We're no pros at this whole traveling as a parent thing, but after hitting up 3 major cities in less than a month, I'm feeling pretty confident that we could now tackle anything. It sometimes felt like more of one big learning lesson for us and at first, it was really intimidating. A couple weeks before we left, I read all the blog posts, saw the mom with a baby strapped to her posing in front of massive piles of luggage and felt like this would be impossible. In actuality, it turned out to not be as bad as we expected.
Although, this was a shot before we boarded and compared with after we landed. Our first flight was delayed 2 hours, which, on baby time is brutal. Once that flight was knocked out, it was relatively smooth sailing.
But seriously, it wasn't that bad and overall, each of our trips went very smoothly. So, I put together a small list of tips, products and ideas that helped us throughout our travels.
1. Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Car Seat // Had we been in only one city at a time, we probably would have gone with renting a carseat. We ended up going with purchasing a lighter carseat that worked well with traveling. Some people take their own carseats, but that thing is heavy, bulky and expensive. We knew we would be checking the carseat before security and it made us a little nervous to think about how that little investment of sorts would be tossed around while traveling. A little online digging and I found this gem, which at the time, we bought for $35. It looks like the price has jumped a whoppin' $10 but it's still absolutely worth it in our opinion. We checked it with our luggage in a travel bag. The travel bags are all optional, but they made me fee better. Having this with us allowed for us to easily grab a Lyft/Uber and we were told multiple times by drivers how great it was that we had it. One driver told us how he has had to turn more than a few families down because they would try to jump in the car with a toddler and though even if the ride is a few blocks, that's a lot of liability! This car seat allowed for easy travel for a very low cost and was worth every penny!
2. Lillebaby or other Structured Carrier // I actually expected to get more use out of this than we actually did, but still, when we had it, it was a lifesaver. For days we were traveling, it made for easier nap times and allowed us to move around with him a little more freely. The shining moments for our carrier were really on the train ride from NYC to DC and then flying back to DFW. On the train, things got rough when naptime hit and there was no place to nap. Then, when flying back (on a much happier and all around better flight by the way), we wore him pretty much anytime he wasn't in his seat. Lillebaby is our personal preference which we went with primarily for the mesh material making hot climate not as much of a factor as to whether we could wear him or not. If you don't have a carrier, I suggest you check to see if there is a local babywearing group in your area or a store that allows you to try on and get the feel for each brand before you invest in one.
3. Seemingly Indestructible iPad Case // I've had my ipad since my senior year at University and honestly, we are still surprised it works. We primarily use it for a White Noise app paired with a bluetooth speaker in the nursery. For this trip, we also downloaded Trolls and some youtube videos to watch offline (by the way, thats a feature both apps have now and it's glorious). This case made life so much easier! James was able to hold it and interact with the ipad for, really, the first time and when it fell off of the bed, hotel dresser, train seat or that little table in your plane seat, we weren't worried at all.
4. Trolls (or some sort of music/movie favorite) // For us this was Trolls. Trolls is everything right now. Just the sound of J-T's voice will sooth him, let alone an entire soundtrack from the movie. We had the movie downloaded from Netflix for offline play, but had the soundtrack also on both of our phones as emergency backups for moments when he was hangry, grumpy or tired. Find whatever movie, song or toy that your child is attached to at the moment and have it on hand, ready to go!
5. Summer Infant 3D Lite Convenience Stroller // We ended up using this much more than we had actually expected. I figured it would be most helpful in the airport while we wait but it turned out to be helpful during each trip. James is in a stage where he can't fully walk on his own, but unless he's tired, he's not really wanting to be in the carrier. I guess, so he can go off and explore if the mood strikes him - who knows. I went hard with researching and combing through reviews, and based on the price ($50-$70 depending on color) paired with good reviews, this was what seemed like the best bet. We gate checked it inside of a travel bag which also made it easier when we got on and off the plane. While walking around NYC, I did so many double takes because I saw this stroller everywhere! It has the option to recline for naps, but honestly, I forgot about it until later in the trip and was too worried to try it out mid-nap for fear of waking a cranky toddler. Depending on where you're going, you may not need a stroller. We tried to steer clear of the touristy crowds around Manhattan which allowed for more stroller use but we still went into the trip fully expecting to be wearing him in the carrier for the majority of our time in NYC.
6. Annie's Crackers // Since we were staying with friends, we bought a box of crackers in bulk (you can also get the same box at Costco) and had them shipped to our friend's place so that we wouldn't have to travel with them or go seeking kid friendly snacks upon arrival. During tantrums, boredom while on the subway and in any situation we needed a quick distraction - these snacks helped a ton!
7. Dockatot // If you know me, you know I'm a huge fan of the Dockatot. James has now had his since about a month old and it's been a lifesaver in our house. One of the ways it keeps our sanity intact is that it provides the perfect travel bed. It is his bed, so even if he's in an unfamiliar place, he can still rest in a place he is familiar with. We then don't have to worry about the padding in pack n' plays, crib mattresses, or waking up in the middle of the night. He sits down and recognizes he's in his own bed and went right down until morning. For naptimes, one of us would fake sleep nearby him to add some comfort for being in a new environment, but at night he was usually so tired we could leave the room immediately. It took up a bit of room to pack, in that we disassembled it, rolled up the outer part and folded the middle, but it was well worth bringing along! Also, if you follow in the link in this post, you'll get $10 off your order.
8. Veggie-heavy Food Packets // We had these shipped along with the crackers to Brooklyn for our days where halfway through, we would recognize that we've had rainbow bagels, cookie dough and pizza to eat. Along with grabbing some fresh fruit to have on hand, we were able to continue making sure James wasn't lacking on nutrition. Sure, he definitely got to taste some great NYC and DC food, but we didn't have the constant pressure to search for veggies and healthy options everywhere we ate.