Weekend Trip to Whidbey- Day 1


Since the holidays are just around the corner, and we’re planning our yearly trip up to Whidbey Island to visit family, it seemed like a good time to finish up this trip report from earlier in the year.  We always enjoy going up north, and American’s new non-stop flights have made it even easier for us lately.  Thanks for reading!

Last weekend we took a last minute trip to Whidbey Island to visit family.  Whidbey is a beautiful and mostly quiet island north of Seattle.  We try to go a few times a year to visit, CET’s Mom, and Madeline’s 96 year old Great Grandmother.

It took us longer than we expected to get to LAX, so we ended up taking the bus to the satellite terminal where our flight was leaving out of and going to the smaller Admirals Club instead of going to the main club in Terminal 4.  The satellite club is small but has the same food offerings as the main club.  A variety of trail mixes, cheese and crackers, hummus, fresh vegetables, olives, angel hair pasta with capers and tomatoes, and mini brownies and a couple kinds of cookies.  It gave Baby Flyer a place to push around her Trunki before our flight.


Baby Flyer’s outfit by TEA (click for 25% discount), baby moccasins by FRESHLY PICKED 

We were on a regional jet to Seattle.  Before boarding we found out we were upgraded thanks to CET’s Executive Platinum status.  Using Expert Flyer, we knew it looked good for both of us to get moved up, so we linked our tickets so our upgrade was based on her status and I used two of her 500-mile upgrade vouchers (about a $60 value if you don’t have enough available).  We opted to sit together in the bulkhead and were pleasantly surprised with how much leg room there was.  It felt quite spacious.  Baby Flyer stood and welcomed our fellow passengers onto the plane.  She loved it!


Welcome to our flight to Sea-Tac International Airport.  Our flying time today will be approximately 2 hours, and 45 minutes.  I’ll be your Baby Flyer ambassador for the day…

Much to our surprise, we were served a full meal.  This regional jet didn’t have any way to heat entrees so we had the choice between a cobb chicken salad (with the chicken on the side, perfect for vegetarians!) or a curry chicken wrap.  We were served a small slice of caramel cheesecake for dessert.  Neither of us were expecting a meal, so we probably didn’t need to eat so much for lunch in the Admirals Club beforehand.  Live and learn.  Neither of us finished our entrees but we enjoyed a few bites.  I’m a vegetarian and I had the salad and CET had the wrap.

Since Baby Flyer hadn’t napped yet, and she usually starts her nap between 12 and 12:45, she slept most of our flight up, which gave us time to kick back and relax ourselves.


We flew out of LAX around 2pm on Friday and flew back on the around 8pm on Monday.  Leaving LAX at 2pm meant we arrived in Seattle in time for rush hour.  Instead of sitting on the freeway in traffic, we opted to visit the Centurion Lounge in the Seattle airport and have some dinner before heading to the rental car center.


For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Centurion Lounges, they are an airport lounge provided by American Express for cardholders.  The lounges offer regionally inspired food, drink, and comfortable seating.  Some of the bigger clubs even offer spa services (15 minute massages, manicures, and facials) and have a kids’ play room.  Currently, they are in Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), New York (LGA), Miami (MIA), Seattle (SEA), and San Francisco(SFO).  It seems like they are constantly working on expanding the network, and we’ve heard talk that in the near future there will be one in LAX.  We have the American Express Platinum Card and try and take advantage of all of its benefits.  At some point we will put together a post outlining the card’s benefits for any who’re curious.


The Centurion in Seattle just opened a new area with lots of additional tables and chairs as well as a full bar.  Prior to this, they served beer and wine and it was served by the waitstaff.  Baby Flyer appreciated the new expansion and spent time against, pushing her Trunki throughout the club.  She made friends with all the waitstaff and loved the attention.


We left the club around 7 and headed to the rental car center.  By the time we were on the road, traffic was still slow in some areas but was basically moving.  We made the 8:30 ferry to Whidbey and soon after we were settling in for the day.


