2016 Gift Guide for the Frequent Flyer

Believe it or not, the holidays are quickly approaching.  I’ve already seen a few holiday lights and Christmas trees in our neighborhood, which means it’s time to get moving on the holiday planning- flights, and otherwise.  With the off and on warm temps we typically have in SoCal, it always feels like the holidays sneak up.

We’ve already posted our ‘Gift Guide for Baby Traveler,’ so here’s the follow up holiday gift guide for the frequent traveler in your life, with or without a baby along for the ride.  If you’re in the market for luggage, in addition to travel accessories, you can check out CET’s full rundown on her luggage picks over at Cruising Altitude.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones

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These headphones don’t need much of an explanation or recommendation.  They’ve been the gold standard in the noise-canceling industry for years, through several incarnations.  They block a lot of the ambient cabin noise, making it easy to listen to music or hear your television.  One downside is they can be bulky when trying to sleep, so luckily, they now also offer an earbud style.

Sockwell Compression Socks

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Whether you ascribe to the idea that compression helps prevent DVT or not, these socks are great for flying!  They aren’t as tight as some athletic compression socks which makes them comfortable to wear all day, and they provide support, as well as keep your feet comfortably warm.  CET loves them for long flights and will typically pack a couple pairs if she is traveling for multiple days.

Barefoot Running Shoe

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What’s great about these shoes is that they are undeniably pack-able.  They’re light, and flatten so they don’t take up much space in your suitcase. While they aren’t making the exact pair CET has anymore, these are the ‘new model.’

Cocoon Grid It Cord Organizer

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CET has used this for years, and finds it’s great for keeping all her cords organized.  Her SmartCharger fits in it, as well as phone chargers, extra usb cords, power strips, converters, and anything else.  If you don’t have enough electronics in your carry-on to need all the space, you can also pack just about anything you can think of in the elastic straps, and they’ll keep it organized and accessible for you.   Fits easily in the seatback pocket.

SmartCharger

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This little brick comes in handy all the time while traveling when you don’t have easy access to an outlet.  It will charge any device with a USB cord, and has about enough in it to charge up your phone.  We’ve used it to charge our phones and CET’s wireless headphones, among other things.  It also works as a back up charger in the stroller at home when you forget to plug in your phone before a long walk.

Power Strip/Surge Protector

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Once again, we use this on just about every trip.  It’s great for when we want to charge both our phones at the same time and there is only one free outlet, both in the airport, and hotels.  It charges plenty of things at once, since it has 3 regular plugs, and two USBs in addition.

Packing Cubes

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We love them!  At first I was skeptical when CET started using them, but after seeing how organized her suitcase stayed and how easy it was for her to unpack at our destination, I asked for a set for myself.  We’re planning on giving a few sets of these as presents this year.

Ginger candy

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Last and maybe least in price, but not popularity, Ginger candy is a sweet treat when flying.  They can help sooth an upset stomach and even warm you up if you get a tad chilly on the plane.  We usually have a bag of it in our carry-on.

Happy Shopping & Safe Travels!

~CR

 

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

Ten Tips for Easier Family Travel

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Don’t panic!  Family travel can even be fun!

1) Don’t panic.

Seriously.  Travel with infants seems daunting as a rule.  I’ve had many, many people visibly shudder when they think about having to take a baby on even a short flight.  However, it’s just like any other challenge in learning how to be a parent- it can be accomplished with the right preparation, practice, and most importantly – attitude.

2) Leave it at the counter.

As a rule, you don’t need much in the airport or on the plane.  Take advantage of most airlines’ generous baby gear checking policy.  In the new world of ever increasing baggage fees, you can still check a stroller and a car seat for free!  What’s even better- you can put other bulky items in the car seat bag or stroller bag, also for free.  Think diapers, bulky toys, etc.  We’ve found that on average, even with layovers in our itineraries, we don’t need the stroller or car seat in the airport while our baby is still small enough to be comfortably worn in a sling or carrier.  The times we tried taking the stroller with us, it ended up just being used as a luggage cart, while we carried the baby anyway!  So, ditch the extra gear at the counter and travel light.

3) Change is good.

