Thursday, August 16, 2012

Flying Cross Country with Kids

Nate and I packed our bags and flew with the kids to Seattle last week.  Two parents, two kids, three plane seats, two suitcases, two purses, one duffel, one back pack, two carseats, an ergo, a stroller and a partridge in a pear tree.  Oh, and we didn't check a single thing on the trip there.  Are we insane?  Obviously.  But we had a lot of fun! 


[caption id="attachment_1631" align="alignnone" width="300"] Laura and Gavin watching the Olympics during our flight to Seattle[/caption]


Here are a few things I learned on our trip:

1.  Always leave 30 minutes before you "need" to.  And always make sure your alarm clock is actually set!  Nate and I woke up at 5:40, ten minutes before we needed to leave the house Wednesday morning.  Oops!  That patience we packed came in handy sooner than expected!  We made it out the door by 6:00, only to hit major traffic on 495.  If you know 495, you know how awful it can be.  We made it to Dulles at 8:15 for an 8:55 flight.  (Yes, it took over 2 hours to go 58 miles)

We made the flight.  We had missed the window to check bags, but we were able to carry-on all of our worldly possessions.  Here is where number 2 comes in:

2.  Allow yourself to release stress.  For me, this was crying (and praying to St. Christopher) a few times in the car.  And at the ticket counter.  By letting myself sob a few times, I got out the worst of my nerves without turning into a raging yelling hot mess lunatic.  And those tears at the ticket counter?  I think they got us on that flight. 

What I heard: You're too late.
What was actually said: You're too late to check bags.
Result: awesome customer service.

I didn't through a fit, as I might have another time.  I didn't yell at anyone for something they didn't do.  I didn't see red, or feel my ears get hot.  Instead, I burst into tears right there, so sad that we'd missed our flight after flying down the Dulles Toll Road, screeching to a halt at the valet parking (worth every penny), and running with two kids, six bags and two carseats through the airport.  I must have looked incredibly pathetic, because Virgin America (bless them!) assigned us Joshua, who grabbed two bags and a carseat, and led us through every back door he knew of in the airport to get to our gate on time.  I was amazed by the service we received, and truly grateful for Joshua's help!

3.  Make sure you know where "Fluffy," the special blankie, is located at all times.  Do not hop into the rental car for an all-day scenic drive without Fluffy.  And if you do forget Fluffy in one traumatic episode, learn from that mistake!  For our trip home, I packed Fluffy in a suitcase to keep it's massive size contained while we went through security on our return flight.  When we checked in for our flight we were able to check all our bags for free!  SCORE!  Except that I forgot all about Fluffy, and left it neatly folded in a checked suitcase.  By the time we got to our gate for our delayed flight, Laura was in hysterics and it was too late.  Laura cried 2.5 hours from Seattle to LAX, until she fell asleep on the tarmac while we waited 45 minutes for an open gate.

4.  Ergo is amazing!  I never wore Laura when she was an infant, as I could never get the Bjorn to fit me comfortably.  I was skeptical of the Ergo, but have used it fairly frequently with Gavin.  After Seattle, I am a complete convert and Ergo lover!  We packed only a small umbrella stroller for Laura to sit in.  I never began to think about packing the monstrous double stroller we have.  I wore Gavin the whole vacation, while Laura sat comfortably in a stroller I was prepared to never see again when I thought we'd miss our transfer at LAX back to Dulles (we didn't, and the stroller came out of the belly of the plane 0n time). 

[caption id="attachment_1632" align="alignnone" width="224"] Laura and Gavin asleep on the flight from LAX to Dulles[/caption]

More to the point, when we finally got to our gate at LAX a whole 3 minutes before our next flight was scheduled to depart, I was able to wear Laura - completely asleep - through the terminal to our next gate (only to discover another 30 minute delay).  Nate helped me transfer Laura from the plane seat into the Ergo as we taxied.  She didn't wake up till we landed in Dulles the next morning.  I was so glad to leave Laura asleep, and was still comfortable with 30 pounds of toddler handing in the Ergo!

[caption id="attachment_1630" align="alignnone" width="300"] Gavin (and his cousin!) playing in the travel bassinet at a wedding[/caption]

5.  If you see a gadget that you think will help you during your trip, follow your gut and buy it.  Nate didn't think we would need a travel bassinet for Gavin, but I bought one anyway.  I am so glad I did.  The travel bassinet by Summer Infant is the best $30 I have spent in a very long time.  Gavin had a place to play and sleep no matter where we were during our vacation - even during a wedding ceremony!  I looked at several travel bassinets, and ultimately purchased the one by Summer Infant because of the toy bar.  I was afraid Gavin might get bored at some point during the trip and miss his activity mat.  The toys weren't quite as stimulating as his mat at home, but certainly did the trick to keep him entertained!  Moral of the story - spend money on thoughtful items.  $30 really can make your vacation that much better!

Traveling with two kids was actually a lot less stressful than I feared.  Packing a healthy dose of patience (something I usually forget on the bathroom counter) really helped.  As did that extra 3 ounces of Sense of Humor in my quart-size liquid carry on bag.  We had a wonderful vacation in Seattle, and would do it again!  Although next time, I might skip the all-lanes-closed traffic on 495, the running through airports, or the delayed return flights!  I hope my experience can help any other moms planning to fly across the country with little ones.  Bon Voyage!

And for full disclosure, I have not received any compensation from any company, ever, for anything.  This was my first flight with Virgin America, but was so impressed with the customer service that it will not be my last.  Ergo has no clue who I am, and neither does Summer Infant.  I have been impressed with products by both companies in my 2.5 years of parenting.  If anyone would like to send me free products to try out, I'm all ears!