Summer 2018 Travel Gear Guide

 

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Baby Flyer starts a flight off right!

In just a couple weeks, we’re heading out on a 4 city, 12 day, family adventure to Europe!  We’ll be sightseeing through Lucerne, Switzerland on arrival, then Prague, Czechia, and on to Stockholm, Sweden, before finally one last night in Helsinki, Finland!  So….. what to bring??

Last summer we went to Europe as well, that time with an 18 month old.  When thinking this year’s trip through, we realized we needed to change up some of our gear.  We’ll be leaving some things home, and taking some new things to try.

Here’s some of the current packing list:

When you’re doing a trip with this many stops, and this many chances for things to get lost, damaged, or even just cost more to check, what suitcases you want to take is the first important question.

The we’re each planning bringing on a simple rolling suitcase that can either be checked, or boarded with, depending on the best option for the flight.  We’ve had several brands this size, but the Travelpro Crew 10 has stood up to the test the best, even when having other items tied on.  Do keep in mind, though, if you’re going to be doing a lot of intra-Europe flying, you may be asked to check a bag much over 20,” and weight limits may be enforced.

Travelpro crew 10

A good companion bag to bring in the cabin, or to tuck in the seat in front is also key.  For a lower price point we like the matching duffel to the Travelpro crew series, or if you’re looking for something that can be a small rolling bag, the Briggs & Riley rolling cabin bag is lovely.

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Baby Flyer demonstrates how nicely the Briggs & Riley rolls.

What’s different this year is that Baby Flyer is two, and so she has her own ticket and her own baggage allowance.  Keeping with family tradition, she has her own (pink, of course) Maxlite Travelpro roller.  We decided to get her ‘real luggage’ instead of a kids-type bag, hoping that the quality and size will make it a long term purchase, while still being small enough for her to roll on her own when she’s in the mood.

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Knowing that she won’t be in the mood yet to roll her own suitcase all the time, we ordered a simple attaching strap so we can clip hers onto one of ours for longer walks.  This brand is universal, adjusts well, and fits most wheeled luggage models.

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Best travel car seat ever- light and durable – Cosco Senecra

This is also the first major trip where we’re going to bring her car seat to install on the flights.  We’ll update with how this goes, as well as some of the rules later, but keep in mind that not all airplane seats are compatible with car seats, especially in business or first class cabins.  Check with your airline to make sure.  Seats, even in economy, that are in bulkhead rows also may not work as they may have airbags in the seatbelts, and be narrower, so only some slim car seats will fit.  As a general rule, most basic economy seats have a 17″ width, so that’s a good dimension to follow when measuring your car seat to see if it will fit.

Since we’re planning on taking the car seat through the airport, we’re trying out a harness that attaches it to a carry on size roller bag.  It seems to work great, though takes a couple minutes to sort out at first.  We recommend also packing a light gate check bag in case you decide to check it plane side to keep it clean.

car seat strap

This trip is also a first in that we’re leaving her well used traveller crib at home.  She’s just recently gotten big enough that she rolls into the edges at night and wakes up.  We’ve been experimenting with inflatable toddler beds like the Shrunks brand mattress.  It looks great, sets up fast, and is a cut above other basic air mattresses.  Baby Flyer really seems to like the idea and loved playing on it, but since she’s still in a crib at home, it’s just different enough that we’re not confident it’ll be worth it to drag around Europe.  We’re keeping it for when she’s a bit older for travel, sleepovers, etc.

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This bed really does seem to hold the air well, packs up small, and has separate air chambers for the inside and outside, so you can tuck blankets in.  It also fits a standard size crib sheet.

Instead, we checked with our Airbnb hosts, and at each location there’s either a crib already there, a kid’s bed on the ground, or enough extra mattresses that we can make her a safe place to sleep without having to bring anything with us.

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The Citi Mini Zip is a good option for a larger feeling stroller that packs away small.

We’re also not taking our own stroller this time around.  Last year we brought our City Mini Zip and backpack, but didn’t use it as much as we thought we would.  Baby Flyer likes to walk on her own, or be in a carrier.  If she was a better stroller kid we would likely bring it again, even though it’s nice to downsize our luggage.  Like the beds though, one of our Airbnbs has a stroller for us to use, and Stockholm has a convenient looking stroller rental option, so we’re more or less covered.

