Vacation Re-Cap: Florida 2019

Good morning!

Last week I was pretty quiet on the blog and social media because I was busy soaking up sunshine and warm weather with my little family in Florida. Justin had a conference to attend for work in Sarasota so LJ and I happily packed our bags and joined him for the week. Today I’m just going to give a recap of our trip – spoiler alert: we didn’t want to leave!

Saturday

We flew out early Saturday morning and the plane ride went smoothly. I’ve blogged about my tips for plane rides with a baby before and even though LJ is now a toddler, we still do things pretty similarly. I still swear by bringing a boppy pillow so your lap child has something to sit or lay on and it doesn’t feel like you have to actively “hold” them the whole time. I also always keep him in a sleeper so I don’t have to worry about socks/shoes getting pulled off and he’s mostly covered from airplane germs. After reviewing the flight safety packet (ha!), LJ was able to sleep most of the plane ride.

Side note: a few weeks ago I posted on Instagram that I found my old GameBoy Color and a Pokemon cartridge and my excitement got Justin sucked in too and now he’s playing too! That little light kills me! #beforebacklitscreens #relivingchildhood

Flight 3

We landed in St. Petersburg and got a rental car to make the hour-long drive to our hotel in Sarasota. Before checking in at our hotel we stopped at Trader Joes to stock up on some groceries and diapers (I don’t waste precious luggage space on diapers if we’re gone this long – it’s easier to just buy a pack when you get to your destination!). We stayed at the Westin in downtown Sarasota and it was gorgeous! Since we had been traveling most of the day, we spent the afternoon and evening relaxing in the hotel room, leaving only to grab some dinner. It was nice to just let LJ run around and explore the hotel room. It’s always fun to see what he thinks of a place…and where our items might end up. 😉

Hotel Room Surprise

A general rule for hotels with toddlers: if something goes missing, check a trash can.

Sunday

Sunday morning was pretty lazy with a makeshift breakfast in bed and playing in the hotel room.

Hotel Breakfast.jpg

We got LJ down for his nap (a difficult process when you’re all sharing a room!) and he thankfully took a pretty good nap. I’ve blogged previously about hotel rooms with a baby and two of my standard tips are bring a sound machine and your own crib sheet – we try to make it seem as much like home as possible and I do think it helps!

Hotel Room.jpg

Once he woke up, we let him run around and burn off some energy while we packed up to head to the beach! The view from our room showed a gorgeous day and we were excited to take advantage. We ate a very quick hotel room lunch and headed out!

0210191112d_HDR.jpg

We headed for Siesta Key beach and after circling for a while, managed to snag a parking spot at the main beach pavillion. I had never been to Siesta Key before but this beach is AMAZING!

0210191229.jpg

The sand is a gorgeous white and feels cool to the touch. It was so pleasant to walk on even though the day was hot. We set up camp and LJ immediately got to playing in it. We enjoyed a couple hours of soaking up sun, sand, and surf.

Well, not surf so much. The water was pretty cold and LJ was not a fan! But he had so much fun playing in the sand, finding seashells, and watching all the other beach-goers. We ended up staying out there much longer than we anticipated because he was doing so well and enjoying it!

After we’d had enough of the beach, we headed into the little village area where there are lots of cute little shops and restaurants. We enjoyed walking around and stopped for some food, ice cream, and a souvenir magnet (a tradition on every vacation!)

We headed back to the hotel in time for LJ to go to bed. Since we had to be so quiet and couldn’t watch TV, I opted for reading the book I had brought along before bed.

0210191941a.jpg

Monday

Justin’s conference started early Monday morning so LJ and I hung out in the hotel room all morning. I finally got him down for a nap after 40 minutes of trying (usually it takes 5 at home) and since I couldn’t make any noise and I was so tired after the effort that I decided to take a nap too. I posted about this on Instagram, but this is one of those situations where I tried to see the silver lining. It’s not always easy to travel with a child, but it leads to some special moments that don’t happen otherwise. I haven’t slept next to LJ since he was a six week old baby in a bassinet in my bedroom so it was pretty sweet to hear his sweet little baby snores while I drifted off.

0211190937a.jpg

Justin’s conference was only half-day so once he got back, I quickly headed down to our hotel gym to get a quick workout in.

0211191211b_HDR.jpg

We ate lunch in the hotel room and then headed up to the rooftop pool for the afternoon.

The pool was heated and had a fantastic view! It was 82 degrees outside and just the perfect day to lounge poolside and swim. Glorious!

We hung out at the pool until we had to head back inside for naps, dinner, and bedtime.

Tuesday

After Justin’s conference Tuesday, we checked out of the hotel because we were going to spend the rest of the week staying with two of my college friends, Eric and Kaitlin, who live in Sarasota. We dropped off our stuff at their house after lunch and headed to the Jungle Gardens for the afternoon. This place was awesome! It was basically a little zoo with a lot of interactive opportunities for kids. LJ got to go in the petting zoo where he was in goat heaven. He also loved looking at all the different animals!

