Friday, June 23, 2017

Busy Bee Returns

Oh, hello again!

Apologies for the long absence. Our little family has some exciting new developments we'll be sharing with you soon (I just need to process everything myself in these clouds I call my headspace), but in the meantime - it has taken up every last ounce of my day racing around trying to get everything ready. And no, Mom...I'm not pregnant. Tot will not be a Big Sister any time soon.

With the Mr. traveling so much recently and being away from the nest, it's been a 2-woman show here in Northern California. Well, 3 if you count our sweet rescue pup Cosette (hi Cos)! But, Tot and I have taken some time to travel and spend as much time with the Mr as humanely possible. Working in Silicon Valley allows me the opportunity to sometimes work from home, the road, or any odd airport I seem to be delayed at. And being away from our sweet little apartment has reminded me of how difficult it is to pack for x number of days away without really knowing what you will have at your new location. I mean, HELLO - is there going to be a bottle sterilizer? Heck, even a microwave to use? Head shrug.

All these little questions floated through my head and I started to jot down a list of some really unique products and processes I've started using to assist with traveling with a little one. No, Tot isn't always predictable, but being prepared for any mood swing or request seems to keep me at ease when traveling alone with her. As you've seen from my Instagram account, Tot has also been diagnosed with a severe dairy allergy, which made this trip extra stressful as I couldn't just throw her formula or treats in the diaper bag and hope it would all be OK.

None the less, we survived and kept a smile on our face almost the entire time...almost.

Here are some fun-filled tips & tricks I wanted to share with each and every one of you on traveling either internationally or domestically with your little one (we did both this month - yikes):


Now, I don't pretend to be any type of airline guru like my husband. I mean, he is a master of all things airlines, miles, points etc. But, I have learned a few things in traveling alone with an infant. I'm always asked - how do you do it? Well, I've made it as simplistic as possible with her. So much in fact that we now have it down to a science.

The first thing we tackled was whether or not we purchased a second seat for Tot. As I mentioned, my husband has a special skill set for understanding mile usage and rivals even the Points Guy (check him out if you haven't yet). We typically travel on red eyes, which means it's less expensive to either purchase an extra seat outright or utilize miles for Tot's seat. But, regardless - getting her a seat to herself is SO key to traveling either as a family or alone. All US airlines allow you to utilize your FDA approved car seat on the flight, as long as it is sitting in the upright position. It provides a sense of stability and comfort to Tot, and honestly being hands free on the plane is priceless when you're traveling alone.

What we didn't know when we first started purchasing a seat for Tot is that while purchasing it online provides an ease of scheduling for parents and I mean - who doesn't buy airline tickets online? You do need to follow-up with a call to the airline to let them know that the occupant of the seat is in fact an infant under 2. Certain airlines have regulations in regards to where an infant can sit because of the placement of oxygen masks - so don't forget to give them a quick call to let them know your plans! We made that mistake once and NEVER AGAIN (you will get bumped from the plane if the seat you need to be in is occupied so beware).

+1 Carry-On's

When you're traveling alone with an infant, you have to be pretty strategic about what your carry-on's will be. Mama's, we all get the urge to bring everything and the kitchen sink, but I've learned over the past few months that it's important to remember anything you pack you NEED to carry...yourself.

Close your eyes and visualize this. You're traveling alone with your infant who will be sitting in her car seat on the plane. To get on the plane, you don't get to pre-board because you're flying say United (or American or Southwest...the list goes one, come on guys get your act together...) and you have to get yourself and your little one on the plane in the car seat with your purse, your work bag, diaper bag, and toy bag. I mean, I know most Mama's have extra hands and super human strength, but that is a feat for even the Hulk. The first few trips, I made the mistake of bringing a purse. I realized this was completely unnecessary for the flight. I started to pack my purse in my suitcase and instead, searched for a great knapsack that I could use to carry my essentials (i.e. wallet, iPhone), as well as a few things for Tot (i.e. diapers, extra clothes). Not only is it easy to throw on your back and doesn't take any hands, it helps you cut down on the things you need to put in the diaper bag which you will still have to carry on-board.

