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.

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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.

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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

Baby Flyer’s 2016 In Review

 

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The last flight of 2016 has been taken here at Baby Flyer Blog.  All in all, Baby Flyer has flown 25 flights, totaling 34,500 flight miles.  We’ve had so many great trips to visit family, attend events, see some of our favorite places, and also to just enjoy being together.  She’s been a pro flyer overall, even ‘helping’ her Mommy complete American Airlines’ platinum challenge by flying 12,500 miles in just three months, qualifying them for AA’s 50k status level through January 2018.  Our combined family flight miles this year came in at just over 135,000!  (We’ll be posting more on elite status and family flying soon, and you can see CET’s travel photos from the year at Cruising Altitude).

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We feel so lucky to be able to travel as a family, and have so many wonderful experiences.  With this in mind, it seems like a good time to look back chronologically on our year of traveling by putting together some of our favorite travel pictures, and a couple from home life as well.

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Starting close to home with a walk along the beach- Long Beach, CA

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New England in the Spring with a walk on the Robert Frost Trail- Amherst, MA

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All smiles in Burlington, VT at her second cousin’s  graduation.

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Even more smiles at another cousin’s graduation- Dallas, TX

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Sleepy arrivals at LAX after a long day of travel- Los Angeles, CA

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Summertime at the Cape- Wellfleet, MA

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And more Summer fun back east- Amherst, MA

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Afternoon hiking- Whidbey Island, WA

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Summer views- Mount Ranier, Seattle, WA

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Baby Flyer enjoying our spacious Airbnb in Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Cabana baby!! Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

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Her first 777 ‘Flagship 1st’ flight to finish the Platinum Challenge- Enroute to Dallas, TX

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Getting some altitude- Boulder, CO

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Walks in the fall leaves- Amherst, MA

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Friends, fun & architecture- Chicago, IL

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Brief stop at home for a hike in Griffith Park- Los Angeles, CA

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Checking out her first snow- Amherst, MA

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Ending the year up North- Whidbey Island, WA

Thanks everyone for reading Baby Flyer Blog this year!  We’re looking forward to posting plenty more family travel resources, reports, and inspiration in 2017.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and adventurous new year!

~CAR, CET, & Baby Flyer

One Week of Green Chef

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A week’s worth of dinner, Green Chef style.

We tried Green Chef for the first time a few weeks ago.  I’ve heard about various online meal services but this was the first time trying one.  My sister and brother in law, recent empty-nesters, have been using this service all fall and rave about it.  They love the quality of the food and feel like they are eating in a restaurant multiple nights a week.  I will say it makes meal planning a breeze.

We were flying back from Chicago late in the day on Monday and I wasn’t sure if I was going to have time to go to the grocery store during the week so I thought that it would be a perfect time to try it.  Live and learn, but I didn’t know the delivery days for our area and that you needed to order at least a week ahead, so when I placed my order on Wednesday, the earliest I could get it was Thursday of the following week.

The Basics:

Green Chef is certified organic by CCOF and provides fresh and sustainably sourced food.  The food has no synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms, artificial ingredients, and growth hormones or antibiotics.  There’s no commitment and you can skip a delivery at any point.  The food is sent in insulated, refrigerated boxes.

They have two person and family-style meal plans and you can choose a menu that fits your diet including omnivore, carnivore, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and paleo options.  What’s great is that you can further refine omnivore after placing your order to select which meats you want.  I’m a pescatarian and do not like most shellfish, so I only selected fish for the meat for our order.

The selection of meals for each week are posted the week before.  It gives you an idea of what could be sent but since there are more options than the three, you don’t know which specific dishes you’ll get.  You can’t individually select which meals you want.

The three meals we received were (photographs courtesy of Green Chef)-

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Chinese BBQ Salmon with black rice, bok choy, bell pepper, and carrots.

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Cauliflower Mac & Cheese with kale, breadcrumbs, and sun-dried tomato tapenade.

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Picadillo-Stuffed Peppers with cotija and rice, olives, capers, beans, and almonds.

