When Cancan was five months old, I wrote this piece on traveling with babies – he’s now doubled his digits, and traveling with the little bugger is a whole new deal. And with it comes a whole new set of traveling thoughts…
1. Practice flexibility. When I was living in Washington, a group of us went to see Cirque de Soleil – and loved it. But mostly, I, who flunked the flexibility test every year in P.E., loved the bendy people. How ever are they so bendy? we’d all wonder, eyes wide, heads cocked to the side. I realize that the same is true today: the time to be bendy is now, with baby in tote. Gone is the stringent necessity to make it back to the hotel room for nap time. Gone is the foodie San Franciscan desire to only feed my baby homemade, organic baby food. Gone is the ________ (fill-in-the-many-blanks).
2. Get yourself an Aunt Tina and an Uncle John. Now really, there’s only a small handful of us lucky enough to stake familial relation to Aunt Tina and Uncle John, so your own relatives will have to suffice. So sorry! But here’s what I do know worked so well traveling with them: they love our kid. They love us. They, too, are bendy. We’d all been to NYC before, so no one felt the need to stand in line for the Empire State Building or ferry on over to Staten Island. Been there, done that. Instead, their low-key, go with the flow attitude modeled to us the very same response to each other and to Cancan – and that was magnificent. Oh, and did I mention that they made us leave our child with them so that we could have the afternoon off and laugh giddily at Book of Mormon? Like I said, do yourself a favor and find yourself an Aunt Tina and an Uncle John.
3. Think about where you’ll be traveling. We realized that we’d only be renting a car for six hours total the entire week we were there, and otherwise would be solely taking public transportation, including the occasional taxi – the latter of which do not require carseats. So, we only rented a carseat for an additional $10 on the day we drove north to Andover and Salem. [I also didn’t realize that you technically don’t need a carseat base, so whenever we travel now, we just check in the car seat – for free – with the airline, and then buckle the seat directly into the rental car.]
4. BOB-it. I originally planned on taking the following with us: a travel stroller, the Ergo, the carseat base and the carseat. Here’s what we ended up taking with us on the trip: the Ergo and the BOB (stroller). I feared wheeling the BOB in and out of crowded east coast sidewalks, but my friend Re reminded me that actual families live in NYC, who navigate the streets daily. She suggested taking the stroller of which I was most familiar, that also had the option of reclining and therefore possible sleep. Winner winner, chicken dinner. Baby took almost all of his naps while we walked the streets of Boston and New York, and the extra space was a welcome addition. Also, given the miles (literally) we walked each day, over sewer grates and cobblestone alike, I was grateful for the more durable stroller. I think we would have used the Ergo a bit more had it not been so hot, but having a sticky baby sweat-suctioned to my shirt was not my idea of a good time.
5. Find a friendly tourist destination. Ya’ll, I’m just telling you: San Francisco is not a baby-friendly city. Yes, I live here. Yes, my head knew that, but it wasn’t until every other passerby stopped to chat with the Little Man that my heart realized this truth. So, I look forward to seeing you …not here.
6. Yelp it! One thing is true when it comes to traveling, and I suppose to much of our regular life as well: we love finding and seeing and eating local culture. (Okay, minus Dunkin Donuts in Boston – a must). So, pull out your iPhone and YELP a lunch or dinner destination right here, right now – and chances are you’ll find a fabulous hole-in-the-wall, non-touristy destination. This also helps quickly figure out whether the locale is attractive to the under-1 population.
7. Time change: this was probably the thing I was most worried about: how would we deal with a three-hour time change? It’d been suggested that we try to have Baby meet halfway, but we also knew that if he was tired, there was no stopping the eye-rubbing and Cranky McCrankerson. So we let him set his own pace – so instead of going to bed at 7 pm (ET), he made it to 9 pm, which was actually rather, well, nice. We ended eating dinners out and getting to go to a 7:15 Red Sox game instead of being confined to our hotel room for the majority of the night.
8. I asked Mama’s Group tips on traveling with babies, and I loved Anne’s answer: “On the plane, all rules go out the window – so bring twice as many snacks as you think you need and half as many clothes.“ Bam. Whip out the boob. Let it rain Cheerios. And as soon as Bubs starts to squawk, swiftly insert a packet of baby food in his mouth.
9. Don’t BOB-it through airport security. Since using the BOB had been going so well, I thought to myself, Self, you really should just keep Cancan in the BOB throughout your time in the airport, and just check it at the gate. And then this happened: THE BOB IS HUGE. It does not fit through the conveyor belt. Your stroller will then have to go through its own line and the not-so-friendly TSA agents will think that you’re hiding drugs in the side pockets, so it’ll have to go through its own 10-minute magic-wand screening. I’m just sayin’.
10. K, my last tip doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with babies, but if you’re visiting the Big Apple, do yourself a favor and stay on the Newark side. Our hotel was across the street from Penn Station (Newark), so we took the 11-minute train over in the morning and evening, and subsequently saved a bundle.
…and finally, 10.5: have fun. You’re amazing – so believe it and own it. You got this.*
What would you add? What would you change?
* = I hereby own the right to retract this statement and completely change my mind on all of the above matters as soon as another “on traveling with babies” update arrives or another child comes along.