The paths are all shaded and it really did feel like we were in a jungle. It was very pleasant to walk around!

My favorite part was when we got to a free-roaming flock of flamingos! I’ve never seen one up close before and they are so cool! We got to feed them and they would just walk up to us at eye level – it was awesome!

After the gardens, we headed back to the house to get ready for dinner. Eric and Kaitlin love to play games and so once we had dinner and put LJ down we spent the evening playing card games and catching up on life. We’re all pretty competitive so it was a fun evening!

Wednesday – Friday

The rest of the week we settled into a good routine. Justin would head into the conference in the morning. LJ and I would hang out at the house and play a little. He would go down for a nap and I would get a little work done (perk of my work-from-home job: I can do it anywhere!) Justin would come home around lunch and we would hang out in the afternoon. Our friends both work from home so if they finished up working they would join us in games or just lounging. We’d all do dinner together and once LJ was down, we’d play games until bedtime. Rather than recap each day individually, I’ll just share a few highlights from the second half of the week:

-Their backyard pool was the perfect place to lounge and read during naptime when everyone else was busy! It was seriously like being at a resort!

0214191512_HDR

-Owen’s Fish Camp was a fantastic restaurant for dinner! I wish I had taken more pictures but the back patio (where you can hang out where you wait for your table) had delicious appetizers, live music, and such a fun vibe!

-Games, games, and more games. They taught us a new one called “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” which we all got SO into. The final night we beat a really hard level that we had been working on and we all were super pumped!

-Everyone had a light day Friday so we headed to the beach after lunch and it was a great way to end the week! We are so thankful for the great hospitality of our friends!

0215191526

Saturday

We left early Saturday morning to catch our flight back to Indiana. It was hard to leave the 80 degree sunshine for 32 degrees with some snow on the ground! But we had a fantastic week and I’m so glad we had the chance to get some mid-February sunshine! Until next time, Florida!

 

Advertisements

Simplifying Preparation for Trips

Good morning!

Once Justin gets home from work tomorrow we are heading to Florida for the next 8 days. He has a conference for work and LJ and I are going to tag along and enjoy some sunshine! After last week’s Polar Vortex we are more than ready for warm, sunny days!

23085
Throwback to our last beach vacation. So excited for more sun and sand next week!

Today is going to be spent cleaning, packing, and preparing for our trip. Since traveling with a little one always seems to add a layer of chaos, I’ve learned that early preparation is key for trips. Today I thought I’d share a few things I do before we leave on a trip to try to simplify the chaos of packing/remembering everything. Some of these things may seem overly simple, some may not work for you. These are just the things that work for us and have helped me pack and prepare for vacations with as little stress as possible!

Get whatever you can permanently “ready”

I used to write out a detailed list for our dog sitters with everything they needed to know/do for our dogs, and since there were always little variations, I would re-write the list each time. Now, I have a generic instruction list that is always ready to set out and if there’s anything “extra” (like asking them to pick up our mail if we’re gone more than a few days), I just write that on a sticky note next to the regular list. This is a small thing, but it saves me time and mental space because it’s one less thing I have to prepare before leaving (and we inevitably always forgot to write out the list until we were heading out the door so it was stressful to have to remember everything to include).

The Week Before

In the week leading up to a trip, I start setting aside clothes for LJ. I did a big load of laundry on Monday, so I set aside all the clean clothes that I knew I wanted to take on the trip. This prevents last-minute panic; I’m not stressing out because we have no clean sleepers when it comes time to pack. This does mean I have limited options for what he can wear for the rest of the week after I’ve set aside the clothes to pack, but it’s really not a big deal and we manage just fine.

As I get things out and ready to pack, I lay them out on our guest bed. This includes setting out all the extra things (for example, this trip I need his swimsuit, hat, swim diapers, etc). So on packing day, I’ve already set out what I need and I don’t forget anything. I also can see if there’s anything I need to get for him in advance (this time, I needed a swimsuit since he’s grown out of his old ones). Once LJ’s clothes are all out, I’ll set mine out as well. Justin is on his own to pack what he needs. 😉

The Day Before

In the day before leaving, I get out all the extra things we’ll need to take (pack n’ play if we’re driving, carseat bag if we’re flying, umbrella stroller, etc). I prepare LJ’s diaper bag, set aside his boppy pillow, and will typically get everything packed in suitcases except toiletries or other items we still need to use. I’ll also do a load of laundry, which serves the dual purpose of making sure everything I want to pack is clean and also keeping there from being a laundry mountain waiting for me when we get back.

I also clean up the house for our dogsitter. Because of my super-simple cleaning routine, this doesn’t usually involve much cleaning, but I’ll do things like run and empty the dishwasher, freshen up the guest room if needed, etc.

