Surviving Disney World with a Newborn: You Really Can Do It

Having a newborn is no joke. I mean it’s all powdery smells and silky baby fuzz heads, but let’s be honest. It’s a job. Like a real, I am working way more than 40 hours a week, job. There is no pattern. There’s sleep and then suddenly just no sleep…at all. There’s diapers and feedings. Don’t even get me started on the constant eating that newborns do. Days become timed to when we feed the baby and when the baby sleeps. Day. Night. It’s all the same. It can be draining. It can suck the spontaneity out of even the most unplanned, freeformed of days. So, what happens when that newborn makes its sweet little appearance months or weeks prior to a planned trip (or really even an unplanned trip) to Disney World? Well, I’ve done it. At least three times. So, hopefully, my mistakes and lessons can be of benefit.

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Yummy newborn snuggles

My husband and I started going to Disney World regularly before children entered our lives. So, with three little people five and under, we’ve managed to make the trip with newborns of varied ages and with their siblings of varied ages in tow as well. Some of these trips have been successful. And, truth be told, some have not (there really is nothing like trying to bathe your tiny little in a small sink in a public bathroom, knowing full well that everyone eyes you with a mix of pity and disgust). But with each of our mistakes, we’ve learned a bit about how to survive the visually and physically overwhelming and exhausting landscape of Disney without completely losing our minds (at least I’m pretty sure I never did, but I don’t suggest you ask my husband whether or not I did…I feel his response may be slightly different and that’s probably not encouraging). Here’s a bit of what there is to know.

  1. Take Advantage of What is Offered: Disney doesn’t try to hide that they’re geared towards families, especially those with small children, so of course they have facilities that are designed to make life better. Each park has a Baby Center. They have quiet, darkened nursing rooms (Epcot and Magic Kingdom are shared spaces while Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios have private areas for each mother), large changing tables, microwaves, rooms to play and relax (for those wiggly little toddlers), and an assortment of baby items to buy (diapers, medicine, clothing, food, formula, pacifiers, sunscreen, among others). They have it covered. And the bonus? It’s air conditioned, so obviously this momma here needed to go to the Baby Center every two hours or so during that late May vacation in Florida. Thankfully it was free; otherwise, I’d still be working off that debt.

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    On the way to the Baby Center at Epcot, located behind Mexico next to First Aid.
  2. Use the Rides to Your Advantage: I’m going to be frank. Some rides are a once in a lifetime experience. Once is enough. For me, that ride is “It’s A Small World.” Unfortunately, my daughter didn’t get that memo. So we rode it. Again. And again. And, well, you know how it goes. The thing about It’s A Small World is that it’s a long ride. And it always stops, and the boat sits in that white room brimming with singing children for chorus upon chorus upon chorus upon chorus. Knowing I had countless minutes (at least 30) sitting on this comfy (relatively) boat, I decided to do what any mother does: I nursed my newborn. No one was looking at me. They were interested in the animatronic little dancing kids. So, while I wasn’t thrilled to be on the ride, I was able to make the best of it. I got to feed my tiny without having to make the rest of my entourage stop their Disney exploration. And this little trick shouldn’t be restricted to It’s A Small World. I go big. I mean, if it’s my fifth time seeing Frozen’s Sing Along Show, do I really need to pay attention? No way. I can feed my baby (and if I’m lucky catch up on a little sleep myself). Those shows are a great place to sit and tend to a newborn. They’re Disney’s gift to mothers of newborns, really.

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    Magic Kingdom’s People Mover is a great ride to take a break with your newborn. Here he rides in a carrier under a muslin blanket, napping the ride away.
  3. Bring Your Car Seat: It’s not often that I’m an advocate of the car seat and the car seat stroller. I find it restrictive, and for some reason I believe my newborn is hot and itchy all moments that he/she is in it. But at Disney? Bring it and use the snap and go stroller with it. Disney doesn’t really appreciate strollers in a restaurant, and many restaurants simply can’t accommodate them. Since tiny newborns can’t sit up in high chairs, they need somewhere to go. That somewhere is the car seat. With baby two we decided to fly down without the car seat. Not our best decision. I ended up trying to lay the poor tiny guy on chairs pushed together everywhere we went, if he wasn’t sitting in my lap (he’s always been a bit of trouble maker, so he was not one of those little people that could sit happily on my lap while I ate). Tiny baby three? We weren’t taking chances. Car seat all the way. And I couldn’t have been happier. The tiniest of my people was comfy and relaxed at meals. And (and this is incredibly important), I did not have to wake the tiny guy up from a nap to take him into or out of a restaurant or a car. Those naps were full and deep. Just the way a tired momma likes them.

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    Doesn’t that car seat look like it can get hot and itchy? But it’s a lifesaver.
  4. Walk as Much as Possible: When we don’t have our car with us, we try to stay at hotels that provide us with as much of an opportunity to walk as possible. While the Disney buses are fine and easy enough, they do require all strollers to be broken down. It’s just one extra step of madness. (Add to that a toddler or two, their accouterments, another double stroller, and the toddler’s general rule-following demeanor and the madness only increases ten fold…at least).

