Zoom Zoom Zoom

 

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Baby Flyer met ‘Bluebell’ a few months ago now.  When we were expecting, knowing CET’s  passion for travel, CAR’s mom wanted to buy Baby Flyer a suitcase.  Through CET’s travels, she had seen kids with Trunki Ride-On suitcase in different airports, and she instantly knew which suitcase she thought Baby Flyer should have.

Trunki is a pretty fun idea- it’s a ride-on or push-along kids’ suitcase that fits nicely under standard airplane seats, or in the overhead bin.  They come in all kinds of themes and colors.  “Bluebell” the pony comes complete with a saddle and ‘tail.’

We waited to introduce Baby Flyer to Trunki until she was around 13 months because it didn’t seem to be all that useful when she was really small.  However, once she started loving to push anything with wheels around the house, and we were headed up to Seattle for the weekend, it was perfect timing! We thought ‘Bluebell’ would give Baby Flyer some independence. Boy did she love it!

She pushed it all around the Centurion Lounge in the Seatac Airport. They had recently opened a new area with included additional seating and a bar so Baby Flyer had even more space to cruise around.

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We used it to hold some toys for her for the weekend, keeping it fairly light, and sticking with our shared suitcase method we typically do for our clothes.

‘Bluebell’ fit easily in the overhead bin as advertised, and proved to be a trusty travel companion. Baby Flyer was too young to ride ‘Bluebell’ through the airport on this trip, but once she’s older, we expect she will. She’s gone on a few short ‘rides’ through our house and has enjoyed them tremendously. Plus it’s so darn cute!

 

Happy travels!

~CAR

Trip Preview: Summer in Scandinavia

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Nyhavn, Copenhagen.  No, we’re not staying at this floating hotel….but It looks nice, right?

We’re packing again!!  This Summer has already been busy, with trips to Mexico and Seattle, among others, but this next trip is the one that’s been on our calendar for almost a year now.  We’re getting brave, and taking Baby Flyer to Europe!  It’ll be a week and a half of Oneworld award flights, Scandinavian Airbnb rentals, and a few side jaunts here and there.

Our itinerary starts off with a 787 Dreamliner flight to ORD and two nights in Chicago, which we added because our tickets start there.  Since we love that city, we added some time so we’ll have a day there to take Baby Flyer back to Millennium Park.  From there, we head to Helsinki (Finland), Tallinn (Estonia), and Copenhagen (Denmark).  The international part of the trip lasts 10 nights (plus one on the flight out), and includes plenty of planes, trains, but not really many automobiles.

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The canal in Ruoholahti where we’re staying in Helsinki

This trip was inspired by Finnair opening up some award seats to Oneworld partners in business class for the summer.  Since premium mileage tickets are notoriously hard to find without big taxes and fees, we jumped on them and booked a round trip ticket from JFK to Helsinki in business class for some miles and about $60.  It will be Baby Flyer’s first long haul international flight, but hopefully having the extra space and lie-flat beds will make it reasonably comfortable.

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How Finnair claims we’ll sleep** on their international flights.  **Baby not pictured

Once we get to Helsinki, we’ll have three days and nights to explore the city.  Given that this is a family trip, we’re planning baby friendly activities, and luckily, Scandinavia in general is overall safe and welcoming for family travelers.  Highlights we’re hoping to hit include the ‘Children’s’ Town’ museum- an interactive exhibit where everything is play-with-able for the little ones, and importantly, is indoors, making it a good rainy day option since we’re likely to get at least one of these this time of year.  We’re also hoping to take the boat out to Suomenlinna island, for a little outdoors time, hiking, and sightseeing.

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Tallinn’s Old Town

The next part of the trip is taking the Eckero Line ferry across the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn, Estonia for two nights.  We’re staying in the ‘Old Town,’ which is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight.  Our plans here mainly involve exploring the medieval town, food and shopping.  We may venture out to Kadriorg Park, which includes palace grounds, as well as gardens, and several museums, and checking out the KGB museum at the Hotel Viru.

