The trickiest part about infant travel is the unpredictable nature of both babies and flights. If you try to time your flight around your baby’s nap time or bedtime, the flight will inevitably be delayed or your baby will have an off day. We all dread that deep breath on the plane that means your tiny baby is about to emit a chorus of wails and screams much louder than you ever thought humanly possible for such tiny vocal chords that will make your fellow passengers hate you. It might even make you hate yourself a little, but you know what? It shouldn’t.
Even though it may seem like your baby is crying for an hour, he’s probably not. And if he really is crying for hours, you probably have much more important things to worry about (your own sanity) than other people mean mugging you from across the aisle. Some mommy bloggers recommend that you bring small bags of candy and ear plugs to place on the seats of passengers sitting around you with a note explaining that your baby is on a plane for the first time and asking them to have patience with him. I bet these mommy bloggers spend hours on Pinterest (the website invented by Satan to show women like me how much we SUCK at being a good/creative/crafty/patient/organized mom). If you have the time and the room in your carry-on to craft goody bags for complete strangers, go for it. If you’re feeling like you’ll be lucky to get on the plane with your teeth brushed and two of the same shoes on like me, read on.
Here are the best things you can do to make flying with your baby a breeze:
Wear your baby: We prefer the baby bjorn infant carrier. In fact, we used it until Foodie Baby was practically kicking our knees because his legs were so long. It is really important to have your hands free and your baby contained at the same time while your traveling and people will probably judge you if you try to stuff your baby into a piece of rolling luggage.
Dress yourself and your baby in comfortable clothes. Do NOT wear white. Do NOT wear heels. Do NOT wear a fabric that will absorb stains. My husband has started trying to dress in dry fit from head to toe, not because it wicks sweat but because it repels stains. The baby vomit and spilled milk just rolls off you. I usually wear black leggings and dress in layers on top, including a wide scarf. The scarf can double as a blanket or a nursing cover in times of need. I try to wear slip on shoes so that I don’t have to mess with tying and untying them at airport security. For
babies, I prefer one piece, footed outfits. There aren’t any shoes to lose and they have easy access for diaper changing. Bring at least one extra change of clothes for your kiddo.
Nurse or bottle feed at take off and landing: the sucking will help ease the pressure on your baby’s ears. You can bring breast milk and formula through airport security. Read about airport security and kids here. It might have the bonus side effect of putting him or her to sleep which is the best possible way to pass the time when flying with a baby.
Bring extra diapers…and wipes (duh). I like to bring disposable changing pads as well because airport bathrooms are germ cesspools.
If your baby is eating solid foods, bring “squish foods”. These little packets of organic fruits and veggies are great for travel. You don’t even need a spoon! Just squish them into the baby’s
mouth. Foodie Baby loves Ella’s Kitchen and Plum Organic. I actually wish they made these for adults. They are healthy, portable and the they taste pretty good (for baby food)!
Food-C and I are adventurers, though C is much more of a thrill-seeker than me (he has been skydiving, bungee jumping, and regularly eats Chinese food from a restaurant where the likelihood that you’re eating cat is greater than 50%). Although I was thrilled to ride in a seaplane, I was more than a little nervous.
The physics of the whole seaplane thing just doesn’t make sense to me. How does it get enough speed up while on the water to actually take off? How does it land without going underwater? Are my chances of survival better or worse than flying on a regular, non-seafaring aircraft? I don’t know what to say, but somehow, the plane DOES get off the water and fly. It DOES land (quite smoothly in fact), and luckily, I didn’t have to lest my survival skills because we got to and from Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands without incident.
We departed in the Kenmore Sea Plane from Kenmore airport (on the water, duh!) at 9:00am. The pilot told us the trip would be a bit longer because they had to “taxi” (drive the plane on water) to the other side of the lake due to the wind direction. Once we reached the other side of the lake, we got up speed and before I knew it, we were in the air! It was a bumpy ride, but the views were SPECTACULAR! We flew right by the Space Needle and got to watch the boats on the water in both the United States and Canada. Our total flight (including taxi) was about 40 minutes. We landed softly and the plane dropped us off on a dock at Friday Harbor where we met Captain Jim with Maya’s Westside Charters who drove us to his boat for the whale watching tour.