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    Walk whenever possible. This means a lot of trips on the monorails with a newborn.
  5. Bring a Carrier: The carrier’s value is limitless. Even with a cars eat a carrier is mandatory. I mean, I certainly can’t drag said car seat into a twenty minute “Peter Pan’s Flight” line with me. But, I can easily drop that tiny nugget into a carrier and go about my way (hopefully with a lovely cocktail in my hand (just kidding…seriously, Magic Kingdom really needs to get on that though)). The carrier is essential when going on rides that are newborn appropriate. That tiny person doesn’t want to be in and out and in and out of that cars eat (hot and itchy remember?), so I keep them close and let them hang out. Oh, and I haven’t forgotten that it is also every mother’s secret weapon for when she wants her child to sleep. Another reason to have it all times.

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    Meeting Elsa with a newborn in tow (sleeping in the carrier and covered with a muslin blanket).
  6. Prepare for the Elements: The rules are as follows: if there is no rain covering, it will rain. If there is no fan, it will be hotter than the seventh ring of hell. Bring both. Rain covers for strollers are highly important. Florida is required by law to have one random burst of rain every day. Be prepared. The stroller cover will keep the little person happy and dry. And if that tiny isn’t in the stroller, it will keep the stroller dry. No newborn (or anyone really) wants to then be sat in a sopping wet, foam filled, seat. And even though they are less than fashionable, ponchos are necessary. It is impossible to steer a stroller through crowds while holding an umbrella (scientifically proven fact). On the flip side, prior to that rain and immediately after, Florida is required to have insanely hot, sticky weather. Car seats have all that soft cushy padding surrounding a tiny person. It’s polyester. It’s everywhere. And they can’t move themselves because…well…no muscles. Bring a fan. And extra batteries. And a tiny screwdriver. My new born has never said it, but I’m pretty sure those sweet little eyes are filled with tears of thanks. And speaking of heat, we always bring a muslin blanket for the little people (all of them, toddler and big kid included). They’re thin and keep the sun off of their skin. Sunburnt little people are grumpy little people, and I don’t think that’s allowed in Disney World (except around 2-3 pm when pretty much all children under 7 begin to melt). Tip: We bring binder clips to clip the blanket stratigically to the stroller.

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    We were at Disney during Hurricane Matthew. Rain gear is a must.
  7. Relax: One of the most important things I’ve found as a mother of a newborn at Disney is that I am not alone. I’ve never walked through the crowds feeling like I was the only one dealing with the difficult, albeit lovely, job of hanging out with a newborn in Disney World. Women and men are all over the parks with them. And there are glances that say, “I get it.” When I sit outside a ride with my tiny person as my husband takes the other two on it, I am surrounded by others doing the same. Waiting. With tiny people companions. It is reassuring to know that I am not crazy in this endeavor. There is a tribe, and I am a part of it. If I can do it, someone else can do it. And when I hit a low, I see another parent with a newborn and am reminded, that yes, we can do this.

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    The tiniest little and me waiting for the others to finish a ride. Not so newborn anymore…we did it!

Disney with a newborn isn’t always a walk in the park (…see what I did there?). But, with a little planning and a little flexibility, it can be pretty darn close.

I’d love to hear how you make Disney doable for you and your newborn. Leave a comment below.

And if you’d like some more ideas on how to survive Disney World with or without a newborn, check out “How to Turn a Trip to Walt Disney World into a Vacation“.

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Hotel Review–Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas, Lake Buena Vista, FL–Child Centered

Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas is my diamond in the rough. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t falling apart on the outside and it certainly isn’t in a questionable location. In fact, it may be one of my favorite hotels to stay at when we visit Disney World. The reason it’s a diamond in the rough is because it blends so seamlessly into the backdrop of a busy Atlantic shore boardwalk, but it offers so much tranquility at the same time. While well orchestrated chaos surrounds, I can slip off into a bench and watch it swim by, content in the knowledge that my little people are fully partaking in that chaos and I don’t need to do a thing to stop it.

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Map of the hotel and amenities

We are members of Disney Vacation Club, with our home hotel as Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, yet more often than not, we try to book our rooms at The Boardwalk. Why? As a frequent visitor to Disney World, there are two aspects to this hotel that keeps this family coming back to it again and again.

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The walkway between the hotel and Hollywood Studios winds around the lake. The parks can also be accessed by riding on the boat pictured.

First of all, we love the location. As a walking family, we appreciate that we can stroll easily to Epcot and easily to Hollywood Studios from the hotel (there are buses and boats as well, but nothing beats a nice walk). This is even more important since we have to bring strollers (there’s nothing worse than trying to grab all of our junk out of our two strollers, fold them (while keeping the little people from running into the road), throw them over my husband’s shoulder and get the three little people onboard a rapidly filling bus in a 30 second time period, especially when I’m not trying to look too crazy). Also, it’s not so bad getting to Magic Kingdom either, especially now that Disney offers the Express Transportation Option, which means we get to skip the security and entrance lines at MK because we’ve gone through them at Epcot. And what’s also great is that when we get to Epcot, we use the back entrance found quietly placed between France and England in the World Showcase where there is little to no line. This lack of line is of significant benefit when we are there for Food and Wine or the International Flower and Garden Festival. We can get in and out of the park quickly and easily. It also makes it quite simple to just slip over to Epcot for dinner after a day at another park.

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The easily accessed and usually empty back entrance to Epcot.