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Eckero Line- M/s Finlandia

As for the ferry, we booked the Eckero Line through Direct Ferries.  It’s a 2 hour crossing on a ‘ferry’ that looks more like a small cruise ship, and we went all out (all extra $40 of it) to book a 4 birth cabin with our reservation.  It’s not really necessary, but since the crossing times just about hit Baby Flyer’s naptime, we thought we might find a little privacy nice.  It also means we’ll have a private bathroom as well.

Once we get back to Helsinki, we’ll be off to the airport once again to catch a short flight on Finnair to Copenhagen.  We booked these tickets separately, and they were reasonably priced, so we didn’t use miles.  Technically, if we’d flown Norwegian, we could have saved a few dollars on the ticket price, but this was one of those lessons for people who don’t look hard enough at discount carriers.  Given that we’re Oneworld elites, we have free checked bags, and free advance seat assignments as long as we stay on partner airlines.  Had we flown on Norwegian, our ‘savings’ would quickly have been more than eaten up by the added charges.  Plus, because we’re flying Oneworld, we’ll have lounge access at Finnair’s comfortable and full service lounges before our flight.

We’ve been to Copenhagen before, and it’s stuck in our minds as one of the places we really wanted to get back to.  We’re spending four nights this time, and are looking forward to seeing the city as a family.  Copenhagen has plenty of kid-friendly places to visit and things to do.  It’s full of parks and playgrounds in the city center (Danish companies design the majority of new playground equipment around the world), and since everyone bikes, walks, and takes the train, it’s easy to get around.

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Central Copenhagen

This trip will be the test of our planning, and also of our Airbnb skills.  We’re staying in a suites hotel in Chicago, but once we cross the ocean, it’s all Airbnb all the time.  To start things off, our accommodation in Helsinki is a three bedroom flat in Ruoholahti.  It looks to be an easy walk to the city center, or a very short tram ride.  It will be nice to have the space to give Baby Flyer her own room, so she can go to bed before we do (hopefully!)

Renting an entire flat or house really makes traveling with babies more enjoyable over a traditional hotel.  Having the space, as well as a kitchen, and if you’re lucky, laundry goes a long way.  There are of course some draw backs as well.  If you haven’t seen the property before, there’s really no guarantees on what it will be like, aside from reviews.  Plus, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that’s really baby-proof, but the same goes for hotels in general.  If you’re lucky, you can generally find a reasonably priced rental as well, especially when compared to the pricey hotels in this part of the world.

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Deer Park (Dyrehaven).  One of my favorite pictures from our last trip there.

After our time in Copenhagen, we start the trek back home again.  We first have a flight back to Helsinki, then a couple of hours to enjoy the airport lounge and collect ourselves before flying Helsinki to JFK, and JFK back to Los Angeles.  That will make for a long day, but it gets us back home seamlessly, and I managed to find some award space in business class on American’s premium transcon plane, so we’ll have space for the three of us.

Wish us luck & happy summer travels to you all!!

-CET, CAR & Baby Flyer

Friday Favorites

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Pack it up!  Time for a weekend ‘up north’!

Happy Friday!  Hope you all are getting ready for a great  weekend! We’re headed to Seattle on Saturday to visit CET’s family. Of course we are looking forward to seeing them, but also some tall trees, ocean views, and hoping to take Baby Flyer to explore the tide pools and sand flats during low tide.

We’re jumping on board the Friday Favorites train this week! Personally, I love to hear about recommendations of products people truly use and enjoy, and places they frequent.  Below you will find a few things we’re loving and as always, we would love to hear what you’re loving below in the comments.

S’well water bottle

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I received this water bottle as a present for my birthday and it is super! I never appreciated having cold water as much as I do now. It really does keep my water cold and is so refreshing after a hot workout. I haven’t tried it with a hot beverage yet, but I’d expect similar results. I have the 17oz bottle, and my only complaint is that sometimes I wish it was bigger. The price is a bit steep for a water bottle, it’s worth it! It’s also something to keep in mind when looking for a present.

Also, the company has excellent customer service. The o-ring on my top fell off earlier this week. I emailed them asking if there was any way I could purchase the lid instead of a whole new top. They responded almost immediately and we exchanged a couple emails and later that same day, a new complimentary o-ring was in the mail. I love to support companies with good customer service.