If we’re flying, I also double-check flights and make sure we’re set with the airline rules for traveling with children (some allow free checked carseat and/or stroller, some allow free diaper bag in addition to personal item, etc). Each airline is slightly different so it’s always good to double check to make sure we know what to expect with our flight. I’ll also set out any documents we might need (passports if applicable, some airlines require a copy of a birth certificate, etc).

The Day Of

Usually I will have packed the clothes in our suitcases the day before, but if we’re not leaving until late in the day I may wait until the day of. I pack up our toiletries and any other final items, we (eh-hem, Justin) pack up the car, do a last minute sweep of the house, and head out! Because I’ve done so much prep work earlier in the week, the day of travel typically goes pretty smoothly.

If you’re interested in some of my other travel-with-baby related posts, check them out below!

Tips for Road Trips with Baby

Tips for Flights with Baby

Tips for Hotel Stays with Baby

Simplified Packing for Travel with Baby

What tips do you have for preparing for a trip?

Simplified Packing for Travel with a Baby

Last Monday, LJ and I packed our bags and flew to Philadelphia for the week. We spent a few days visiting Justin’s extended family who live in the area. Since Justin was unable to come with us, my mother-in-law was gracious enough to drive up from Virginia to visit her family with us and then watch LJ during the day on Thursday when I was busy. It was so wonderful to get to introduce LJ to his great-grandmother, great-uncles and -aunts, second cousins, etc. I also got to visit a few college friends who live in the area.

LJ with gma and ggma

How cute are these three generations? We had such a special time together!

On Wednesday evening we headed back towards Philadelphia because Thursday I had all-day meetings and professional development with the company I work for. For those who do not know, I have a part-time administrative job with a nutrition counseling company based in Philadelphia. While I am able to complete all of my work remotely from home (mostly during nap time), the opportunity arose to travel out to participate in this day with many other members of the team and I jumped at the chance. Then LJ and I flew back to Indiana on Friday – it was a full, fun week!

I have now flown solo with LJ a few different times and while I am by no means an expert, I do feel like I’ve picked up some tips and tricks along the way. I have previously blogged about tips I use when flying with a baby (find that blog post here), but motherhood is a constant experiment and I want to share what I’m learning as I go. One of the key things I have found when flying with a baby, whether you’re the lone adult or have some help, is to pack as light as you canIt is difficult enough to navigate an airport with a baby but to try and juggle 17 things makes it that much harder. Today I thought it would be helpful to show exactly what I prioritize packing when traveling with a baby, as well as how I organize everything and cart it through the airport. As always, these are things that have worked for me – my tricks might not work for everyone but they sure have helped me simplify the chaos of airport travel! I hope you can find something here that is helpful to you.

Packing Tips for Flying with a Baby

Carry On Suitcase

When I travel solo with LJ, I try to get everything that I won’t need on the actual flight in one carry-on if at all possible. I know I could take a purse or something too but I prefer less bags to keep track of. I always roll my clothing items and utilize every square centimeter of space. Here is exactly what I packed in my carry-on for this 5-day/4-night trip:

Clothing Items for LJ

Packed for LJ

  • Crib sheet (I always bring my own from home even though we use the hotel’s crib. I talk more about this in my post on tips for hotels with a baby here)
  • 3 Pants (two leggings, one jeans)
  • Four onesies
  • Three sleepers
  • Socks
  • One Shirt
  • One Sweatshirt
  • Hat

In addition to these items, LJ wore a sleeper to the airport with a zipper hoodie over it. (Bonus Tip: LJ is in a super *fun* stage of pulling his socks off every chance he gets. A sleeper gave him a little more coverage in protecting from airport germs and also ensured he didn’t pull off and lose his socks. Win-win!)

We could have eliminated one sleeper, one pair of leggings, the shirt, and one onesie, but since my mother-in-law was kind enough to bring her sound machine for LJ to use so I didn’t have to pack mine, I had a little extra space to pack a few more items.

Clothing Items for Me

Packed for me

  • White nursing tank
  • Four tops
  • One pair dress pants
  • Pajamas (top + bottoms)
  • One pair ballet flats

In addition, I wore a navy nursing tank, shirt, scarf, jacket, jeans, and my Converse sneakers to the airport.

Personal Care Items

Personal Care Items

  • Jewelry (3-4 options)
  • Curling wand + carrier
  • Clutch to take for my work day
  • 3-1-1 liquid bag (makeup remover, baby body wash, contact solution, mascara, moisturizer, toothpaste, eye cream, nail polish)
  • Other toiletries bag for non-liquids (see below)

Toiletries

Random Items

Extra Items

A few random items I had in the front pockets of my carry-on were:

  • my laptop (not pictured)
  • a couple magazines (I only ended up taking two of the three pictured)
  • hairbrush
  • booklight
  • glasses
  • phone charger
  • socks, bra, underwear (also not pictured but you get the idea 😉 )

All of that stuff listed above fit into my carry-on. I make sure none of it is stuff I’ll need on the plane in case I end up having to gate-check the carry-on due to limited overhead space (which I did end up having to do this time). It’s also helpful to have a carry-on with a handle and wheels for easy transport!

