Three Kids and a Reason

Everything happens for a reason, right? I mean that’s what we’re told. Surely it can’t just be a saying that we’ve adopted to help us get through the dark times. You know the ones I’m talking about. Those times when your heel breaks in the subway grate on your way out to a dinner date (oh wait…I’m a mom. I don’t remember what it feels like to go out on a dinner date and, more importantly, if they’re not Tom’s, Birkenstocks or my slippers, I’m not putting them on my feet anymore). What I’m really talking about are those times when you have a 5:30 pm flight from an airport that’s on the other side of the city (New York City nonetheless), and you’re daughter’s school day isn’t over until three and she doesn’t shimmy out of that big brick building until 3:15. Those times. But of course, this all happens for a reason (I am to believe). And maybe this did happen because we found our flight was delayed while we were stuck in traffic somewhere between the slightly whiney “He hit me” and the less slightly screeching “I want out. My buckle hurts.” A delay means that at least the little people won’t have to wait at the gate in an endless line that keeps getting longer and more endless with every passing moment that the flight is further delayed. They won’t be forced to watch everyone at the ready, poised to throw elbows in order to race down the jetway and find their coveted overhead space. They won’t have to endure the many glares and stink eyes that we inevitably get.

Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe the airplane was delayed because we were going to be late. This late plane was what was going to salvage this quick three day trip to Disney World, so we could start the Christmas season off with the bubbly Main Street snow and abundant cookies and hot–but not too hot–chocolate that we’ve come to associate with the season. (Although this year it wasn’t just the standard sugar cookies FullSizeRender.jpgand hot chocolate–we were finding gingerbread cookies, egg nog, snow cones. This may sound good, but when the big little just wants the sugar cookie and hot chocolate she’s come to know and love, it is actually considered a form of torture (So maybe it was me and not the big little that wanted the sugar cookie. Fine. It was me. A girl has standards.) Either way, the positives in this trip looked like they were going to be what balanced and saved the negatives, so it was bound to be a restorative, yet quick, three days that would set the tone of Christmas celebrations to come (I know, famous last words).

Even when that delay was delayed, I knew it was for some reason. I had time to put my little people in their pjs and get them looking cute and fresh. They were fed. We weren’t falling apart, but ready to slip into our seats and snuggle our way into a late night flight to the happiest place on earth. We were ready. We were. And then it was delayed. Again. No big deal I thought, especially since my daughter told me she felt she might just sleep through this whole flight (other than overnight flights, she hasn’t willingly slept through a flight since…well…you get the picture). I thought the tiny little should be easy. He was flexible, could stay up late without getting cranky, and I’d be nursing him once we took off. The combination of snuggling, nursing, and the late hours pretty much guaranteed that in no time he would be dreaming sweet dreams of properly using a spoon and stealing his brother’s cars. Easy Peasy. The middle little? He’s his own man. No one really knows what to expect out of that one, but we were prepared and had him in a one to one ratio with his daddy.

Time to board and relax. I’m no dummy (or at least I don’t fancy myself one). I’m not one to drag much on board with me in the hopes that I can get anything done thatIMG_8252.JPG doesn’t involve the little people, but still, this time, I had hope. I pulled out my Kindle and stuck it in the backseat pocket. All the kid stuff was put in its proper kid stuff space, and we took off with all the squeals and delights that have become customary for my littles. The tiny one laid back and started to relax, the middle little got sucked into his special iPad shows, and the big little was content watching a preview for an American Girl movie. Over and over and over. Then the tiny little sat up like a rocket and picked at my face. He grabbed my necklace. He kicked the arm of the chair. He grabbed his sister’s headphones. He tried to climb to the top of my head. He saw his daddy behind me. He cried for him. He tried to climb over the chair. He tried to climb through the chairs. He wiggled. He poked my neighbor. IMG_8236.JPGHe poked him again. I apologized. He kicked the neighbor. He kicked him again. I apologized. I thought to myself, when did this little ball of blub turn into the most fidgety, picky, giggly, pokey little being I have ever had the privilege of holding in my arms? (It could have been a whimsical sweet thought, but let me be honest. It wasn’t. He spilled my wine.) Then his crying began to crescendo. And finally, with seconds to go in a flight that felt days long, he fell asleep.

But as it does, the light turned on so we could prepare the cabin for landing. And that tiny woke. And cried. And he fidgeted. And I fidgeted. And he got sweaty. And I got sweaty. And he cried. And I–wait a minute. I didn’t cry. IMG_8238.JPG(I mean not really. Not much.) Then he found the air vents and all was right with the world.

By the time we landed all of us were covered in sweat and tears, spilled apple juice and wine. We were so late we had to grab our own bags off of the luggage carousel and drag them to Mickey’s Magical Express (this is a service they usually do for you–unless it’s late at night). To our relief, immediately we were put onto one of the buses for our resort, except it didn’t go anywhere when we got on. We had to wait. And wait. (Catching onto a theme here?) When we arrived at our hotel there was no one to help us get our bags to our rooms. My husband dragged them there one at a time while I tried to soothe three intensely exhausted little people. IMG_8760.JPGThen only one of the cots we had requested was in our room, and upon calling, I was told it would take them quite some time to get the other to us. I pulled out my momma bear and that cot got to us shortly thereafter (I think the wailing two year old in the background punctuated my point). And then I managed to get all of those little bodies with their exhausted limbs, their tear-filled faces, into their beds. That night our children went to bed later than they ever have and as a result my expectations of our serene trip to the happiest place on earth shifted.

My children were going to wake up exhausted, short-tempered, overwhelmed by the day. They were going to be out of control on a day when both their daddy and I were exhausted and ill prepared for meltdowns. These three days were going to be spent just trying to brace ourselves for the flight home (fortunately it was an early morning flight). They would be too tired to want cookies and hot chocolate. The fake snow would fall in their eyes and they’d be upset. The little people would lash out at one another. That night, as my head sunk into the pillow, it seemed I couldn’t justify the stress of the nine hours it took us to get to Disney World. I couldn’t find the reason it happened that way.

And then the sun came up as it always does. And my little people were rousing. They IMG_8405.JPGspotted one another while their father and I buried ourselves deeper in our covers, and they giggled. They were eager. They were happy. After getting dressed, they chirpingly made their way to the park. There were no little hands picking at other littles hands, no squawking or screeching about fairness or wanting. It was calm. It was pleasant. It was amazing. My little people seemed unfazed by the day before, and they defied every new expectation I had created in my late night haze of exhaustion (it ended at three days when the tiny one and the bigger little got a stomach virus hours before boarding the flight home–but that’s a whole different story). Things happen for a reason.
But sometimes they don’t. Everything does not need to be the precursor to or result of something else. By far that trip to Disney World was the best trip I have ever taken with my little people. It defied every expectation and reminded me that one bad flight, one bad day, one bad experience cannot be the defining moment of traveling with little people. They move on. As parents, we have to too.