Up next- Some island time.

The End of an Era


Baby Flyer & her trusty bag of snacks hangs out on the ottoman of the Dreamliner’s business class.  Baby Flyer’s outfit by Tea.  (Click here for 25% off coupon)

We just got back from a family trip to Dallas, and we’re quickly realizing that we’re nearing the end of traveling with Baby Flyer as a lap infant.  She’ll be two in January, and that’s both the cutoff by the airlines, and honestly, she’s just getting too big for it!


Baby Flyer puts on her bib & catches the game at the new Terminal 5 Admirals Club at LAX

So, it seems like a good time to look back and share the synopsis of our experience and give our two cents on what worked, and a few survival tips.

But first, a little about the weekend- We hadn’t had a family trip that we all went on in a little while and so we made good use of American’s earlier US fare sale, and scooped up a couple of $71 round trip tickets from LAX to DFW and back.  We have family in Dallas, so it was a great excuse to go see them ‘just because.’  These kind of trips are even more special now that Baby Flyer is growing so fast, and really enjoys new and different experiences.


CAR & Baby Flyer checking out their 787 seat.

We flew together on the way out, and scored an upgrade a day ahead of the flight, so we were assigned seats together on American’s 787 Dreamliner.


The temporary AC at T-4

They’ve been having some issues with the catering service at LAX, so we didn’t know what to expect on board.  Since it was a dinnertime flight, we stopped off at the makeshift Admiral’s Club in Terminal 4 that’s been opened while the regular space is under construction.  It actually worked out well, because they offer full prepackaged grab’n’go meals, along with bottled beverages and snacks, so we stocked up in case.


The ‘dinner service’ out of LAX.  Not up to the usual, but they did their best.

As it turned out, they did have some limited food on the flight, but it was similar to the options we brought on board.  We both chose the salad option, which came with chips, and packaged cookies.  Honestly, it wasn’t bad, and we arrived in Dallas well fed.  Baby Flyer arrived well rested too, since she took a late nap through the first two hours of the flight.

We stayed with family in Dallas, and rented a car from National for the first couple days of it.  We usually rent from National, since we can choose from the Executive Aisle.  This time, the selection was underwhelming- mostly nondescript midsize sedans, a couple Hundai SUVs and some trucks (it’s TX).  Yet, on a last pass through the row, we spotted a Volvo x60 hatchback… what??  Usually that make is saved for the up-sell area, but we took it and ran.  It was a little more space than a sedan, and fun to drive.

The area of Dallas we stayed in has some fun family activities.  We were walking distance to White Rock lake, which is a lake surrounded by parkland that incorporates plenty of running/biking paths, a playground, and most importantly, lots of ducks and other waterfoul.  Baby Flyer still loves birds, so she really enjoyed a daily walk to feed them and watch them swim around.


CET had to leave to go back to work early on Monday morning, but CAR and Baby Flyer stayed a few more days.  If you’re an AA flyer like us, you may want to go check out CET’s review of American’s 777-200 Premium Economy class on the return flight.

But back to business here.  In our almost two years of flying with Baby Flyer, we’ve got some takeaways-

Seat Selection:

With the tiniest ones, before they’re moving and standing and walking, bulkhead rows aren’t necessary.  What’s more important at this stage is easy access to your diaper bag and supplies, so having under seat storage is more important.

The Infant Block Trick- On most airlines’ booking software, when a lap infant is added to an adult ticket, the computer blocks a seat in the row, most consistently when two adults on the same reservation (one with the infant) are in the same row.  We’ve had about 50% results with this getting us an empty seat in the middle.  If you have an Expert Flyer membership, you can even see by the big ‘X’ through the seat when an infant block has been put in place by the airline.

However, this won’t work on full or oversold flights, as these blocked seats will be assigned at the last minute to unassigned or standby passengers.

