Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

June 18, 2017

A Happy Break

Domingo and I always talked about taking the girls to Disneyland before elementary school. We were both in agreement that we didn’t want to take the kids out of school for vacations, and we prefer not to visit Disneyland in the summer when temperatures can easily climb past 100. Our plan was to go during the school year, when attendance was low and the temperature was mild.

Somehow it didn’t occur to me that our ideal time window was closing when I registered Nicole for Kindergarten. In fact, it wasn’t until early May, when someone on facebook posted pictures of their Disney trip, that I realized we hadn’t done any planning of our own! It was too late to avoid the summer attendance high, but at least we could still try and avoid the peek heat.

Ah well. Live and learn.

The girls enjoyed the trip immensely. We did a lot of preemtive research on where we’d like to eat, downloaded the app which gave wait times, and decided to wing the rest. That ended up being a very good thing. The first ride we went on, Finding Nemo, ended up being a little two intense for the kids. Alexis also struggled with the lines. The girls were content with just meeting princesses, which we did over and over and over! So many princesses. They both loved the King James Carousel which seemed to be the only ride with a consistently short line. Win! We were also able to attend the character breakfasts by simply showing up at the right time, which is great since making reservations with young kids is often tricky.

Some of the decisions that worked out well:

We booked an off site “Good neighbor” hotel within walking distance to the park. The monorail was down for repairs during our entire stay and the official Disneyland hotels were technically further! Our hotel ended up being close enough that we could watch fireworks and see Cinderella’s castle from the balcony. It was also right next to an IHOP and McDonalds, so we had some cheap, easy food options.

We rented a double stroller (City Mini double) through a third party, which was handy for the park, but man am I glad we decided not to purchase it when I was pregnant with Alexis. The stroller came in handy for all the Disney walking, but it was a beast to maneuver. I doubt we’d ever use it at home.

We opted for Photo Pass. I can be picky with my photos, but we did so many trips to see the princesses that the staff was able to get some Sarah-approved photos. I’ve also been really tired and not feeling well of late, so it was nice to take the pressure off and not feel like I needed to be on top of my photography game.

What we plan to do differently next time:

Attend during the school year, maybe during Spring break or on one of the three day weekends. We’re close enough that it’s feasible. Even though the temperature wasn’t that bad, all things considered, it felt hot and that was draining. Bad whether in Anaheim is clouds, which makes for better photos anyway.

December 28, 2016

Holiday Travel With Kids

We’re back home from visiting family for the holidays, and this was – without a doubt – our most painful traveling experience. It was rough all around, but our trip out was pretty epically bad.

Flying from West coast to East we pretty much had two options: wake the kids up early, or keep the kids up way past their bedtime. We opted for the latter. I figured interrupting their morning sleep would set up a painful rest of the day, even if they went to bed at a reasonable time, whereas if we kept them up late we’d just experience a bad evening. We had a short hop to Vegas and then a long lay over. Up to this point things were going reasonably smoothly. The girls were super excited about the whole process, and very well behaved for the first plane. Vegas is where it all went to pot.

After lunch we made our way to the gate to discover our next plane was delayed. How delayed? Well, it was almost boarding time, and the airline had made a decision to wait and hold the flight for additional passengers from another flight. There were 30 people scheduled to take our flight out of Vegas, who were arriving from Los Angeles. Their plane out of Los Angeles hadn’t even taken off yet. We were waiting for passengers who weren’t even airborn yet!

I can’t really blame the airline for their decision. There were no other available seats between then (the 20th) and Christmas. The airline’s choice was to inconvenience a hundred people, or ruin Christmas for 30. They made the right call, even though it made things painful for us.

Vegas is most definitely not a family friendly airport, and probably one of the worst to be stuck in. Any open area is occupied by slot machines, and the kids are not allowed to be near those machines, which means there’s no real place to let them stretch their legs. By the time it was boarding we had some very wired and very tired kids.

