a week and a half in the Pacific Northwest, with a few days in the Seattle area and most of the time in Vancouver.

Before this, the furthest we'd traveled with Emmett was a two-hour (each way) car trip to the Ikea store in Charlotte, NC, so it was fairly ambitious to have his first trip be one that took us all the way across the country and then across an international border. However, I know that lots of people have taken babies even younger than Emmett on much longer trips and have more or less survived, and I reminded myself of this when I'd feel anxious about the trip.

I asked friends online for advice on flying with babies and got some very good suggestions, such as bringing extra clothes (for baby AND parents) in case of poopsplosion/vomiting and having the baby suck on something (pacifier/bottle/mother's breast) during takeoff and landing to help equalize pressure in the ears. My favorite suggestion, from my friend Peter, was to just have the spouse take the kid(s) on a separate flight altogether. Heh.

Many people advised me to buy Emmett his own seat on the plane, but he's been so clingy recently that I figured he'd be happier being held on the flights. I sort of feel like I should go on record and say, "Yes, you were all totally right about the extra seat thing!" but actually, on the very small plane that we took between RDU and NY city, there were only two seats on each side of the aisle and not having a seat for Emmett seemed fine with both of us sitting with/attending to him. It was harder on the longer flights where the row had three seats. Each time, the third seat was occupied (and the flights were too full to necessarily find a row with a free seat) and it was challenging. Emmett gets pretty wriggly at times while nursing or trying to sleep and I worried about him kicking the person in the neighboring seat. We were lucky that the seat neighbors were friendly people who liked kids--one told us about his toddler son and the other was about to visit grandkids--but we ended up putting Adam in between me and the other passenger so that he could be a human shield of sorts. Although Emmett slept almost continuously on the redeye flight that we took home, Adam and I didn't sleep that well and perhaps we would have slept better if he'd been strapped into a seat and we hadn't had to hold him. But holding him did make it easy to nurse him a bit when he started showing signs of turning into That Loud Baby.

One tip I'd picked up on a blog or somewhere was to bring extra earplugs and offer them to people in your surroundings. So we did bring these along and mentioned it to one person who didn't already have headphones on but didn't end up even opening the package. Emmett had fun playing with the unopened package (it now has baby bite marks on it). These days, so many people wear headphones while traveling (especially on a carrier with in-flight entertainment like Jet Blue).

I looked into different types of companies that rent baby gear to travelers (including one that would let you rent a Bugaboo stroller for $25 per day!), but in the end we just rented a car seat from the car rental company and rented a crib from the hotel. If you go this route, be sure to enter the situation with somewhat lowered expectations. The car seat thing was a little weird. We rented from Alamo and after they gave us the keys and had us sign the rental agreement, they just directed us to an unmanned small building in the parking garage that had a random assortment of car seats and boosters in it. The good thing about this was that we could choose a type and size of car seat that we were somewhat familiar with (after discovering that 1 a.m. is not the best time to try to learn to install an unfamiliar type of car seat). Perhaps when it's not 1 in the morning, it's less of a free-for-all? I have no idea. Anyway, I could definitely see the appeal of bringing one's own car seat after this experience. What can I say, we were trying to travel light.

In terms of life after you get out of the airport, I have a big piece of advice to share with the world. You know those plastic outlet covers? Bring 5 or 6 of them on every trip until your kid gets past the "I want to play with electrical outlets" stage. They don't take up much luggage space and might be needed. We were staying at a historic hotel in Vancouver, and while most of the outlets were located behind furniture, there was one outlet that was right on the wall in an area near where Emmett would play. I would end up sitting in front of it to keep him away from it. I almost bought outlet covers at one point but resisted since I have tons of them at home.

Although I brought enough clothes for Emmett to wear for the duration of the trip, it was only a few days into the trip that I realized I wanted do laundry anyway, because at Emmett's age, if he gets an outfit messy, he really gets it messy. Even though we brought bibs, he got a lot of food on clothes. On a shorter trip, we might've just let it go, but we were away for 11 days and decided to outsource his (and our) laundry a little more than halfway through the trip.

Overall, Emmett was great on the trip. We joke that he flirts with people (of all ages) wherever he goes. We'd be sitting in a restaurant and would realize that he'd be making eye contact and smiling at someone at another table, or in the airport he'd crawl up to people to say Hi. A friendly baby is a major icebreaker with strangers!

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