Florida part 1 – Traveling

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We made it! Leading up to our trip a few things had me concerned, not the least of which was the government shutdown leaving TSA agents and air traffic controllers unpaid and forced to work. I worried about lines, lack of security, and whether or not things would continue to run smoothly the longer the shutdown dragged on. Additionally, New England was beginning to brace for a big winter snowstorm due to hit the area Saturday night. Being a holiday weekend, the best flight fares wound up being Saturday and Tuesday. We had planned to take our time getting out Saturday midday, and coming home Tuesday morning to avoid the holiday rush. If the storm came through as planned, we would be on the ground in Florida before the first snowflakes fell.

After confirming that the Boston economy parking was a covered garage (because who wants to come home to a snow covered car), we set out around 10:30 in the morning for a 2 pm flight. It’s a little over an hour from our home to the Boston airport and we wanted to allow plenty of extra time to get all three of us to the terminal, check our son’s car seat, and clear through security. Things seriously could not have worked out more perfectly getting to our gate. We were able to ditch our heavy winter coats inside the car seat bag and checked it all together at the ticket counter. Our tickets were on our phones, although it turns out our son’s ticket was not delivered electronically, so we took a short detour back to ticketing to get his printed out. We later learned this is fairly standard with a lap infant, so you’re better off stopping at the beginning and asking for printed tickets.

Getting through the TSA checkpoint was nothing short of impressive. Regardless of your politics, these were all hard working individuals that continue to show up day after day, and as of our flight out, had already missed at least one paycheck. Every last TSA agent we encountered greeted us with a smile, they were patient as we navigated our first trip with an infant, and they helped us through as best they could. When the line started to back up, in walked 4 more agents ready to open another line. I was pleased and yet so surprised at what seemed like a generally happy demeanor. Had the tables been turned, I don’t think I could have continued to arrive at work with such dedication and sunny disposition. The next time you’re at the airport thank them, I know I did.

After arriving at our gate, we tracked down lunch to eat on the plane. Not wanting to venture too far, I stuck with protein bars, yogurt, jerky, bananas, and anything else that looked both healthy and was labeled with ‘GF.’ Now was not the time to experiment with anything that could potentially not be safe for me.

Boarding was uneventful, our gate check bag for the stroller worked perfectly and we gate checked both of our suitcases as well to avoid the fuss through the airport on the other end. We were relaxed, and without clutter as we boarded the plane with just our son and his diaper bag. We were each seated in a middle seat in the same row where my husband could see the smile and hear the giggles as our son played in my seat, occasionally jabbering with the women on either side of me. We truly lucked out, as his smile kept everyone happy, and my seat mates didn’t seem to mind when he discovered the in-flight entertainment controls on the arm rests, constantly changing the channel and playing with the volume, happy that he had figured out how to push the buttons.

Upon arrival, our son received his first set of flight wings from the crew and we were met with his stroller on the jet bridge. All of our bags were waiting for us at baggage claim, and we made our way over to the rental car counter. My husband asked if there were any upgrades available, which of course there were. It’s been drilled into my head over the years to not accept any upgrade offers or insurance when you’re picking up your car. There are always hidden fees and charges that wind up costing much more than you’d planned. The upgrade, naturally, would cost us $17 more per day. Playing unintentional good cop/bad cop, my husband thought the upgrade was worth it, while I quickly calculated and said out loud that we could spend that extra $60 on doing things with my family instead while we were in town. Hearing our discussion, our rental car agent seemed to disappear not long after declining the upgrade. She’d seen our heap of baggage, stroller, and car seat, and was initially concerned we wouldn’t fit in the full size vehicle we’d requested. In the end, she told us we were her last customer of the day, and she’d gotten it approved to upgrade us to a mini van with NO extra fees or change to our rate. Here’s the catch though…I’d traded in my MINI Cooper over a year ago in anticipation for our son’s arrival and bought an SUV with a 3rd row, wanting the space for luggage on long trips visiting family. I had talked myself out of a mini van because they just weren’t that nice, and couldn’t possibly have the trunk space of an SUV. When I opened the trunk of our rental mini van, I couldn’t believe the space and the features it had built in. I actually *enjoyed* having it for a few days….the horror!