Most people pack well for the baby on flights, but may forget about themselves.  Put it this way- if baby really needs an emergency change of clothes mid-flight, you just might need one as well.  Throw at least an extra shirt in your carry-on.

Be prepared for at least one in-flight diaper change on an average domestic flight.  There are fold-down changers on every plane, but not necessarily in each restroom.  Ask a flight attendant if in doubt.  As everyone knows, there’s not much room in there, so just bring what you need for the change- not the whole diaper bag.  There are also many products marketed with this in mind- like this one, that include the changing mat, and room for just a few items.

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“Airport Apparel”

4) Timing is everything.

When possible, try to plan flights not only around your baby’s schedule, but also yours.  Think about the logistics of the day and don’t set yourself up for failure.  The overnight flight might sound appealing because baby may get some sleep- but you won’t!  Being overtired yourself, or stressed running through an airport on a short layover, can be as bad or worse than a tired baby.  Keep in mind that you’ll need to be at the airport well in advance of the flight time, so even a 9am flight can mean an early morning wake up.

5) Take the pressure off.

Babies’ ears can be bothered by the change in pressure in the cabin during take off and decent, especially on older planes where the pressurization systems may not be as calibrated.  Feeding them, or offering a pacifier, will help them adjust and prevent the pressure from turning into pain.  Sucking and/or drinking will also help them relax during what is usually the loudest part of the flight.

If your baby uses a pacifier, the last thing you want is for it to fall on the floor of an airplane.  It will be dirty at best, and rolled off several rows away never to return at worst.  We suggest getting a clip/leash like THIS one.  Also useful, are pacifier ‘pouches’ for storage on the go, and wipes in case it does hit the ground.  You can also use the wipes to clean the ‘touch surfaces’ of your seat on the plane when you board.

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Ticket- Check.  Binky-Check. Set to go!

6) Seat selection.

Seat choice is overall a matter of personal preference, but here are a few hacks and guidelines to keep in mind when traveling with a child, especially a lap infant.

First off, I should say that as a matter of safety, if you can purchase a seat for your infant and install a car seat on the plane for them, it’s preferable to do this.  It’s also generally more comfortable to have a place to put the baby down, and if you’re traveling with a partner, results in a row to yourselves.  However, it goes without saying that air travel is expensive, and the ability to have your baby fly for free (or nearly free) for the first two years can’t be overlooked, and many times makes the difference between being to afford the trip or not.

That said, here are some things to think about when flying with a lap infant:

-Aisle or window?  In general, it’s nice to be on the aisle in case you need to get up more than usual- to walk, soothe, or head to the bathroom for a diaper change.  However, if you’re planning on feeding baby in flight and want more privacy, the window may be best, especially if you’re traveling with a partner who can take the seat next to you.

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BabyFlyer scores an upgrade!

-Upgrades?  If you can manage it, whether by cash, miles, or status, moving to a bigger or extra legroom seat can make a big difference in you comfort level.  Keep in mind though that lap infants, and people traveling with children are not allowed in the emergency exit rows for safety reasons, so main cabin extra/premium economy or bulkhead seats are your best options in economy.  If you can move to first or business class, that’s even better.

-Flying in 1st?  Yes, babies are (with a very few exceptions on some foreign airlines) allowed in premium classes, and you have every right to sit with them there.  Fellow premium travelers generally are fine with, and even complimentary of, a baby traveling with attentive parent(s).  No one expects babies to be silent the whole flight, but it’s a good idea to plan ahead and have age appropriate toys and activities to use throughout the flight- small interesting toys, even new toys just for the trip are great.

-Seat choice hacks?  There are a few.  If you’re flying international on a wide-body plane, most airlines offer ‘bassinet’ rows in economy, which are non-exit bulkhead seats with fold down bassinets in front of them.  Calling ahead, and/or asking at the check in counter and gate may get you assigned one of these.  After takeoff, the flight attendant will provide a bassinet so you have a place for baby to sleep.  It’s baby’s first ‘lie-flat seat!’

If you’re flying in the US as a party of 3 – 2 adults and a lap infant- find a row that’s empty and have the adults book the aisle and window seats, leaving the middle empty.  On some airlines this automatically ‘infant blocks’ that seat, meaning it will be one of the last filled on the plane.  If it’s a completely full flight at boarding, and the seat does get assigned, I promise you won’t have a hard time switching with that person for the aisle or window.

