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!

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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!