Category: Traveling With Kids

Across the Country with 2 Little Ones

It’s been awhile since I posted and the truth is, we’ve been getting ready to go out of town. And it will be quite the journey. We have stops in four different states and I’ll be doing part of the traveling alone. Going across the country with 2 little kids is a feat all by itself, but combine that with our grand mistakes and you have quite the adventure.

ready to fly across the country
So naive, before we traveled across the country.

The First Leg Across the Country

In our infinite young parent wisdom, we thought it would be a great idea to save some money and only fly to Denver instead of paying the extra $300 per ticket to get to Albuquerque. Then we could rent a car and drive the rest of the way. We were going to have to rent a car anyways. Genius!

The Airport

At 4:30 in the morning, our alarms went off. I felt like I should get up, but stubbornly remained in bed. I kept feeling like I needed to get up, so finally I begrudgingly rolled out of bed around 4:40. We got ready and it took a little longer than we were anticipating. We didn’t end up leaving the house until 6:00. Which would have been plenty of time if we didn’t have to battle Detroit early morning traffic.

Traffic

It was crawling through the city. Everyone was trying to get into work and we had an early flight to catch. We finally arrived at the airport with about an hour before the flight left. We loaded all of the stuff inside and checked our bags and then Austin had to go and drop the car off at the parking lot. I took the kids through security by myself.

me with the kids across the country

Waiting

We waited and waited and waited for Austin to get back from dropping off the car in the satellite lot. The first zone went, the second zone (which we were in because of the kids) went and as I paced around the gate trying to keep the kids happy, we waited and waited. I started the preliminary anxious text messages. “Status?” “Almost here?” “Everyone is leaving…”

As the last people boarded the plane, I saw him emerge from the main part of the airport. The first leg of our across the country journey almost had a very different beginning. We were there in just enough time.

Someone was Looking Out for Us

Sometimes you see God in the little things. Honestly, we would not have made our flight if I had stayed in bed that morning. He knew we’d be running late and that traffic would keep getting worse and He helped us make it just in time.

The Flight

The flight was long and I’m sure frustrating for people around us. But I couldn’t feel too bad for the lady who sat in front of us because she had the whole row to herself while there were four of us on the row behind her.

Grayson

snuggling with my boy across the countryAt first Grayson was just fascinated with every aspect of the airplane. The tray table in front of us, the arm rests, the windows, Siena’s reaction to his grabbing the seatbelt, everything. Maybe Mama’s mouth felt different inside the airplane? Maybe Daddy’s eye was more fun to poke in the airplane? But after about a half an hour of exploring his new surroundings, the toll of being awake since 5:30 had started to hit. He started fussing when he realized he was nowhere near a bed…specifically his bed.

And then he started wriggling every which way. Trying to hold him is like trying to hold an angry cat that doesn’t want to be held. It is a constant battle of counterbalancing his bowling ball body. He throws his 27 lbs around like it is no big deal. And FINALLY he got settled and fell into a little slumber on my chest.

This doesn’t happen very often, so to say that I was happy would be an understatement. Because not only did I get to snuggle with my baby but I wasn’t having to wrestle a lion cub.

snuggly boy
Seriously, so snuggly!

Siena

Siena was content to eat some food, revel in the glory of her own seat and watch her shows that I had downloaded for her. But at some point the novelty wore off and suddenly Grayson’s limp feet dangling off my lap were just too much for her and the tormenting began.

siena in her own chair across the country

At first I didn’t notice her moving his foot up and down with her foot and then she started kicking him. I told her to stop, which startled Grayson. After raising my voice at her for something else, he was awake again…

Grayson & Siena

Sometimes, they were great as we flew across the country. They would watch shows together. Siena would share her toys or give him Veggie Straws. Sometimes they would get along so well, much to our detriment. Meaning they would scream and shout in unison so that everyone on the plane had to look and see what was so exciting in 22 A, B, and C.

show watching across the country

And then other times we were having to pull them off of each other as Grayson grabbed Siena’s hair or Siena hit him because she was mad or because they were wrestling in the middle seat.