The second reason that the Boardwalk is on my list of go to Disney resorts is the amenities of the property. To be honest, Disney, in general, does a great job of making sure each resort has enough to do that we’d never have to leave the property, but the way in which these amenities are presented at the Boardwalk are what make it a standout property. As a mother of three littles five and under, I’ve figured out that taking breaks and not pushing too hard are essential to having an enjoyable vacation (for more momma survival tips, see my post “How to Turn a Trip to Walt Disney World into a Vacation”). This was easy when all my little people took naps, but that’s simply (and unfortunately) not the case anymore. So, what to do with a five year old (and occasionally a two year old) who don’t want to nap while the tiniest little gets a real nap in a real bed in a real room (albeit a hotel room)? At the Boardwalk, one of the grown ups takes the non-nappers out to explore the actual boardwalk area. Instead of just roaming the hotel (which they’d actually be more than happy to do as they fancy themselves hotel connoisseurs) they get to feel like they’re going somewhere special. They eat ice cream, get drinks, sit and watch the water, and take millions of photo booth pictures (and the hubs grabs me a lovely little adult beverage and brings it back to the room for me…it really is true love (hello AbracadaBar, I’m looking at you)). In the evening, we can come back to the hotel before dinner and still “go” somewhere for dinner when we eat on the boardwalk. It’s different than eating at a restaurant in the hotel. It feels special and new to the little people. It’s an experience. And the evenings on the boardwalk? They’re filled with caricature portraitists, magicians, face painters, and a slew of other entertainment that helps make it feel like we’re not at just a hotel’s amenities, but at an entirely different place.

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The courtyard outside of the entrance to the hotel off of the boardwalk. This is a great space to let little people run around and play a game of tag. Some evenings this turns into a theater with a large screen and blankets to sit on.

There are so many options to choose from when visiting Disney World, but my family and I keep coming back to Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas. Our days are easier without running to catch buses in enough time to break down strollers. We love having Epcot and Hollywood as options just to swing by to grab a bite to eat. It is the perfect combination of enough to do to entertain little people, but not so much that it is overwhelming and invites meltdowns. It’s a place to sit and watch the world go by without feeling like I’m missing out on that world.

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Patiently waiting for ice cream from Ample Hills, an amazing ice cream parlor that has its home base in Brooklyn (blocks from where the biggest little spent her first years…it always feels a bit like coming home.)

A few other fabulous and not so fabulous aspects of the hotel are listed below.

Pros Cons
The rooms are recently renovated (within past year) The choice of floor is difficult to keep clean (grained wood=little people grime sticks in textured grains)
Variety of room types available (with a variety of amenities such as kitchens, clothes washers, and dryers and high chairs, if requested) Rooms are relatively small (Villas) with no substantial table area (big enough for two only), and limited space for extra cribs/beds in bedrooms (only one would fit)
In the 1 bedroom Villa, the bathroom is split into two sections: shower, sink, toilet in section off of main living area and garden, jetted tub and sink off of bedroom (so toilet can be accessed without waking sleeping little people in bedroom) There are just shutters separating tub from bedroom (rather than a solid wall), so it is impossible to get a bath while little people sleep in bedroom.
The rooms have balconies The boardwalk side rooms can be loud if overlooking a busy section of the boardwalk as well as during the Epcot fireworks show
As a DVC member it is easy to access pool at Yacht/Beach Club The main pool is small overall (though it does have a slide). And the secondary pool is also small
Magic bands provided No on site character dining
Access to Magic Hours No on site Children’s Activity Center
Ample Hill ice cream (we lived blocks from the original in Brooklyn and it is un.be.liev.able.) Bathtubs (Villas) are large garden tubs, not ideal for bathing tiny little people
Outdoor play area
Outdoor grill
Kid activities (outdoor movie nights, smores, bike rental, etc)
Life vests for pool
Easy walk to Epcot and Hollywood Studios
Transportation to the parks (bus, boat, and walk)
Fireworks visible from both Epcot and Hollywood Studios (from room depending on room, but always somewhere outdoors)
Background of Epcot fireworks plays at the Boardwalk so you can experience the entire event from afar (yay for scared littles like mine)
Magical Express Service to and from airport
Resort Airline Check in (no need to drag bags to the airport or deal with lines at the airport)
A variety of eating and drinking options (from formal fish dinners to fried mac and cheese bites from a truck and onto a great drink at the AbracadaBar)
Childcare Services available for children 6 months to 12 years (prices found online)
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The delightful AbracadaBar right outside of the courtyard at the entrance into the hotel from the boardwalk.

What’s important to note is that we are Disney Vacation Club members, so we stay in DVC rooms, which provide us with kitchens and clothes washers as standard (in a 1 (+) bedroom villa). If these amenities are desired, they need to be requested. Additionally, if view is important, then it needs to be taken into account when booking the room. Some rooms overlook the boardwalk, some overlook a pool, while other rooms may just overlook the entrance or the parking lot. It is important to be clear when booking the room as there are a variety of room configurations and amenities available. Be aware of what you are booking when you book. That being said, regardless of the type of room you book, the location of the hotel and its “Coney Island”-like theme create the perfect balance of excitement and tranquility.

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Some Boardwalk photobooth fun (well, most of us had fun…).

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.