We took off about an hour after Alexis’ effective bed time. She was mighty cranky and overtired. I got her to nap on me about 45 minutes into the flight, but sleeping on the plane proved incredibly difficult for her. The next three hours were spent in 20 minute nap cycles and 5 minute crying cycles. Adding insult to injury Nicole started to get really tired about an hour before landing. At this point she had been up four hours after bedtime. She kept asking when it would be her turn to sleep on me. Oh how I longed for four arms and two laps.

The only saving grace was that Alexis was just a few weeks beyond two. Technically she’s supposed to be in her own seat, and we did have a seat for her, but the stewardess assumed she was under two and let her stay in my lap for landing. Normally I’m one of those really annoying strict rule followers, but I figured the difference in safety had to be minimal. After all there were some 18 months old bigger than her who would still be allowed on a lap!

Our return trip was a bit smoother. Alexis fell asleep during take off and slept the entire first hop. No mid nap fussing. That meant both kids stayed awake the second flight. We kept the entertained by singing songs, and lots and lots and lots of snacks. Alexis also had a ton of fun feeding her stuffed cookie monster by shoving gold fish into his mouth. Cookie monster is most definitely in need of a bath.

By the end of the flight Alexis was so deliriously tired that she’d burst into google fits when ever I’d wiggle her stuffed cookie monster in front of her. She did request to sleep on me about a half hour to landing, but we thought it best to keep her awake, rather than wake her just as she’s getting into a deep sleep.

A while back I said it was good our difficult flight was the return trip so we didn’t spend our entire vacation dreading flying. With our difficult flight being up front this time, we definitely dreaded the return. The benefit of having the smoothest flight being our final flight is that the girls ended up making a lot of friends around them. After we landed no less than four people praised them for being such good fliers. It’s nice to end travel on a positive note.

September 11, 2015

Lap Child


Our trip to our family reunion wasn’t just Alexis’ first flight east, but also our first time traveling with a lap child.

I wasn’t two keen on the idea of splitting up over two rows. I wasn’t sure how understanding our seat neighbors would be of sitting next to small children and wanted a Domingo buffer. (Dirty glances bother him far less than they bother me.) But I was also a little nervous about how we’d do over the six hours in the air. When we flew with Nicki as a baby we opted for the extra seat. At the time I remarked to Domingo that I couldn’t imagine flying with a five month old on our lap for the full six hours. Now here we were with a nine month old lap baby! And with an active child to boot!

Since there are no direct flights between us and my parents, we had no choice but to opt for a layover. We went through Chicago on the way out, and returned through Denver. Thus the long flight was always the first flight. Our hope was that the second flight would be less trying on our over tired children’s patience. We also opted for long layovers so we’d have a chance to get everyone food and potty breaks, even if there were delays.

Having a lap child ended up going smoother than expected. Alexis fell asleep during the takeoff and decent of the first flight. She remained awake for takeoff on the second flight out of Chicago, but fell asleep midway through the flight. She didn’t awake until the stewardess made her announcement about beginning our final decent. She awoke, an hour past her bedtime, to a very full diaper and popping ears. My usual very mellow baby was very, very not happy. She cried non stop for the next twenty minutes until she was off the plane and we were walking to baggage claim.

The rest of the time went pretty smoothly. She loved playing with plane safety information, and kept trying to grab the tray table lock. At one point she grabbed an extra bag of pretzels in each hand and began shaking them like a rattle. For the last flight between Denver and home I wore her in the Ergo and she slept the entire time.

Nicki also did extremely well. She has been enamored with the ‘Big Plane’ ever since we picked up Grandma and Grandpa at the airport last thanksgiving. She loved everything from how fast take off felt, to the bump when the wheels touched down again. The snack service was a big hit as well. She loved her apple juice with a straw. We brought the leap pad tablet to help keep Nicki entertained, but didn’t end up breaking it out. She was so excited to be on the big plane that she didn’t need much to keep her entertained.

