Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Tips for Traveling with a Baby & Vacation Recap



So I'm warning you all now this will be a lengthy post but it was very highly requested by many of you throughout the week we were gone so I am going to kind of recap our vacation & include my tips and what worked for us during our first family vacation.

I'll be honest, the thought of traveling with a 10 month old on a 5 hour flight terrified me.  I am not a fan of flying.  Nothing about it is pleasant; the airport, security, the small space, the way your body feels, etc., the only positive is how fast it can get you somewhere.  So on top of my loathing flying all together, I had to add a 10 month old baby into the mix.  I will say that having 3 extra adults (my mom, step-dad, & brother) was an absolute blessing to us so my tips may not be best for someone traveling solo or even with both parents and a baby because 5 sets of adult hands really is tops, but probably doesn't happen all too often.

Obviously everyone's experiences will differ, this is what worked for us.  We had to travel 1.5 hours to the airport and we were traveling internationally so those added logistics also had to be taken into consideration as well.  Even if you live close to the airport, I'd highly suggest hiring a service to drive you or have a friend or family member do it.  We hired a shuttle because 5 adults and a baby = 5 large pieces of luggage, a stroller, a car seat, & a partridge in a pear tree worth of stuff.   No one we knew would be able to accommodate this for us and we didn't want to put anyone out so we opted to pay someone. 

Packing—
For packing we checked bags, yes it sometimes costs money to do it, but it's worth the convenience.  I was able to pack all of Georgia's stuff and my stuff into the same suitcase.  I brought her diaper bag and a purse for myself as well.  Joe checked one bag of his own as well.  I packed an entire package of diapers (32 count) and an entire package of wipes (Amazon wipes are still my favorite) in my suitcase and then about a dozen more diapers and another pack of wipes in her diaper bag.  I packed more outfits and suits than she probably needed but you know that babies sometimes go through multiple outfits in a day and I would rather have more than I needed than not enough.  I did one pair of sandals and one pair of tennis shoes for her.  For sleep I brought 2 short sleeved onesies and her sleep sack (dreamcacther print is on sale for $9.36). 

For the Airport—
We definitely took more than we needed.  We brought the stroller which we hardly used, we brought the car seat because we needed it in the van on the way to the airport and I wasn't sure how we would be shuttled to the resort from the hotel so that also came with us.  I ended up wearing Georgia in the carrier through the airport which worked out best and was easiest.  We have the Lillebaby 360 Complete in stone grey and we really love it.  Next time I will be asking our shuttle to the airport if they would mind keeping the car seat with them and bring it when they come to pick us up.  As far as the stroller, we used it a small handful of times at the resort but did not use it at the airport at all.  Once we got to Punta Cana I was able to continue to wear Georgia in the carrier on the shuttle which I was comfortable with & clearly there are no car seat laws there. 

I'm not sure if Georgia was the first baby to ever fly United or what but hands down, get your baby a boarding pass as soon as you check in.
  Even if 4 separate people tell you she doesn’t need one, once you get to the gate to board, you WILL need one.  Our experience at the airport was frustrating for many reasons and this was one of them.  They also printed "infant" on Joe's ticket rather than on mine (clearly I was the one wearing her so putting it on Joe's ticket made most logical sense) and in order for her to get through security one of the tickets needed to say "infant" on it.  Mine didn’t so they sent us back to the desk where we finally realized that it had been printed on Joe's ticket.  The saving grace for this whole debacle was that our travel agent somehow got us set up with TSA Precheck, basically meaning we were able to bypass the long lines of security and go through a shorter security where you don't have to take off your shoes and place everything in separate bins.  I have yet to figure out how we got this but I know going forward I will do whatever it takes to get that every time we travel.  It saved us so much time.    

For the Plane—
I reached out to one of my mommy groups on Facebook and almost everyone said snacks, snacks, and more snacks which was definitely part of my plan.  We brought Puffs (we like these Happy Baby Organic Superfood Puffs) & Cheerios in her bag & then she ate what we did like she usually does.  I ordered this Wonder Wheel suction cup toy, but it would not suction to the tray table on the plane, but it would stick to the floor in our room so she did end up playing with it but not on the plane as I had hoped.  For the first hour of the flight on the way there she was a squirmy little social butterfly.  Take off did not bother her at all.  I attempted to nurse her as we were taking off but I started & then the pilot informed us we were going to be delayed about 10 minutes on wheels up so it didn't work out.  Luckily it did not have any effect on her at all.  We kept her busy by stuffing crackers in her mouth and then she finally went down for about a 2 hour nap while Joe and I watched a movie.  For the last hour of the flight she sat pretty quietly with my parents looking out the window & snacking more. 

On the way back it was a different story.  She needed a nap bad and fought me hard on it so I passed her to grandpa who got her down.  She slept for an hour then when she woke up I nursed her.  Then she needed to be entertained.  We had an open seat next to us (thanks to another couple who said they knew what it was like to travel with kids & switched us seats) so I sat her in the seat and she proceeded to disassemble the diaper bag, every single thing in it was taken out (that's her new thing, putting things in, taking them out, repeat) so she was occupied with that for about 30 minutes.  We played the passing game between me, Joe, and my parents for a while until I finally got her down (after about a 15 minute fight) for another nap about 40 minutes before we landed. 

Overall I will say she did good.  Planes are boring, so to try to keep a 10 month old occupied for that time period in that small space is a challenge, she charmed pretty much everyone around her for lots of the time and did take some good naps.