 

5 Things I Learned on My Most Recent Trip to Disney World

Honestly, there is just something about going to Disney World. Whether it’s the first time, the fourth time, or the fortieth time, each experience is new. Rainy days, park additions, growing little people, time of year, crowd size, my own patience level (there are only so many times I can ask my husband to slow down or my son to sit in the stroller): each aspect of every trip helps shape and mold the experience. This is why we go back. My family and I go at least three times a year. And it’s not just for the littles. In fact, my husband and I are going to swing by for a weekend at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival this year little person free (yes, we will be accompanied by a bucketload of parent guilt, but it’s a small price to pay to saunter through a park, a beer steadily in one hand, rather than spilling it all over as I try to push a stroller with the other).

True to form, on our most recent trip to Disney World, there seemed to be so many changes and additions since our last visit two months prior. Granted, I live in a world of three little people under five, so I often don’t get to actually look at the world surrounding me. And when I do, I’m usually so mom-brained that I’m pretty much just sleeping with my eyes open. So these “revelations” of mine are a combination of those things that are new to the park and those things that I just discovered myself, even after all these years and all these trips.

  1. There are stand alone carts throughout Hollywood Studios that only serve alcohol. These popup carts have typically been in place in the park only during specific festivals or events like the Christmas lights. But because of the popularity of these offerings, the alcohol carts will now be permanent fixtures (and now all of the sudden Hollywood Studios has become the most popular of the four parks). Also, there is an absolutely amazing grapefruit beer. Amazing. To sip in the hot sun. Just. Amazing. IMG_9907.JPG
  2. The best time to do anything is the time of changeover. Let me explain. We are not morning people. We simply cannot get ourselves together and get out of our hotel room before 9:30 am. And if we try to, at least one of us will collapse into tears (I include myself in this.) Knowing this, we booked our breakfast at Hollywood Studio’s Hollywood and Vine for 10:30. My daughter and I like breakfast. My husband likes lunch. (My three year old eats nothing and my one year old eats anything so they’re out of this competition.) Within minutes of being there, half of the buffet was rolled over to lunch from breakfast. And with that blissful changeover, we were all dinner winners that morning. We had breakfast; we had lunch. But the beauty of the Disney World changeover goes beyond just meals. Usually we hit up Epcot in the Spring for the Flower and Garden Festival, but because we now have a Kindergartener (gasp!) and we refuse to go the week of Spring break (did it once…big mistake…huge) we were forced to miss it. We ended up going the last weekend of the new Epcot International Festival of the Arts (more on that later). And as soon as this passed, the flowers and topiaries started to pop up. So yea, I got a little taste of the Arts and a little taste of the Flower and Garden. Double win. And with that, I have learned never to underestimate the value of the changeover; in fact, look for it.IMG_0133.JPG
  3. Don’t worry if it rains. Go to Animal Kingdom and get on a Kilimanjaro Safari ride. When it rains, the animals are actually more active. We were able to see more animals in this single trip than we have on all our other trips combined (ok, a bit of an exaggeration, but honestly I had never been able to see a warthog before, so there’s that). There were elephants bathing, baby elephants rolling in mud, giraffe babies nursing. The animals were all over. And it was amazing.
  4. There are now Passholder Entrances at all park entrances. For the annual passholder, this is such a convenience. Perhaps this is more of a convenience for the passholder who can’t seem to get out of the hotel room at a reasonable time (just saying, not saying). And, according to three castmembers I asked, they have been trained to turn away any person in line who is not a passholder, which means even people who are friends of passholders. I didn’t ask, but I’m certainly hopeful, that if I didn’t renew my five year old’s annual pass, she’d still be allowed to get in the passholder line with me. IMG_9955.JPG
  5. Along the same line, the Disney Vacation Club has opened a new lounge in Epcot for members. This lounge can be accessed by going into the shop that is at the end of “Journey into Imagination with Figment.” They have soda machines, video games, TVs, computers, and pillows perfectly suited for little people to jump on and crawl on. It creates the perfect little spot for little people to team up and make some momentary friendships. And for parents to drink some caffeine and stare at one another.
  6. Right outside of the vacation club, which is located in the lost corner of Epcot near “Imagination!,” high above Figment, near the entrance to the new “Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival” are two important, yet hidden, spaces. The first is giant water area for littles (and probably a bigger person or two) to play in. It’s filled with water spouts that shoot water into the air in giant arcs. It’s a great place to get away from the crowd, cool down, and let the little people blow off some steam. Right next to this is a Visa character photo spot. Any Disney Visa holder will be allowed into the room to meet a secret, special character. It can be anyone (and, no, I won’t give away who it is so don’t ask).FullSizeRender-3.jpg
  7. Some of the fountains found throughout the parks have been changed from fountains with water to fountains with flowers. We first noticed this in the small fountain that’s typically outside of the First Aid and Baby Care Center in Magic Kingdom. We didn’t think much of it and moved on. The next day, while at Hollywood Studios, we found that the Muppet fountain had also been turned off and filled with greenery. After asking a cast member, I was told that the construction going on in the park made the water a bit, well, less than perfect looking. So, the decision was made to temporarily drain the fountain and fill it with the greenery. (This still doesn’t answer why the fountain in Magic Kingdom was filled with potted plants given there was no construction, but, sometimes I just have to accept what I’ve been told and move on.)IMG_0241.JPG
  8. Jasmine has a high-necked, long-sleeved, full length shirt now! It used to be that when eating at Cinderella’s castle, Jasmine came to greet the guests in the outfit she wears in the movie. Her shoulders are exposed and her midsection is exposed. Apparently, after a number of complaints about her outfit, Disney was compelled to change her outfit into the sad, shiny sack that it now is.