We did have one hiccup where, during our layover in Chicago, Nicole managed to spill an entire chocolate milk all down the front of her shirt. I had been worried about the possibility of accidents on the plane and had an extra pair of pants and underwear for her. The inability to congregate at the front of the plane, long lines at the back, turbulence that requires us to stay seated, and tiny bladders do not mix! But it hadn’t occurred to me to pack a spare shirt, so we now have a souvenir “Chicago Fire” shirt.

My hiccup came when it was time to pass through security for our return trip. I admit the significance of flying on September 11th was lost on me (I blame the sleep deprivation!). I noticed the flights were significantly cheaper, and it didn’t occur to me why until after I had booked our trip. As to be expected, TSA was being extra thorough. It seemed like every other person was being selected for additional screening, which sadly included me. Poor Domingo had to hold on to both girls and collect all our luggage because I wasn’t allowed to touch anything until I was cleared. At least it was a short inconvenience.

We had a great trip despite a couple of hiccups. I’m so glad we were able to go.

August 25, 2013

Airborn Toddler

Yesterday was our first cross-continental flight with a toddler. It was safe to say I was a more than a little nervous about it. Dreading it might be a more apt description. Flying with toddlers is rumored to be more difficult than flying with babies (they have opinions and preferences now! And remaining seated and still and using indoor voices are typically not among them.) Our last east coast venture resulted in a diaper blowout during each leg of our return trip. What would be in store for us this time? The answer was not much.

Here’s what I learned about flying with a toddler.

There are a 101 ways to entertain a toddler with plastic cups. Wowza. We asked for a spare cup thinking it would make a good snack bowl to help keep the mess contained. Nicki loved the concept and was grabbing puffs with doubled handed glee the way some of us (*cough* me *coungh*) eat popcorn. At one point we started mixing snacks – cheerios AND gold fish crackers. The novelty of the different snack combinations in the same bowl fascinated Nicki.

snack bowl

We also turned the plastic cup into toys. We put them on her feet like shoes and “hid” things in them. At one point we were holding them to our faces to make funny sound. Hearing Nicki ‘sing’ muffled by the cup? Priceless. They were great distractions and a source of entertainment for both of us!

You can get away with packing a lot less stuff than you think you need, and you will be grateful you did. Nicki’s at that stage where she’s walking, but can’t walk the length of the airport. So we had to carry her, our bags and the car seat. Everything seems twice as heavy when you’re stressed.

We opted not to bring many diapers again since they’re bulky. I brought a day and a half’s worth, all overnights to minimize the number of necessary diaper changes, with the intention of picking up some more at the store first thing in the morning. The downside to this approach was the local drug store didn’t have the brand and style of diapers we prefer (Huggies Snug and Dry tend to fit Nicki best, we’ve only had three blowouts, including the two from our last flight, since 4 weeks old.) But holy mother of expensive! I guess I now know why all those online diaper cost analyses are so high.

We also mostly passed on toys since they didn’t really keep Nicki’s interest for long last time we flew cross country. The name of the game was small and easy to tuck away into the corners of our suitcase. Daddy bought some new squirting bath toys which we served us well for both bath time in the hotel and a non-bulky distraction on the plane. We also brought the headbands she likes to play with. That was it. For in flight entertainment we let her destroy the sky mall magazine and put the extra plastic cups to good use.

The only thing we found really necessary to pack for Nicki was clothes and food for the plane. Toddler food, baby sun tan lotion, diapers and wipes tend to be sold everywhere. Even our hotel gift shop sells baby sun tan lotion.

The Miami International airport is deceptively long. The extra cost of buying diapers in the convenience store this morning was worth it.

Do not, repeat NOT, feed the baby solid foods the day before the flight.