 

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Tips for Flying with an Older (Wigglier) Infant (6-12 months)

 

It really doesn’t matter why I’m flying. If I’m doing it with my infant, it can seem like a dreaded task looming over the unimaginably fabulous vacation I’m surely about to take (isn’t the saying, “Expect the best and get the best”? No? Well then (shrugs shoulders)…). Anyway, infants. I’m not talking about those blissfully sleeping babes of mere weeks old. Not those tinies that spend their moments penduluming between sleeping and eating (ok, and crying, but crying because they either want to eat or sleep (or have that beast acid reflux, which is all too alive and well in this family)). unnamed.jpgI’m talking about those super wiggly, oh-look-I-found-my hands/my feet/my voice/my ability to crawl/my ability to clap/my ability to walk/your mouth/your necklace/your eyes/your phone/your response to my dropping every little thing I get in my hands kind of infant. This is the exhausting infant. And flying with them can be exhausting. They can’t carry their own things (which they need increasingly more of), and it’s questionable whether they even get their own seats. But with three little people under five, we seem to always have one of those types of tinies traveling with us, so we’ve got a few rules we go by.

Choosing a Flight, Timing and Connections:

My husband and I are not parents of little people who sleep on planes or in cars; in fact, they are quite the opposite. Our curse and our blessing is that our children thrive on routine. They like to sleep when it’s bedtime, and they like that sleep to be (Surprise!) in their beds. And this occurs by three months old. So, that means our infant is just as routinized as our big little people. IMG_8238.JPGWe take this into account when booking our flights. I guess it’d be easiest to fly mid day so my tiny person could sleep in as usual and also be in bed on time, thus preventing an epic meltdown the next day. But really. Am I willing to waste an entire day on just sitting on a plane? Nope. Nope. Nope. No. So, it becomes a toss up. Early flights mean a day of adjusting and readjusting (we don’t ever manage to get breakfast on time, naps are weird, if at all, lunch on planes can be hard for tiny people), and late flights mean we’re cutting into bedtime (a sacred time for all parents). With our first little one, we could push her to fly at night and have a fine next day. With our last little one, we can do the same. But the middle one? Oh sweet, sweet heavens, he was a wreck once it hit bedtime. I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. The point is, we had to feel it out for each. Just like grown ups, some tiny people are best in the morning, some are best at night. It’s important to spend a little time figuring this out at home prior to trying to figure it out on a plane. Additionally, we usually book flights that are direct whenever possible. At one point, we thought perhaps layovers would be great because our little person could get out some wiggles, but honestly, it never worked. In fact, I’m pretty sure Murphy’s Law states that the only time a tiny person will nap is when the plane descends. If I’m going to wake a sleeping tiny, I’d prefer to do it at my destination rather than just at a random layover in Cincinnati. Also, I don’t want to drag tiny person belongings all over an airport in an attempt to restow them in another plane after I just charged down the aisle throwing elbows so I could get some coveted overhead space. Once I’m in and settled, this tired Momma just wants to stay put. Done.

Getting a Seat (or not):

It is not often we get a seat for our infant. We try to travel with as little as possible, so we certainly don’t want to drag a carseat (or three carseats really) with us, especially if we’re not going to be renting a car on our trip or, super especially, if we’re dealing with a tight connection (there’s nothing fast about dragging carseats around). IMG_8823.JPG(Note: If you need your carseats at your destination, but still don’t want to bring them on the plane, most airlines allow you to check them for free.) There are exceptions, of course, that drive us to bring our car seats with us. When our flight is late late late and is long long long, we may opt for the seat so our little can get some sleep. (This only works if your tiny person is good at sleeping in carseats though. I’d like to say mine are, but I would be lying.) Usually though, if it’s a long flight, my husband works his points magic and snags us seats in first class. If this happens, we usually put the seats in lie flat and trap the tiny between the wall and one of our grown up bodies so the tiny person has a flat play space and a flat sleep space for night. If we’re just taking a short flight and don’t need or care about being in first class, I bring a nursing pillow (which I recommend even when not nursing). This provides a comfy way for the tiny nugget to lie across my lap, snuggled up, without creating a sweatbox by drooling across my chest. It’s also a nice little seat for them to sit on and face me, so we can play all those lovely games, like “Pull at Mommy’s Nose” or the ever popular “Try To Stick All of My Half Chewed Snacks in Mommy’s Mouth.” Good times. (Note: If you have a lap child, don’t change the seat you’re in without consulting with the flight crew as little people in laps are put in specific rows that have extra oxygen masks.)

Scoring a Bassinet:

 If the flight is long, we contact the airline to see if they have any bassinets (or cots) available and request the bassinet. IMG_8789.JPGThey need to be requested as early as possible as most planes carry fewer cots than they do babies. Even if they tell you they have one reserved for you, be persistent. Check. Double check. When you’re sitting parked in the car in your driveway because your tiny fell asleep on the way home from the grocery store .5 mi away, check again (and then spend the rest of the time wondering why said tiny person fell asleep in his carseat when you didn’t want him to, but won’t do it any other time you need him too). We double check that our seat assignments actually match with seats that can accommodate a bassinet (dependent upon type of airplane, so some research may need to be conducted here). In economy cabins, the bassinets connect to the bulkhead walls. They can also be found actually imbedded into a shelf in the wall in some aircrafts. Additionally, in the first class international cabins, they can connect right over the footrest of the seat. These are nice to have, but infants can max out on size pretty early on (approximately 20 lbs). IMG_8814.JPGOr they can just dislike them enough to cry every time they’re placed in them on an overnight flight to Italy, leaving you feeling trapped because they’re attached mere inches above where your feet are lying. And this can make the flight attendants quite a bit upset as they spent approximately 45 minutes putting the thing up because none of them actually knew how to put it up and they had to consult manuals and now this sweet little child does not want to be in the cot they spent an insane amount of time securing, so they effectively did it for nothing, ugh…I’m not saying that happened to me. I’m just saying in theory, it could happen, you know.

What To Bring Along for The Ride:

I’ll start with the easy, somewhat obvious stuff.

Snacks: Infants just entering the eating stage seem to be the hardest to accommodate. IMG_8232.JPGThere are not many places in the airport selling ground, mushed vegetables and fruits in interesting and exciting combinations. And there are not any options on the plane itself. This means all food, milk (whether breastmilk or formula), snacks, etc., need to be brought with the tiny nugget. Generally, I pack as though my tiny person and I had an emergency landing and must stay overnight somewhere and continue our journey the next day. In other words, I pack two days worth of goodies for an infant 6-12 months old (admittedly, the closer to 12 months they are, the easier it becomes to find foods in the airport they can eat).