Wet Diapers

It was also after Grayson woke up that Austin and I realized their diapers were either soaking wet or completely soaked through the pants too (in Siena’s case). He was the brave soul who changed them.

father and sonsnuggling with dad on flight across the countrysleeping with daddy across the country

Apparently Siena’s was completely drenched and he said he had filled up the entire bathroom with a thick, foul urine smell. The poor person who followed after them was probably not amused.

But he also used two different bathrooms to equally distribute the smell. One for Grayson and one for Siena.

Colorado

We arrived at the airport, got our belongings and then waited for an hour with the kids in the stroller until Daddy came back with the car.

stroller in airport

Remember our “genius” plan?

Someone was Looking Out for Us Again

Somehow, Austin managed to get upgraded from a Sedan to a Chevy Tahoe! And it was for free! One of his main stresses was how we were going to fit all of our stuff in a Sedan with the kids and our bags and haul it across the country. Luckily we didn’t have to find out.

Driving

The kids were exhausted and both of them crashed within a half an hour of getting in the car. But Siena woke up about a half an hour later when we got food. I wish I could say that she went back to sleep, but she never did…

Grayson slept a little longer and was not happy when he woke up. This was only about an hour after being in the car (including time to get food). We still had SO far to go.

We stopped because I suspected he was poopy. After getting them both changed and fed, we were off and Grayson finally settled back to sleep.

Siena watched her show. And this went on for a while. It was relatively peaceful, except for the growing trepidation at the remaining length of the trip.

Someone was Looking Out for Us a Third Time

At some point, Austin asked me to check the map and as I put in the route so I could get the amount of time remaining, I realized we had just passed a fork in the route that would have cut off a half an hour. We quickly rerouted and only lost a couple of minutes as opposed to more.

What we Saw

The drive was long and the kids were at the ends of their rope but experiencing all of the little towns along the way was kind of once in a lifetime. Driving across the country on little known roads leads to big memories. We got to see so much culture and life that we never knew existed.

One of our favorite moments was when we saw a bearded old man with white hair to the bottom of his shoulder blades, shirtless and carrying a box on top of his head with a globe poking out of the top, walking along the freeway. What?!

We saw tons of Adobe structures and little towns we probably never would have seen if we would have just flown to Albuquerque.

And to be honest, we probably won’t see them again. Because after all of this we have learned that going across the country this way is not what we want to do again.

Arriving

We were about twenty minutes from the house and Grayson woke up after his second nap during the drive. This one was only about half an hour long. And he immediately thought Siena was the most hilarious thing ever. Because I have never heard him laugh that hard. I caught a little tiny bit of it, but this went on the whole rest of the way to my parent’s house.

So after a long day, this was definitely a great way to end it. We were so happy to see my parents and family and I think they were just as happy to see us.

Beijing Airport Security – Traveling in China

Traveling Abroad

Traveling abroad can make you feel a little out of your element. It’s stressful, different and exhausting. We learned that some places to fly to are easier than others. This can be due to a number of factors. The location, the airport, the security, the weather, the airline… so many things can affect how smoothly your travel is. One place that will stretch your stress meter to the max is the Beijing Airport. Prepare for the pat-down of your life!

planes

Here I’ve tried to include our story and some helpful hints to make it run as smoothly as possible.

Secure Security to Make You Feel Insecure

You have not seen airport security until you have been to Beijing. Well, it might be rivaled by North Korea. But I don’t know for sure, I’ve never been there. I am not entirely sure what they are expecting to find, but they seem to have one of the tightest securities there is.

Our Experience with the Beijing Airport

We were flying from Beijing to Shanghai. We had been staying for a quick visit to see the Great Wall and other such historic landmarks. I have SO many stories from Beijing, but for now we’ll just focus on the Beijing Airport.

Camera Conundrum

camera equipment. An idea of how much we had to take out at the beijing airport
To give you an idea of the amount of equipment in one bag. (Not including cords, batteries, chargers and memory cards.)