Mom + baby carry on items

Diaper Bag

Many airlines let you bring a diaper bag as a “bonus” item and it does not count as a carry-on or personal item – check your airline’s policy!

Luggage at airport

I have a blog post dedicated to what I carry in my infant diaper bag and other than a few snacks for both LJ and myself, I didn’t pack anything extra in the bag. I find it’s helpful to keep this mostly the same set up as usual so I can quickly find what I need in the bag and have a little extra room if I need to stuff something in it (like LJ’s sweatshirt). I did not pack tons of diapers since it is very easy to buy some once at my destination. I also did not pack extra toys other than what I typically keep in the diaper bag. LJ was so interested in all the people and new surroundings that he didn’t really even need toys to be entertained.

Bonus Tip #1: I keep headphones in my diaper bag and always download a podcast or a Netflix episode or two since LJ often sleeps during the flight and it’s too difficult to read with him on my lap. And even though I try to limit LJ’s screen time, there is no shame in my mom game with downloading an episode of The Octonauts for use in a pinch – we’re all just trying to make it to our destination happily. 🙂

Bonus Tip #2: Attach the diaper bag to your carry-on. Back when I used my Ergo to carry LJ through the airport, my hands were always free to hold/pull luggage. Now that I needed one hand to push the stroller and one to pull my suitcase, I needed to come up with a strategy for carrying my nursing pillow, car seat bag and my diaper bag until I could check make it to the counter and check my car seat bag. My diaper bag comes with clips to hook it to a stroller, and these clips came in handy when I had my car seat bag on my back – I just clipped the bag to my suitcase handle and could easily navigate with everything in tow. I didn’t actually realize I could do this until I was already in the airport and wish I had known it all along as it makes things so easy! If your diaper bag doesn’t come with clips, I think a couple carabiner clips would do the trick.

Nursing Pillow

LJ and Boppy

Okay so this isn’t a bag and I’ve already shared this tip but it bears repeating. If you are flying with a lap infant, regardless of if you’re breastfeeding, a nursing pillow is a personal item must. It gives your baby a place to sit/lay down during the flight without you feeling like you need to “hold” him or her the entire time. LJ usually falls asleep on it and my arms can stay free. I can’t recommend it enough!

Car Seat + Bag

Your destination may have a car seat for you or you may plan to rent one upon arrival, but I have always taken our car seat along. Most airlines allow you to check a car seat and/or stroller for free. I bought this bag on Amazon and I honestly LOVE it. It makes carrying a car seat (and base if you want) super easy, lightweight (yes, really!) and manageable.

Umbrella Stroller

I have previously used my baby carrier to carry LJ through the airport and around at our destinations. This worked great when he was smaller but he’s getting a little too heavy for me to want to carry him for long periods now so I bought an umbrella stroller for $4.50 at a consignment store. It’s certainly not the best stroller out there and I could have taken my nicer stroller from home; however, the umbrella stroller served its purpose through the airport and at our destination and since it’s inexpensive I wasn’t worried if it got banged up or damaged on the flight. Also, since I gate checked my stroller (remember, many airlines do this for free!), I could push LJ through the airport super easily. It was easy to transport around when we got to our destination and didn’t take up much space in the car, which left room for other luggage. Search yard sales, FB groups, etc for a used one or you can find an inexpensive one like this at stores like Walmart, Target, etc.

What tricks have you picked up from flying with a baby? Share your tips below – I’d love to hear what works for you!

 

 

Tips for Hotels with a Baby

Good morning from the hallway of a Holiday Inn outside of Philadelphia.

Never thought I would begin a blog post with that sentence, but such is life. Ha! We’ve had a busy week in Pennsylvania and I plan to have a little recap post next week with more details. For now, as I am sitting outside my hotel room door while LJ takes his morning nap, I thought now would be a good time to share a few tips I’ve learned from hotel stays with a baby so far.

As always, these are things that work for our family. I share them in case there is even one person who might benefit from reading what works for us but I realize every family has different preferences and needs and so these things might not work for everyone.

Tip #1: Ask the hotel for a crib/pack and play

LJ Hotel Crib

There may be some hotels that do not provide them, but every time I have made a reservation, I ask the hotel if they have cribs or pack n plays for guest use. So far, every hotel has had some. You want to make sure to request it when you make the reservation, because each hotel only has a limited number. Some will reserve the crib for you and some may say you need to call the day-of to reserve a crib so make sure to ask their policy. It saves a TON of space and hassle to not have to bring your own pack n play so I highly recommend using the hotel’s option. (Also, a side note: I realize looking at this picture that the lamp looks close to the crib but in reality it was against the wall out of reach of the crib).