Water proof outdoor blanket

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We have found this reusable outdoor blanket so handy since having Baby Flyer. It’s easy to clean, water resistant, durable, and easy to fold and put away. We often go to parks and sometimes meet friends at the farmers market and having a dry and clean place to sit is a nice option. I find it to be fairly compact. We are heading to a wading pool this afternoon and I brought it with us. It can comfortably fit a couple adults and kids sitting up. We haven’t used it yet but it comes with a cooler that attaches to the bag when it is folded.

Reusable sandwich bags

bagsWe’ve found these bags to be pretty handy, especially when traveling. We have room for improvement but we try and be conscious of our water and use reusable containers whenever possible. Huge fans of Mason Jars and PYREX in our family. But sometimes I want something less bulky than a container so I’ve been using these bags to carry Baby Flyer’s treats. They come in a 3 pack with three different sizes. On one trip, I push smaller bags of different snacks inside the larger one and it seemed to work well. Her snacks stayed organized and having different snacks to offer kept her entertained.

El Dorado Nature Center

If you are ever in Long Beach, I can’t recommend the El Dorado Nature Center enough! It is such a nice change of pace and environment than the typical landscape we have around here. There is a .25 mile paved trail and 1 and 2 mile dirt loops. The dirt is packed and we have never had a problem pushing our BOB Revolution on it. You walk next to and over streams, through groves of trees and fields. The landscape is constantly changing and I’ve never felt like I was always walking in the sun. There’s plenty of shade throughout the trail. It’s fairly well marked too!

Patagonia Sun Hat

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Just a little throwback – Baby Flyer last summer on the island!

Baby Flyer always has one of these hats! She pretty much constantly wears one when she’s outside in the sun. Right now we have two- I keep one in her stroller and the other in the house/my diaper bag. They have a wide brim so they really do block the sun and shade her face and they are made of UPF fabric. The Velcro closure underneath her chin helps keep it on. They are reversible and dry quickly after getting wet. I really can’t recommend them enough!

Those are ours for this week, what are your current favorites?

Thanks for reading & have a wonderful weekend!

~CAR

DFW Centurion Lounge Children’s Room Review

We often have a layover at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW).  Especially when traveling across the country with Baby Flyer (LAX to BDL), DFW is almost in the middle.  It’s a nice point for us all to stretch our legs and have a change of pace.  Plus, it breaks up the travel time into two manageable flight times (less than 4 hours each, usually somewhere between 2 hrs 30 min and 3 hrs) which makes it seem less daunting, especially when traveling alone with a baby.  We typically have 6am flights which equal an early morning for all of us.  I usually can count on Baby Flyer to nap for at least part of each flight which also helps break it up.

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Since we’re American Express Platinum members, we have access to, and almost always visit the Centurion Lounge when we are in DFW, even if it means riding the Skylink and switching terminals.  It’s worth it!  They have a delicious full complimentary buffet that changes throughout the day, plus free drinks (both alcoholic and otherwise), and even offer 15 minute manicures, facials, and massages!  They also have an excellent kids’ space that has never been crowded.  We’ve always either had it to ourselves or shared it with one or two other kids.

The Centurion is located in Terminal D, opposite Gate D17, on the mezzanine.  The Centurion can be reached from any other terminal via the Skylink train.  Its current hours of operation are 5:30am to 10pm.  Terminal D is the international terminal and was relatively recently renovated.  The Terminal itself has high ceilings and an open feel.

The kids room is a bit hard to find if you don’t know it’s there.  We’d been going to the Centurion for years before having Baby Flyer, and we never even knew it had a kids’ room.  I was so delighted the first time I learned it was there.  It is to the right of the entrance tucked in the far corner next to a conference room.  To keep the room clean and tidy, no food or beverages are allowed.  Aside from the slight inconvenience, I appreciate that the space is clean.  I usually grab something to eat from the buffet and then once I’m done, we head back there to let Baby Flyer loose to roam around and play.