Jim gave us some great history of the San Juan Islands as we drove to the boat. The San Juan islands were originally inhabited by native americans, and for many years various pioneers, soldiers and smugglers lived in the islands (from both the UK and the US) but a war over a pig eventually made the San Juan Islands a US territory.
During the “Pig War of 1859”, conflicts between British and American citizens came to a head, resulting in a military occupation that lasted 12 years. The conflict began when an American settler in San Juan shot and killed a hog belonging to Bellevue Farm, which supported the Hudson’s Bay Co.’s fur trapping operations. The settler, Lyman Cutler, killed the hog because it persisted in invading his garden.
Since the language defining the boundary between Canada and the United States was unclear, and with both nations claimed jurisdiction, U.S. troops were sent to confront British authorities when they attempted to arrest the American settler. British warships appeared off the San Juan coast and a war appeared imminent. Eventually, the two governments agreed to a joint occupation of the San Juan’s until the boundary dispute could be settled. A tribunal settled the dispute in 1872 in favor of the United States. San Juan Island is actually the last American soil occupied by Great Britain.
When we boarded the boat, we were introduced to Jeannie, our “naturalist”. Jeannie was a real character, and was PASSIONATE about whales. She told us that she sleeps with two hydrophones (devices used to listen to whales’ calls) by her bed so that she can know their locations at all times. She also has a blog http://whale-of-a-porpoise.blogspot.com/ where she posts pictures of the whales and other animals she sees on whale watching tours. She knew every whale by name and description. She also helped us spot bald eagles, falcons, Harbor Seals and other birds.
I don’t think Food-C and I were nearly as impressed with the Falcon as Captain Jim and Jeannie would have liked. They relayed a story about a family that went on a tour looking for this specific falcon and the whole group wept when they laid eyes on it. We couldn’t quite work up any tears (perhaps we were dehydrated from drinking so much at Lark the night before…or perhaps we were preoccupied by our hunger and worried that our ration of peanut butter crackers was about to run out) but we really enjoyed watching the birds fly around for a few minutes.
Sadly, we did not see any whales. The whales that live in the San Juan Islands are Orca (killer whales!) and unlike the whales we have seen in Hawaii and Costa Rica, they are not migratory. These whales stick to the same general region and travel in pods: some are “resident” (stay in the same area) and others are “transient” (stay in the same region). Interestingly, each pod has a different “accent” in their calls. Different resident pods understand and communicate with each other, but resident and transient pods to not speak to each other. Anyway, enough whale talk (ha!).
After the whale watching tour we walked around Friday Harbor. The entire town is about 3 blocks long so we were there much longer than necessary. There was a REALLY cool hotel called the Friday Harbor House. We tried to eat at their restaurant, The Bluff, but they were only open for dinner. The menu looked amazing. The hotel was on a hill overlooking the harbor and the views were breathtaking. We took a few pictures and went searching for sustenance.
We ended up eating outside at Downriggers. It was a typical tourist spot, but our food was surprisingly delicious, especially the mussels and clams we ordered as an appetizer. They were in a buttery wine sauce that begged to be sopped up with the sourdough bread they brought alongside the shellfish. Yum! Food-C got the salmon burger (fresh caught that morning!) which he said was the best salmon he’d ever eaten! I got the crab salad sandwich (which I thought was heavy on the mayo, but Food-C said was cheesy/buttery and delicious.. We also got onion rings because they were the house specialty. They were exceptional–crispy and sweet with none of that fried sogginess you often find in onion rings.
After lunch, we made a few more loops around town looking for a souvenir for Foodie Baby and an Xmas ornament for our collection (I know, we are nerds), and then headed to Herbs, the local hangout for an IPA. Herbs was one of those places that has writing all over the wall and crude bumper stickers tacked up behind the bar. There was a pool table in the back and golden tee in the corner. It was the perfect place to drink a few cold ones and breathe in the local vibe.
Overall it was a great day, but we probably could have left Friday Harbor on the 3pm Sea Plane instead of the 5pm. If we head back out to Seattle, we will probably spend a few days in some of the other San Juan Islands, sailing, kayaking or hiking around. It looks to be a great place to “unplug” for a little isolation and relaxation–several of the islands are completely “off the grid” and operate entirely on solar power and generators. The San Juans are said to have some great B&Bs (not my thing, but for some reason Food-C seems really into them…probably the breakfast) and they have houses available to rent. I would really enjoy breaking up the city of Seattle with a few days on a sailboat reading and island hopping!