To some people it may seem crazy to keep going back to places again and again and again. It’s been done and has nothing left to give. But that’s simply not the case when traveling with littles. The little people are growing and changing every day. And whether we like it or not, nothing ever stays the same, even in a place as classic as Disney World.

Three Kids and a Car Get Liebster Award

liebsterA big thanks to Ali from What Ali Sees for nominating me for the Liebster Award. Her website, What Ali Sees, is a great resource for parents who are traveling with their children (or those just trying to get the nerve to). She provides tips for traveling with children as well as some amazing reviews of places to take your little people to. My favorite pieces of Ali’s to read are those that inspire and encourage parents to travel like her recent post “9 Persuasive Reasons to Travel When Your Kids Are Young” and “Tips for Raising Kids Who Love to Travel”. She has a knack for making the difficult task of traveling with children seem entirely doable. Her site is a great place for inspiration, both to get yourself motivated to plan to plan and to do the hard work of actually making a plan. You can also connect with her on FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

What is the Liebster Award?

The Liebster Award was started back in 2011 as an online-only award given to bloggers by bloggers. “Liebster” in German means “dearest.” Not only is this such a kind sentiment, it’s also my husband’s last name (well, Lieber), so I feel especially excited to receive this award. The award is a way for newer blogs to be discovered and also to connect with and support the blogging community. It works a bit like a chain letter, but the result is you get wonderfully connected to other bloggers who are fighting the good fight with you.

Liebster Award Rules

  1. If you decide to accept the nomination, thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to their blog onto your blog post.
  2. Display the Liebster Award photo on your blog post and/or display it using a “widget” or a “gadget” on your home page.
  3. Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  4. Nominate 5-11 bloggers/blogs who you think deserve the Liebster Award
  5. Create 11 questions of your own for the nominees to answer on their blogs.
  6. Notify your nominees and provide a link to your post so that they will know what to do.
  7. List these rules in your blog post.

Alright, now on to the questions. And then, on to the new nominees!!!

The Questions (and Answers)

