Baby Flyer’s 2018 Gift Guide

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Baby Flyer this Summer in Prague – Showing off one of her favorites.

How is it almost the end of the year again??  And when did our little baby become an almost ‘threenager’??  The answer to both is- no idea, but it’s reality, so we better get ready.

We thought we’d share a few of our favorites from this year, both for travel and otherwise.

Boogie Board:

Boogie Board

This is a new addition to Baby Flyer’s carry-on, and it’s been an instant hit!  The boogie board is nicely kid-sized, but also makes a great notepad for the front of the fridge for to do lists, shopping, etc.  It comes with a pen, but can also be written on with a fingernail.  Baby Flyer loves showing it off, drawing, and taking ‘orders’ on it.  Even better – 100% mess free!

PlanetBox

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We (and Baby Flyer) LOVE this, and use it almost every day.  These stainless steel bento box-style lunch boxes are perfect for young kiddos because they keep everything organized, and the compartments are a great size for this age.  It’s easy to clean up, and comes with accessories like cooler packs, a carry bag, utensils, custom magnets, and containers.

KicKee Pants Stroller Blanket:

Kikee Pants

For naps on the plane, in the car, or as a cover-up when nursing, this blanket now goes on all our trips.  We love it because it’s lightweight and packs well.  Plus we’ve washed it over and over again, and it’s holding up great.

Kids’ Kindle Fire

Kindle fire

We’re the first to admit we’re not experts on this product, which is probably why we give it a mediocre review.  We don’t do a lot of screen time at home, and make it a special thing for plane or car trips.  We bought this highly discounted on Amazon Prime day, so for that value it’s worth it.  It comes with a year of “free time” which gives a bunch of downloadable videos, games, and books, and you set your kid’s account up so they only have access to what you want.  We did find some of her favorites included like Elmo, Pete the Cat, and Todd Parr’s World.  There are a few glitches though, like having to hook it up to wifi before travel to re-download content, and the home screen navigation being hard to figure out.  We wouldn’t have paid iPad prices for it, which thankfully we didn’t have to.

Menzo Case

Case

 

It should be noted that the case that comes free with the Fire is pretty kid-proof for drops and whatnot, however, it doesn’t have a ‘kickstand’ feature so if you want it to stand up on a tray table, you’ll need to accessorize.

Nenos Headphones

Kid Headphones

To go along with the tablet, Baby Flyer has some of these kids’ headphones.  They’re decibel limited for little ears, and are the right size for a large 2 yr old and up.  She’s just lately really grown into them.

Books:

What’s also a fun addition to our carry-on this year, are some favorite books.  Baby Flyer is really into them lately, and sometimes a good old fashioned book is what you need to get through cranky moments on a flight.  Here are some of her current favorites, travel based and otherwise.

Maisy Goes on a Plane

Maisy Goes On A Plane

Baby Flyer is currently loving this book.  She likes Maisy in general, but this one is the most detailed and practical book about air travel we’ve found for this age.  It follows Maisy through getting to the airport, checking in, and the like.  It even talks about how small the bathroom is.  Thorough.  Especially if your kiddo has a first flight, or first flight in awhile coming up, this one could be a help.

Planes

Planes

Aptly titled, this is a simple picture book about all kinds of planes.  It’s for younger kiddos, but it’s one she still picks out, and we find her quoting from when she sees planes in the air.

Go Go Go, Stop!

Go Go Go Stop

This was one of the earliest books that held Baby Flyer’s attention.  Not entirely travel related, but a good first step in teaching road safety concepts, as well as some colors.  We’ve read this MANY times, and have given it as gifts more than once.

Mix It Up

Mix It Up

Not travel related, but this book is definitely a favorite of Baby Flyer’s, and one we also really enjoy reading.  It’s fun and interactive, and really good for talking about colors in all different ways.  It’s as close to a painting activity as you’d ever want to do in a plane or a car.

Red: A Crayon’s Story

Red

This book about a crayon with a ‘Red’ label, who turns out to realize he’s blue.  While talking about colors, is even more about teaching tolerance and acceptance for who you and others are.  It’s a book that can grow with a child, and lead to several layers of understanding depending on their age.

Where’s Waldo Travel Edition

Where's waldo

For those of us who were early “Waldo” fans, you probably remember those huge hardcover books.  Well, Waldo’s still very much in print, and we found an easily packable travel edition that fits well in the carry on.  At two, Baby Flyer is definitely just growing into these, but she does really enjoy them (and if we’re being honest, so do we from time to time).  She was even ‘Wenda,” Waldo’s friend who appears on each page, for Halloween this year.

wenda

As always, travel safely & Happy Holidays to you all!

~CET, CAR & Baby Flyer

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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We are going to be so devastated when she outgrows her Ergo Baby

We’re actually traveling this Thanksgiving weekend!  In the past few years we’ve tried to stay put to avoid the crowds and high holiday prices, but this year things worked out and we’re taking to the skies to see family in Dallas.