Toys: There are some favorites. I try to pack something that resembles a phone in case I feel like looking at my phone without little fingers trying to grab at it (I’ve found nothing so far). I bring a lovey because no matter what I still like to keep the hope alive that this tiny child may sleep. I bring a toy to chew on (teething goes on foooorrrrreeeevvvveeeerrrr). I bring a box of tissues.IMG_8690.JPG Tiny people love to pull tissues out of boxes. It’s quiet, and all I have to do is scoop them up, stick them back in the box, and voilà we get another go at it (the bigger littles still love to do it too). What I don’t bring are noisy toys, big toys, fancy toys. This age is still about exploring, so usually, I just use what I find. There’s nothing better than banging some plastic airplane cups around, tearing out some Skymall magazine pages and ripping them apart, or chewing on a coffee stirrer.

Comforts: Wipes. I bring wipes to wipe everything. I know those tiny fingers will be everywhere, and I don’t want to deal with a sad, sick tiny person on vacation (let alone any other day). Medicine. I always pack Children’s Benadryl (I get proper dosing amounts from my son’s doctor prior to leaving) because who knows where an allergy can exist. I pack infant Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen for the spontaneous fever or achy gum. A change of clothes for the tiny is necessary because the other Murphy’s Law while traveling with a tiny person is that they will spill something on themselves or have a diaper accident when traveling (common knowledge, really). I pack an extra set of clothing for myself too because…well…if I don’t I’m pretty much setting myself up for failure. I also always make sure I bring either a muslin blanket or a thin scarf that I can use to wrap my tiny person in if it gets cold or as a nursing cover. IMG_8788.JPGI also use it to wrap around my tiny person if they fall asleep on the nursing pillow (I will never give up hope) or if they fall asleep in their stroller at the airport. I tuck it around them and around myself as an added support in case of sudden turbulence. Pacifiers, bottles of water, smoothie pouches, or really anything my little person can suck on and chew while we’re taking off and landing are with me too. I usually use this time to try to nurse my little into sleep (seriously not giving up on this dream).

Transport: We bring a carrier with us when we have our tiny person along. Often, when trying to get our tiny to nap, we will need to walk or bounce, which can get pretty tiring without a carrier. I just slip the tiny into the little carrier, bounce a few minutes, and then slide myself back into my seat, safely clipping my seatbelt under those chubby legs. The issue here is that some flight attendants have made me wake the sleeping tiny to remove them from the carrier during landing, while some have simply made certain that the tiny person was not clipped into the seatbelt. It’s a hit or miss really. The carrier also comes in handy when we’ve decided against gate checking a stroller, something that is increasingly uncommon now that we have two under three. Although when we have tight connections, we avoid gate checking our strollers. The problem we have run into is that sometimes our stroller is waiting for us as soon as we get off the plane, but sometimes we can wait well over a half an hour for it to be delivered to us, which is a stress we certainly don’t need if we’re trying to desperately make another flight. (Note: Most airlines allow strollers to be checked through to the final destination free of charge.)

Dealing with Diapers:

When dealing with diaper age little people, I always try to save enough time to change my littles into clean diapers right before getting on the plane. While quite a number of planes have changing tables, not all do. And the worst is when I know I need to change a diaper and my options are limited to changing them on the seat and angering an already angry crowd or letting my little sit in their swampy, smelly, soggy diaper. It’s a choice no self-respecting adult wants to make. It’s the choice that I pawn off onto my husband. And let’s discuss those airplane changing tables, shall we? They’re smaller than a tray table and just as rickety. When changing my tiny I have to fight their exploring little fingers to keep them out of the sink and from pushing down the pump to the hand lotion. It’s a mess. And if I don’t want to change my tiny person in a dirty little shoebox of a bathroom, it’s important I change them early on since the changing table folds down to rest right above the toilet (I have nightmares about dropping important things into those toilets while I’m changing diapers). Needless to say, diapers can be a disaster, so I get them done prior to boarding as often as possible.

What to Expect from The Experience:

No matter how many times we’ve traveled, and how on point I think my travel is, that doesn’t mean other people know this. We still get looks of dread, the stink eye, from those who see us roll up to the gate, five thick. People avoid getting behind us in the security line (even though we can get through there as fast as any business traveler). It’s just part of the journey. We let it roll off of our backs and graciously accept the compliments about our “great little travelers” when it’s all over. We try to calm our tiny when he starts to cry, and usually, that act of merely attempting to do something to calm our tiny person is enough for those around us to, at least, hide their own frustrations. I’d like to think people give my tiny person some acceptance too when I can’t get him to quiet down since his communication skills are somewhat, shall we say, limited. Ultimately, some people will forgive me, some people won’t, some will forgive my children, some won’t feel thIMG_8806.JPGere’s a need to, and others will seethe in their own anger. But between my husband, my children, and myself, we remember to forgive each other. I know that I just need to focus on my tiny people, my little people, because this is about them. And about us. And what we’re doing together.

Traveling anywhere with little people of any age means creating memories–strong, searing, sweet (mostly) moments for adults, but nuggets of memories for those little people. Even for tiny people. We plant the seeds of those nuggets of memories when we travel. And hopefully, someday, those seeds will be enough to feed some beautiful, kind, open-minded souls who are strong enough in spirit and in self to imagine themselves anywhere in this world, doing anything in this world.

Answers to Some Questions You Didn’t Know You Had When Planning a Getaway to Nickelodeon’s All Inclusive Resort in Punta Cana-Updated

NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect additional information provided by the resort’s concierge. Some of the information is in conflict with the information previously provided through the resort’s Facebook contact. (Nov. 16, 2016)

One thing I know about traveling with my littles is that it’s nice to go places where they are entertained by the world around them and I can spend a little less time being just sooooo entertaining. With that in mind, my husband and I set out to book a summer trip that offered our little people a bit more entertainment than they normally get when we travel beyond Walt Disney World or a beach house. My littles are small, we’re talking five, two, and under one. They still haven’t quite mastered the excitement of immersing IMG_6135.JPGthemselves in other cultures and understanding the implications and depths of historical locales and movements. So, our options were somewhat limited.

Then one day it just started popping up everywhere. I mean every single place I looked. It stalked me. Nickelodeon’s new all inclusive property in Punta Cana. So I researched and read. And read some more. And researched some more. And then I sat down to see if this place was really worth it. Most of the customer reviews from last summer were less than kind, but then again, it was a property that just opened last summer and everything was not up and running at the time. So, armed with some questions taken from those reviews, I, in my best explorer mindset, set out in search of answers. The problem was, the website was a bit less than informative. There were descriptions of a sentence, but no details. How important are details? Let me say again, I have three little people. Seriously. Details are ridiculously important.