Tip #2: Bring your own crib sheet

A pack n play takes up a ton of space. A crib sheet does not. I always bring my own and put it on top of the crib mattress for a few reasons. It smells like home and is a familiar thing for LJ to sleep on, which I truly believe helps him sleep easier in a new room. I also know with certainty that it is clean to my standards and is a material that he will be comfortable on.

Tip #3: Bring a sound machine

LJ does sleep with a sound machine at home, so the noise is consistent with what he is used to. Even if he didn’t regularly sleep with a sound machine, I would still bring it to a hotel room. Since I’m sleeping in the same room, this helps mask the small night noises that either of us might make and helps keep us from waking one another up over small noises. This trip, my mother-in-law brought her sound machine to save me some space but on past trips I have just packed it in the carry on.

Tip #4: Don’t overload the toys

We brought a few small toys to entertain him in the room but honestly, LJ has had just as much fun playing with the plastic water cup provided by the sink and sitting in the empty pool area and listening to the echos made by his voice (my mother-in-law’s idea! He looooved this). The point is, utilize what is at the hotel that your baby might like. Everything there is new and interesting for your baby and there’s no need to bring tons of toys or other entertainment.

Tip #5: Think through naps (aka – be prepared to hang out in the bathroom)

Hotel Bathroom

Okay this one is more of a preference thing, but I find it helpful to think ahead about what I want to be doing while LJ is sleeping. He goes to bed much earlier than I do and takes naps during the day and I obviously can’t leave him during this time but I don’t want to twiddle my thumbs in the dark. If you’re going to want to read during these times, bring a book light to read in bed. Or bring magazines and nail polish to have some “me” time in the bathroom. Or your laptop to work on the floor in the hallway outside the door. Or bring headphones to watch Netflix on your phone in bed. I just think it helps to think ahead about what you might like to do during this time so you bring what you might need (a book light, your computer, magazines, headphones, whatever).

What tips do you have for staying in a hotel with a baby? Share them below!

Traveling with a Baby {Plane Tips}

Disclaimer: In this post I do mention a few specific items and provide links for them. None of these are sponsored and I was given no compensation for mentioning or linking them. They are all just items that I loved having on our flights and wanted to pass along!

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post where I shared some tips for simplifying road trips with a baby. I’ve mentioned before that Justin and I love to travel and while we have done several road trips with LJ in tow, we have also gone to a few destinations by plane. LJ has flown to Florida at 11 weeks, Texas at 4 months, and Minnesota at 8 months and all seven flights (we had some connections) have gone smoothly.

Austin, TX
Enjoying the view of Austin, TX with four-month-old LJ

We have another plane ride coming up in November for a short work trip so today I wanted to share some of the tips that have helped on our flights with LJ so far.

Travel Tips for Flying with a Baby

Before I begin, I want to reiterate that I know every baby and mama are different and these tips might not be for everyone. These are the things that have helped our family simplify the chaos of flying with a baby so we could enjoy our travels – I share them in hopes that someone else might benefit from hearing what worked for us. Let’s get started!

Tip #1: Take a nursing pillow

LJ in airport
LJ chilling at the airport gate at 11 weeks old.

Even if you aren’t breastfeeding, I absolutely recommend taking along a nursing pillow. I use this one but I think other brands would work just as well. I have used this pillow for every single flight and it has been so helpful in a variety of situations besides just breastfeeding. Even tiny babies get heavy after a while and it’s nice to have something comfy to help hold them. I’ve used our Boppy on top of a muslin blanket on the floor to let LJ lounge at the gate while waiting to board. I’ve also placed it on my lap during every flight so he can rest on it. This keeps me from having to actively “hold” him the entire time which gives my arms a nice break and allows him to be nice and cozy. I have used this item as my “personal item” and it has worked out great!

Tip #2: Use a pacifier

LJ first airplane

If your baby will use a pacifier, I highly recommend taking it along. It helps with the ear-popping at take off and landing and can offer soothing comfort to your baby during the flight. I particularly love this WubbaNub because the stuffed animal helps prevent it from popping out easily and it’s easy to locate in a diaper bag.

Tip #3: Take a baby carrier

Riverwalk
Justin and LJ enjoying the San Antonio Riverwalk

We have not taken a stroller to any of our flying destinations thus far. First of all, I prefer to have my hands free through the airport and not be pushing a stroller. It’s one less thing to lug around and keep track of through the airport and at our final destination. I also don’t want my nice stroller to get banged up and knocked around in storage on the plane. So far, this has worked out great. We have been able to wear LJ in his carrier through the airport and around every destination without a problem. Now that LJ is getting bigger, we will need to start thinking about taking along a stroller. I picked up a gently used umbrella stroller for $4.50 at a consignment sale recently and I’ll be taking it along on our next flight in November. It’s lightweight, easy to fold/carry/store, and won’t be expensive to replace if it gets banged up on the plane.