So, because it was a site seeing trip, we had brought our nice camera. We’re photographers, so naturally we have some equipment, but we brought our cheapest DSLR, (Canon EOS Rebel T5i  which is amazing and takes terrific traveling pictures by the way.)

Well, the camera was a bit of a problem for the Beijing Airport security officers. They made my husband take every, single item out of the camera bag and show them. Yep. Camera, lenses, batteries, cords, straps, lens hoods, EVERYTHING. Each item was inspected as if the cords were harboring a thumb drive that would expose government secrets.

After putting each item meticulously back in place, he finally crossed the threshold to me and encountered the problem I was facing.

Infant Imposition

beijing airport security example
We don’t have a picture of the Infant Imposition because Austin was busy taking apart every piece of the camera… 😉

While he was taking his time putting the cords, batteries, straps, lenses, camera and memory cards back into their proper places, I was asked multiple times to hand my three month old daughter to the security guard there. I said no.
They persisted in asking and I kept telling them no. I might have been a little paranoid, but in hindsight I am so glad I didn’t. Even if the security guard wouldn’t have intentionally harmed my child or taken her where I couldn’t see her, she could have dropped her.

One of the security guards looked extremely frustrated that I would not comply. He tried slowing down what little English he knew. I told him no again and pointed at my husband, indicating that I would wait for him.

I handed Siena to Austin after he had finished putting the camera equipment away.  Then after I had been properly frisked, Austin handed Siena back and I held her while Austin was frisked.

after getting through beijing airport security
There is light at the end of the tunnel. Your baby will go back to sleep and it will all be okay. Just take a deep breath and try to relax.

Helpful Hints

  • Arrive early to the Beijing Airport so that you aren’t worried about missing your flight.
  • Be firm in your boundaries and what you are comfortable with.
  • Expect to be treated as the most threatening person to pass under the metal detector. That way if you are not treated that way, it is a pleasant surprise.
  • If you get tripped up, just breathe, say a prayer. It’ll be okay.
  • Make sure you have your passport easily accessible and all other documentation. This could include where you stayed, what you did, or any other information. The more information you have, the better.
  • On that note: Keep track of your passport. As most people know, an American passport is extremely valuable.
  • Some places in the Beijing airport it is best to not even have your phone out. There are ‘no picture areas’. Make sure you respect those rules.
  • But when you’re allowed to take pictures, make sure to capture all of the great signs that have been “translated” to English for your benefit.

Flying with an Infant – It’ll be Okay!

Flying with an Infant

I’m not going to claim to be an expert on flying with an infant, but if there was an expert based solely on experience, that person would be me. This is not a brag list, but a comprehensive list so you can understand that when you are reading my advice, I have some life lessons backing me up.

Flights during the first 6 months of my First Baby’s Life

1. Raleigh, North Carolina --> Denver, Colorado – 1 week old
2. Denver, Colorado --> Salt Lake City, Utah – 1 month old
3. Salt Lake City, Utah --> San Francisco, California – 6 weeks old
4. San Francisco, California --> Shanghai, China – 6 weeks old
5. Shanghai, China --> Shenzhen, China – 2 months old
6. Guangzhou, China --> Shanghai, China – 2 ½ months old
7. Beijing, China --> Shanghai, China – 4 months old
8. Shanghai, China --> Xi’an, China – 4 months old
9. Xi’an, China --> Shanghai, China – 4 months old
10. Shanghai, China --> Hong Kong, China – 4 months old
11. Hong Kong China --> Taipei, Taiwan – 4 months old
12. Taipei, Taiwan --> Hong Kong, China – 4 months old
13. Hong Kong, China --> Shanghai, China – 4 months old
14. Shanghai, China --> Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 5 months old
15. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia --> Singapore, Singapore – 5 months old
16. Singapore, Singapore --> Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 5 months old
17. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia --> Shanghai, China – 5 months old
18. Shanghai, China --> Los Angeles, California – 5 months old
19. Los Angeles, California --> San Francisco, California – 5 months old
20. San Francisco, California --> Salt Lake City, Utah – 5 months old
21. Idaho Falls, Idaho --> Salt Lake City, Utah – 6 months old
22. Salt Lake City, Utah --> Denver, Colorado – 6 months old
23. Denver, Colorado --> Detroit, Michigan - 6 months old

Map of all of infant's first 23 flights for flying with an infant

If you were thinking that we must be insane then you are correct. I don’t know what we were thinking, but we have all survived and lived to tell the tale.