I reached out to the hotel via their contact info and received no response. I then moved on to Facebook, and within hours I had a response. I spent the next week asking more and more questions and finding more and more questions. And I was getting answers. And when I ran out of answers, I went to the head concierge. Unfortunately I didn’t get any answers there, but I’m still hopeful. And now? I have most questions answered. And so do you.

Are the facilities all up and running? I was told they are 100% up and running. What I figured out though, through asking questions about other amenities, is that while the facilities may be 100% up and running, not all programs are. This could change over time. If there’s a particular program you’re interested in, it would be best to ask. (For example, the Spanish Lessons are not yet a part of the program there, though it is listed on their website as one of the services they offer.)

IMG_6503.JPGIs there a charge for any of the “Gotcha Covered” amenities and are they guaranteed if requested? (cribs, strollers, Gerber baby food, bottle sterilizers and warmers, step stools, bathrobes, bath tubs, changing tables, baby monitors, beach toys) The amenities are always available and should be guaranteed whether or not you request them ahead of time. Also, the Gerber food, while not organic, is suitable for children as young as six months old.

What is Nickelodeon Place? Listed on the Activities page is “Nickelodeon Place,” but what exactly is it beyond a character meeting spot (which is listed as a separate activity anyway)? Well, essentially it’s everything and nothing rolled into one. It is the general name given to the large area that contains all of the separately listed activities (Aqua Nick, Aqua Bite, Just Kiddin’ Kids Club, Character Central, Plaza Orange amphitheater, Nick kNacks, and the Sports Hub). So, though it is listed as a separate activity, it, in fact, isn’t.

IMG_3829.jpgWhat is the character meeting/Character Central situation look like? Is it organized or arbitrary? How will I know when to show up? Many of the online reviews contained complaints of not seeing any characters while on property. I was told that there is a set schedule that varies each week depending on variables such as weather and occupancy. So, it is set. But not that set. This schedule can be picked up upon arrival.

What about character dining? What are the options? How easy or hard is it to book? Currently, the only dining options with characters are breakfasts and those breakfasts only occur on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday from 8-10am is the TMNT Power Breakfast and on Sundays from 8-10am is the PJ Jam Breakfast. While these are the only days with character breakfasts, I was told that this can change depending upon demand. Since the supply is limited, these meals can be hard to get, but fortunately, character breakfast reservations can be made prior to arrival through contacting the concierge.

Can I make dining reservations in advance? While you can make character breakfast reservations in advance, you cannot make regular dining reservations in advance. These reservations should be made on property with your personal concierge or the lobby concierge. UPDATE: After getting directly in touch with the resort’s concierge (rather than through Facebook) I have been told you can make dining reservations prior to your arrival.

Is babysitting available? How much is it? And for what times? Evening babysitting is available. The cost for this is $20/hour for up to two children. Each child under four requires one babysitter for themselves. During the day, children over four can be dropped off at Just Kiddin’ and the same pricing applies for any other children who are being watched by a babysitter. UPDATE: The price per hour is until 11:00 p.m. If the service is needed additional hours, the guest is responsible for the Taxi fee to get the nanny to his/her final destination. The Taxi cost is additional to the fee per hour.

What is the process for vetting the babysitters? This is still a question I’m waiting to have answered. I will update this when, and if, I get a response. UPDATE: The babysitters are certified, and they do run background checks (as they do on all staff). Most sitters speak English or another language (as well as Spanish).

What is Just Kiddin’? Will my four year old be doing the same activities as the older children there (up to 12 years old)? Just Kiddin’ is a daytime drop off location. IMG_7709.JPGIt has both free play and scheduled activities. These scheduled activities are subject to change and will be given at check in. All kids will be together. So, yes, your four year old will be in the mix with the eight year olds and the twelve year olds. There is no separation by age.

Are there connecting rooms and can they be guaranteed? As a family of five, our room options are somewhat limited, especially if you’re like us and want a separate room for the grown ups to sleep in. If that’s what we want, we have to book a Pool Super Villa. And that is soooo much more space than we need (and sooooo much more money than we want to spend). Fortunately, you can book two connecting rooms (in certain buildings). Pads connect with other Pads and Pads connect with Swank Suites. As far as guaranteeing those? I was told they should be able to guarantee them.

When can spa reservations be made? Truth be told, this is one of the few questions that I have struggled to get answered. I have not heard from anyone, and the follow up on promises to get me that information has been nonexistent. This just leads me to the conclusion that it either contains some top secret information, the pricing is still being set, or the services are not entirely set (or there is just a real difficulty in acquiring this information). UPDATE: The spa services can be made in prior to arrival. I am still waiting for a current and correct menu for spa services.

Does the hotel provide transfers from the airport? Once you book your stay, you will be given the option of choosing to also book a transfer from the airport to the hotel.Transfers are done through Nexus Travel, the resort’s official transportation company. You can also book directly with them at www.nexustravel.com.

This trip is designed for relaxation and restoration, and some of the details are what I needed to get that process started. I’m looking forward to those smooth, sunny days, resting my weary bones on a soft-padded lounge chair outside my hotel room, listening to birds singing and watching the sun reflect off the cool blue of the pool out the door of my swim up suite. Or, more likely, trying to frantically use said lounge chair to create a barrier in my attempt to corral my little people so they don’t get too curious about that pool. And when I feel a bit overwhelmed at those climbing, crawling, eager little legs, I will remind myself to be thankful for that curiosity and the little explorers that that curiosity is creating.

Keep checking back for updates and a post-stay hotel review.

Tips for Sharing a Hotel Room with Your Infant or Toddler

That feeling of settling my littles in for the night and then relaxing on my own terms is so much more pronounced when I am on vacation. At home, those few childless hours (I’m exaggerating a bit here, it’s really just minutes, mere minutes) before I am too exhausted to move are usually spent frantically catching up on all the things I meant to do that day (or the previous day). I’d like to say that I use that time for getting ahead too, but, seriously, kids. Anyway, on vacation those nights are different. There’s no house to tidy up, no dishes waiting in the sink, no quick late-night errands to run. There’s just me and my freedom. On vacation, those few childless moments after the littles are safely tucked into their beds are spent…in the dark, with the curtains drawn, throwing shade at my husband because the sound of his socks on the hotel floor is a threat to the continued sleeping of those little people. This is the downside of vacationing with an infant or toddler, especially those who are an absolute wreck of a little person if they don’t get some serious sleep (at least now and again). Realizing this issue early on, my husband and I have come to rely on some handy techniques for getting us through the entrapment of early-to-bed littles.