We scored some decent tickets out of the Orange County airport, and back into LAX, which aside from being a nice change, means we’re missing the insanity at LAX!  So far, the experience has been great- short lines, quiet terminal, and the cutest little Admiral’s Club with friendly staff.

 

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Saying “hi” to the planes.

We just might have to head south more often!

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Happy Thanksgiving to you all!  As always, we’re thankful for each other, family, good health, and the wonderful adventures life continues to offer us!

Travel Well,

~CET, CAR & Baby Flyer

Summer in Scandinavia Part 3: This is the Way We Board The Plane…

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Here we go!

….Board the plane, board the plane.

The story so far:

Preview: Summer in Scandinavia

Part 1: Gear Up and Go!

Part 2: Well Connected

After our early morning and hop to Boston, it was nice to make it to our final stop before Europe.  We don’t routinely find ourselves going through JFK, so spending a little time there was a nice change.  Plus, we were traveling internationally and so CET’s American Executive Platinum status got us into the Flagship Lounge half of the Admiral’s Club.

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Busy afternoon at the JFK Flagship Lounge

We had a couple hours before our flight, since it was an overnight (as most transatlantic flights tend to be) and so had time to have a meal at the buffet, and let Baby Flyer roam around.

This lounge has been recently re-done, and they did a good job.  However, during peak times even this expanded space is full to capacity.  We ended up grabbing a couple chairs along one of the walls, but almost every seat was taken.

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Full buffett

The food consists of a full hot bar, as well as snacks and desserts.  The drinks are self-serve, and included a wine/champagne bar, as well as a station with a refreshing ‘signature cocktail.’

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Baby Flyer loves some lounge time, and especially enjoyed looking at the planes outside while walking along the wall of windows that makes up one side of the lounge.

At about 45 minutes out, we headed to our gate.  They hadn’t started boarding yet, but it was good we were there on the early side as they needed to re-check our passports (standard procedure).  Since we were in business class, we boarded early.  Baby Flyer LOVED getting to walk down the jetbridge on her own two feet, and holding her own passport!

The plane was one of Finnair’s a330 workhorses.  It has two classes- business and economy, and while the seats were lie-flat and functional, could use some updating.  Finnair has been doing just that through their fleet, including newly purchased a350 long haul aircraft that look amazing inside.

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AY a330 Business Class

We sat in 1A and 1C, which was a window seat and aisle at the front of the cabin.  The interior is laid out in a 1-2-2 or 1-2-1 layout, depending on the row.  This gives good options to both individual travelers and couples.  One thing the service lacked was any kind of mattress pad, which would have been a welcome addition since the seats were on the hard side for sleeping.

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Baby Flyer shows us how to fasten our seatbelts

Finnair does its best to be quintessentially scandi with their decor, including brightly patterned marimekko pillows and blankets, as well as amenity kits.  Their signature pre-departure drink was sparkling wine and blueberry juice, served in ice patterned glasses.

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Inspecting the amenity kit

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Signature drinks before takeoff

The IFE was solid, and included a lot of things you don’t find on AA or Qatar, or probably anything outside of Scandinavian TV, including plenty of nature specials and outdoor adventure documentaries.  Ice.  So very much walking around on ice.

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Rocking out!

I always enjoy checking out new airlines.  Even though Finnair isn’t a true luxury airline like Qatar or Cathay Pacific, it’s a solid choice with pleasant service and a good reputation.  What’s even better about them is that they’re a way to get to Europe that can both avoid the huge award fees that British Airways and Iberia tack on, and can let you skip the chaos of connecting in Heathrow.

The key to award travel to Europe is to just get to Europe, pretty much anywhere in Europe, and then connect from there to where you actually want to go.  Bonus if you actually want to go to the destination, like we did with Helsinki.

The flight itself was long, and not too long at once.  It was an overnight but only 8 hours including taxi, take off, landing, and meal service.  This is the downside of flying East Coast to Europe- even the longest flight only provides for about 4 hours sleep if you’re lucky.  We took off and watched the sunset out of the windows before settling in.

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We’d brought her plenty of pack-able toys, and she was entertained for a few minutes here and there by watching the IFE, or listening to the ‘Finnish Kids’ song station through our Bose.  She also played at our feet for awhile, and set up a fort of sorts in the bulkhead.  They handed out Moomins themed towel/blankets to the kids, and she enjoyed ‘going ny-ny’ on hers.

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Everything is Moomins

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Making a fort

Traveling with a lap infant, especially a lap toddler, is infinitely better the more space you have.  She eventually fell asleep, first on CET (much to CAR’s delight), and then moved over after awhile.  We didn’t sleep much at all, but she did, and woke up grinning and happy on final descent.  We should all be so lucky.

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Someone got to sleep at least

Overall, it was a comfortable way to get the three of us to Europe, especially since we could handle some lost sleep since we didn’t have immediate plans for the day once we got there.

Travel well,

~CET

Up Next- Helsinki!

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Hyvää päivää!!

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

 

 

“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