What You Get:

One box with all the ingredients for the three meals, minus some basic items like olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Everything else that you need is included.  The packaging is biodegradable, and the ice packs are reusable.  Everything stayed very cold and I wasn’t worried that anything had spoiled.

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The recipe card tells you the ingredients, items you’ll need from your own kitchen, a description of the dish, nutritional information, length of time for cooking, and how to make the meal.

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Each recipe has a color and the ingredients have a sticker that corresponds to the recipe color.  This was really helpful and kept everything organized.

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Experience:

The recipes take anywhere from 30-40 minutes to make.  I found some of the dishes took longer than the recipe states and used some new to me multi-step cooking methods so I had to reference the instructions multiple times while cooking.  CET loved the two-part method for cooking the salmon.  First, I fried it on the stove top skin side up then I flipped it over, topped it with some sauce, and put it in the oven to finish cooking.  The recipes seemed to call for more olive oil than I typically cook with so I used less when I could.

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The servings were very generous!  Each recipe says it serves two, but we never finished it all in one night.  We typically had enough left over for at least one lunch the following day.  For instance, this serving was about a quarter of what we made.

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It’s fun being surprised by what you’re sent.  It got us out of our cooking rut and encouraged us to try new dishes that I probably wouldn’t have selected otherwise.  For instance, CET doesn’t like peppers so I tend to stay away from stuffed pepper recipes.  In this case, I’m glad I didn’t because it was one of my favorite dishes they sent.  The rice and filling was plenty as a standalone meal and the roasted pepper was really just an addition.  CET enjoyed it as well and Baby Flyer liked the rice and loved the green olives.

Tips I Learned Along the Way:

  • At least in our area, they only deliver on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Check to see if you are on the same delivery schedule.
  • You need to place your order a week before the day you want your meal delivered. Likewise, when you want to cancel it, they need a week’s notice.
  • You can easily select your own dietary preferences by signing up for the omnivore plan and opting-out of the meat options you don’t want. To do this, you log intoGreenChef.com, go to your Account Info (https://greenchef.com/#/my-account/account-info) and click “Edit” next to “My Plan”.
  • If you want to select which meat you want, choose omnivore and after you have completed your order you have the chance to refine your selection further.  I knew this was an option but it took me a while to figure out how to do it.  I thought I needed to do it before placing my order.
  • To cancel your order for an extended period of time, you can do it by logging into your account then clicking this link- https://greenchef.com/#/cancel before the weekly cutoff time (7 days prior to your delivery at noon EST). You can reactivate your account anytime by logging into your account and selecting the reactivation button.

Overall, we really enjoyed our experience and were impressed with the quality of the food.  The produce was fresh, directions clear, and dishes tasty.  To us, it seemed like a treat.  We probably won’t be doing it weekly but think it would be fun to do once a month, or a perfect idea for after a trip when you’re still settling back in.  Or, perhaps, for those post-holiday burn out weeks when coming up with a meal plan is just about the last thing you want to be doing.

If you want to try Green Chef for yourself, you can get 4 free meals by using BabyFlyerBlog’s link.  Let us know in the comments if you’ve tried this, or other meal services.  We’d love to hear your experience!

~CAR

Family Destinations: New England

puffers-pond

There’s no denying it, Fall in New England is perfect- the air is crisp, the leaves are brilliant, and the flavors are delicious.  It’s truly beautiful, and probably the season I miss the most since moving to Southern California.  ‘Fall weather’ in Southern California may surprise you a day or two during any time of the year, but it doesn’t go much farther than an overcast day, or maybe a few rain showers.  There aren’t any big piles of crunchy leaves to play in, it’s hard to find fresh apple cider in the grocery store, and you can’t count on being able to wear a sweater and boots.

It was time to get some real authentic fall in our lives, so this year Baby Flyer and I were lucky enough to spend almost three weeks in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley during the peak of the season, and boy did we soak it up!

mt-holyoke-hike

Our favorite baby hiking gear!  Baby Flyer hangs out in the Ergo 360 carrier wearing her moccasins by Freshly Picked in “birch.”