Toys & More:

When Baby Flyer was younger we used to travel with two diaper bags, one mostly full of various extras and toys.  Along the way we moved to just one, and now Baby Flyer has her own ‘travel bag,’ which is both handy and adorable.

She has a mini Fjallraven Kanken backpack.  it’s just the right size to put her toys in, but doesn’t result in something too heavy to carry.  We saw these EVERYWHERE this summer in Europe.  She sometimes wants to wear it, but then quickly reconsiders, so we end up just tossing it over the handle of a rollaboard.



She has a few standard items that she takes in her very own bag.  We try for things that are interactive, but low on mess and noise.  Some of the current favorites-

Magna Doodle Pro – Travel Edition

Magna Doodle Pro

The magna doodle keeps her attention, and is mess free and packable.

Melissa & Doug Water WOW Coloring Book


These things are made for travel- Just uses water.

Wiki Sticks

wiki sticks

Our local restaurant Saint & Second hands these out as kiddie activities to their youngest patrons.  We ‘hide’ them and save them for the plane.  They’re great to stick to the tray table in different forms & fold into shapes to be unwound.

Homemade Play Dough (click here for recipe– omit the spices if you’re not feeling the fall vibe).

This may seem counter-intuitive.  It could be messy, could get dirty, etc, but hear us out.  With supervision, some play dough can be a great option of last resort…like 10 mins before you’re set to give up and take your toddler to play in the sink in the airplane bathroom.  We pull this out and make shapes and play games on the tray table.  Using a little bit at a time does the trick, and can keep a kiddo happy for awhile, which is the entire point.

Thinking out of the box:

Sometimes you need to go that one step further to feel like you’re ready to fly with a baby, especially an older one.  We’ve tried a few things…

First- New stuff. Anything new really. Head to the dollar store and buy some cheap new toys.  Think one or more per hour of flight time.

Second- If your baby is still fascinated by unwrapping things, try taking the toys in your travel bag, and wrapping them in aluminum foil.  Pull them out when baby gets bored, and let them peel off the foil to ‘discover’ the toy.  Put all the wrapped toys in a gallon sized ziplock bag so you have somewhere to put the used foil in.

Third- All of the above.  Pro tip- If you have an older toddler, we recommend throwing some new toys into the foil mix.  The satisfaction of unwrapping combined with the new toy element may buy you even more peace & quiet.

All of these ideas also omit that either through the plane’s IFE screens, or ones you bring with you, if your kid has favorite shows or games, that’s always an option as well.  Likely because we don’t really have her watch TV at home, Baby Flyer’s attention span for this kind of entertainment usually runs out after about 10 minutes or so, which leaves us needing to be prepared with other distractions.

As our time flying as a family of three in two seats comes to an end, we’re definitely sad.  Not only because now we need to be more crafty about our flight planning, but also simply because Baby Flyer is getting older.  She’s less a baby, and more a kid.  It’s been an amazing journey to watch, and we can’t wait for the next chapter, but the backward glances into her early days always amaze and leave us plenty nostalgic.


Her first flight at 4 months.  Was she really this tiny??

May your flights be smooth, and your babies be happy this holiday season,

~CET, CAR & Baby Flyer

Family Getaway: Chicago


Chicago is one of our favorite ‘weekend cities.’  For several years running, we’ve visited in the late fall for a night or two.  We have a few traditions we try to keep up when we’re there, but mostly just enjoy the sights and architecture, and relax away from home.

This year was our first time going as a family of three.  As would be expected, the experience was different than prior visits, but we had a blast!

It started with a great deal on our flights, just $71 per person from LAX-ORD round trip.  For more on the flight deal, check out CT’s companion blog post at Cruising Altitude.  We didn’t upgrade our seats, but on account of our status with American Airlines, we booked complimentary ‘main cabin extra’ seats in the bulkhead row.

