I shared my packing list for traveling with mini, and a few of you asked for an update on mini’s maiden voyage now that we’re nestled back in Chicago. The short story: it was pretty easy! We have been blessed with a very adaptable baby who sleeps pretty much anywhere, but I do think the advanced planning and hours of research I put into things helped. Of course, everyone has told me that this is the golden age for traveling with babies since they still sleep so much…
Below, some learnings I thought I’d share:
+Apparently you need an “infant in arms” boarding pass / designation for the wee one. We did not know this, and Mr. Magpie even did a bit of reading on the United website beforehand and did not see this mentioned. Oddly enough, no one asked for an “infant in arms” pass on the way to DC (we obliviously coasted through security and onto the plane without anyone batting a lash…woops?), but on the way back, we had to go back to the ticket counter to get her one. Not a huge deal; now we know. I think there must be some way to indicate this when purchasing the ticket, but I missed it.
+Related to the above: we factored in an extra hour (yes, hour) each way just to be safe, and I’m glad we did. It made the whole experience a bit more leisurely, and accommodated the random situations that arose, i.e., needing to go back to the ticketing counter to get mini squared away.
+For airport transit, we ended up going with the Babytrend universal carseat carrier ($45) and nestling our Nuna Pipa carseat in it. It worked great. I felt that navigating O’Hare without a stroller would have been challenging, especially given that we drove there and parked in a remote parking lot that required not only a train but a BUS to the train (barf times 10) to get to our terminal. It was a relief to be able to stow my carry-on bag in the little basket and wheel her around. Plus, mini sleeps well in her carseat and snoozed most of the time. (We used this carseat bag to protect the pricy Nuna Pipa from rough baggage handling. Mr. Magpie liked it because it has big straps on the back of it so you can kind of sling it over your shoulder like a backpack as you’re walking down the jetbridge and dragging multiple other items.) P.S. — A friend recommended the inexpensive, lightweight, but super safe Cosco Scenera as a great travel carseat ($36!!!) when mini outgrows her infant carseat, as we intend to buy the pricey and rather bulky Clek Foonf as her convertible carseat and I don’t want to be lugging that thing around! (Thanks, C!)
+Pro-tip: get gate check tags for your stroller and carseat ahead of time, i.e., before boarding, while you’re waiting at the gate. We didn’t think to do this in advance and may have held up the line a bit. Oopsies. On the way back, we had everything tagged and ready to go in advance. If I were traveling alone with mini, I probably would see if I could gate check my roll-a-board, too — one less thing to worry about while getting onto or off the plane.
+We had passes to the United Lounge, and, since our flight was delayed on the way to D.C., we decided to use them. It was lovely. I was able to nurse mini in a comfy private “wellness room” before we posted up in our own little nook for about an hour and a half. Plus, “free” food and a few sips of champagne weren’t too shabby! (Free in quotation marks because I believe lounge passes cost $50/pop! We had been gifted these by a friend who wasn’t going to use them.) It made the whole “killing time” experience a lot more enjoyable. If you’re in a position to do so…use that lounge! I think that if we were stranded in an airport for longer than an hour, we might spring for this regardless. So much more space and privacy! But, I should say that I did use a “mother’s room” in O’Hare after landing on the way back to change mini — it has a sink, a changing station, and a comfy chair. I’m assuming most airports have these.
+This probably goes without saying, but the most important part of traveling with mini was being flexible. I had hoped she might nurse right as we were taking off and/or landing, as I’d heard the pressure on baby’s ears during ascent and descent can be uncomfortable or downright painful for them, and that having them constantly swallowing can help. But, she was asleep during the entirety of the first flight, only waking up hungry right after we’d landed–so we just stayed in our seats and let everyone else de-plane while I fed her, then we de-planed and I finished feeding her at the gate while Mr. Magpie got our bag from the carousel. And on the return trip, she’d just finished eating before we took off. Mini usually supplements each meal with a little formula, but she’s been a little erratic lately, sometimes not taking any and other times chugging 60 MLs. I came prepared for all possible circumstances by packing two clean bottles and filling them both with 60 MLs of water before boarding. I also pre-apportioned enough powder formula in this handy OXO formula dispenser for two bottles. I was glad I came prepared, because they did come in handy. And the OXO dispenser was great — easy to use and compact (I did a bunch of research and read dozens of reviews on this seemingly minor purchase, and the OXO did not disappoint). At any rate, I think that going into the trip with no firm plan for when she might be hungry or sleepy was helpful–we just rolled with the punches. This was critical because having a 1.5 hour delay on the way out could have thrown a huge wrench into a more planned agenda!
+People are generally very kind and forgiving when you are traveling with a baby. I know there are lots of horror stories painting the opposite picture, but I can’t tell you how many people stopped me to coo over mini and wish me luck! It was so lovely. I felt like the entire airport was rooting us on! Ha.
+While in D.C., I thought this inexpensive, collapsible bassinet ($35) was perfection. It folds flat into a large suitcase and weighs, like, nothing. I loved it because I could put mini right next to me while sleeping in both houses we stayed in, regardless of the furniture arrangement (the bassinet is super compact!) and we could also set it up downstairs or wherever while our parents were baby-sitting her to give their arms some relief / give them a spot to lay her down when she fell asleep. (We also brought this blanket to spread on the ground for tummy time / playtime, and this little mirror thing. The blanket was handy on the plane because it was pretty cold and I layered it over her. Random, but I also found her burpy bibs helpful as a cushion under my elbow while holding her on the plane!)
+I know this won’t work for everyone, especially those with babies on a more strict schedule, but we really tried to embrace the whole “go with the flow, be flexible” mentality the entire time we were in D.C. If we had plans to meet with people, we just packed formula and went, and I’d plan to pump whenever I’d get back, if need be. And the same went with when we left her with my parents for the wedding — she took a particularly long snooze and then woke up literally minutes before we were about to leave for the evening, and I was decked out in my dress with my jewels on. I nursed her for a few minutes and then left her with my mamacita. I obviously would have preferred to fully breastfeed her, but — we weren’t about to miss the bride down the aisle! To each their own, of course, and I respect moms that have a more structured approach to feeding/sleeping routines. But for us, it was helpful to just let her do her thing and let us know when she was sleepy/hungry, and be prepared for all eventualities.
+It was great to have shipped diapers and wipes there–it saved a ton of space. I think I’d do the same thing in the future, and if we aren’t staying with friends, I’d just plan to buy diapers/wipes at the destination.
+I dressed her in layers while traveling — a onesie with pants and a sweater and booties, and then took things on/off as needed as the trip progressed. In the pics above, she’s wearing these Gap strawberry leggings in one snap and this Sapling onesie in the other.