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The room itself is light and airy, as are the other spaces in the lounge.  It’s not huge but has luckily never felt crowded.  There are puffy ‘chairs’ to sit along the perimeter on one side, a young children’s height shelf with lots of toys, a large activity cube with things to do on all sides, as well as a television for older kids.

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Overall, it’s as good or better than any domestic lounge childrens’ lounge spaces we’ve been to, and the added bonus being that the lounge is awesome from an adults’ perspective as well, so truly fun for the whole family.  It makes keeping our Amex Platinum membership make even more sense.  There’s currently lounges like this also in Houston, Miami, Las Vegas, Seattle, and Newark, with more coming soon, including Philly and Hong Kong.  They’re worth planning stopovers around!

Travel well, and enjoy,

~CAR

 

 

 

Inside Baby Flyer’s Suitcase- South of the Border Edition

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The view from Villa Del Palmar- Nuevo Vallarta

We’re currently lucky enough to be on a week’s vacation at the family timeshare (massive thanks to Baby Flyer’s Mema and Bumpa, CAR’s parents, for being timeshare booking experts) in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico!  We’ve decided to embrace the fact that it’s summer, and we’re going to be making the most of Baby Flyer’s last few months as a lap infant.  We’re relaxing in Mexico, then headed to visit family in Seattle, will follow it up with a trip through Scandinavia (there will be updates), and finish the summer with a long weekend in Santa Fe, NM.

Back to the purpose of this post, we thought it would be fun to show you what we packed for Baby Flyer, since we get plenty of questions about what we bring on trips. We will probably be spending most of our time relaxing at the resort. Or as much relaxing as you can with an active 17 month old, so her suitcase is full of ‘resort ware.’

We believe there are different types of vacations and it’s alright to enjoy them all. Sometimes we do lots of exploring and see new things, and other times we soak up time as a family and enjoy the water and being in one place without as many appointments and expectations.

For all of our trips, I’ve been sharing a medium sized suitcase with Baby Flyer.  It seems more simple to have one suitcase to wheel around than two, especially when flying by myself.  I always seem to under-pack for myself and over-pack for Baby Flyer.  I never know how many outfits she will need in a day.  Some days she is fine with one and other days she needs two.  Luckily for this trip, the condo we’re staying in has private laundry, which is a huge benefit with a little one.

It’s the last minute items that always fill up our suitcase.  Things like her white noise machine, monitor (we just packed the monitor portion), eating mat, sleep sack, snacks, running shoes, and nebulizer to name a few.

For this vacation, I expect that we will spend a lot of time in the water, in the shade by the pool, and up in the room.  We are meeting my parents, sister, brother in law, nephew, and niece.  We haven’t all been together since October so I think we are all looking forward to it!

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Baby Flyer typically flies in pants with either a long, or short sleeve shirt.  It’s comfortable and convenient for changing her diaper as you only have to pull down her pants and there aren’t any snaps.  She wore a pair of Robeez soft soled moccasins which are softer and less clunky and seemed for comfortable for when she stood on our laps during the flight.

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Baby Flyer has fair skin and so we try our best to keep her covered up as much as possible, and have her wear protective swim clothing and sunblock.  Luckily she is excellent at wearing her sun hat without too much complaint.  The velcro closure under the chin has helped us keep it on.  It may have been a help that we’ve been putting a hat on her since she was a baby…maybe?  Sunglasses are a different story.  We haven’t had as much success, even though she does like to play with them.

All of these swim outfits have UPF fabric so we don’t have to worry as much about the parts of her body that are covered up.

I had wanted to buy Baby Flyer a pair of Native sandals but they didn’t fit her feet.  Her feet are pretty small, she just grew into a size 4, but they are still a little chubby.  I ended up finding a pair of Teva Water Sandals at the Nordstrom Rack for a good price.

Our whole family uses Coola sunblock.  We just love it!  It doesn’t even feel like you’re wearing sunblock when you have it on.  We use the Coola Mineral Sport Sunscreen and the  Coola Mineral Matte Finish Face on us, while we bought the Baby version for Baby Flyer.  Both apply so evenly and thinly and we find that they protect our skin.  I tried the Beauty Counter stick face sunscreen and didn’t find it protected my skin as well and always left it feeling sticky, like I could tell I was wearing sunscreen, and was hard to wash off.  However, I have friends who love it.  To each their own.