  1. What made you choose the name of your blog website? My husband made me do it. I think he’s full left brain, but for some reason, when it comes to titles, he is the most intense right brain I’ve ever met. It’s pure brilliance. In fact, it may be the reason we’re still managing this crazy life: good titles are important so I keep him around!
  2. Why did you become a travel blogger? I, by no means, consider myself an expert. In fact, I think it’s basically impossible to be an expert to be at something that’s so fluid. There are no little people who travel the same way or respond the same way to new situations. But it does take a certain ability to abandon the rigidity of every day life. We’ve done that. And we’ve found a lot of people are scared to, so we just want to inspire people to not be afraid. Whether it’s a four hour road trip or a twenty-two hour flight, it can be done. And it is worth it.
  3. Who inspires you most? And why? At first I would say my inspiration to travel came from the places I traveled and the people I met there. Everything and every one was new and overwhelmingly welcoming. I remember spending one night in the streets of Dubrovnik drinking and learning the language with some locals we met that evening. I can remember the way the air felt, the smells of the streets, dusk in the tiny alley-like streets. The laugh of the people we were sitting with: they were so delightful and proud of their country. Things have changed since then though. Now it’s so much more than just the countries and their peoples.
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    My inspiration
    Now I have littles at home to inspire me too. My daughter brings me ideas every day. She wants Singapore, a cave, a new hotel, a tour of castles that real princesses lived in. This wanderlust she has is now has added to my inspiration. She wants the world. And as much as I’m capable, I want her to have it. Everything is new and beautiful to her, and in a world that can get jaded, that is a comfort and hope I don’t expect to get elsewhere.
  4. What is your first travel memory? The first memory I have of traveling is being with my father. He was always different when we traveled–more excited, more talkative. Traveling brought a vibrancy to him that was contagious. My travel memories don’t start with the place we were but with the man my father was.
  5. What’s your biggest travel regret? The biggest travel regret I have occurred when my husband and I took our four year old and 1.5 year old to Japan while I was five months pregnant. We had been meaning to get to Japan for years, and we finally found the opportunity to. We weren’t worried about traveling there with little people as we’d heard that it was an amazingly easy place to travel with littles. But for some reason, that didn’t work for us. While there and since we’ve been back, we’ve been able to reflect on what went wrong for us, and I think it comes down to a few different things. First, we didn’t do enough research. We narrowed it down to where we’d like to spend our days, but not how we’d like to spend them. We had a general idea of where we wanted to wander, but not specifics on what we wanted to do or see in those areas. As a result, we were a bit lost when it came down to it (largely because of a little thing called monsoon season). Next, the weather conspired against us. We were prepared for heat, but we were not prepared for days upon days of torrential rain. This made our plan of wandering through areas nearly impossible.
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    A break in the rain on our roadtrip to Mt. Fuji.
    Our littles were crammed inside of their strollers with foggy rain covers over them, unable to see anything. They were restless, and we were struggling to keep them happy. The next place we went wrong? We went against one of the fundamental aspects of traveling that we’ve determined works for us: we went to an international city. Coming from New York City, traveling to other international cities can be less than exciting. They are interesting for about two days, but then we need to get away from these cities to go to smaller areas. In this trip we stayed in Tokyo for too long, and it was our first stop. The slump we hit because of that was hard to pull out of. Finally, the food was good, but being pregnant with a husband allergic to shellfish, our options for authentic Japanese food were limited. So we found ourselves eating Indian food, Italian food. All great places, but places we could find in NYC. This was a real issue for my husband who is a huge foodie. And when we asked for recommendations we were told, oddly more than once, to try the Denny’s because it was great food and the kids would love it. Now, I’m all for checking out an American chain restaurant to see what changes in the menu exist, but still…Denny’s? Like Moons Over My Hammy Denny’s? To sum it all up, I wouldn’t say the trip to Japan was a regret. I would say going when we had such young children confined to strollers was. The timing was off for us, and we struggled to find the Japan we had heard about.
  6. What would you include in a two-day itinerary for someone visiting your hometown? I live about an hour outside of NYC, which means I should say that my two-day itinerary would be centered around taking the train into the city every day, but that seems too easy. I live in an area north of the city made of small hamlets and towns, each of them history-filled and quaint. I’m lucky in that I get the culture of the city permeating the town, but I also get the calm quietness of a small village. I’d first suggest a day going from town to town, avoiding the bigger cities of the area. The small family-owned businesses are always friendly and the collection of local goods is always interesting. The food is delicious no matter where you go, making finding a perfect lunch spot easy. Oh, and dinner. There are definitely some amazing restaurants, many of which pull their ingredients fresh from the local farms. Depending on the time of year, the next day I’d suggest going to one of the local festivals, whether it’s a food and wine festival, a nature festival, harvest festival, music festival, or heritage festival. The area is loaded with great events and places to spend the day. My favorite time of year to get out is the fall. Apple orchards and pumpkin patches surround us, so getting out and picking apples and pumpkins is one of our favorite activities. If there are no festivals going on, then my go to suggestion is hiking. Wedged between the Atlantic Ocean and the Hudson River, my hometown has trails throughout this beautiful wooded area.
  7. What place did you experience your biggest culture shock? When I was in Vietnam, my husband and I did a trip to Halong Bay. We stayed on a junk for two days and then Cat Ba Island for two days. It was an amazing trip (despite the sunburn you’ll read about later).
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    Taking a beach break while kayaking on Halong Bay, Vietnam
    We were with a small group of six people (including ourselves) from all over the world, so it was nice to kayak through the waters, meet new people, and eat new food. This part, though, was not the culture shock. What was the culture shock occurred on the boat back from Cat Ba island to the mainland. Instead of taking a junk back, we were taking a faster speed boat. Unfortunately, the waters were choppy and the boat couldn’t get to the island, so we had to take the regular public transportation boat. No big deal we figured, but our guide kept apologizing to us. And we really didn’t understand why. The boat pulled up, and within minutes it was packed. We were put in the windowless belly of the boat, the only actual place to put people. Because the water was so rough, all the doors were shut tight and it got hot…sweat dripped from my shins. And then it started. And the reason for the apology became a bit more evident. Every person on the boat (literally all except our four other travel companions and ourselves) started getting sick. Literally, every single person was violently ill; even our guide was sick. And it was loud. The oddest part was, other than the moans and wretches, no one reacted. It appeared to be quite normal and expected. It was nothing more than the consequence of going to a resort on this beautiful island.
  8. What is the tastiest food you have tried on your travels? Greece by far had the tastiest food I have ever had. I’d like to zero in on a specific city, area, or island, but I there is just no way to do it.
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    View from hotel room in Santorini, Greece
    I don’t think I ever had or ever will again find such pure ingredients. I’m not much of a tomato-lover, but in Greece the tomatoes were unlike anything and the freshness just oozed out of them. They were bright red and firm but soft at the same time. And the gemista, Greek stuffed peppers, still make fairly regular appearances in my dreams. I could go on and on, but it’s really just distracting me from the task at hand…(stares wistfully out of window…)
  9. What has been your worst travel “mishap”? The biggest travel mishap I’ve had occurred when my husband and I went to Cambodia and Vietnam. I took a cheaper version of anti-malaria medicine than my husband. It was known to make you more susceptible to sunburn. But I wear sunscreen, a lot of it, so I wasn’t worried. (You can already see where this is going, right?) At first, in Cambodia, I thought my skin was reacting badly to the water. It hurt when I swam or showered, but it wasn’t something that impacted my day to day activities. Unfortunately, after a day kayaking around Halong Bay in Vietnam, my sunburn had gotten so bad, even my fingernails had blisters under them. As a result of this, I stood out a bit when we returned back to Hanoi. I walked through the old town there with ice piled on my arms and was given reed fans by the Vietnamese women who were filled with pity. We had no shared language, but their kindness was clear. Even when visiting Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum I was told by the guards to take my bags with me (they had extra bags of ice in them) after I sat them down and they saw the condition of my skin (you’re required to leave all bags behind when in the mausoleum). While I regret going the cheap route, it did allow me to see a soft side of Vietnam I don’t know if I would have had the opportunity to see otherwise.
  10. Which place would you most like to go back to? For quite obvious reasons stated above, I think I’d be most likely to return to Japan. When my little people allow me a bit more freedom from being their source of entertainment and they can appreciate the world around them a bit more (really I just need to go when they can see it without the fog of a rain cover) I’d like to take them back to Japan so we can give it a fair shake. We need the gardens, the philosopher’s path. We need Mt. Fuji (we were there, at the highest point a car can get, but we had no idea as we couldn’t see it through the dense fog).
  11. Where are you traveling to next? The next trip is back to Walt Disney World. But the next new place to visit rather than return visit is to the Dominican Republic. But stay tuned, we’ve got a lot more planned.

