Family Travel: One Year Later

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What a difference a year makes. It may be a trite saying, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It is true in so many circumstances and situations, but today I’ll mostly keep the discussion travel related. Roughly one year ago today I was doing exactly what I am doing today. I was boarding a plane to head to the annual Freddie Awards.

The Freddie Awards is a travel/loyalty program gathering where the best programs, promotions, and more from around the world are recognized. If you get emails from any hotel or airline loyalty programs, you likely got an email or two or ten asking for you to vote for that program in the Freddies. They are sort of a big deal. As such, I try to go when I can, and I think this is about the fourth or fifth Freddie Awards that I have been lucky enough to attend.

Freddies Photo Booth 2012

Freddies Photo Booth 2012

Last year it was held in Las Vegas and this year it is in New Jersey, but that geographical difference doesn’t even rank on the list of differences between going this year and last year for me personally. I’m going to share a few of the ways that traveling to this same awards show has changed in a year, just in case some of you are feeling overwhelmed with where you are at the moment, or are looking forward to days when travel is easier.

I almost didn’t go to the Freddies a year ago because the logistics seemed overwhelming. I wanted to go and start doing work related more regularly, but I had a 9 month old baby who was a terrible sleeper and a pretty constant nurser. While I had left my first born daughter to go on trips up to 3-4 nights away by that age, I hadn’t yet spent one night away from my second little one. That change of pace came as a very big surprise to me even though I was not a first time parent. 

She didn’t want a bottle no matter what we did, and I refused to stop nursing or create an unpleasant situation for anyone back home just because of a travel schedule. I had done that the first time around, and decided to do it differently this time. So, that meant that in order for me to go anywhere overnight, the baby had to also go. If the baby went, that meant that someone had to come to help take care of her while I met my work obligations. Josh was working full time without many vacation days, so it wasn’t going to be him. 

Grandma was willing to go, so she joined the little one and I on the reservation. Then because I actually had a few days of events, I started to feel bad that Grandma would be stuck in a hotel room with a baby by herself so I added Grandpa so they could explore more, take turns, etc. Plus, they both love Vegas and I was delusional enough to think that there may be a way to squeeze in some fun. Once we had the four of us going, my then kindergartner got sad and jealous and ultimately she was added to the trip, too. 

My traveling crew of four + me

My traveling crew of four + me

That made five of us going to Las Vegas in order for me to attend the Freddie Awards and present at a conference. For those keeping track at home, that is four airline tickets, one lap baby, and two hotel rooms for one person to go work. It felt a little crazy. It was a little crazy, but it also felt like the right call at the time.

Heading to the 2016 Freddies in Vegas

Heading to the 2016 Freddies in Vegas

I made it through the work events well enough, but this was the trip where we literally never got the baby down in the crib for one minute of the whole thing. Not. One. Minute. We took shifts through the night, had Grandma walk the halls in her pajamas, and it was probably the low water mark for trying to adjust to life with a second little one. It was certainly the low water mark for sleep…there essentially was none.

Crib for decorative purposes only

Crib for decorative purposes only

If you want a ‘humorous’ read, please check out Parts 1 and 2 of that fateful trip to Vegas. Don’t the photos below just scream BEST TRIP EVER?!

I’ll spare you the highs and lows of the following 12 months and let’s fast forward to today. Today I write this from another United flight heading to the Freddies. This time, it is only me heading to the event. 

My first grader will get on and off the bus to school with dad’s supervision. She will do her own hair tomorrow morning when I’m not there. It might look a little different than normal, but it should be presentable. She is a bit sad that I’m going to be gone overnight, but she said she would just FaceTime me after school and that was that. 

Big girl alert!

Big girl alert!

My now almost two year old did catch on that the routine was different this morning, and was in hysterics as dad held her and I pulled out of the driveway to head to the airport. That departure wasn’t picture perfect, but she will survive just fine without me tonight, just as she has done a couple of other times in recent months. She is my little nurse-a-holic, so she does still do that twice a day when I am home, but at this point she also eats full meals, drinks from a cup, etc. so she is just fine from a nutritional standpoint when I am not around. THANKGOODNESS!

My littlest also now goes to preschool, so when I’m not home of course there is extra work for whoever is left behind, in this case dad, but it isn’t like someone has to rearrange their entire life to care for the toddler all day in my absence. I still really limit my travel to keep up a consistent routine at home, but it is possible for me to leave for a while without major adjustments having to be made.

As for the flight itself, as I write this a little baby probably no older than 6 months has been crying for most of the flight. She sounds very tired. While of course I feel bad for the little one and her family, what I keep thinking the most is hallelujah that isn’t me! I mean, my toddler does still require a lot of attention and work in-flight, but she is no longer an infant. We are beyond that phase of flight.

We have a flight planned with her in June (her last free lap baby flight), and the next time she flies after that she will be a full fledged big girl in her own seat. I don’t know exactly when her first flight as a 2+ year old will be, but my hope is that by then she will be even more verbal, able to communicate her needs, understand what is going on, and will be firmly beyond the “hardest ages to travel”. 

We aren’t out of the tunnel, but we are through the worst of it when it comes to baby-hood. We cancelled many, many trips since our second daughter was born as life with her just didn’t replicate life with our first daughter. We flew a laughable number of people around to help take care of her so I could pull off basic life tasks. She wasn’t the same baby as her sister. We weren’t the same parents as we had been five years earlier. Life with two also just isn’t the same as life with one, and we really had to adjust our plans and expectations. 

At times it felt like life would never get “back to normal”, but deep down I knew that it would just be a phase and we would learn a more comfortable new normal eventually, and I think we have. She got older, things got easier, and now I can fly away for a night or go to an event without it involving an obscene number of people and pacing the hotel hallways in pajamas with a non-sleeping baby.

I mean, she still doesn’t actually sleep in a crib, but she’s now happy to snuggle with one of us in bed so we’re calling that a win. If you are going through a tough phase with a baby, with travel, or whatever, just hold tight. Take it day by day, do what you need to make it to tomorrow, and it will all pass in the end. Before you know it you will be in a new phase of life and those ‘disasters’ of today will almost be funny as you see them in the rearview mirror.

What a difference a year makes.

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  1. Good for you Summer! Our situation sounds exactly like yours, except we have 2 boys. Our first child flew on over 17 flights and traveled to 4 continents as a lap child, but when our 2nd came, after our first international trip with him when he was 1 (which we couldn’t avoid as my husband’s sister was getting married in Kenya), we didn’t leave the country for another 4 years. Our 2nd son never took the bottle (like yours) and had severe separation anxiety (from mommy). However, once he turned 1.5 years, he really mellowed out and travel once again became a joy and fun adventure. My boys are now 5 and 7 and I’m grateful all the time for our little family. We love your ski resort reviews as both our boys love skiing (and Hawaii too), so please keep it up 🙂

  2. I have to say that having been through the baby years (DD turns 18 this summer), I am no longer irritated by a crying baby – on a plane, in a restaurant, wherever. As long as it’s not mine, or my responsibility to soothe, or remove, said child, I’m good. I can’t block it out, but it doesn’t get under my skin.

  3. This was a great post – one of the reasons I keep coming back to this blog. Your perspective on travelling with (or without) youngsters offers insight to me as a new auntie. We (6 adults!) took my niece at 2.5 years old on her first trip a few months ago to Disneyworld and reading about your experiences helped me be more aware and hopefully more helpful to her mom and dad. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to more posts on how you handle travelling so many miles with your kids!

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