If you aren’t into the Sea Plane thing, they have a ferry that goes to the various islands from Seattle or Vancouver. On the other side of Friday Harbor is Roche Harbor, a place that used to be frequented regularly by the one and only John Wayne. He actually owned an entire island in the San Juans which is now owned by Oakley Sunglasses. According to Captain Jim, Roche Harbor is the fanciest area in the San Juan Islands.
Last week my husband, Food-C (I told him I couldn’t handle his former name, honey buns), took me on a SURPRISE trip to celebrate our anniversary, the big 03. (No, I’m not dyslexic, we’ve only been married 3 years, but when you have divorced parents, you tend to celebrate the smaller marriage victories…especially if you had your first kid since the big 02…and were pregnant on your last anniversary so you couldn’t even celebrate properly with champagne…I digress.) No, ladies, this was not Food-C’s independent idea. I hinted pretty hard (beginning last October) that I wanted HIM to plan a trip that I took NO part in. Usually, I’m the one that plans our family vacations (unless my step-sister, “Julie McCoy the cruise director” is joining, then she does everything…it’s awesome) and I wanted Food-C to plan an entire vacation as my birthday/Christmas/anniversary gift.
I guess the not-so-subtle hinting paid off because he planned the most fantastic trip! He spent about three weeks in February researching the location, deciding where we should eat and what we should do. He tells me he had 7 or 8 different versions of the itinerary before he finally settled on our perfect trip.
Things weren’t always so organized in Food-C’s trip planning. When we were in law school, we spent a summer in Oxford as part of an exchange program offered through our college. One weekend, Food-C planned a trip to Marrakech, Morocco. Actually, I booked the tickets. Food-C just arranged the lodging. In Marrakech, most people stay in a bed and breakfast/hostel hybrid called a Riad. Chris booked us a room at the Riad Messin, and even sprung for the airport transfer since the Riads are notoriously difficult to find and the cab drivers typically speak only French and Arabic, the native languages of Morocco. We were greeted in Marrakech on a steamy June morning by the Marrakech militia, armed with what appeared to be very well used machine guns.
As we exited the airport, I asked Food-C, “How will we know where to meet the driver for Riad Messin?” “Easy” said Food-C, “he will be holding a blue Moroccan view”. You might be wondering (as I was) what exactly does a blue Morroccan view look like? Good effing question! I wish I could answer that, but we never saw anything in the transport area besides pieces of paper with other people’s names on them. No blue. No Moroccan views. Only well used artillery and tears. Okay, I’m exaggerating now, but I WAS more than a little freaked out at the airport. Everything turned out just fine: I called my mom (at 3am Oklahoma time) and she found us a hotel with a name we could pronounce (The Golden Tulip!) But needless to say, Food-C’s trip planning privileges were suspended for the next 5 years. And I tell that story any time I am afforded the opportunity as additional punishment. Luckily, Food-C is a very good sport.
Food-C told me I could ask exactly one question about the trip, on or after May 1. After careful consideration, I asked, “will the weather be nice?” and received “yes” as an answer. When I pressed, Food-C lawyered me, telling me I should have asked a more specific question if I wanted a more specific answer. A few weeks later, he told me I needed a puffy jacket and a bathing suit which sent me into a fit of hysterics trying to figure out what ELSE I needed to pack. The night before we left, Food-C read me the entire itinerary which he typed and printed at work, along with confirmation codes, contact names, departure/arrival times and “free time activity options”! He did such a great job; I may never plan a vacation again!
We spent 4 days in Seattle and 3 days in San Francisco, just the two of us! Foodie Baby stayed with his grandparents, and we were alone and childless for eight entire days! Was it difficult? YES! Especially after the first few days, we missed our little dude a lot! But we also enjoyed the hell out of getting to reconnect with each other, drink an ENTIRE cup of coffee while it was still warm, and reading the paper cover to cover. So many people act shocked when I tell them we left for 8 days, but I have to tell you, everything I read about child development says the absolute BEST thing you can do to raise a happy, curious, intelligent child is have a healthy marriage. And sometimes to have a happy marriage, you have to spend time ALONE. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your kid, it just means that you are also making your marriage a priority. Take that, haters!
