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While I am always happy to share my own traveling stories with my family, there are tons of other great traveling families out there with kids of different ages, different numbers of kids, and who have had different experiences than me. As part of my “Little C’s Traveling Friends” series, I am sharing different family’s stories so we can all learn from their experiences. If you would like to be a part of this series just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gary and his wife Christine have always loved traveling (and anything Disney!) and it seems their life did not slow down one bit once they have their son, Cooper. He had his first flight at two months and by five months he was already on his way to Europe! Below is a little bit about their family and how miles and points play a role in their travels.
Tell me a little bit about your family.
My wife and I are the proud parents of an amazing little boy named Cooper who is already a world traveler.
I am a business manager for a local company and my wife is a Certified Health Coach/stay-at-home mom. We both love to travel and wish we could do it more than we currently, do but trying to fit in trips and manage your vacation time can be hard. We live in California but my wife’s family lives in Illinois. This means a lot of our time will be spent making trips to the Midwest to visit family with our son. We do try and get at least one “big” trip in each year and won’t let having a baby slow us down. We’re huge Disney fans and actually got engaged at Disneyland. (Check out the youtube video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFQRlo4GZZU&noredirect=1)
How has your traveling pattern changed (or not changed) since you have had kids?
Our traveling pattern has changed in some ways but not others. We still plan to fly and travel almost every other month in the next year BUT it definitely takes some more planning. Before having a baby you could wait until the last minute to get to the airport… now I feel like I need to get there early so that we have plenty of time to get checked-in (since many times you can’t do it online with an infant), plus you have to allow extra time to get through security. Basically I’ve learned that when traveling with an infant you need to slow everything down and realize that you are at the mercy of your child.
Where all have you traveled with your children, and what have been some memorable experiences on some of those trips (both good and bad)?
Since his birth our little guy has traveled with us to Illinois at 2 months and to Europe at 5 months. We have many other trips planned over the next few months and am looking forward to continuing our travels with him. We have had many memorable experiences traveling with Cooper… both good and bad. In all honesty the only “bad” experience wasn’t even horrible. On our last trip to Europe we were all seated in First Class taxiing and getting ready for take-off. My wife was nursing our son and looked over at me. She said “his back is getting awfully warm… tell me it’s just sweat”. I looked and I noticed it was a little bit wet but nothing horrible. A minute later she said “It’s getting worse!”… I look again and he had what we like to call a “blow out” all the way up his back. The worst we had ever seen!
He of course chose to wait until we are sitting on the runway to do this when my wife couldn’t get up to change him. It was bad… and an interesting way to start off our trip. I have to give my wife credit because once in the air she high tailed it to the bathroom and literally spent close to 20 minutes trying to get him cleaned up, going through an entire pack of wipes, paper towels and actually washing our son in the airplane’s bathroom sink.
Along those same lines, some of the memorable experiences are just the places you get to change your son’s diaper or feed him. On our trip to Europe we changed him on a restaurant’s freezer box, a brick wall at the Coliseum. My wife also nursed him while walking through the Vatican and Sistine Chapel.
Some other good experiences for us would be just how lucky we are with our son. Other than the “incident” he is the perfect flyer. He doesn’t cry and rarely fusses. Every time we’ve flown with him we get compliments about how good he is or that they didn’t even realize there was an infant on the plane. We truly are so lucky, but it also makes us wonder what is going to happen during the terrible twos…
What are some tips for traveling with kids that you have learned along the way (gear, where to sit on the airplane or train, choosing hotels, destinations, flying or riding the train with infants, etc.)?
After our last trip to Europe we definitely picked up some ideas that we will be using going forward that will help make travel less stressful and easier.
- If possible and you are traveling internationally try and get business or first. The amount of room you have compared to coach can make a world of difference with an infant.
- Have a little diaper change pack that you keep with you during takeoff just in case you have an accident and need to get to the bathroom quickly. Ours has a diaper and wipes all rolled up into a changing pad. It’s small and easy to hold when carrying your baby.
- Always have at least 2 extra outfits for the baby on long flights and 1 for mom and dad because spit up & blow outs happen!
- Guesstimate how many diapers you’ll need for a plane/train ride and then add 25% or more. It’s better to have too many than not enough.
- Check and double check with hotels about getting a crib/baby cot for your room. Every single hotel in Europe had one ready for us on our last trip. It was great!
- Have a stroller that is light and can fold down small. Our son was at the stage where he can be in a carseat, but also is starting to sit in a stroller on his own. I found the Chicco Liteway Plus to be an excellent stroller. It was the best of both worlds. It allowed us to use our carseat if we wanted too (without any adapters or anything) but we were also able to just use the stroller without it too, as an “umbrella stroller”. It folded down small and compact for gate checking or carrying it.
In regards to the stroller, research your destinations. We found that a lot of the stops on the subway in Italy were not handicap/stroller friendly and sometimes if they were it just meant they had one of those chairs that slide up and down the side of stairs. This meant that I did a lot of carrying of our stroller up and down stairs. While it wasn’t the end of the world, make sure you check where you are staying and if possible get a hotel near a station with an elevator.
How do points and miles figure into your family travels?
Points and miles play a huge role in our travels. I was able to get the Southwest Companion Pass which will enable us to not only fly to see family more often (since the companion flies free and children under 2 also fly free as lap children), but also means we won’t have to worry about bag fees because it is on Southwest. Having the ability to use points to stay in a hotel is a great option as well. If we weren’t traveling with our son we may have no problem taking a red-eye or a flight very early in the morning. However, having the ability to book a hotel room when we may not otherwise have needed one is a great option. I have also found that Hyatt has gone above and beyond when welcoming us with our baby. They always have a crib ready and even provided baby toys for him in Milan. They are definitely our hotel brand of choice at the moment.
What future trips are on your horizon?
Since I am at the mercy of my office and the allotted vacation time we have a lot of domestic trips planned over the next year for both business and pleasure. Some of the places we will be going are Nashville, Chicago, Las Vegas and hopefully NYC. The first trip we plan to take without our son is to Hawaii and then Australia/New Zealand this summer.
What would you say to other families that are nervous about the logistics of hitting the sky (or road) with the little ones?
I would say don’t be nervous, but that is easier said than done. I was extremely nervous about taking our son with us to Europe but he did great! I had more issues with our own stuff than his. Seriously, if you have a game plan and realize that you just need to occasionally slow it down a bit then you will be fine. I can’t imagine not having him on our Europe trip. Just sit down and plan it out while knowing that not all of those plans will go as you planned. It also helps to have a great partner. While I called myself the “pack mule” on our trip my wife was the one who handled the logistics of packing the bags and making sure everything was good to go for our son. Together we were the perfect team. Having said that, of course you will have some times that are a little stressful but you can’t let that ruin your trip. Know that some things won’t go perfectly and just be ready for those to pop up, handle them, and move on. Do that and you’ll have a great time with your family vacation!
Thank you so much to this awesome family for sharing their story and we look forward to hearing about more of Coopers traveling adventures!