Happy Little Frequent Flyer

I thought I was being all clever putting Nicki in overnight diapers for the plane. Airplanes have such small changing tables in the restrooms, and with the possibility of turbulence I thought we the extra time an overnight diaper might buy us might be a necessity to get us to our layover destination. What I did not count on was poop. Oh, and there was poop. Lots of poop. On both legs of our trip. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Overtired parents

The day started out way too early. We had a 7:30 am flight, which would not be a problem pre-baby. When I booked the flight, however, I forgot that it generally takes us (or at least me) 2 hours from waking-up to out-the-door these days. I also forgot that the airport is about an hour away and that we were up late last night finishing up packing (and laundry and dishes, etc.) It was also the Saturday before New Years, one of the busiest travel days. Mommy did not plan the start of our travel day well, and she paid for her mistake with sleep deprivation.

Fussy baby won’t sleep.

Our trip out east went beautifully. Nicki fell asleep on the first leg of the flight, and was in a well rested happy mood on the second leg. (If she was going to only have one good travel day, I’m glad it was the one out east! Otherwise, our whole trip I’d be worrying about the return.)

This time? I knew we were in trouble when we had to wake Nicki up to go to the airport. She was so comfy and warm in her sleeper, and so unhappy about having to get out and have her diaper changed. Overtired and fussy, she wasn’t happy about the long security line to check a bag.

Nicki usually falls asleep when being rocked. The light vibrations of the car can also do it. She fell asleep during takeoff during our first flight. Since the flight was so smooth, she didn’t stay asleep and couldn’t go back to sleep. Once she was up, she was up. And cranky.

It wasn’t until we arrived at Las Vegas and I got out the ergo that she took a little cat nap on me. And by little I mean just enough that she wouldn’t fall asleep on the second flight until we were halfway through our final descent. She stayed asleep until our luggage came off the carousal. This second cat nap was just long enough to keep her from going to sleep on the drive back to the house. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s one ten minute name, one half hour nap, and one 15 minute name.

Fussy Baby won’t nurse

Another thing that went well on the trip out was nursing. It was my first time nursing outside the house, and also my first time nursing with a nursing cover. Neither seemed to bother Nicki. She was a champ. We had expressed breastmilk and formula (first time mom is always over prepared!) The formula was never used, but the expressed breastmilk looked like it was going bad well before the four hour mark, so we decided to skip expressed breastmilk for the flight home.

This time? She wasn’t having any of it. Not one drop. We tried to nurse four separate times. Not only did she refuse, but she would grab and pull at the cover while screaming at the top of her lungs. If anyone at the airport didn’t know we were trying to nurse, they did after that! Good thing Domingo insisted we bring four bottles of emergency formula. She consumed the fourth and final bottle on the drive from the airport home.

Lessons Learned

(1) Don’t plan the flight too early. The day runs much better when the baby gets a full night of sleep.
(2) Overnight diapers are the way to go (but they aren’t full proof.)
(3) New toys only help for a few minutes. Keep a set of five toys (new or not) and cycle through them to keep baby distracted.
(4) Try not to take the baby out of the carrier close to landing, she will not want to go back into it!
(5) Relax. Much like weddings, something will go wrong no matter how much you plan. It wasn’t all bad, and now she is sleeping quite soundly.

I was happy to have been able to attend my sister’s wedding, but I realize how lucky I was that everything worked out. We gave ourselves a recovery day after flying out and before wedding activities started, and one for after the wedding and before flying back. Turns out I needed both rest days. I tired myself out at the rehearsal, and needed to go back to the hotel. The day after the wedding I got sick to my stomach. But the day of, I was alright, and lasted until the end of the night. I feel less guilty now about missing my college roommate’s wedding. It’s clear that this trip was right on the cusp of what I was capable of. Had my college roommate lived closer, and we could have made a day trip out of it, I think I could have managed.

The return trip was not as pleasant as the flight out. This time we were switching planes during our layover. The trip started out very positive. Tuesday is a light travel day, so both legs we got a row to ourselves. I could have the window seat, Domingo could have his aisle seat and I didn’t have to worry about disturbing anyone (other than him, of course).