DRESSSES

Baby Flyer tends to wear a lot of casual dresses so we packed quite a few.  Even though Mexico is hot and humid during the summer, we included a couple pants as options to wear with the dresses if she needed them.  Not pictured, we also packed a pair of white shorts to wear under some of her shorter dresses.  Sometimes she’s interested in her taking off her diaper so covering it up helps keep it on.

A family friend has an online Scandinavian children’s clothing store, Ittikid, so some of her dresses are from her shop.  We try to support her whenever we can plus the clothing is cute and always so soft!

ROMPERS

I packed her a couple of rompers.  Baby Flyer had this Patagonia romper last year and we bought it at the end of the season when it was on sale for this year.  We love her Patagonia hat!  It’s UPF fabric, velcros under her chin, is reversible, and has a wide brim.  It literally goes everywhere with us and was a no brainer to pack it.  Her Keen sandals have been working out well so far this summer.  We had a coupon for the Nordstrom Rack and found a pair in her size there, so we only had to pay $9 for them.

SHORTS

JULY 4TH OUTFIT

Baby Flyer’s Mema found this top on sale at Old Navy and thought it had a perfect hint of patriotic flair for the 4th of July.

It may seem like Baby Flyer has a lot of shoes, however, up until two weeks ago she only had one pair of sneakers.  Just recently she outgrew them so we bought her two pairs in a size 4 for her to grow in to.  We also wanted something that would give her a feet some air since it’s warm in the summer where we live.

That’s pretty much the run-down!  We’re in Mexico for a week, so reviews and updates to follow from the beach!

~CAR & Baby Flyer

 

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

Snowed In, Flight Changes, and Other Adventures

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Baby Flyer and I went to Massachusetts last week for a family visit.  It was just the two of us on the trip, so I had to brush up on my ‘flying alone with baby’ skills, but all went pretty well considering.  I’ve come to realize that while flying with our baby-turning-toddler is definitely different from our old flights, it can be pretty fun nonetheless.  It’s definitely more active, but she can be a pretty great travel companion.  Plus, it’s honestly surprising how kind other travelers can be when you’re doing your best to entertain a baby through a flight.  Baby Flyer has made her share of ‘in-flight friends’ already.

We were supposed to leave to fly home Tuesday, but in anticipation of what’s turned out to be the biggest winter storm of the year, American Airlines emailed me at the end of last week offering to waive the (usually significant) change fee if I changed our flight in advance to avoid flying on the day the storm was predicted.

Though adjusting plans is never simple, I’m so glad I changed early when there were still plenty of options and seats available, because our flight was understandably cancelled.  Since my original flight was already confirmed in first class, I really didn’t want to be a victim of post-storm overbooking, and stuck in the back of the plane in a middle seat with a busy toddler on my lap.  So, I jumped at the opportunity to change early.  We’re now set to fly back to LA on Friday.  The whole process of changing our ticket was actually incredibly easy.  It’s all done online now when there’s a weather emergency.  No waiting on hold!  You log in to your American Airlines account, find your ticket record, and then you can search for and see the available options.  Our new ticket ended up being $1.87 cheaper so we now have a $1.87 credit.

So, that taken care of, we could get back to enjoying our time away, and settle in to wait for the snow.  However, this same climate we were now enjoying tends to highlight how much I’ve (surprisingly) gotten used to not having this be our normal.  Baby Flyer loves being outside!  Unless it’s pouring rain, getting some fresh air is part of our everyday routine.  Since she was born, I’ve appreciated our mild winters SO much more.  I keep saying I would have to learn how to be a parent of a young child in a cold climate.

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It’s cold out here!

It’s not just me either, I’m pretty sure Baby Flyer has gotten pretty spoiled with our typically nice weather.  Case in point- one afternoon we bundled Baby Flyer up for a short walk on a beautiful new handicap accessible trail.  It ended up being particularly windy that day and we had to cut our walk even shorter.  Even though only part of her face was sticking out, I’m not sure she enjoyed the wind all that much.