This is the current one I'm using and it's tough enough to withstand even the harshest of elements (aka the floor of a plane).

And, while a backpack and lighter diaper bag will help, don't ever be afraid to ask for extra assistance. You're a Mama traveling alone. You can't be everything to everyone so because holding your little one's hand to get on the plane is the priority, someone else can assist you with the car seat. Be sure to ask ahead! 

Toddler Bag

Now that Tot is 1, I thought she was old enough to start packing her own little toys, books, and snacks in her little bag. A very kind teacher of hers gifted her with this adorable carry-on bag and she uses it ALL the time now (thank you, Lisa)! In order to make travel a fun adventure for Tot, I now have her assist in gathering items she'd like to bring and putting together her snack packs for the trip. She gets the biggest kick out of feeling like a big girl and helping Mama, and I have one less thing to carry on the plane. Obviously, she can't carry this herself throughout the airport so until we gate check her Uppababy Cruz stroller, I use my handy dandy Mom Hook to hold it for her. She literally claps her hands every time she sees it and plays with only the things in the bag on the flight now. It's cut down on our toy and treat space in her diaper bag, plus gives her the little independence she loves. 

And, Mama's if you don't have a Mom Hook yet - definitely order one right away. From groceries to purses, it is the ultimate gadget for any stroller. 

Location, Location

Not every place you visit is going to be thrilling and filled with planned activities for your little one's. I mean, let's be real. Grandparent visits, work trips - you name it, things pop up and while you're excited to show a new locale to your tots, it's hard to find things to keep them occupied for 12 hours a day while you're away from your comfort zone. I've started to learn that Tot doesn't need some big theme park to feel like she is being entertained. Whether it's a green space with bubbles or an outdoor patio with space to roam - she just wants to explore and see new things and that's what's key to really making the most of your time away from home. 

Recently, we took a trip to visit the Mr. while he was away for work. Logistically, it sounded great in my head, but then I realized while he was at the office I had to find things to keep her busy. Cue panic attack...deep breaths, Mama. 

First things first, while it seems like an excessive cost - just rent a car. A small compact car that allows you the ability to be mobile quickly without relying on public transportation or relatives to pick you up. It's a small piece of independence that can be your getaway car when the little one refuses to cooperate. 

Once you have your car, explore your area. Within a day of our trip, I realized there were so many free activities for Tot to enjoy without worrying too much about planning and scheduling specific things for us to do to keep us occupied. From the play center at Chick-Fil-A to free water fountains at a shopping complex - we kept ourselves busy during the day and had a great opportunity exploring a new city! 

Don't be scared to spend extra time at Pottery Barn Kids because your little one loves sitting in their play sets or grabbing that extra cupcake from Sprinkles because they have a kids table that can keep the tots busy for an extra 30 mins. It's all about making the trip as enjoyable as possible without spending a ton of money on theme parks. The adventures I remember the most as a kid are the ones where I just got to be a kid and play with my loved ones. 

Be creative - do some searches ahead of time and always reach out to local Mom groups for any tips or tricks. Here in Northern California, we have Golden Gate Mom's and we're always willing to provide any fun things to keep visitors busy in the Bay Area. We're all parents and we get what it's like to be bored and stranded in a new city with absolutely nothing to do. A parents worst nightmare. Reach out and ask for guidance!

And, be prepared to spend a few extra dollars on toys you may not be able to take home. While purchasing a $10 bubble machine may seem extravagant considering you're only in town for a few days, it may in fact provide your little one with $100 worth of entertainment at a local park. Think outside the box and don't be afraid to leave things behind in a hotel or Air BnB if you're not able to pack them. Pay it forward! 

All in all, trips are about charting new adventures with your loved ones. It doesn't matter if you're taking them to Disney World or Iowa. To them, it's about extra morning cuddles and late night treats in bed. That's what matters the most. Don't let having a family keep you back from exploring this amazing world we live in. Pack up your bags and hit the road! 

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