I managed to fall asleep on the first flight during one of the only times the fasten seatbelt sign wasn’t illuminated. Poor timing on my part. When we started landing, we hit a bit of turbulence. Seven months pregnant + turbulence was pretty miserable. The layover ended up almost two hours, and, to be honest, I was glad to have a break. It was our only opportunity to eat real food, but I didn’t recover my appetite in time, so I stuck with fruit juice and a bagel. I just couldn’t stomach the thought of anything else. When we were standing in line to board for the second plane, all of a sudden zippy gave me a good kick and I needed to go RIGHT. NOW. I didn’t want to give up my spot in line, so I had to wait again.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to be home.

We survived our flight to the east coast, at thirty weeks (plus!) pregnant no less. I admit I was nervous about it. Despite my assurances to Domingo to the contrary, I knew there was potential for problems. I still get pregnancy related migraines and nausea on occasion. A three lbs baby dancing on my bladder combined with turbulence cannot be a good combination. My goal was to never let my bladder get too full, which meant using the restroom early and often.

I wanted to sit close to the bathroom in the front of the plane, since turbulence is usually worse at the rear. In order to ensure this, we sprung for priority boarding. Southwest has open seating, so if you want to sit somewhere specific, you need to board early. The priority boarding was a complete waste of money. We checked in with boarding numbers A58 & A59. Once at the airport, the gate agent told us that pregnant woman can board with the family boarding (after A60) so the $20 we spent only moved us up 3 spots in line! We still ended up in the middle of the plane.

I’m not sure we could have depended on the family boarding, though. I tried to find the policy online, but the only mention of pregnant fliers was that southwest recommends flying prior to the 38th week. I think letting pregnant fliers board in family boarding might be the prerogative of the gate agent. I may have had a distressed look on my face (I’m not very good at hiding nerves) and she may have assumed I was more uncomfortable than I was, and taken pity on me.

Normally I would opt for a window seat, but this trip we went with the aisle so I wouldn’t have to disturb anyone with my frequent trips to the rest room. Well, actually Domingo was in the aisle seat, so I disturbed him, but he’s my husband so that’s allowed. We also packed a bit of extra food (especially protein bars) and bought a couple bottles of water at the airport.

The first leg of our trip had little turbulence and Zippy was pretty easy on me. She was bouncing around a lot, but stayed off my bladder for the most part. Much to my delight, most people recognized that I was pregnant too, and made some sort of comment about it. The stewardess referred to me as “momma”, and the person sitting next to me asked when I was due.

I did have one time when the woman in line in front of me, not only noticed, but asked if I “had to go, like, every five minutes?”. I made a joke out of it, and said that baby was being good to me, so it was more like every ten. I admit, I thought she’d let me go first, since she not only noticed I was pregnant, but also acknowledged I had to go badly. Had she offered to let me go first, I would have declined, since I didn’t have to go that badly. But she never offered.

Having the iphone also proved useful. The first leg of the flight I noticed some playing a word search game. That looked like fun! The plane had a layover, but we were continuing on the same plane so there was no time debark. I was able to use the time between flights to download a similar app, and kept myself busy for the second leg.

So the flight out was as good as we could hope for. I’m so glad. Had it been miserable I would would spend the whole trip dreading the return. Here’s hoping the return is equally good to me!

April 18, 2012


This evening I got out our suitcases to pack for our trip tomorrow and discovered this:

Looks like we have a stowaway hiding in our suitcase!

Tomorrow we’re flying to the east coast to see my sister get married. This will be my third trip flying with zippy. I was 4-5 weeks pregnant on our trip to Hawaii, and 12-13 weeks pregnant flying to Pennsylvania for Christmas. This trip, at 30 weeks, will be the first time I’ll be noticeably pregnant. (At least I think I’m noticeably pregnant.)