This also does not include the many train rides, bus rides, taxi rides, metro rides or road trips that were also a part of my daughter’s first 6 months of life. I am sure in her big baby brain, she probably thought that her family must be gypsies and she was doomed to a life of constant change.

The best part about this list is that on flight number 23, someone asked me if this was my baby’s first flight and I just laughed.

So, from someone who has REALLY been there, here are my juicy secrets:

Call Ahead

If you will be flying with an infant, call ahead. Especially on International flights, but even on Domestic flights, it’s possible that they have a baby bassinet and you’ll be able to lay your angel inside of it and just let him sleep. They can also put you in an emptier row, or closer to the bathroom with a changing table. Let the crew know about your situation so they can be a team player for you.

breastfeeding-on-the-plane-while-flying with an infant

Take a Bottle & Some Formula

I don’t care if you are exclusively breast feeding your baby or if you have so much milk you feel like you might explode. If you are a new Mama, you may not know how much milk you are producing and it might be awkward to bust out your boob for the general public.

Also, flying with an infant can be very stressful and stress affects milk production. Bringing a bottle also provides a way for your spouse to feel like they can be helpful too. You don’t have to use the bottle, but having it can be a lifesaver.

My experience: I didn’t think to bring one until the very end of our 6 month journey. All of the flights were hard. We were stressed out of our minds and so concerned about our little baby girl. On our flight out to China, I figured I would just breastfeed her in our row. We had the whole row to ourselves, and I breastfed, but she kept crying and crying. I spent 15 hours onboard an aircraft, with no escape and other passengers watching, trying to soothe a screaming baby.

Hindsight is 20/20 and if I could go back and tell myself, I would say to bring a bottle. I don’t think she was getting enough milk to fill her belly enough to fall asleep. My poor exhausted baby was hungry and her poor stressed mother couldn’t feed her.

Just swallow your pride and bring a bottle.

Also, if you're a new mama, not all bottles are created equally. The first ones we got leaked everywhere! We never had a problem with these ones:

Bring a Pacifier

Even if you don’t typically let your baby suck on a pacifier, this can be a lifesaver when taking off and landing. The elevation changes can hurt your babies ears and giving him something to suck on will naturally release the pressure in his ears.

Also, flying with an infant is just as stressful to the baby as it is to Mommy and Daddy. Providing the baby with some way to self soothe can help him feel safer and more secure.

If for some reason you forget a pacifier or lose it, I would let Siena suck on my finger. Sometimes you might not be able to reach it. After all, the flight attendants want those bags to stay in the overhead bins during takeoff and landing.


Pack Extra Diapers and a Change of Clothes

You never know when a blow out can strike! My son is an eating, sleeping, pooping machine. And when I say that, I mean he eats and eats and eats and then a couple of days later, he explodes. He has a blow out almost EVERY time he poops. I literally have to catch him in the act to prevent a desecration of his outfit.

There are also other bodily fluids to worry about. For example, vomit, spit up, urine, blood… Someone could spill a drink on your baby. It could be raining. It’s always good to be prepared.

Flying with an infant is not always predictable. On our way back from China, we missed our second flight, due to delays with the first one. We couldn’t make it to Salt Lake that night, had to fly to San Francisco instead to try and catch the last flight out there. Then we missed that one and had to spend the night in a hotel. We were very glad that we had packed extra diapers and a change of clothes for our daughter in the carry on but our own clothing situation was not as fortunate.

sitting-in-the-airport-waiting-to-be-flying with an infant

If you want to read about the most memorable time I forgot to bring an extra diaper, you can read about one of my many Mom Moments.