Fort River Trail

Photo Credit- Trip Advisor

When we were flying in last week, I was surprised to see no snow on the ground.  This is Western Massachusetts at the end of Winter.  I was expecting at least brown crusty snow, and instead was greeted by grass and bare trees.  The week before we got here, they had unseasonably warm temperatures and all the snow melted.

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The backyard ‘before’ picture.

So, when I learned that a big snowstorm was predicted, I was pretty excited!  It was just what I was craving.  As crazy as it sounds, I was actually looking forward to shoveling (and grateful that I was here to help my parents do it).  And this snowstorm did not disappoint!

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Coming down

All in all, we got about a foot of fresh powdery snow!  There was plenty of playing, and yes, shoveling to satisfy my itching for a good workout after being in the house too long.

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It’s thiiiiiiis deep!

We were lucky enough to be able to borrow a snow suit for Baby Flyer since we all were pretty excited to take her outside for her first real snow day.  Once the snow wasn’t quite as heavy, we took her out and she LOVED it!  She kept trying to step on top of the snow, like she does with stairs (she loves stairs lately).  She didn’t want to come in but we were worried her feet would get chilly since she only had on a pair of sneakers.  The next day, we borrowed a pair of boots for her.  I couldn’t wait for us to go outside.

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Playtime!!

Baby Flyer was pretty fascinated with the snow in general, even from inside.  She liked standing on the back of the couch looking out the window and watching it fall.  She seemed so intrigued.  The first time she looked out the front door, she seemed so puzzled and took a good long look.  It really reminds you how much we take our own understanding of the world for granted when you see her mind working on a new experience like this.  These are the moments where I really appreciate being able to travel and show her different parts of the country and the world.

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Watching the transformation outside

All in all, we are making the most of our longer trip.  The town was pretty quiet on Tuesday with most places closed.  We stayed home all day, since the roads were pretty snowy.  Today though, regular life is resuming as people dig themselves and their cars out.  I even ventured out for a 5 mile run this morning.  It was slow and slippery (not surprisingly).  There were snow banks I had to leap over, but it was perfect- sunny and barely any wind.

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You don’t see these in Los Angeles!

In the end it was a fun adventure, and a longer trip than anticipated.  We definitely made the best of it, and Baby Flyer got her first real snow day!  Now we’re headed back to LA for a week or so before a trip to Seattle.  We’re pretty sure we’re in for some authentic rainstorms up there, but hopefully nothing this dramatic!

~CR & Baby Flyer

 

 

Product Review: Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit

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Baby Flyer in the Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit.  It looks silly but it helped all of us get some much needed sleep!

It seems like an appropriate time to review this product, since our baby finally outgrew even the largest size.  We’re sad about this because we loved this silly, adorable thing.  Like, really loved it.  We loved it as much as we (used to) love sleeping at night.

We should start by saying that when Baby Flyer was a newborn, we were avid swaddlers.  We had several kinds- first the blankets, then the wraps and pods, then the sleep sacks.  In short, Baby Flyer spent her first about six months sleeping like a baby burrito.

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A Baby Flyer Burrito

But like all good things, swaddling only is an option for so long.  Baby Flyer never really was a roller so we got a couple extra months of swaddling in, but eventually she was too crafty and could break herself out of even the strongest wraps.

And thus, the ultimate “now what”?  She still needed some containing to get a good night’s sleep, since her grabby little hands would inevitably wake her up if she was left to just sleep in PJs.  Enter the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit.  The Suit is marketed as a “swaddle transition” and it’s a pretty apt description.  While it doesn’t hold baby’s arms down as firmly as a swaddle and allows them to move a bit more, it will dampen their involuntary twitches and movement while they’re sleeping, which helps minimize middle of the night wake ups.

It’s pretty warm too.  Though Baby Flyer wore it in a variety of temperatures and didn’t seem to get sweaty or over heated.  In warm weather she could wear it with just a short sleeve onesie and socks, while in cooler weather we dressed her in her full PJs under it.  We do have central AC and heat at home though, so in general her room is pretty comfortable.  They make both the original and fleece versions, but living in Southern California we only tried the original.