Tip #4: Backpack Carry-On

Magnolia
Enjoying Magnolia Silos in Waco, TX with our faithful diaper backpack in tow.

I can’t stress this enough – the more you can do hands-free in an airport, the easier everything becomes. If it’s at all possible to pack your carry-on in a backpack, I recommend you do it! Our diaper bag is a backpack and it is so easy to carry around the airport and our final destination. I also recommend consolidating as much as you can and taking the least amount of bags possible. Airports can be stressful as you navigate security and find your gate or rush to make a connecting flight, especially with a baby in tow, and I prefer to simplify things by having fewer bags to keep track of. I don’t take a purse with me anymore and instead use the front pocket of my diaper bag for all my “purse items” (check out my diaper bag posts here and here to see what I mean). When I flew with LJ by myself to Minneapolis, I even consolidated all our items into his diaper bag (the trip was only 1.5 days) so that it was the only bag I had to keep track of. That is a more extreme example and wouldn’t work for the majority of our trips, but the point is, streamlining what we take into as few bags as possible has simplified airport travel tremendously.

Tip #5: Check Airline Policies

I’ve flown different airlines with LJ and I have been pleasantly surprised to find out how accommodating each one is for flying with a baby. Every airline is slightly different so make sure to check out their policies online before leaving. Some things to check for:

  • Items to Gate Check: We have been able to gate check our car seat for free with each airline we’ve flown. LJ has been able to chill in the car seat while waiting to board and it’s right there waiting for us when we reach our destination so we don’t have to go to baggage claim. If you check a car seat, I highly recommend a car seat bag. It keeps the car seat protected from getting banged up and dirty on the flight. We use this one which is a backpack (lightweight and super easy to carry) and fits either an infant seat or a convertible seat. Airlines are different with what you can gate check for free (some let you check a car seat and stroller, some a car seat or stroller, some also allow a pack n play, etc) so just make sure to check your airline’s policy.
  • Diaper Bags: Some airlines will allow you to bring a diaper bag on board without counting it as your carry-on or personal item. So it’s essentially a bonus item you can bring on. Make sure to take advantage if this is a perk your airline offers!
  • Family Boarding: Some airlines allow families with small children to board first. This is nice because it allows you to get to your seat without bumping into people or holding up the line while you get settled.

Tip # 6: Bonus Items

These last few items were all helpful to me to have along to make life a little easier while on the plane.

  • Nursing cover: Nice to have privacy when I needed to breastfeed on the plane and it doubled as a blanket when LJ slept on the Boppy.
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Chlorox/Lysol wipes to wipe down seat, armrests, other surfaces (I did not do this but LJ and I sat next to someone who did this for us and it was nice to know our area was clean)
  • Baby layers: Hat, socks, mitts, etc. Keeps your baby warm on the plane and also prevents strangers from touching his head/hands/feet when you’re trying to minimize the spread of germs
  • Handheld breast pump: I’ve occasionally given a bottle on the airplane and I also prefer traveling with my inexpensive manual pump instead of my electric one.

 

And there you have it! These few little tips have helped simplify our travels greatly. I’d love to hear what has worked for you! Have you ever flown with a baby? What tips/tricks have you learned?

 

Traveling with a Baby {Road Trip Tips}

Whether it be day trips, weekend getaways, or international adventures, travel has always been a big part of Justin and my marriage. We love exploring and trying new things and I’d be lying if I said we weren’t a bit nervous that we’d lose the ability to travel once we became parents. What would traveling with a baby look like? Will it be so stressful that we’ll just prefer to stay home? Will we have to stop traveling until our children are older? We had a lot of questions and not a lot of answers with what traveling would look like once there was a third person tagging along.

It turns out that we didn’t need to worry – we have still been able to travel (and actually enjoy our trips!) with a baby in tow. We have traveled by car and plane with LJ and much to our relief both methods of travel have gone smoothly thus far. We have obviously had to make adjustments to the way that we travel and we have learned a few things along the way. Since we are currently at the beach after a 12+ hour drive, I thought I would share some of the tips we have used in our road-trips with LJ (4 multi-state/country road trips under his belt so far!) as well as some of the gear that helps us greatly on these road trips.

Road Trip Tips with a Baby

I know every baby is different and these tips might not work for everyone but these are the things that have helped us to simplify the chaos of travel so we can actually enjoy our time together and look forward to travelling with a baby. 

Tip #1: Start early.