Hotel/Resort arrangements—
So you may not know this but we bed share with Georgia and we have been for most of her life.  She started in a Dockatot, spent some time in a Halo bassinet, & then we finally moved her back into our bed a few months ago when she outgrew the Halo.  We did not need a crib but they were more than happy to provide us with one.  I would suggest getting one either way and using it as a play yard of sorts when mom and dad are both tied up getting ready or one parent is out of the room, etc.  So Georgia slept with us in bed as she normally does.  She slept in a onesie and sleep sack every night which worked perfect.  She slept pretty much through the night each night.


first time in the sand, & she did NOT like it

For baths I simply just stuck her in the tub when I would finish showering.  Between sweat and sand and saltwater, she needed a bath every night.  Our shower was nice because it had a wand that detached so I could spray her off easily, she HATED that thing but it worked fine.  I did not bring any of her toiletries except for her detangler (we use Monat, I'd be happy to tell you more about it because it is AMAZING), but I wish I would've because I like the Shea Moisture hair and body wash that I use for her at home which is a 2 in 1 so it's easy.

Clothes, suits, etc.—
I ended up buying a bunch of clearance outfits at Target for Georgia at the end of the summer and then a few more from the garage sale site that I use called Mercari so I didn't spend a ton of extra money on stuff she'd probably only wear one time.  I took 7 outfits with her, 1 pair of sandals which were too big, 1 pair of velcro tennis shoes she wore once, and a pair of fur lined shoes for traveling there which we ended up taking off.  Moral of that story is, if your child is not walking, they don't need any shoes!  I also bought her a hat which she really did not love, but I liked that it kept her head and neck protected.   
Batoko kids swim is currently 40% off as they're discontinuing their kids line

For swim I brought 4 suits.  Three were 1-pieces and one was a 2-piece that was adorable but a pain in the ass as the top constantly came up so I just took it off and let her go topless for most of the day like most of the other little girls that were there.  For swim diapers, I did buy a reusable diaper and I brought disposable swim diapers.  I will tell you, although the reusable seemed like it made the most sense, Georgia did get some kind of heat rash and it was the worst on her butt and I think it's because of sitting in damp diapers and suits.  The last couple days we decided to switch over to the disposables and changed them often.  I was lucky I did bring hydrocortisone and Baby Aquaphor which is what we use on her when she gets diaper rash.  The cold Illinois weather seemed to help dry it all up and things looked better the day after we got home but I felt awful for her as it looked very painful.



Other tidbits—
With Georgia being so sick around Christmas I decided to take both Motrin & Tylenol for her in the diaper bag.  Luckily I did because on Tuesday she ended up with a fever.  I never did get to take her temperature as I didn't bring a thermometer and it never got hot enough that I felt I needed to ask for one, but I did alternate Tylenol and Motrin for her all day every 3 hours.  Luckily it did not turn into more than that & it broke early the next morning.

The staff at the hotel was absolutely wonderful with her.  They just love babies there and with Georgia being very approachable and inviting, they definitely took to her very quickly and she made lots of friends.  If you're not comfortable with your baby being touched, held, and even kissed by complete strangers, then you may need to make sure that you child is kept at a distance from staff because they WILL interact physically with babies.  I am totally fine with it.  Georgia has always been a social butterfly and has been passed, touched, and kissed by family and friends and strangers even her entire life, but I know a lot of parents aren’t comfortable with that.



I highly suggest bringing some kind of floatie for baby.  I really love this one that we have been using since Georgia was about 4 months old, you cannot beat it for $20.  It folds up into a circle and then comes in a bag so it was easy to put into my suitcase and took up very little room.  In the baby pool she was able to be in that and touch the floor of the pool so it was almost like a walker and she LOVED it.

Strollers and car seats are considered "oversized luggage" and do not come off with regular luggage at O'Hare.  This was not the case in Punta Cana and may not be at other airports, but we had no clue that there was a separate conveyor at either end of the concourse where those would come off after the luggage. 

As far as the resort and those details we stayed at the Grand Bahia Principe which was all set up by our travel agent, in my opinion, travel agents are the way to go.  They know the best places, they know the deals, and they take all the work out of planning a vacation.  We have been using the same for 10 years and we always book our vacations through them.  Our rooms were about 2 minutes from the main pool and the beach.  Joe would go down each day around 8am and reserve 5 chairs for us with our towels because waiting much longer than that it was tough to get a spot. 

With our week-stay at the resort we got 3 meals at the restaurants and then every other meal we ate at the buffet.  We chose hibatchi, steak house, and Italian for our 3 choices and we were happy with all 3, hibatchi was the best.  The buffet was good, but not the best.  They had a theme each night like Spanish, Dominican, American, Italian, etc. and then they always had hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries every night.  Breakfast was at the buffet each day as well and was really good. 

We did not do any additional excursions or leave the resort, we spent the majority of the day on the beach and the last 2 days we spent the morning at the beach and the afternoon at the quieter pool that was farther away from the beach.  There were a lot less people, no wait at the bar, and Georgia was able to enjoy herself in the water in her floatie.

Overall it was an awesome experience and we really enjoyed it.  We have only ever cruised so this was different for us, but in general about the same as cruising, lots of food, lots of drinks, lots to do and lots to enjoy.  It sounds like my parents are ready to make this an annual thing where we go somewhere different each year so I am already looking forward to next year's destination which we have yet to decide on.  Let me know what I missed here, if you're experienced in travel with infants and toddlers, what did I miss?  Anything else that I could've done?  I think we did pretty good considering it was our first time!  Georgia was a champ as usual and we couldn't ask for a better behaved baby. 

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