 

Suites/Connecting Rooms:

Probably the most obvious, and expensive, way to combat this issue is to book a suite. In some hotels, this means footing quite an expense (either in points or in money), but it’s important to weigh if the value of that extra space and alone time at night is worth that expense. My husband and I still have the intentions of staying up later than our children and relaxing a bit in just each other’s company when we’re on vacation, so we do place some value on having a different room to be awake in while our littles slumber (we’re not talking outrageously priced suites though–we have kids to put through college). Additionally, we use the extra living space as an “on deck” area for the little people who have not yet gone to sleep: first the tiny one is put to sleep, then the middle one, and finally the oldest wiggles her way into dreamland. If I had to put them all to sleep at once? I can’t even. A disaster really.

If the suite has a kitchen, it means some meals can be eaten in the room to offset a small fraction of the cost (anything counts). FullSizeRender-5.jpgAnd sometimes kids just need a little cereal rather than a giant breakfast, so it makes it much easier. Also, if we’re on a vacation that will basically be spent outside, it’s a relief to have the added space if it rains and we have to spend some extra time indoors.

Finally, if the resort itself is not so important and it’s just a place to rest some heads at night, then we consider alternate places to stay. When we roadtrip, we often stay at assorted chain suites. I used to be of the mindset that these were designed more for the business traveler who wanted a more “homelike” place outside of a tourist area without the necessity and cost of a million amenities. But that just isn’t the case. These hotels can offer the space necessary for a traveling family without the cost.

Connecting rooms will also do the trick in providing an additional room, but they have some drawbacks. For example, I am a tired person. After I put my littles to bed, I am even more tired. (It’s like I’ve just completed a marathon that I’m destined to run. Every. Single. Day.) In a connecting room, the most inviting place for me to rest my old weary bones is a bed. Now remember how I said I actually intend on spending time with my significant other? That won’t happen because as soon as this lady sits on a bed, it’s over. Over I say. I convince myself I will only sleep a second, but deep down I know the truth. Also, connecting rooms are in that realm of “you can request but we can’t guarantee” (like cribs). That’s just not a chance I’m willing to take. I’d be stuck in the room with the sleeping kids and my husband would be living it up by himself in the other room? I don’t think so. Number one rule of marriage is if I suffer, we suffer together. I’m not going to change that now.

Study the Layout of the Hotel:

One way we get out of being trapped in the room with our sleeping littes is to do the same thing we do at home: shut the door and go somewhere else (within reach of our monitor). IMG_6503.JPGFor example, my husband and I always request the same hotel room at a resort we go to in VT because we know that we can lock our door and walk down to the outdoor deck and bar while watching our sleeping children on our monitor. While sitting outside this year, we discussed trying a different room during our next visit, so the next day we took the camera to that area of the resort and checked the monitor. Guess what? It worked! So we’re off to a new room during the next visit (it’s the little things that get us through these days).

We look not just for places to relax in the evenings but dinner as well. At a resort we stayed at in Curacao we ate at the same restaurant most nights because I could get up, put my son to sleep, and come back to our table on the beach. He was sleeping literally yards from me with just a patio door between us (which we left unlocked while we locked the front door to the room). The room was not central to the hotel, but it was perfectly situated next to the kiddie pool, the beach, a small hotel bar, and a restaurant. AND it was in a quiet end of the hotel. It was perfect for both naps and night. But we only landed the room because we studied the layout of the hotel and requested the specific building prior to our arrival.

 Request a Balcony:

If we can’t leave the room out of the front door, we try to go out the back. Our general rule is that if we’re in a resort, we try to book the bottom floor with a balcony that we can walk off of. This way, after we put all the littles to bed, we can slip out onto the balcony and relax. One of us can wander over to the hotel bar or the ice cream shop (or in my case, both) and pick up some treats. Then we just sit outside the room and relax. Some times we talk, some times we just sit with our own books and some reading lamps. If the hotel doesn’t have ground floor, walkout balconies, we still use the balcony to our advantage. One of us slips ever so quietly out the front door and gets the goods, and then we spend our evening on our balcony watching the world.

 Work with What You Have:

One rule we have, regardless of whether we have a suite or a balcony, is that we try to create a physical barrier between our littles and ourselves. Even when we have the added space of the suite, my husband and I still go to sleep in the same room as our little people. The last thing I want is to have my child spot me from behind the bars of the hotel crib.IMG_1686.jpg There’s no putting themselves back to sleep once they’ve spotted my face trying to hide in the covers. And this desire to be awake spreads faster than a cold in a Kindergarten classroom once a little one spots me. Next thing I know, it’s four in the morning and I’ve got three little people jumping around on my stomach and a husband still fast asleep next to me.

So, we use the furniture in the rooms to create small rooms. If there are two bathrooms, we will put a crib in one of them. If not, we will check out the size of the closets. We will tuck a crib halfway in a closet with open doors surrounding it. We will stick it behind a desk, next to a chair, covered by a stroller, in a nook. You name it. If there is space that is even a teeny tiny bit separated from the rest of the room, that’s where one of the cribs is going to go. This way, in those just predawn hours of slipping in and out of sleep, my two year old is not going to spot me, fully rouse himself out of slumber, and cheerfully yell out “It’s good morning now?”

 Bring the Right Equipment:

Even with all of this, room sharing happens. If we know there’s a chance, we come prepared. First, we make the bathroom comfy. If that’s where we’re going to be, we might as well get all our plugs etc. in there. If not, we stake out our little hiding corner and prep it. Here’s some water, here’s an iPad plug, here’s some headphones, here’s a book, here’s a reading light. Before the kids fall asleep we make sure that all of our necessities are out of our bags and where we can find them. Pjs? Check. Toothbrush? Check. Glasses? Check. Medicine? IMG_6489.JPGCheck. Once my tiny’s head hits his bed, the game is over. I don’t want to hear a cough, let alone a zipper opening and closing and opening and closing. My “trapped in room” stash includes a Paperwhite Kindle (it doesn’t give off too much light), my iPhone (so I know what time I managed to stay awake until), and a white noise app (on my iPad). White noise is key. I keep it pretty obnoxiously loud until I slide into that bed, hear my husband’s timed breathing, and sense a general lull in the atmosphere. Then, I slowly turn it down (but just a notch because I’m not trying to have a little person wake up because an even littler person coughed).

 Accept It:

It’s vacation. It’s the one time when it really is ok to just say, “I’m going to bed early” and not regret it in the morning. This is especially the case when dealing with a bit of jetlag. When we went to Japan, my husband and I got into our beds as soon as the kids were in theirs. I read on my kindle, he on his phone, and that was it. We spent the entire trip never fully adjusted to the time zone, but that was okay with us. We slept. We caught up on four years of books we had meant to read and four years of sleep we had wished we had. And we didn’t regret it.