We actually ended up having two of these, one of each size.  The small fit her from about 6-9 months, and the large from 9-12 months.  She pretty well slept in the Suit every night.  We just stopped using the large a few weeks ago, and transitioned her into a wearable blanket.  The transition’s going…okay so far.  We do miss the suit sometimes, even just for how cute our little ‘spacesuit baby’ looked in it.

In short, all babies are different in their preferences for sleeping, but we found the sleep suit to be very worth the price.  It even made it onto our short list of bulky things that still ended up on the ‘to pack’ list.  We’d definitely recommend it to anyone needing a swaddle transition option, or if you’re looking for a unique but very practical baby shower gift.

~CET & CAR

** Note: This post does include affiliate links.  However, we received no compensation in advance of writing this post, and we have used this product personally and prior to becoming an affiliate.**

 

“That One Flight”

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Happy New Year!  We hope your 2017 is off to a good start.  We’ve been staying local so far, and getting ready for Baby Flyer’s first birthday.  Well, not getting ready so much as preparing ourselves, and marveling at how quickly the year has gone.

After a year of writing about family travel, we’ve had many flights and learned plenty of lessons.  For the most part, we’ve been pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable and rewarding it has been  However, as with anything about being new parents, there’s the exception to the rule.  We knew it had to happen at some point- A flight where Baby Flyer just wasn’t feeling her happy traveler self.

Of course it happened during our last transcontinental flight of 2016, our 26th of the year, when we were on a nonstop flight from Massachusetts to California with a long flight time (just over 6 hours) for that flight path.  Even more telling, before take off we had an additional hour ground delay due to the number of passengers on the plane not aligning with the number the gate agents had.  This made it 7 hours of being in that seat on that plane, but we survived.  Fortunately, I had an extra set of hands with me to help hold, settle, and entertain a fussy Baby Flyer.

We had an early morning flight out of Hartford, CT.  It was cold (0 degrees) and still dark when we drove to the airport.  Our flight was on a Thursday, and earlier that week Baby Flyer had started to get sick.  We took her to the doctor before flying, convinced she had an ear infection, but luckily she didn’t.  It was a virus that was taking its time to run its course.  I’ve been known to be a worrier, so wanted to get the ‘A-OK’ from a doctor before flying.

Even after being cleared to fly, her symptoms seemed to be worse the night before out flight.  She was clingy and you could tell she wasn’t feeling well.  I had CET calling the AA Executive Platinum desk (a phone line for high mileage flyers- to learn more about elite benefits you can read our post here) seeing what our options would be if we changed our flights.  There weren’t many, and the options that were available would have been $1,000 to change.  Of course, Baby Flyer would have been worth it, but we decided to see how the night went and decide in the morning.  Fortunately, even though it was a short night, Baby Flyer slept well and woke up much better than she was the night before.

During this flight, the early morning flight worked to our advantage and she was exhausted and slept on me for the first 4.5 hours (including the 1 hour ground delay).  She woke up and cried a couple of times but I was able to quickly nurse or rock her back to sleep.  However, this couldn’t last the full flight at this age, and once she was awake she went through the toys and books I packed pretty quickly.  We moved on to the plastic cups and exploring the seat belt, looking out the window, basically anything we could think of to keep her entertained.  Then we would periodically briefly go back to her toys or books.  She didn’t want to nurse anymore and was happiest when being held while one of us stood in the front of the plane.

Fortunately, we had very friendly flight attendants and a smooth flight, so the seat belt sign was off for most of it.  We would try to sit with Baby Flyer and she made it clear that she wanted to be held standing again.  This behavior is atypical for Baby Flyer but we understood since she wasn’t feeling great.  We were glad when we landed.  But we all survived and a couple of days and another doctor’s visit later, Baby Flyer was feeling better.  We learned she had a common virus and besides Tylenol and comforting her, there was little we could do but wait it out.

Flying’s never easy when your little one isn’t feeling themselves, whether it’s being sick, or just not having the best day.  Feeding often, encouraging naps, standing to rock, or walking down the aisle (as long as you’re not impeding the flight attendants), and trying distraction techniques can all help.  In any case, remember that most flights are (relatively) short, and you’ll get there!  It happens to all of us at one time or another.