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Plus, we finally admitted that she was getting too big for our Ergo 360, and upgraded to the Tula toddler carrier.  It has a high weight limit – up to 60 (!!) pounds.  This was one thing we didn’t take last summer that we really wish we did, so this is us living and learning.

We also are trading in our usual over the shoulder bag for an all purpose backpack to take on the plane, that should be easier to take around the cities when we get there.

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A big trip is also a good time to pick up some smaller necessities.  Last summer we definitely wished we had some extra plugs, so we ordered a spare Targus Universal Adapter, and a bigger remote power bank since we lost one in an airport earlier this year.

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When the stars align… even for just a while…

With all these things set, and our departure date getting close, we’re down to enjoying planning things to do and see!  It’s the best feeling to be done with the nuts and bolts of a trip to get to the good stuff.  There’s really no such thing as being totally prepared for an international family trip, but a little early organization can get you so much closer.

Travel well,

~CET

It Takes a Village…To Cross The Country

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The thought of flying alone with a baby or toddler can be fairly daunting.  I always worry how Baby Flyer is going to behave and if my fellow passengers are going to be understanding.  I’m always concerned that I’m going to be bothering them and they will cringe when they see they’re sitting next to a little one for the next three or more hours.  Basically, I’m hyper-aware of inconveniencing anyone.

Most of the time, passengers will smile and interact with Baby Flyer during boarding as they walk to their seat, and there will be one or two people near us that might show some interest in her periodically throughout the flight.  But for the majority of the flight, it’s me and her and, sometimes a kind Flight Attendant.  There’s always going to be the occasional seatmate that doesn’t say a word, but that could happen with or without a little one.

While this hasn’t always been the case, most of my experience traveling alone with a baby is that people are surprisingly friendly and offer to help whenever they can.  The people on our two flights back to LAX last Friday were exceptional!

It began with the person next to us in 3A saying during boarding, “Don’t worry about what happens.  I know how flying with a baby is.”  These simple words meant so much.  In all of our flights, I had never had this happen.  Yes, people have been understanding, but to say it outright at the beginning of the flight when a lot of people probably wanted to try and get some sleep meant so much.  We had an early morning flight, and boarding had started at 6am.  It was welcoming and comforting to know he understood.

Baby Flyer nursed during take off and surprisingly stayed awake for the first part of the flight.  She was active and curious, really wanting to get down and walk around but for the most part, I was able to distract her with toys and snacks at our seat.  At one point when she really wanted to get down, I tried to distract her with the camera on my phone (it’s not usually a go-to toy for us around the house) and that didn’t work to well…

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Sometimes it’s just too early to smile for the camera.

She only fell asleep for the last hour and stayed asleep during landing and taxiing.  I opted to wait to eat until she took a nap since we’re at the stage where she wants to touch everything, I thought it would be fairly messy if I ate while she was awake.  After the meal service was done, the Flight Attendant stopped by and said to let him know at any point when I wanted to eat.  Again, simple act but normally when I ask to delay my meal, the Flight Attendants have seemed slightly annoyed.

We were in the bulkhead and I had taken my bag down after take off and hadn’t put it back up before she fell asleep on me.  This same Flight Attendant offered to zip it and put it up for me.  Simple gestures mean so much.

Once we landed, Baby Flyer was still sleeping but woke up right as it was time to get off the plane.  Since we were changing terminals, I took a few minutes to get organized and put Baby Flyer in our Ergo 360 Carrier.  The same friendly Flight Attendant saw that I needed to buckle the strap on my back (probably the only difficult part of putting this carrier on) and he came over and buckled it for me.  He was young and seemed really enthusiastic about his job.  I can’t say enough how much of a difference a friendly cabin crew can make in a day of traveling.

Ergo Baby Airport

We lounge hopped, as they say, and spent our time in the American Express Centurion Lounge, and then AA Admirals Club.  Baby Flyer enjoyed the time to stretch her legs and move around.  She also had a few bites to eat.  We’ve discussed lounge memberships here before, but as Baby Flyer gets older we are finding them even more important with the amount we fly.  Having access to safe kids’ spaces, and free food and drinks, as well as generally better facilities for diaper and clothes changes goes a long way.  If you want to learn more about the best and most cost-effective way to access these spaces, you can read plenty about them at CruisingAltitude, CET’s other site, or get advice from our consulting site AltitudeConsulting as well.

Admirals Kids Club

A day of flying is all fun and games with a layover at the Admirals’ Club.