I’m going to post about each of our adventures so stay tuned…Until then, if you’re a woman, start dropping not-so-subtle hints to your man! (Maybe direct him to this blog!) If you’re a man, plan a trip for your lady. I guarantee it will be worth your while!
Last Thursday we flew to Santa Barbara for a friend’s wedding. Foodie Baby came along for the trip, complete with navy sport coat and suede bucks to wear to the wedding. The wedding was at San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito so that’s where we stayed. And let me tell you, people, this place has earned every bit of its moniker as the number four hotel in the world (Travel and Leisure T+L 500: World’s Best 2011).
John and Jackie Kennedy spent their honeymoon at “The Ranch” and Vivien Leigh and Sir Lawrence Olivier got hitched in the gardens (as did my friends Kate and Seth!) so it’s obviously kind of a big deal. If I had to describe “Orange”, my two-bedroom cottage overlooking the garden and Montecito hills in three words, I would say: “heaven on earth”.
Seriously, this place was AH-MAZING! If Orange had a washer and dryer and kitchen, I might have nailed my feet to the ground and refused to leave! Wait, maybe part of the reason I loved it was because it DIDN’T have a washer and dryer or kitchen.
Let me set the scene for you: After winding through the hills of Montecito, we pulled into the “Hacienda” in our Mercedes convertible with our hair tied back in beautiful scarves and huge Tom Ford celeb shades on just like the celebrities we are. Actually, that’s a complete lie. That’s how I imagined our arrival, but what really happened was way grosser. We rented a Ford Flex (if you aren’t familiar, a Ford Flex looks like an old school Wagoneer except instead of wood, the siding is silver, and instead of being cool and retro, it’s ugly and nerdy) and could barely fit all the luggage/car seat/stroller/toys I packed inside of it. Then we barreled into 5:00 traffic on the 101 and crept along the highway for 30 minutes while Foodie Baby cried and we all sang Itsy Bitsy Spider to try to calm him…badly…and unsuccessfully because it turned out FB was crying in exasperation due to the impending end of a wicked bout of constipation. I think we are all seeing where this is going, aren’t we?
We pulled into The Ranch in our stuffed like a sausage, ugly as sin Ford Flex just as my mom discovered that FB had dropped the world’s biggest bomb over Baghdad ever, and it was all over him and his car seat. (In the Foodie family, we refer to dirty diapers as bombs…leaky dirty diapers are Bombs Over Baghdad…and if you don’t have kids, this is where you decide you are NEVER reading my blog again…sorry. Kids are gross sometimes and the code names were invented to prevent other restaurant goers from being totally grossed out when we had to make emergency diaper changes, so you’re welcome!) Point being, instead of coolly pulling into the #4 hotel in the world with Tom Fords and a Mercedes, we apologetically parked and said a quick hello to the parents of the bride (all the while warning them to keep their distance) and then began the process of wiping down FB and his car seat much to the dismay of our fellow guests and Ranch employees. Smooooooooth.
Once we made it to the Orange cottage, however, all of those embarrassments were just minor bumps in the road. The weather in Montecito was simply perfect, and the Orange Cottage was magnificent! We walked up a small stairway to Orange’s front patio with a breakfast table and lounge chairs situated outside that overlooked the grove of orange trees that surrounded the garden.
And if I wasn’t already committed to staying in Orange forever, there was a wooden sign to the left of the door that had our last name on it. Inside, the staff had set up a crib for FB, complete with a beanie baby (The Ranch is owned by infamous beanie baby founder, Ty Warner) and a sweet barefoot dreams hoodie that matched the amazingly soft robes that were in the bathroom. Orange is a two-bedroom cottage with a living room in between, and both bedrooms had private back patios with…wait for it…OUTDOOR SHOWERS! I didn’t take a shower inside all weekend! I enjoyed the wonderful weather and showered outside, just like God intended. Our half of the patio also had a hot tub that FB enjoyed thoroughly. The Ranch also has a pool (with a baby pool) just up the road from Orange. The pool area has a small indoor/outdoor fitness facility that looked nice (but I didn’t use) and a cooler with Evian water. I LOVE it when hotels give you free bottles of water. There was also a sunscreen and pool toy area, which I also appreciate.