My Liebester Award Nominees

I look forward to hearing all of your responses and to seeing all the great pieces your publish on your sites!

The Adventures of Daisy the Bus

Art.Travel.Eat.Repeat.

 

Twelevefeet Challenge

Imps and Ramblers

My Questions to My Liebster Award Nominees

When you travel, where do you prefer: beach, mountains, city, other?

What travel destination/experience exceeded your expectations?

What travel destination/experience failed to meet your expectations?

How do you plan your next destination(s)?

What inspired you to blog in the first place?

What’s the greatest tip you could give someone regarding traveling?

Somewhere you’ve always wanted to go?

Worst part of traveling?

What famous person would you travel with and why?

What is one thing you would never travel without?

Narrate your most meaningful travel moment/adventure.

 

Why It’s Important to Travel Without Little People in Order to Travel with Them

I rarely manage to travel to the grocery store without bringing my little people with me, let alone anywhere of any significance. (I will admit though, those moments when I’m by myself that feeling of accomplishment is almost like the feeling of accomplishment I have when I get through an entire cup of coffee before having to reheat it in the microwave.) Those brief moments where I slide out the front door and into my minivan to take 60 minutes to myself (grocery shopping, as I said before, it’s just to go grocery shopping) usually come at the end of a full two days of planning. So, the thought of having to plan an entire vacation, perhaps a night or four, away from my children is mind boggling. And certainly if that requires a plane ride that culminates in spending a few days relaxing with my husband and perhaps a friend or two, the effort it seems is required to see these thoughts come to fruition is feels like trying to understand NYC’s preschool registration requirements. (You know the ones I mean, where you have to have your child put on the waiting list while still in utero? Yeah, those.)

But. Here’s the thing. It isn’t hard. Like, at all. We do it. And we love it. And our children are better at wandering this world because of it. Why?

Recharge

I think it’s probably pointing out the obvious when I say that moments spent being a bit checked out as a parent have the ability to fill a cup that’s less than overflowing. Being a parent is hard. Running a household is hard. Put the two together and Bam! Welcome to a world of (rewarding) exhaustion. And I don’t mean it’s draining because we travel; in fact, those are the moments that are perhaps the least draining (there’s no house to constantly upkeep or dry cleaning to pick up or drop off or mountains of laundry to sift through). But the recharge that comes from traveling alone is different than the late night hours after the little people fall into their blissful slumbers. The last road trip we took had us driving seven hours a day for three days at both the beginning and ending of the trip that moved us out of the cold winter and into the warmth of Florida for five days in between. Somewhere along the way to that sun (probably day two of the drive) I caught my oldest little’s cold. Because of my own health issues, I don’t recover as quickly, and five days later I had pneumonia. Even with meds, it got worse on the drive back into winter and home, and I had to be seen again and have my medicines changed up. We had help come in to take care of the middle little and the tiny, but that doesn’t mean I was off the hook. IMG_9596.JPGThere are still obligations, and those little obligations sometimes mean recovery is slow. But the light at the end of the tunnel? Wine. Within two weeks we were on a four day trip to Napa Valley without any little people. I attribute all of my recovery to sitting in the California sun, sipping wine, and watching vines grow. My movement was minimal, my focus limited to myself or others whose lives didn’t depend upon my watchful eye. My cup filled (albeit with Cab Sav, but we don’t judge here). I came home ready to take the next trip (a combo road trip/plane trip) that I had previously started to make plans to push back (I mean I had basically canceled the trip on the flight out to California). Getting out of the house and out of familiar space without my little people allowed me to gain a sense of my physical health back and my ability to keep moving forward to share my world with my littles. (And truth be told, when I feel better, I am a better mother and a better traveler, a win for my little people all around.)

Refocus

There are periods in our traveling life where my husband and I have fallen into the trap of doing the same thing and going the same place again and again and again. (Yep, we visit Disney World three times a year. Guilty. And yep. We’re going to the same beach we went to last summer. Guilty again. And we’ll be staying at the same hotel we’ve always stayed at on our minitrip to Vermont. Guilty guilty guilty.) There is a particular ease in visiting places we’ve already beenIMG_9597.JPG or doing the same basic types of trips we’ve always done. The planning is minimal and life is predictable. Doesn’t that sound appealing? Well, the truth is, sometimes it’s just what we need and just what our littles need. But other times, it is certainly not what we crave. When we travel without our little people my husband and I always get a glimpse of a world bigger than that which we planned or we predicted. We can more easily go to places we’ve never gone. We can talk longer with locals. There is a hint of understanding of how small we are or how privileged we are or how little we understand of this infinitely large, yet wondrously small, world. And this renewed vigor for discovering this paradoxical place calls us to break out of those habits of choosing the easy way when we travel with our little people. It drives us to show the littles the world and their ever-changing place within it. It reminds us we are not just in this to create vacationers; we’re doing it to create explorers.