All in all it was a successful first flight for our little man, but we definitely learned some things along the way:

  • Limit the number of bags you have to carry through the airport. Checking our car seat (along with our coats, extra diapers, and food pouches) was a huge help. Let’s be honest, the car seat is big enough on its own, throw it in a backpack bag to protect it and the resulting size is just absurd. No one wants to navigate with that on their back unless it has side and rear view mirrors!
  • Gate check your luggage if you can. We had everything we needed in the diaper bag which made it easy to hand off our suitcases. If you’re flying nonstop, you have a better chance that you won’t have any issues getting it at your destination, plus you won’t have to deal with trying to hoist it into the overhead bins.
  • Bring a bottle, pacifier, pouch, or whatever your child will happily take for both the takeoff and landing. Babies don’t understand how to pop their ears back, it’ll help equalize the pressure and keep them comfortable.
  • Also make sure you have plenty of toys and books to preoccupy your child. Any flight is a long time to keep a little one happy and busy, especially since they’ll have to be glued to your lap the whole time.
  • If your child is on formula don’t bother premixing it, they’ll have to test every bottle. Oh, and also take the formula container out of your diaper bag….no one wants to watch as TSA pulls it out of the bag, accidentally spilling some of that super expensive powder in the process.
  • Buy the protective bags for your car seat and stroller. They were worth every penny for us, not only because we could throw extra things in with the car seat, but both bags kept everything protected and clean.
  • Last, but certainly not least, ask for the upgrade. As my keen negotiating husband would have you know, sometimes it pays to ask, be kind, and have a happily smiling baby along with you. You just might get that upgrade for free!

Somehow this post has carried on much longer than I originally planned, stay tuned later this week as I get into all the wonderful fun and food we had while we were there!

Preparing for takeoff

This week has been a little crazy around our home. Hubby and I are both suffering from daycare colds with fevers striking me and our son, we’re finishing up painting our living room, and gearing up for little man’s first flight. In my “pre-mom” life I was the business traveler that had everything organized, always found herself on the upgrade list, and could quickly gauge which TSA line would move the fastest. I could arrive at an airport an hour before my flight and be through security and ready to go with time to spare. I secretly cringed anytime I saw a family with small children approaching my gate. Now that I’m preparing, I have to admit that I’d never thought about everything parents have to get ready for their children, with everything laid out I’m amazed at what parents are able to pull off to travel with their families!

Thankfully, we’ll have family on the other side that’s providing a number of things that we won’t have to worry about or pack (pack and play, high chair, toys, etc.), yet I still feel like I’m going to be a sherpa upon arrival at the airport. To keep everything safe and clean upon arrival, we invested in these items for our trip (we have other trips coming up as well, otherwise I may have borrowed them locally):

I chose those two after reading a ton of reviews, and honestly getting pretty overwhelmed. I wanted something that would fit both our infant carrier for now, but could also be used for our convertible car seat in the future. If it’s not going to last us for the long term, I don’t want to spend the money on it. I’ve read that you can fill the car seat bag with other items as well (diapers, jackets, boots, etc.) to help protect the seat, and also save yourself from having to carry on too much. We’ll be taking our umbrella stroller too instead of the jogging one, we didn’t want to navigate the airport in a large stroller nor have to fold and disassemble it at the gate. I’ll let you all know how they hold up after the first flight!

For those of you that didn’t know (myself included until this past week), you’re allowed to carry on, gate check, or check the following items at the ticket counter free of charge: car seat, stroller, diaper bag. This is an FAA rule, so regardless of your airline or fare class, they can’t deny you from bringing any of those items. Here are a few resources that may be of help:

Despite everything else going on this week, I decided to try giving our son what looked like a normal meal for dinner on Monday. I bought a value pack of chicken breast tenders, cooked them in coconut oil in a frying pan, simple enough I thought, and no crazy flavors to turn him off. I paired a tender with leftover string beans, carrots, and mashed potatoes to give him some flavors he recognized.

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Little man’s first full meal

Let me tell you something….I. Picked. The. Wrong. Night. From the moment I tried to feed him, our son started handing pieces of his dinner down to our dog who obviously loved this game. I thought I could trick him into actually eating it by pureeing together the mashed potatoes and chicken. Maybe it was the texture of chicken, and that would solve our problem. A few minutes in, and still without having had any of it, over-tiredness got the best of him and screaming ensued. We’re talking crocodile tears, rubbing his eyes, arms up in the air, all around upset. It took every soothing tactic we had to calm him down and get him to bed shortly thereafter. The good news is that I now have pre-cooked chicken tenders that can be frozen and saved for future meals.

As we conquer our colds, put the living room back together, and wrap up packing we’ll be crossing our fingers that everything goes without a hitch, and that the little man has a fun first flight experience! Even if things don’t go as planned, at least we’ll get a story out of it. And to all of our fellow travelers that resemble my former self, I’m not sorry if we cramp your style. It’s taking a lot of work to get us to the airport, and we plan on enjoying ourselves just as much as you do. Stay tuned to hear how it went!