On our second flight, it felt like the whole cabin was playing and interacting with Baby Flyer.  She LOVED it!  I loved it too.  I stood for part of boarding with Baby Flyer facing out in the Ergo.  She was smiling, kicking her feet, yelling ‘hi!’, and doing her social laugh to everyone who passed by.  As a result, she was getting a lot of attention which she loved, and was setting the tone for the flight.  The man directly behind us kept commenting how Baby Flyer was the happiest baby he’d met…. and he had 6 kids and has 15 grandchildren!!  It’s hard to be nervous about flying on your own with a baby when you get a reception like that.

There were two men in aisle seats directly behind us who were smiling and playing peekaboo with Baby Flyer.  She was hamming it up for both of them!  It was pretty cute because neither man knew the other was doing it but both were getting big smiles.  The person next to us in 1B took a picture of Baby Flyer smiling and laughing at the beginning of the flight.  Not knowing he was doing it, I just went with it.  He later showed me a text with the photo he sent his teenage daughter who says he’s not funny anymore, that said “See, someone still thinks I’m funny!”

Baby Flyer again nursed during take off and stayed awake for the first part of the flight.  She amazingly didn’t want to get down and walk, but was content playing and snacking.  She would periodically stand up and peek over the seats at her new friends.  Sure enough, they were playing back.  One man would play peekaboo with her over the seats and down the aisle.  I appreciated the extra help with entertaining her and thanked him after the flight.  He said he enjoyed it too.  The woman across the aisle from us would occasionally reach her hand out and then take it back and Madeline would try and reach for it, which was entertaining for a couple minutes.

The Flight Attendant was amazing on this flight as well.  I asked to eat later when she was sleeping and he completely understood.  He kept checking to see if I needed anything and if I was ready to eat.  Once she finally fell asleep towards the end, he asked if I was ready and brought the tray over.  Since while holding her I can’t take out the whole tray, I asked for the main entree and served it on the mini tray they usually use for drinks and nuts.  It worked quite well.

As a bonus, while Baby Flyer napped, I was able to finish the movie, Bridget Jones’s Baby that I started on our way to Massachusetts.  I thought it was cute and entertaining, especially since I enjoy a good chick flick mid-flight.

Since Baby Flyer was sleeping at the end of the flight, I had help again putting my bag up.  (A note on seat selection here- Lately I’ve been choosing bulkhead seats to give a little more space in front of me to stand during boarding, or to let Baby Flyer stand during the flight in front of me.  It’s nice, but it does mean you have to put even small bags in the overhead for takeoff and landing.)  This time it was from the woman across the aisle from us.  Once we landed, it felt like multiple people were asking if I needed any help putting on the Ergo or getting my bags down from the overhead bin.  Everyone was SO friendly!

I’ve never experienced flights like these where so many people were so kind.  Don’t get me wrong- we’ve met plenty of nice people over our years of flying, both with and without Baby Flyer, but this day really stood out.  I surprisingly felt refreshed when we got to LAX after waking up at 3:15 and flying across the country with an almost 14 month old.  I really felt the effect of the kindness of others.

I guess in the end, experiences like this are reminders that even small acts of kindness or helpfulness can go a long way to improving someone else’s day.  It’s something I hope to keep in mind as often as possible.

Safe travels & kind wishes,

-CAR

Airport Babywearing 101

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Babywearing on vacation to the Pacific Northwest

When it comes to babywearing (wearing your baby in a wrap, sling, or carrier), there are plenty of options.  While we don’t consider ourselves ‘babywearing’ experts by any means, over the past 9 months, we have gained quite a bit of experience with babywearing through the airport.  Simply put, we LOVE it!  It’s so convenient.  BabyFlyer is safe and secure and we have both of our hands free to carry our bags, hand over tickets, or even have a bite to eat.

The first time we flew as a family of three, I honestly did not know what to expect.  Part of me was excited, and the rest was a combination of anxious and nervous.  As is the case with most of our flights cross country, we had an early departure out of LAX which meant for an even earlier wake up.  We assumed BabyFlyer would fall back to sleep on the ride to the airport and would potentially (hopefully) continue to sleep as we transferred her into the carrier and navigated through the airport.  However, that was not the case.