Remind

Because I am a stay at home mom, my life, whether traveling or spending time at our home, is surrounded by little people and little people accessories. Some times, often times, we fall into habits. In a rush we opt for a restaurant that doesn’t push our little people’s boundaries because we just want them to eat. So we don’t have to work through exhausted breakdowns, we get the littles into their beds on time rather than going to that one last beautiful fountain. Getting the little people in and out of the car is a whole process, so we zoom past the scenic route and opt for the highway. We get mechanical, robotic. And robots don’t explore. Or think. Or wander. Getting away without my little people pulls me from routine. There’s no dinnertime. No naptime. No bedtime. And I like it. And I remember how great it is to stay up later than I want or push myself up that last hill for one final hint of the IMG_6544.JPGsun setting over the ocean. Little people need routine, but they also need to know that feeling of catching lightening bugs late into the evening or skipping a nap to view the world from the top of a mountain. Each time I travel by myself, I am reminded of this. And each time I bring this forgotten knowledge back to them, and we slowly change together. And on our next trip, we will walk down that smaller path to the river or pull the car over to walk out to the middle of that old wooden train bridge (on the walkway only of course…I’m not crazy crazy, just three little people crazy).

Reconnect

“Mommy loves to read. She reads all the time!…Or she did. A while ago. But I promise you, my sweet little pea, I really do love books.” I find myself saying things like this to my little people quite a bit. I am convincing them, and half convincing myself, that Mommy really does like to do things. She has interests, convictions, a life.

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View from the porch of a Napa Valley grape grower. (Not pictured: wine in hand.)

I’d like to imagine that when my little people are big people and traveling on their own they’d see some amazing meadow of wildflowers, an invigorating street mural, and think of me. At this point, I am a little worried that the only thing that will make me pop into their minds is an innovative vacuum. (Let me be frank here. This does not disappointment as much as I’m letting on. I have gotten a new vacuum for the holidays for the past three years. And this year? Oh, this year, I got three. You see, I’m on the hunt for the holy grail of vacuums. You know the one where you can vacuum once and your house stays clean for, at least, two days. This though, is another blog post for another blog…) The point I’m meaning to get to here is that I want my children to know the me that exists beyond my role as their mommy. I am first a mommy, but I am also so much more than that. And I want to present an authentic version of myself to them. But this wears away after time as I start to search out those travel experiences that are solely geared toward the interests of my littles…the easy experiences. The thing is, I want to enter their world, but I also want to invite them into mine. I like warming myself on a sun-filled porch sipping a glass of wine at an inappropriately early time while I watch the worIMG_6148.JPGld move about me. While I’m not giving my littles wine, I’d like them to know the value of sitting on a porch, the morning sun warming their legs as the world makes little changes all around them. Traveling without my little people makes me reconnect with those pieces of myself that I have put on the backburner in order to raise these three amazing little loves. As a result of this rediscovery of self, when we travel together, I help make their worlds a bit bigger by sharing passions they don’t often get to see. And it’s those shared experiences, those moments of seeing each other authentically, that make family travel not just about the travel, but about our family.

Reevaluate

Mommy brain is real. Very. Real. Or it’s a convenient excuse I use to avoid having to pay attention. I will never admit which one it is though. Needless to say, I forget things. (Or do I?) When I’m off exploring this world with no one but myself, I remember things. Most importantly, I remember what it’s like to push boundaries that I’d never dare to push when I have three little people to care for. I can go to restaurants that force me to eat food that I would never have thought I’d eat even two hours prior. I can step into situations I wouldn’t feel comfortable throwing myIMG_9600.JPG little people in. But, I have the ability now to assess these situations, these moments, with the eye of a mother but not the worry of a mother. I can determine if the place, the experience, is manageable for my littles, and I can plan accordingly for their future travel. When I was getting my MS in Education, one of the most helpful pieces of advice I was given was to always look ahead, anticipate any problems before they could occur, and replan accordingly. Traveling by myself affords me this luxury. I know how difficult it will be for my nonseafood eating little person to eat in a country where seafood is a staple. And I can plan for this. I can anticipate this bump. This is the privilege of traveling without my little people. I know what bridges are not ok to cross for my climbing-centric tiny person. I know what historic sites will be too much for my empathetic little. I’ve had time to look, to think, to judge. I anticipate. I adjust. I plan. I can gather information in a way that is greater than mere research. It’s a lived knowledge.  Without my littles I can evaluate and reevaluate to make our family travel road a bit less bumpy.

Let’s be honest. Traveling with kids is hard. It’s like throwing thirteen balls into the air and trying to juggle them when yIMG_9601.JPGou have just two hands and no thumbs. It’s this weird balance of two extremes: overplanning and being spontaneous. Somehow, though, we manage to make those two worlds coexist. Traveling without my little people is an important part of establishing that balance. I can watch so we can anticipate. I can remember so we can relax. It gives me a better me: a better mother, a better traveler, a better friend, a better wanderer, a better teacher, a better student, a better listener, and most importantly, a better guide to my littles as they travel their way through this endless world.

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.