 

Traveling with little people can be a challenge. The logistics can often be painful. These little creatures are creatures of habit, even when traveling, and their routines can seem a burden to our plans. But sometimes these routines are just what we need on a vacation: a reason to slow down and nurture our own selves without guilt and without regret.

 

Three Kids and a Hurricane

We had only halfway been tracking it in the week leading up to our trip to Disney World for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween. In fact, when I called my husband and said we should really keep our eye on Hurricane Matthew, he had the response one would expect from a FullSizeRender-3.jpgman who thinks his significant other is a slight bit paranoid. Which I’m not. Really. (Am I? Maybe I am? What if I am? But I’m not. Totally not.) As the days dripped on though, it became clear. We needed to discuss Hurricane Matthew. It seemed it (he?) would be headed toward Florida some time around Friday morning, perfectly timed with our Friday morning flight into FL. We weighed options: Go later? Cancel? What about school? Finally we settled on earlier. And so our mad rush began.

With three little people tearing through the house, it can be a wee bit hard to pack. I tend to do a handful at a time in the week leading up to our trip (my free time is usually when the two smallest littles are napping, and the clothes I need to pack are in the napping kids’ rooms. Go figure). There it was Tuesday night and I had to have it finished by Wednesday night. So I did a frantic pack. This is my least favorite type of packing. I can’t even manage it for a trip to the grocery store, let alone a rainy, hot, cold, sunny, windy, stuffy trip to Florida. But. I did it. Then when it hit me that we’d be in hotel rooms with the littles for an extended period of time, I had to pack more (I seriously hate bringing more). So I took more. More coloring books, more stickers, more cars, more dolls, more books, more puzzles, more rattling things, more rolling things, more wiggling things, more noisemaking things. More. Every. Little. Thing. And then some time in the middle of the night, I was done.

4:30 am and I hear it. Even though my husband has chosen the most gentle, soothing, sweetest alarm to wake up with, it still brings a solid cold sweat and a shock of denial every time it happens. I managed to pull myself like molasses from bed and started the task of starting the day. The last minute gather, the waking of children. The car ride. The security line. The airport. The airplane. And finally, the arrival.

There we were, tired, hungry, and, after a check in so long it was almost time for our flight home, roomless. Sure we were early, so we understood. The hurricane had travelers coming early, leaving late, not showing up at all, so we really understood (I mean, we were some of those travelers). Some smiles, some nods, and we were finally ready to get ready for the park (and food…there’s no way I was taking the little people anywhere hangry–even a Disney World park).

FullSizeRender-1.jpgWhile frantically inhaling our first meal of the day we were texted: one of our connecting rooms was ready. It was nearly two pm and perfectly timed so we could prep for the heat and the rain, head to Epcot, take the littles on a Nemo ride in a clam shell, and try to ride Elsa and Anna’s new ride before it closed for the hurricane at five (we had fast passes for 5:15…seriously?!?!?!?!). Our connected room would be ready for us by the time we got back. No big deal, or so we thought. We’d still get back in time to set up the littles’ room; unpack; and let them get some of their wiggles out, feel the lay of the land, throw their clothes around, strategically place all their stuffed animals, and evaluate the condition of the room (the five year old fancies herself a hotel connoisseur).

As we made our way through the back entrance to Epcot, the rain slowly started, and since TSA lost one of our stroller rain covers (thankfully meant for the single, not the double), we had to buy an extra poncho and rig a special cover for the five year old sitting alone. It was actually kind of perfect. She rode sitting criss cross apple sauce with the sun visor over her and stuck her sweet little face out of the poncho hood. She stayed dry, and it seemed like there was no barrier between her and the rest of us grown ups.

But that novelty wore off as we reached the Nemo ride and she had to be coaxed to go on fullsizerender-4(Bruce the shark is not that friendly of a guy in actuality). By the time we emerged, the rain had picked up and the five year old felt hot to the touch. She begged to put the stroller back and lay down with the rain cover over her, barring her from the world. We made our way, at her behest, to the Frozen ride in the hopes that the line was short since the park would close in 10 minutes. It wasn’t bad. But the knowledge of those lost fast passes ate at us while we waited with a sad little person who desperately wanted to go on the ride but was too sick to stand on her own. So my husband asked. He told them we have fast passes for after the park’s closing. And they let us in. Imagine that. We just needed to ask.

When the ride was over, the wind had started. We managed to stay dry to this point, but FullSizeRender.jpgwith the rain coming at us sideways, we knew this walk would mean we would get drenched. At least the littles would stay dry. And the five year old slept. Within minutes of being in the stroller, she slept. All the way back to the hotel, she slept. Through the wind and the rain, she slept. In the lobby while we waited to get the key to our other room, she slept. When the concierge realized that someone else was in the room we had been given, she slept. As my husband showed them the text with our new room number on it, she slept. And as we waited, she slept. As they grew more and more apologetic and more and more confused as to what to do with us, she slept. As my momma bear instinct began to wake, she slept. Through my mother in law and I deciding to take the kids up to the room we currently did have, she slept. The ten month old little though? Oh, he didn’t sleep. He hadn’t all day. And neither did the two year old. It was the perfect potion for a toxic night.

My husband appeared at our door much later, defeated. They could offer us rooms across the hall from one another right now or we could wait longer to see what connecting rooms they could put together. With littles as little as ours, we needed the connecting rooms. So we waited and went in search of some dinner, the little people hanging on by barely a thread, overcome with exhaustion from an early morning, a rainy day, a late dinner, the beginnings of an illness, and the knowledge that a hurricane was lurking in the dark. Then it hit me.

I understood when the rooms weren’t ready at first. I understood that it would take them time to get them cleaned. I understood that Hurricane Matthew caused some chaos with people coming early, leaving late, or not showing up at all. But the airports were closed. People weren’t looking to check out and head straight into the heart of a hurricane. FullSizeRender-2.jpgThe rooms were set. It was eight o’clock. My ten month old was sleeping at the table. My five year old was becoming feverish again. My two year old was about to scale walls from sheer exhaustion. They needed their beds, their stuffed animals, their sanctuary, their place away from all the stimulation. And my momma bear stirred again. And I left.

I spoke with the front desk for perhaps five minutes and made my way back to my table. I turned to my husband and said calmly, “Go up to our room and meet the bellmen there. They are on the way to get our things and move us to a two bedroom suite.”

I can’t tell you exactly what happened in those five minutes. I know I did not raise my voice. I was not angry. I was protective. I explained my situation-my little people, my loves. I did not leave room for thought. I explained what I needed. I explained what I expected. And that is what I received.