Ignore the Looks of Disapproval

MOST OF THE TIME people are SO NICE! Even flying as frequently as we do, I have found very few people who are shooting daggers at me. In fact, the only lady who I think legitimately hated us was someone who sat in front of me and my 18 month old daughter, who decided that kicking the chair in front of her was the best sensation her feet could experience.

But I had so many people offer to help, or the flight attendants would ask how they could help. One flight attendant gave me an entire liter water bottle so that I had enough water to mix bottles for Siena on the very long flight.

I’ve had nice passengers hold my kid while I grab something, make sure she didn’t fall, lifted my bag for me. You will not believe how amazing people are, so if someone is being a jerk, ignore them. Most people are NOT thinking the same thing. In fact most people have had to experience flying with an infant themselves. They get it.

flying with an infant-using-the-joey

Use the “Joey”

We call those backpack, baby carrier things, the “Joey”. The Joe saved our lives. A stroller is bulky. When you have a toddler or heavy baby, sure, bring a stroller. But when you have a little infant baby, bring a Joey. The closeness will make your sweetheart feel more secure and if you’re lucky, flying with an infant will be even easier because as you’re going through the airport your little one will fall asleep from the gentle rocking motion.

However, expect to take the Joey off at security. Apparently a Joey is a good place to hide drugs or something.

This is especially important when you are traveling out of the country. Americans have a lot more baby gear than most other countries. One day I will tell you all about some of our experiences with our “gear” in China. But suffice it to say, the Joey became our best friend.


I have heard rave reviews about the Ergo baby, but we had a just a cheap $40 one the whole time we were in China. My biggest complaint with the one we had was that it didn't support my brand new baby's head as well as I would have liked. So when she was super little, we had to put our hand under her head at all times to support it. So, maybe the extra money is worth it.

Trust Your Gut

Flying with an infant can be nerve-racking. The worst place I could imagine losing your child is an airport, so trust your gut.

When we were traveling from Beijing to Shanghai, a security personnel offered to hold my baby while they scanned me with their little hand scanner. I did not want any of them to hold my baby. I felt extremely uncomfortable with the situation.

A man kept retranslating as if I didn’t understand that I needed to hand my baby to the woman. I told him no. I was not going to do that. He looked exasperated so I pointed to my husband and told him that he was going to hold my baby.

Don’t be afraid to say no. If you don’t feel comfortable with something, especially when it comes to your kid, trust your gut! I suspect my baby would have been fine, but I was much happier waiting for Austin to come and join me and hand him my little baby. No one can force you to do something you don’t want to do.

This is ONLY a situation that we ran into in Beijing. No one else asked to hold my baby while going through security (in case this story scared you). Beijing, in general is a very high security place and the government has a high degree of control and power there.

Blankets: 1, 2 & 3

I recommend 3 blankets, maybe 2… depending on your situation.

1. Swaddle Blanket
2. Warm, Snuggle Blanket
3. Cover Blanket

Numbers 1 & 3 can be interchangeable if you don’t need to do both at the same time. We combined these when we traveled to China because any time our daughter was in the Joey, she couldn’t be swaddled so we would have her thinner blanket to cover her. Protecting her from the light (and nosy faces of potentially sick and contagious onlookers) was essential to having a happy, healthy baby while traveling.


walking-around-while-flying with an infant
waiting-in-the-airport-before-flying with an infant

You Can Do It!

Here’s the thing, you know your baby. You are her Mama or Dada. Don’t ever doubt the significance of that because that is your number one compass. If you think your baby needs that pack of teething crackers, bring them along. If your little one has a favorite blankie, bring that thing. My daughter had an owl blanket that she STILL takes everywhere with her. I think that because it was one of the only constant things in her life, it is now like a lifeline to her.

Every time someone shoots you a look or tries to offer unwanted advice, just remember that God gave you that baby, He trusts you to be her parent. Your opinion about your baby and how to travel with her is the one that matters the most.

You may be tired and worn out by the end of your trip, but the flight will end eventually. Flying with an infant is not an experience that will last forever and you'll usually have a memorable experience to look back on. Pretty soon you’ll be blogging about your own horror stories.

Check out how to entertain your toddler here!