Tuesday, September 30, 2014

First family vacation (and plane, and beach!)

And we're back!

Hans asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate my birthday (it was kind of a big one... let's call it 29 Part II) and I said I wanted to take a vacation with just our little family. Being the wonderful husband that he is, he whisked us away for the perfect week in Southern California.
This was Em's first plane ride and Hans and I were both pretty nervous about it. If you're a total newbie at the flying-with-infant game, maybe you can learn from our experience. It didn't go terribly for us, but we definitely made a few missteps on the flight there that we corrected on the way back.

  • For most airlines, a stroller and a car seat do NOT count as your carry-on or checked baggage. So you can bring those for free. We decided not to check either of them because I was worried about damage to them. I have had friends that checked their stroller and got pieces snapped off or found little cracks in their carseats. So we decided to gate check.
  • We bought a little bag that has wheels to put the car seat in. This was to help protect it as well as make it easier to navigate around the airport. I can't imagine lugging that thing around without the bag.
  • Since Em was only 18 months at the time of flying, we opted to save $$ by taking her as a lap infant. This is despite the fact that everything we read said the safest way for infants to fly is strapped into their car seat. So here's what we did: When we got to the gate, Hans talked to the agent to ask if there were any free seats and if we could bring the carseat on and put it in an available seat. Our plan was to just gate check if nothing was available, but on both flights we were able to bring it and they even moved seats around a bit so we could all sit together. Em freaked out during the first flight, so we only had her in the car seat during take off and landing, but on the way home she stayed in it happily for the whole flight.
  • Bring plenty of snacks and drinks. It's no secret that going up and down can be hard on the ears, especially little ones. We had her eat and drink both times (again, on the second flight!) and she did great. I brought a water bottle (empty) and added water once we were through security. You can bring baby food (and breastmilk and formula!) even over the limit, you just have to declare it to the agent. I had several Plum pouches and the agent said it was fine.
  • Despite my preference for non-electronic activities for my little one, I gotta say that the iPad saved our lives on this flight. She spent most of the flight there watching Lilo and Stitch and most of the ride back watching Curious George. I had downloaded several apps for her, but she only seemed to like Sago Mini Monsters (we played that one a lot!) and Monkey Lunchbox (really loved it, but got a little frustrated that she couldn't quite get the hang of it).
Our main mistake on the first flight was that we had her looking at the window as we took off. She was all excited as we taxied down the runway, but as soon as we left the ground she got so scared. She clung to me whimpering for the next two hours, even after we shut the window and moved her away from it. Every time she looked toward the window, she cried. On the return flight, we kept the window shut from the second we got on the plane and we kept her sufficiently distracted (Annie's Cheddar Bunnies are our secret weapon) during takeoff so she wouldn't realize we were climbing altitude. Has anyone else experienced this? It's amazing the things that scare our little ones that we wouldn't expect. 

Altogether flying wasn't the miserable experience I was expecting. It's definitely different from breezing through solo and sleeping on the plane. But manageable. 

And the best part? In just a few hours we were in glorious California. We spent about half the trip just hanging at the beach. At first Em didn't like it much - the waves kind of scared her as they rushed up. To be fair, the tide was very strong and the water pretty choppy. We bought some clearance beach toys at Target and that worked wonders! As much as she didn't want to go near the water, she was determined to fill her little watering can with water.
Aw, such a sad face. Poor sad baby wants water but doesn't want to get in the water.
No mama, I didn't eat any sand...
Starting a rock collection with Bapa
Oh good. Mud in the hair.

Stay tuned for more fun from our trip!

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