Since the flights weren’t booked full in main cabin, we used the ‘infant block’ trick- two adults on the same reservation and one lap child, and ended up with the row to ourselves, which was very comfortable and convenient.  Baby Flyer has just started to crawl and cruise, so it was nice to be able to let her roam around a bit in the row without disturbing other passengers.


Even with her new found mobility, she was a good travel citizen, and we kept her well occupied when she was awake.

We decided to rent a car for the weekend.  We like National on account of our Executive membership, that allows us to pick from a range of upgraded cars.  This weekend we chose a nice Buick Enclave, which was great to haul around the baby gear.  In addition, the car seat installed easily, and it was comfortable to drive.


Photo Credit: Palmer House

After looking around at the options, we booked two nights at The Palmer House, which is a Hilton property.  It’s located right downtown in the loop, just a block or so from Millennium Park, which is one of our traditional destinations.

This hotel, as we learned, is the longest continually running hotel in the US.  It is also, incidentally, the birthplace of…. the brownie.  You learn something new every day. The property itself is impressive.  It is 24 floors, and occupies nearly an entire block.  The main lobby has a beautiful soaring atrium, with ornate columns, and an intricately painted ceiling.


Photo Credit: Palmer House

What made our stay truly memorable, though, were the people at the hotel.  It started with a check in agent who, when she realized that our reservations for adjoining rooms (one for us, and one for CR’s parents who had met us for the weekend) had been mixed up, and the rooms were on different floors entirely, went out of her way to accommodate us.  Way out of her way.  Long story short, we ended up spending the weekend in the expansive and luxurious penthouse suite.  It’s easily the nicest hotel room (if you can even call it that) that I’ve stayed in.  The accommodation included three bedrooms, four bathrooms, and expansive living areas that were easily double the size of our house!





Even without this windfall, I’d recommend this hotel if you’re looking to stay in a central location.  It has a distinctly historic feel, and the service is above and beyond.  We had complimentary breakfast due to my Hilton status in the executive lounge on the 23rd floor.  Each morning, we were welcomed by our server Ernest, who kept things running smoothly and offered great service, and a few laughs.  Baby Flyer especially enjoyed ‘talking’ with him.


The central location of this hotel puts you a block away from Millennium Park, which has one of the nicest, most expansive and creative playgrounds we’ve visited.  The Maggie Daley park consists of numerous themed play spaces, with activities appropriate for kids of all ages.    We were really impressed by the level of imagination and attention to detail in the design, and spent time there both days.  Baby Flyer especially liked the swings, and climbing around the wooden boats in ‘The Harbor.’


We have three main traditions when we come to Chicago.  The first is to take pictures at ‘The Bean’ in Millennium Park (Pictured at the top of this post).  We have them from each trip, including some taken last year when we were expecting Baby Flyer.

The second is to go to ‘The Green Zebra‘ in West Town.  The Green Zebra is an upscale vegetarian tapas restaurant that we’ve always had good meals at.  We stumbled on it our first visit, and now make it a point to go back when we’re in town. The service this time was especially friendly and personal, and we all had a great time, especially Baby Flyer, who always enjoys a good window seat.





Our third stop is to spend some time in the Oak Park neighborhood.  In the past we’ve done the Frank Lloyd Wright tours, but the last few trips we’ve just stopped by Lake Street to grab lunch and do a little shopping.  Especially in the Fall, this area is charming.  As an added bonus, it’s also half way back to the airport, so heading out here early on the day we flew out let us miss the traffic.

Overall, Chicago is a great family getaway.  You can see and do plenty without having to go far from downtown, and if you don’t rent a car, many attractions are walkable.  We look forward to getting back to Chicago in the future as a family and exploring even more of the city!

Travel Well,


This post is part of Budget Traveler’s Sandbox’s #TravelPhotoThursday, #CityTripping at Wandermum#WeekendTravelInspiration, and #FlyAwayFriday at Time Travel Blonde. Check out these linkups!