LJ Carseat Going Home

This tip was more for me personally to get to a “we can do this!” mindset. We took our first road trip from Indiana to Virginia when LJ was about 5 weeks old to visit family for Christmas. I think if I had waited months to attempt a trip, I would have stressed out thinking of everything that could go wrong or how it might mess up his routine and I might have talked myself out of even trying. Planning a trip early in LJ’s little life stopped me from having too much time to talk myself out of it and didn’t mess up his (honestly, non-existent) newborn routine and bonus – when it went smoothly it gave me the confidence to continue to travel! I also believe starting early helped LJ form good travel habits (like being comfortable with sleeping/staying in his car seat).

Tip #2: But don’t start early.

LJ Sleeping with Spoon

Whenever Justin and I used to road trip we would pack the car up the night before, wake up early and hit the road as soon as possible. Nowadays, we still have everything packed up and ready to go ahead of time, but we let LJ wake up at his normal time. I breastfeed him, let him play and get out some energy, feed him again, and then hit we the road around the time of his morning nap. In other words, the first 2 hours of the day are like any other day for him. Sure, this means we get on the road a little later than normal (his morning nap is around 9:00 am) but it also means he is tired and will often sleep for a good long stretch at the beginning of the trip so we can knock off a lot of miles. Our trips start on a positive note and this makes a big difference!

Tip #3: Plan for extra time on stops

Fargo Pit Stop.jpg
A photo op during a pit stop walking around downtown Fargo, ND

When LJ was a newborn, stopped when it was time to breastfeed and then he went right back into the car seat and happily slept as we journeyed on. Now that he’s older, he gets pretty fussy after a pit stop if he didn’t get adequate time out of the car seat so we stop at places where we are able to get out for a while. It might mean a rest stop with picnic benches and a grassy area where LJ can roll on a blanket or a restaurant where we can sit down and eat rather than grab food to go. I have even stopped at a Target and just walked around with LJ in the cart. Yes, this adds time to our trips (at least 30 mins per stop) but makes the car ride so much nicer. It allows LJ to get some energy out and get a little mental stimulation and then he is a much happier camper when he gets put back in the car seat. I would way rather extend the trip a little if it means having a pleasant travel companion! 

Tip #4: Slim down the packing list

M&M Bag

Yes, babies need a lot of stuff. But your trip is only going to feel stressful if you can never find what you or your baby needs because you brought so. much. stuff. and your trunk is packed to the brim. A few things we do to try to limit the amount of things we pack are:

-Toys. I keep a few toys in my diaper bag at all times. Other than those toys, I do not pack extras on road trips. LJ is entertained by almost anything we might have in the car. Some things he’s spent significant time playing with before are a plastic spoon (see pic under tip #2 – can you spot it?), an empty M&M bag, a plastic water bottle, etc. He loves shiny and crinkly things and there’s been no need for us to pack a ton of extra toys for entertainment. Saves so much space!

-Don’t pack what you can easily buy. For example, on a week-long vacation where we’ll go through lots of diapers, we don’t waste trunk space taking a bunch since we can pop in to a grocery store or a Target to buy a pack once we get where we’re going.

-Crib Rentals. Our pack n play is awesome but it’s one more thing to lug around/take up trunk space. Many hotels and rental homes will provide a crib or pack n play, often for free or a nominal charge. Just make sure to call ahead to reserve a crib! I also pack my own crib sheet – I think laying on a sheet that smells and feels like home helps LJ sleep in an unfamiliar crib (plus I know that the sheet is clean to my standards).

Tip #5: Helpful Gear on Road Trips

-Collapsible high chair

We use this high chair that folds up like a camping chair and love it. It is compact, lightweight, and an easy way to make sure there is somewhere for LJ to safely sit no matter where we are. I honestly keep this in my car at all times and have used it in so many different situations. I highly recommend it!

-Ergo Carrier

Austin, TX

Our stroller takes up a lot of car space, so there have been several road trips where we just take this and no stroller. It doesn’t take up a lot of room and is a comfortable, easy way to walk around with LJ.

-Breastpump

I was able to get the Spectra S1 pump through my insurance and I LOVE because it has a battery and therefore doesn’t need to be plugged in when charged. I can pump comfortably in the passenger seat while Justin drives and then we have a bottle to quickly and easily give LJ whenever we stop. If space is an issue or I just don’t want to take my nice pump along, I have also taken my Medela Handheld Pump. This pump is not as convenient to use but it is a good, inexpensive option to take along, particularly when packing light.

What tips do you have for traveling with an infant?

 

30th Birthday Weekend

Good morning!

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend. Mine was extra special because Justin planned a surprise getaway to South Haven, Michigan to celebrate my 30th birthday (which is actually tomorrow) and we had so much fun! While he planned everything out in secret, he did tell me about the trip a couple weeks ago because he had arranged for my parents to watch LJ overnight and he knew I would want to prepare mentally (first night apart from him!) and to make sure to pump a little extra milk to add to our small freezer stash so LJ would have plenty.