Oh! I almost forgot! They also spelled out FB’s name with sponges next to the bathtub and included a travel pack of Johnson’s products. I love it when hotels think to include baby toiletries!
We got ready for dinner at the Stone House, which is by the Hacienda. We sat outside and brought FB even though it was about 2 hours past his bedtime with the time zone change. He was his usual, vocal self but the staff and patrons didn’t seem to mind at all. They brought FB a high chair and he happily ate ciabatta and some kind of delicious Parmesan cracker until my mom decided to take him upstairs so that the rest of us could talk and drink wine without FB’s intervention! (I know, best Grandma EVER!) Before we left, a stranger at another table held FB and told my mom he was sorry he didn’t do more to entertain FB while he was at the table. Could a restaurant get any MORE kid friendly? Wow!
I had an amazing dinner that I took exactly ZERO pictures of before I scarfed it down. Oops. I started with crispy artichoke (which was a roasted artichoke literally cut in half) with aioli and arugula salad. For a main course I had salmon and stole almost all of the crack-like mashed potatoes that came with my husband’s braised short ribs. This was after I ate a few baby back ribs, coleslaw, roasted brussel sprouts and a few baskets of bread. Because I’m super health conscious (meaning my skinny jeans were about to rip at the seams) I passed on dessert.
The next morning, I went on a 5 mile “waterfall” hike with my friend Annie. I put waterfall in quotes because it was more of a trickle of water than a fall of water, but the hike was really nice, and right next to our hotel. I heard rumors that the hiking trails had really bad poison oak, but I never saw any myself. I did, unfortunately, see a dead mouse. I almost bolted off the trail in a very un-outdoorswoman way, but I recovered and walked (sprinted and screamed) past the deceased rodent.
All in all, the San Ysidro Ranch was amazing. I think it was probably the nicest place I’ve ever stayed. There was plenty to do (we really didn’t need to leave the property) and it appealed to people of all ages. They were welcoming to FB and he loved his barefoot dreams hoodie and beanie baby. I’m already ready to go back…
We love food, wine, traveling and each other…at least we love each other most of the time…as long as there is plenty of food and wine involved…and no one asks what rocket is more than 11 times on a single vacation, because if we tell you rocket means arugula ten times, you should probably stop asking (especially if we haven’t eaten in a few hours), or just order it and see for yourself.
Our family is like a Super Tuscan wine. Super Tuscans got their start in the 1970s when Italian winemakers decided to create a new an exciting red wine. Italy has strict wine blending laws according to the Denominazione di Origine Controlla e Garantita (DOCG). Producers of Super Tuscans decided to break the rules and make a new wine blended from grapes of their choosing. Although our birth years span 1940 to 2011, we were blended in 1994, not the 1970s like the Super Tuscans. And we aren’t from Italy. So really all we have in common with the Super Tuscan is that we decided to break the rules and become a “blended” family that gets along pretty well (again, as long as we are properly fed and wined) Maybe we are more like a White Zinfandel…but not Beringer, a classier one…unless we are really desperate.
All in all, there are eleven of us so we tend to take over a restaurant when we walk in. Six of us are adults (by age…only five of us are adults by demeanor) and we span three generations. We travel ALL the time. We live in Oklahoma, and July in Oklahoma feels like I imagine it would feel to live inside of a mouth. And I’m not talking about a mouth that just put a piece of spearmint gum in it, I’m talking about a mouth that just woke up from an 8 course wine pairing dinner at Joel Robuchon. In other words, it’s HOT and HUMID and HORRIBLE. So we leave because it’s hot. We also leave because it’s cold or because the kids are out of school for Spring Break or because one of us is running a marathon, or because someone is having a big birthday, or because flights were on sale, or because it’s Friday and we don’t have plans.
We almost always bring our kids with us when we travel. They are great travelers, and they love trying new things. They also love room service. Their restaurant, travel and recipe picks are on our Foodie Kids page. They are excellent chefs, explorers and pizza/mac & cheese/ cupcake connoisseurs. But they will also try new foods and let you know what they think of them.
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