~CAR

 

Going Elite: Mileage Programs & Family Travel

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Baby Flyer ‘inspects’ CET’s AA Executive Platinum Tags.  Bag by Briggs & Riley, Baby Flyer’s outfit by Tea

As I write about at great length, and CAR might say painful detail, in my mileage running blog Cruising Altitude, airlines go out of their way to compete for frequent travelers’ loyalty, sometimes to their passengers’ great benefit.  These frequent travelers attain ‘status’ with their chosen airline(s) depending on how many miles, or flights they fly in a year, and in many cases also based on how much they spend.

Nearly every airline, hotel chain, and car rental agency in the world has a loyalty program of some kind.  They are all free to join, and the benefits range from minimal, to extremely lucrative.

Clearly, this is a large topic that we can’t possibly cover in one post.  However, I wanted to highlight a few ways loyalty programs can benefit the whole family, as well as some tips based on your travel style.

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With award programs you can get more (or better) for your money.

Free Travel

This is the most obvious benefit of frequent traveler programs.  If you collect enough miles or points, you can redeem them for free flights, hotel nights, car rentals, etc.  However, for most families, unless you have a high mileage earner in the household, it may be hard to collect enough miles to fly the family for free.  If you’re in this category, there’s a few other options to consider:

-Book with a mix of miles and cash.  If you’re traveling with family, consider booking one or more of the tickets with miles, and the others with cash.  This cuts down on the amount of both miles and cash the trip requires, and you can call the airline after booking to link the itineraries so they show up together in the airline’s system.  Also think about booking the trip as two one way flights, using miles for one direction.  I’ve used this trick many times to redeem miles for the most expensive portion of the trip.

-Use your miles for other freebees.  Many miles and points can be redeemed for things other than tickets, often at amounts much less than an airline ticket would cost.  Check out portals like American Airlines’ Hotel Booking Site, where you can find free hotel nights for as little as 10-12k miles, or even less if you have high status with the airline.  If you have some credit card points stacking up, American Express’s Membership Rewards, or Chase’s Ultimate Rewards.  Credit card points in general are particularly flexible.  I’ve used them in the past for everything from free flights, to Crate & Barrel gift cards.

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Baby Flyer ‘borrows’ CET’s Bose headphones to check out the in flight entertainment in the bulkhead row (for a few seconds, anyway.)

Upgrades & Better Seats

This is another big perk of having at least one person in your family paying attention to their elite status.  It’s even more important to us now that we have Baby Flyer that we have the most comfortable seats possible.  Most airline programs allow elites to secure upgrades, or upgraded seats in economy, for a companion or other people on the same reservation as well.

With airlines now routinely charging from $20 up to $100 one way per person to pick a comfortable economy seat, elite status that makes these free is a big benefit.  As a family we save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars yearly by not having to pay these fees.

Free Checked Baggage & Shorter Security Lines

Checking baggage was something we almost never did, pre-Baby Flyer.  We were known to take 10 day trips, all packed in a carry-on.  Sadly, with the extra gear and clothes needed to travel as a family, we generally have to check a bag or two.  Thankfully, our family elite status keeps the extra fees away.  Here again, we probably save hundreds a year with this benefit.

Elite status also gives you access to ‘priority’ TSA screening lanes, which can save you time, as well as early boarding.  For more information on TSA issues, see our Resources page.

Other Fringe Benefits

Depending on the airline, there are many other benefits to being an elite member of their loyalty program.  Special phone lines that skip the long wait times, fees waived for phone ticketing, more availability for award tickets, and partnerships with hotel chains, to name a few.

To learn more about particular programs, see the links to some of the major airlines:

American AAdvantage

Delta Medallion

United MileagePlus

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Alaska Mileage Plan

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Loyalty programs can be complicated, especially with the many recent changes that the airlines and hotels have put into place.  If you want to know more about how to get the most out of your miles, or just more about the programs, we’d love to help.  Send us a message, or check out Altitude Consulting for more info.

~CET