We hit the highlights- apple picking at Cold Spring Orchard, made apple crisp and crazy crust apple pie, drank pumpkin beer (just me on this one, not Baby Flyer) and apple cider, visited a pumpkin patch, went on multiple hikes through the woods, drove to the top of Skinner Mountain to view the foliage, enjoyed the cooler temperatures; perfect running weather, went on a farm tour, stepped on as many crunchy leaves as we could, and wore sweaters and boots as often as possible.  We planned to go on a hayride, but we ran out of time.  Next year!

Next up- what to do with all those apples from our apple picking?  If you love apple pie but don’t have the time to make the crust, this Crazy Crust Apple Pie is a perfect option.  You essentially put the crust on top of the apples.  Very easy and equally as delicious.  We got this recipe from the apple farm and I thought it was too good not to share.

crazy-crust-pie

Crazy Crust Apple Pie

Ingredients

Approximately 3lbs or 5-6 medium sized apples; peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (*See note below)

Cinnamon/sugar mixture

¾ cup butter (melted)

1 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1 egg (beaten)

Nuts (if desired)

Method:

Fill pie plate 2/3 of the way full with apples then sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar.  Add nuts, if desired.

Melt butter then add sugar, flour, and beaten egg.

Pour over apples

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, until browned.

 * Using a variety of apples and even adding one pear make for a nice flavor.  Empire, Macoun, and Cortland are all good if they are available where you are.  Otherwise, a combination of Honey Crisp, Pink Lady, Gala, and Fuji is an option.  I don’t recommend using Granny Smith apples as they are too tart.  Adding one pear can be a nice addition.

On top of the fun activities the weather was amazing, with only two rainy days during our whole visit.  I probably commented on the beauty daily, and it was perfect to be able to get outside with BabyFlyer as much as possible.

pumpkin-beer-at-judies

The Pioneer Valley is also a great place to eat any time of year.  For a special night out, we get a table at Chez Albert, one of our current favorites.  I’m probably late to the party, but I had my first pumpkin beer with a brown sugar rim at Judie’s in Amherst.  Holy yum (and decadent).  I’ve tried to replicate it at home out here but it hasn’t been quite as good.  I’m still looking for the perfect pumpkin beer.  The one I had in New England-Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale- was local and isn’t carried ‘out west.’

Baby Flyer seemed to really enjoy our walks in the woods.  She was so peaceful, both in the Ergo 360 and the BOB Revolution Stroller.  She barely made a peep, and spent the time looking around.  You could tell she was taking it all in.  We tried to get outside in the woods daily to enjoy the trees.

bob-on-hike

Living in the city, there’s little things you don’t realize you get unaccustomed to.  It’s odd but since living in Southern California I’m not as used to hearing (or seeing) squirrels.  Whenever we would be out on a walk, I would get startled when I’d hear ‘something,’ which was always a squirrel, rustling in the leaves.  This might have something to do with the prevalence of lizards and rattlesnakes in SoCal.  We certainly have squirrels here too, but I don’t come across them in the same frequency as I do in the woods in New England.

There are a few iconic fall things that it just seems like you ‘need’ to do with family.  When we booked our tickets for this trip, I imagined visiting a pumpkin patch and taking some fall themed pictures of Baby Flyer among the pumpkins.  We did in fact, visit a pumpkin patch, but it was later in the day and Baby Flyer wasn’t in one of her moods where she smiles all the time but was still very interested and curious about the pumpkins.  So, while they may not be perfectly posed, they are real life and this is what we captured-

pumpkins-1

pumpkins-3

pumpkins-2

Baby Flyer’s Fall outfit- Jacket from Patagonia, leggings from Tea

Overall, we feel so lucky were able to enjoy so much of the fall season this year on this trip.  It is by far the longest I’ve been back during that time of year since moving to Southern California.

last-walk

No better way to end than a shot of the woods on our last walk in the woods before flying back home!

Thanks for reading!

~CR

This post is linked-up!  We’re joining Budget Traveler’s Sandbox for Travel Photo Thursday this week.  Be sure to head over there and check out some great end of the year travel posts!

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

bose-headphones

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

compression-socks

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

packable-running-shoe

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

cocoon-organizer

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

smart-charger

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

power-strip

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

packing-cubes

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

gin-gins

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