While it often pays to be flexible when traveling, there are also those moments when you have to be an advocate for your little people, your family, yourself. I wasn’t going to leave with promises that vanish into the air. I wanted action. I requested action. And I got action. (And it totally helped that we had a spacious, calming, three room suite to whittle the day away in while the hurricane swirled around us.)

Hotel Review–The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL–Child Accommodating

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort is a hotel (two really) that my family stays at frequently. There is something about hearing the fountains and the boat horn and sniffing the cozy vanilla smell that immediately makes me feel at peace. IMG_7026.JPGIn fact, until we joined the Disney Vacation Club it was the only place we stayed initially for two main reasons.

First, the Swan and Dolphin have the unique quality of being the only non Disney hotel still located on Disney property. Due to this, guests have most (but not all) of the benefits of a Disney hotel (extra magic hours, transportation to parks, and character dining to name a few), but guests also get to redeem points or get points for their stay because the hotel is a Starwood Property (which just happens to be our favorite hotel collection, so there’s no way we would’ve turned a blind eye to these two hotels).

The second aspect of the property that drives us to return is its location. It is situated within a scenic and easy 15 minute stroll to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. The walk to Epcot takes us past The Boardwalk area, so we have easy access to all the amenities there (the hotel restaurants, the restaurants, bars, ice cream shops, bakeries, etc), and when we get to Epcot the path terminates at the entrance found quietly placed between France and England in the World Showcase. This lack of line is of significant benefit when we are there for Food and Wine or the International Flower and Garden Festival. It also makes it quite easy to just slip over to Epcot for dinner after a day at another park.

All in all, staying at the Swan and Dolphin was a fairly easy decision for us before we had children. Since kids, we still come back about once a year, but it is not our go to anymore. While the hotel is clearly a part of the world of Disney, it is also distinct in how distant from Disney it can at times feel. The hotels have quite large convention centers that are usually booked. This means that rather than having a family vibe, they often have a corporate vibe with groups of adults running from one meeting to another and signs and tables situated throughout the lobby (at least of The Dolphin). It seems the lobby is less a IMG_7010.JPGplace to gather with a family than it is to be a meeting place of members of a larger visiting convention. When weaving our way through the throngs of convention goers, it feels as though we, as a family, accidentally stumbled into a meeting we were not supposed to be at. It is less than welcoming. In the Dolphin (our preferred property), the bar can become full of people mingling, and since the bar is located in the hallway of the lobby at the top of the escalators leading to the main entrance to the walkways and amenities, it is impossible to navigate at times.

IMG_7002.JPGI think the aspect of the hotel that keeps it from being Child Friendly can best be summed up by our last visit. We were at the Dolphin during Hurricane Matthew and the closure of the parks. We asked the concierge if there were any special activities they had set up for the day to keep kids occupied, and they told us the Children’s Center would be open, as it usually is on rainy days. This small collection of rooms, tucked into the back corner of the hotel was the only amenity set up for children on a day when all children were confined to the hotel. (Disney properties, on the other hand, went so far as to bring the IMG_7004.JPGcharacters into the hotels so children could visit with them while stuck indoors.) Additionally, while the hotel has some great activities like S’mores and parent’s Date Night, they do little to advertise these services and parents must go out in search of them (we chanced upon them listed on an electronic poster when wandering the hotel during the Hurricane). In the five years we had been frequenting the property with children, this information was never verbally discussed with us. In summation, the hotel has much to offer, but don’t be fooled into thinking that because it is on Disney property, it is the equivalent of staying at a Disney hotel.

Pros Cons
Access to Magic Hours Convention center can create chaotic, crowded, corporate atmosphere
Indoor ice ceam parlor Concierge service is not always knowledgeable
Kid friendly eating options Guest Services are slow, often requiring multiple calls (ex: we waited 10 hours for a crib)
Large, interesting pool with kid friendly depths Check in can be time consuming and rooms are not always ready “on time” (3 pm check in time)
Life vests for pool Balconies not in all rooms (always a nice place to escape with a grown up once your trapped in the room because of sleeping children)
Easy walk to Epcot and Hollywood Studios No transportation to/from the airport (no Magical Express of other Disney properites)
Transportation to the parks (bus, boat, and walk) Parking lot gets filled quickly so finding a spot can prove difficult even if it is paid for, and the valet service can get quite backed up
Fireworks visible from both Epcot and Hollywood Studios (from room depending on room, but always somewhere outdoors) Camp Dolphin is small with limited space and not always available
S’mores by the beach six evenings a week Disney dining reservations can only be made at exactly 180 days out rather than 180 days plus the duration of your stay
Swan boat rentals There are no linked Magic Bands for your park ticket, room key, or charges
Two complimentary hours of child care while dining at one of their signature restaurants or during a 75 minute spa treatment  
Character dining at Garden Grove  
Camp Dolphin: supervised activity center for children ages 4-12 (open nightly 5:30-midnight; call for reservations)  
Park tickets can be purchased on site  

Of note, the rooms are undergoing renovations.

Note: Hotels are based on a four level scale: Child Centered, Child Friendly, Child Accommodating, Unsuitable. A Child Centered hotel is a hotel in which the child’s comfort, happiness, etc. is paramount. A Child Friendly hotel has those implements in place to create a fun atmosphere for the child, though it is not the apparent mission of the hotel to continuously do so. A Child Accommodating hotel is that hotel where it will assist the parents in making the child comfortable at the parent’s request only. An Unsuitable hotel is a hotel that has no accommodations suitable for a child or the cons of the hotel make the hotel dangerous for the well-being of the child.

Rocking Your Way through Airport Security with Your Littles

Without having my little people with me, I still whole heartedly believe going through security is the absolute worst part of flying. There are the long lines; the make it or break it rules; the unpacking of laptops, liquids, and dignity; the shoe removal; the anxiety of a hundred eyes evaluating; the atmosphere of annoyance. It’s toxic and spreads like an epidemic. Travelers are annoyed at the TSA, the TSA at travelers. Families are annoyed at business travelers who stand a little too close and tap a foot a little too loud while glaring at their watches. Business travelers are annoyed at families who are sifting through bags and searching for liquids a little too long while desperately holding onto the sleeve of a little person who’s a little too noisy. This single act of going through security has been the face that launched a thousand, well, frustrations.

In this environment, amongst all this chaos, the last thing that I want when traveling with my littles is to be on the receiving end of these frustrations or find these feelings lurking within myself (I’m sure my family doesn’t want these feelings festering inside of me either…it’s just can’t end well). So, what do we do to keep security as smooth as possible when dealing with three little people under five?