Just a warning, this is going to be a long post because I can’t resist recapping our trip!

Saturday

After dropping LJ off with my parents on Saturday morning, we started our drive to South Haven. Justin went all out and booked us a suite at Yelton Manor Bed & Breakfast and while check-in was not until 4:00, we were able to park our car there upon our arrival at noon. We decided to leave the car and walk the 7 blocks to downtown to start exploring. We started out on Phoenix Street and immediately spotted the South Haven Farm Market. The market was full of delicious food, unique crafts, live music, and gorgeous flowers. We enjoyed walking around and checking out all the booths!

South Haven Welcome

We continued down Phoenix Street just taking in the town and getting our bearings a little bit. We soon worked up an appetite and decided to grab a quick bite at Venezia Pizza. The place didn’t look like much on the outside, but the server was so warm and friendly, the food was delicious and very reasonably priced (we split the sampler platter), and the chef gave us extra large portions because we had to wait on our meatball. It was a great spot for a quick and filling lunch!

Venezia Pizza

After lunch we continued our walk out of town towards the water.

South Haven 1

South Haven is a harbor town on Lake Michigan and has nice little beaches and a pier with a lighthouse. We walked all the way out to the lighthouse and enjoyed the gorgeous views.

South Haven lighthouse

South Haven 4

J on edge of pier

On the way back from the pier we had to stop and get some ice cream at Sherman’s right there on the beach. Even though the day was pretty chilly, I can never turn down a local ice cream joint and this place did not disappoint!

Sherman's Ice Cream

We walked back into town and started checking out some of the little shops. There are so many unique places in South Haven – we stopped in shops with home decor, quirky children’s toys, beautiful clothing, and even one shop entirely dedicated to blueberries! It was just the cutest downtown!

South Haven 5.jpg

We headed back to Yelton around 4:00 to check in. We were greeted by innkeeper Elaine who was so warm and friendly. She showed us around the main house of the inn, which was built in the 1980’s but looks like a hundred-year old house. It had so much character and so many cozy little nooks and personal touches like a 24/7 popcorn machine and a cake stand filled with fresh brownies. We left the main house armed with not only our room key, but also a triple chocolate brownie, popcorn, and a DVD from their impressive movie collection.

Yelton Guest House

Our room, the Biltmore, was located in the Guest House and was gorgeous! Justin surprised me with chocolate covered strawberries he had brought along and we relaxed and watched our chosen movie (The Post – so good!) and then took a nap. Side note: If there is something more luxurious to an almost 30-year-old mom than an uninterrupted afternoon nap, I can’t think of it.

We freshened up and headed back into town to catch the gorgeous sunset and grab a delicious dinner at Taste. I had their ultimate grilled cheese and tomato parmesan bisque while Justin had their spicy tuna sushi. We then split a cookie pie which was divine. Please enjoy this picture of our delicious dessert and my awkward hand placement – ha!

Taste Cookie Pie

We finished off our evening at Clementine’s with some after-dinner drinks. While we ended up talking about LJ quite a bit, it was so fun to get to stay out late and just enjoy one-on-one time with Justin.

Sunday

After sleeping in (another luxury!), we moseyed down to the main house where we were treated to a heavenly breakfast. We each sampled several different dishes but my hands-down favorite was their blueberry breakfast cake. I can’t say it enough – the Yelton had so many special touches that made our experience so lovely. I can’t recommend this place enough!

We had some time before check out so we headed across the street to the north beach and walked the shoreline. The water was so cold but it was really pleasant to walk barefoot in the sand.

Lake Michigan

Back at the Yelton, we said our goodbyes (and snagged another brownie) and headed back back downtown toward Old Harbor Village, a unique cluster of shops and restaurants right along the water.

Old Harbor Village

We decided on lunch at Admiral Jack’s, a restaurant located on a riverboat where we enjoyed lunch (cheeseburger for me and fish for Justin) while watching boats go by.

Admiral Jacks

After lunch we wandered through more shops downtown before heading to 12 Corners Tasting Room for a wine tasting. The tasting room wasn’t too busy and we enjoyed chatting with the servers while sampling delicious wines. We left with a bottle of their Beach Cottage Vacation White which I can’t wait to enjoy at a later date.

12 Corners

Next we stopped in Black River Tavern where Justin enjoyed a local brew and we watched a little football before we checked out the last few shops we hadn’t gone into yet. We finished our time in South Haven with one more sweet treat from Kilwins.

Kilwins 1

Kilwins 2

Even though we had so much fun exploring the town and spending some time together just us two, we both agreed that we couldn’t wait to get back to LJ. We were so happy to hear that he had a great time at grandma and grandpa’s house and we got lots of smiles and snuggles with him back at home.

And now, after a fun and relaxing weekend away, I am officially ready to bring on 30!