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Easily packed, interesting toys are essential.  “Raffi the Giraffi” has his share of air miles.

7) Stay active.

As motioned above, bringing a good selection of (space-efficient, quiet) toys is important.  With older kids, new toys to be given throughout the flight to keep things interesting can be a hit.  Boredom is the #1 cause of fussiness, generally more even than tiredness, since on average, babies sleep well on planes.  It’s the wakeful and playful times that require the planning for.  Some of our favorites for young ones have been soft ‘stuffable’ toys with lots of textures, like Freddie Firefly or Peekaboo Forest, and simple but entertaining Baby Paper. Also, think about packing a few snacks for them (if they’re eating yet), and you too!

8) Get the gear.

You really don’t need to invest in too many extras to travel with a baby.  A well-packed diaper bag and some kind of carrier you probably already have will get you by just fine if you’re a once or twice a year traveler.  However, if you’re going to be making it a habit to head to the airport or the car rental on a regular basis, here are some things we’ve found particularly useful:

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A light, simple car seat.  And I mean LIGHT and simple.  The Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Car Seat is the current choice for travel.  It makes a good second car seat as it’s reasonably priced, and only weighs in at just over 9lbs!  It’s FAA approved, if you do end up bringing it on the plane, and installs fairly easily in rental cars (or, you know, taxi vans in Mexico).  It does come with the straps necessary to use LATCH systems, but I generally just install it using the seatbelt.  I suggest practicing installing it a few times first at home, just so you’re comfortable.

Speaking of car seats, think about getting a fairly sturdy padded, car seat cover for checking the seat.  These will check for free, along with a stroller.  It’s not necessary to invest in an expensive bag for this purpose.  Getting one of the ‘one size fits most’ bags like the Zohzo Bag works well, since it will take a beating being checked over and over.  We find that it’s fairly easy to carry with the light Cosco seat mentioned above, but if you’re going to be checking one of the heavier seats, I’d recommend getting a bag with wheels.

If you are planning on taking a car seat through the airport, we also recommend car seat rollers like the Brica System, or straps that attach your car seat to your rollaboard bag.  These work great if you’re planning on checking the car seat at the gate (get a light ‘gate check’ bag for this to keep it clean), or if you’re going to be taking the car seat on board.  You can use the rolling seat as an efficient stroller going through the airport.

As mentioned above, babywearing is a great idea to get through an airport.  Keeps your hands free, and baby close.  Look for carriers that don’t have metal (like the ergo baby, or a wrap) and you shouldn’t even have to take them out of the carrier when you go through security if you have TSA PreCheck, depending on the country.  In Mexico we had to take her out, but in pre-check in the US, she gets to stay put.

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BabyFlyer takes a break from her busy travel schedule to hang with Freddie Firefly in the lounge.

9) Make the most of the layover.

There may be times when it makes the most sense to power through and take a longer nonstop flight, but it also may be more expensive, or impractical.  Layovers can be a great way to break up a trip, and give time to get organized for the next segment.  If you’ve been on the fence about getting a lounge membership, this might be the time to go ahead a do so.  Lounges in the US provide comfortable spaces to hang out in a quieter setting, food and drinks, family bathrooms, and some even have kids’ rooms with toys, computer games, etc.

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BabyFlyer’s ‘logbook.’ These are free upon request on AA flights.

10) Make (good) memories.

Travel with babies doesn’t have to be all worry and stress.  A well planned itinerary leaves time for fun too!  Airlines generally are glad to see their youngest flyers, and are in the process of reviving traditional welcome gifts- many have ‘wings’ to hand out, and American offers a “Junior Aviator Logbook” that gets filled out by the flight crew.  Many international airlines offer activity books, or other mementos for kids on their flights.  In the ‘above and beyond’ category – if you find yourself taking a flight with Etihad or Gulf Air, they have debuted on-board ‘flight nanny’ services to help parents keep their kids happy in flight.  Yes, this is really a thing!

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Remember that while the journey is important, the destination is the goal.

We’re all so busy these days that a travel day can be some of the longest time you might spend as a family without the usual distractions.  A little patience and planning ahead go a long way toward making it a memorable experience.  Enjoy it!