  1. Keep Calm: Let me give a brief glimpse of my normal weekday morning. Even if my daughter has 20 minutes before her bus comes for Kindergarten, if I mention that we need to hurry and get ready, she will panic. She is a ball of five-year-old nerves. And once she’s in that place, she never recovers until she is safely on that bus. That being said, if I were to act frantic while in line for security or actually going through security, she too would become frantic. Then the two year old would become frantic. And the 11 month old would probably think, why not, and join right in. Let me be clear. The last thing I want to deal with at any moment in life is three emotionally amped up little people. Ever. Even in my own home. So, in my little slice of security heaven, I try to remain calm. Not only do I operate more efficiently, so do my littles. Together we are focused and get the required steps of security done without having to jump the line to chase a rogue two year old. Regardless of how together or not we seem, it also always helps me to remember that travel is a teacher for my children, and no matter how frustrated those around me seem at my littles’ exuberant expressions of delight at travel, there is nothing to feel bad about. I don’t feel like I need to start the trip by apologizing to those people who believe children have no place on a plane, especially their plane.
  1. Pack Strategically: We get mere minutes to unpack all that TSA requires we unpack. Carry on bags.JPGHaving kids makes no difference. Once the unpacking process is started, I like to be done with it. It is the equivalent of bedtime. Once it’s started, there’s no stopping it until it is gloriously over. Who wants to be searching through bags for liquids while trying to remember where the iPads were shoved? Even when flying with my husband, I am the sole person in charge of packing for my three kids (I have trust issues, apparently…maybe others would say control issues, but…I think trust just sounds nicer, don’t you?). This means that I bring with me all that the little people need for the plane (minus their backpacks of lovies). I use a lightweight Tumi two-wheel roller bag that’s approximately 1.5 ft x 3 ft (pictured). When I zip the bag, I have the zippers meet at the top of the bag, so I only need to slightly open the top to reach in and grab the snack bag (which always has apple sauce and baby food and sometimes a bottle of milk…you know, the stuff the TSA loves to deal with) and the bag of medicines/liquids. In the small front pouch of this bag, I slide two iPads so I caOpen carry on.JPGn easily get them out when in line. Before I even put the bag on that belt, it is emptied of all those things that I have to put on display. And on my person I have my own bag, which only has my computer to pull out. Easy peasy. No opening bags and shifting extra toys or clothes around. No one can judge me by the mindless things I bring with me to read. (Kidding. I’m a mom. I don’t get to read anything with more than four sentences per page.)
  1. Bring a Stroller: To bring a stroller or not bring a stroller–that really is the question, isn’t it? Back in the day (those beautifully quiet days) of just one little person, I rarely used a stroller unless there was a lengthy layover. Usually, I just carried my tiniest of person in a carrier. TSA allows you to wear your children through the detector with just the added inconvenience of a hand swab (which given the fact that my bags are inevitably pulled so TSA can see that the baby food is, in fact, baby food, this doesn’t add any extra time and it doesn’t disturb the tiny person). Times have changed. I don’t just have one little person anymore. I value my stroller now. I use it as a means of keeping my children in line. Literally. As I mentioned, I have no desire to chase my children through legs and around other people’s luggage, nor do I want to have to drag them forward or hear them mentioning their exhaustion. So, we use a stroller. It also provides them somewhere to remain while I empty the roller bag of the necessary contents. Boys on Stroller.jpgEven if it only takes a second, that’s enough time for those tiny legs to scramble away. Not all strollers are ideal for this though. We make sure that if we are bringing a stroller to gate check (either single or double) it can easily and quickly be folded and unfolded since it too will need to go on the belt. The alternative to this is we bring one that is waaaaaaaay too big to go on the belt and needs to be hand checked by TSA (I’m talking about the kind of stroller strangers can’t help but comment on the size of as you happily push on by). This is, of course, more time consuming, but it also means we don’t have to fold and unfold. We take into consideration our connections too. There seems to be some unwritten rule that if you have a tight connection, gate checked items will take extra long to get unloaded, so we generally try to avoid bringing them if we know we will need those extra minutes to get us to our next plane (skycap anyone?). 
  1. Know Your Rights: When my now five-year-old daughter was 14 months we were returning from a trip to Italy via Heathrow. As we went through security there, a female agent told me to hand me her daughter so she could give her a pat down to ensure that there was nothing hidden on her. Luckily, since I had been flying so frequently with my daughter from the age of five weeks, I knew that there was no reason that I needed to hand my daughter over to a complete stranger. While I was met with resistance initially, after involving other agents, the original agent finally understood that my tiny was sticking with me. In. My. Arms. I can’t stress enough how important it is to understand your rights as someone flying with an infant or toddler. This doesn’t mean being hostile, but it does mean being an advocate for your child. For instance, I will not let any TSA agent open up my infant’s bottles of milk, frozen or otherwise. This doesn’t mean that I won’t let them test the air coming from IMG_1715.jpgthem. It means I request to be the sole person who opens and closes it and that it is tested in my sight. I have also been given grief about the amount of baby food I have brought onto the plane (I tend to pack enough to cover an overnight in case we miss a connection). Again, simply explaining my rights and asking the TSA agents to check with their higher ups has proved effective. It’s much easier for me to remain calm because I know my rights. Knowing what I can and can’t do helps ease some of that travel anxiety. And in my house, when my anxiety is high, it permeates into my children and then…seriously. I can’t even.
  1. Think about Your Clothes: It seems silly to say. But it can matter when there are so many other things going on. TSA will ask that all outer layers come off. So, don’t wear an old ratty, ill-fitting nursing top under a big bulky sweatshirt (totally not speaking from experience…nope). The same for little people. I just put my kids in comfy clothes and pack away their jackets well before we get to security, so there’s no added effort of taking them on and off. And if I’m baby wearing, I don’t wear a sweater over my carrier. I can only imagine what kind of shenanigans my littles could manage to get themselves into in the few seconds it would take to remove a sweater from over the carrier (of course the sweater would get caught on some type of velcro or hook and my arms would be as useful as a T Rex’s given the shoulder straps and the big ol’ baby strapped in front…so maybe it’s not my fault they could unpack an entire suitcase and throw its contents on the floor while I remove said sweater…). And shoes. I love shoes. All shoes. But I digress. Slip on shoes are important. Whether there’s a baby strapped to me or not, it just makes life easier when I’m trying to usher everyone through the metal detector. At the end of the beltway, I don’t have to worry about things piling up because I have to tie or zip my shoes. I can just grab my items (the ones the TSA hasn’t taken to check anyway) and get them packed. The littles get to keep their shoes on (and yet mine seem to always take theirs off anyway…everywhere), so they can go for comfort and style.

It’s just the way it is. Airport security is a drag. There’s no way around it. It is surrounded in anxiety and annoyance, a hotbed of frustration. But with a bit of planning and a decent amount of confidence, it doesn’t mean your trip has to begin with those frustrations too.