We were originally going to have a fourth trip in May. It was going to be a dual trip with two different east coast stops. One stop at my parents for my baby shower, and then another stop further south to see my college roommate get married. We decided pretty early on that the baby shower wasn’t going to happen. It was too much to cram into one weekend, especially given how late we will be in the pregnancy. But we were holding out to see if it would be possible to attend my former roommate’s wedding.

In the ended we decided I would just be too pregnant to make it practical. I’m already getting tired easily, and since I don’t bend too well in the middle anymore, I sometimes need a hand for doing even simple things. This trip for my sister’s wedding I have not only had Domingo to help me, but my parents as well. Having my parents around took a lot of stress off Domingo and I. If the fourth trip had happened, the return flight would have also be right at the cusp of when my doctor will give me the ok to fly.

I still feel guilty about not going to my college roommate’s wedding. We planned (or at least tried to plan) zippy around these events. Since airlines let you fly up to 36-38 weeks, I thought it would be no problem. Now naïve I was about how much pregnancy takes out of you.

I also feel guilty about leaving Lily in the kennel for a week. Now that the suitcases are out, she knows something’s up and isn’t happy about it. I can’t imagine how confusing this time is for her.

October 30, 2011

And Home Again

I mentioned last time that Domingo had a business trip coming up. Two weeks to Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii. I can’t complain, I tagged along for 9 days. It was a working trip for both of us. While Domingo was out, I spent my days working on research in the hotel. In the evenings we enjoyed the awesome scenery, and playing in the waves. I also got to test out my macro lens.

Doesn’t it look like a drawing and not a photograph?

It’s funny, because we just vacationed in Oahu in March (in time for the Tsunami). When we came home I was sure that would be the last we’d be seeing of the Hawaiian waters for quite some time. In fact, we weren’t sure we were going to have any vacation at all for quite some time.

I’m still hoping to graduate in 2012, which means buckling down to finish. Once I start a new job, it will take a while to accrue vacation time. It will be much harder for me to tag along with Domingo on these trips.

This year has been the year of fun business trips – China, Vegas, Hawaii. I have no illusions, next year will probably be much less exciting. Domingo has a couple trips lined up for next year already, but they’re to much less exotic locations, and I don’t think I will be able to tag along. Lily will be happy about that – less kennel time!

August 9, 2011

Returning Home

We’re finally home! Actually we were home for two days between China and Las Vegas – but that’s splitting hairs. Our overnight flight from China landed at around 10am, after 14 hours of flying and a four hour layover in Japan. I made the rookie travel mistake of thinking “I’ll just take a cat nap”. I woke up five hours later. It took me until Tuesday to really adjust back to California time, just in time for our trip to Vegas.

(Photos from the trip in our family album)

China was fun. We were there for the SIGIR conference, but managed to take an extra day to sight see. (We had to see the great wall, I mean how often to get to go to China?!). It was my conference, so Domingo relaxed and spent most of the day working in the hotel room. Next, we were in Vegas for Domingo’s conference, and it was my turn to hang out in the hotel all day working on my paper. I had a paper deadline which I needed to focus on. To add insult to injury, this was the view from the hotel.

Yes, the Vegas gods were mocking me.

We did manage to see a few shows in the evening. I love Cirque du Soleil! I love Vegas, but jeepers is it expensive. Our trip to the great wall, which included 4 hour round trip transportation, guided tour of the Ming tombs and lunch cost less than any of the shows we say in Vegas!

The iPad ended up being very worth it, even the $100 case came in handy. We only took it to China (editing a 9 thousand word paper on an ipad would have driven me insane!). I got a few important emails while we were out that I needed to respond to, and the keyboard made it much easier. The iPad also made for a great entertainment device on the plane. I had plenty of games and video lectures to keep me entertained. With fourteen hours in the air, that’s a huge deal. It was small enough that it fit easily on the tray table, even when I had the case folded to look like a laptop. I almost snapped my laptop in two a few years ago when the person in front of me decided to recline and the tray table lip caught the top of my computer. Not cool.

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