While she was peaceful the entire time, all the lights along the 405 (if you’re familiar with LA, you know how bright it is) caught her attention and she stayed awake the whole way there.  Once we parked at the Parking Spot (we always do self-park, typically roof top), we slipped her into the carrier and she continued to be intrigued by all the lights on the shuttle ride to the airport.  It wasn’t until a few minutes into our time at the Admirals Club that she fell asleep in the carrier.

You can babywear through most all of your travel experience, except when the plane is taxiing, taking off, and landing.  Because of safety regulations, you will need to have the baby in your arms, or in a car seat if you’ve bought your baby their own seat.

So far, I’ve tried three different carriers:  the Solly Wrap, the Sakura Bloom Ring Sling, and the Ergo 360.  By far, I enjoy the Ergo 360 carrier the most for airport travel.  While everyone is different, and what worked for BabyFlyer and I may not work for you and your little one, below are my two cents on each of the carriers.

Solly Wrap:  Perhaps it was BabyFlyer’s early fussiness when being worn and once she was happy in them we missed the peak time to use this wrap, but we honestly never got into using it much.

Before BabyFlyer was born, I thought we were going to use this wrap a ton.  We even practiced with a stuffed animal once.  The material is lovely, super soft and very flexible.  When your baby needs more head support, you can pull up part of it over the back of their head.  In practice though, it always felt like she was going to slip out, and no matter how tight I put it on, it would gradually become looser and BabyFlyer would get lower and lower.  Plus, I dont enjoy the feeling of my clothing being bunched up, and this wrap would always have a few too many wrinkles and my shirt wouldn’t fit how I liked it.

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BabyFlyer takes a nap in the Wrap.

This wrap, and ones like it, come in many patterns and materials.  It’s stylish, and easy to rave about this wrap.  I wanted to love it, but based on my experience using it, I chose to not fly with it.

Sakura Bloom Ring Sling:  We were given this sling by CT’s sister, and started using it once BabyFlyer was a little older and we were able to wear her in a hip carry.  Both BabyFlyer and I loved this carrier.  She loved that she was able to look in the direction we were going, and I loved how easy it was to use and cozy she felt in it.  Once you know how to use it (I watched the videos on the Sakura Bloom YouTube station) it’s fairly simple and quick to take your baby in and out.  You have to make sure you have the bottom band cinched fairly tight and pulled up high enough between your baby’s legs to get a safe and secure fit.  The few times I didn’t have it tight enough, it felt like BabyFlyer was going to slip out of the bottom.

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Just hanging out at home in the Ring Sling

I flew with this carrier once, and while it was great through the airport and on the plane (you can use it to prop up your arm up while holding a sleeping baby and as a cover while nursing), I currently fly with our Ergo 360, because the metal on the ring sling makes it so you can’t wear it through security.  Since BabyFlyer enjoys both carriers, it made sense to us to eliminate a step at security.  We try to stream line the experience as much as possible.

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The ergo is easy, secure, and comfortable for a day in the airport.

Ergo 360 Carrier:  Three words- we love it!  Especially for traveling.  It’s comfortable and BabyFlyer feels secure, especially when bending over to pick up luggage.  When she was younger, we used the infant insert but now that she is older (9 months), we been using it without the insert for a while now.  Since it doesn’t have any metal, we can wear her through security (we usually have TSA Pre-Check).  Once we are in one of the airline clubs, we take her out and let her play for awhile before putting her back in for boarding.  Since sometimes boarding is delayed and we always have a diaper bag with us and typically an additional small carry on, I tend to wear her in the ergo during boarding and take her out once we are on the plane.

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BabyFlyer on the go- The Ergo is great both in the airport, and at your destination.

The straps are padded and the back buckle helps make sure the straps stay on your shoulder.  The back strap can be a bit tricky to buckle, but with a little practice it’s certainly doable.  Everything about this carrier is adjustable which makes it great for people of different sizes to wear it.  My brother in law who is 6’4” has worn it, as has CT who is 5’4”.

Even though the Ergo is bulkier than the ring sling, the benefit of getting through security more easily, and that it’s an all around good choice to have with you on vacation, has made it our favorite.

Overall, picking the right carrier for your travel can make a big difference.  It’s also good to practice with whichever one you plan on using for flying at home before you go.  Both you and your baby need to get used to putting it on and taking it off, and to get comfortable using it for extended periods of time.  Once you get used to it, though, you won’t want to go back!

Wishing you Happy Travels & Smiling Babies!

-CR