John and George joined me on my first work-related trip to New Mexico over the long weekend. Like many first-time parents, we were so worried about out first travel adventure with our child. Although George is only 14 weeks old, we thought we’d better give traveling as a family a go while he is young (and we are hopelessly optimistic). We have several family trips on the calendar this year and getting the “first time” out of the way was very helpful, not to mention a true confidence builder for us. While things didn’t go perfectly, they were far better than we anticipated. We also know that traveling as a family won’t always be easy and carefree, so we feel very blessed to have had a wonderful experience.
If there are three general pieces of advice I would share with new parents, they would be:
- Have patience. Traveling with a child can be a lot of work and can be very stressful. Also, be nice to your significant other (especially if they are traveling with you) and have patience with them too. Remember, you are all on the same team.
- Plan ahead. While you can’t plan everything, plan what you can. Research places and actions ahead of time.
- Have fun. Remember that you’re a parent traveling with your new family. Take it easy and have fun!
Below is a quick summary of our trip. I’ve included trip notes and tips, when possible.
IAH to ABQ
Our trip began with a quick 30 minute drive to the airport and a 2 hour flight to Albuquerque. Little George was such a great traveler.
- Checked Bags – We checked our two suitcases in for this trip. Although we don’t pay to check bags due to my status with United, we would have paid to do this. There was no way that we were going to be able to pack and carry everything on-board we brought for the trip. We ended up with four carry-ons (my purse, George’s baby bag, John’s messenger bag and my travel Boppy), in addition to the stroller and car seat.
- TSA Pre-Check – John and I have Pre-Check due to our status with United Airlines, but anyone can sign up for it. With Pre-Check, you don’t have to remove your shoes or liquids from your bag as you go through security. Infants are allowed to travel through Pre-Check with their parents. Score! This meant that I didn’t have to remove my cooler bag (with breast milk) from my baby bag and had to hand-carry George through the metal detector. The stroller and car seat had to go through the scanner. If this is an option for you, you should sign up for TSA Pre-Check. It took us less than 10 minutes to get through security.
- Airline Club – Due to my frequent travels, we have been United Club members for several years. These clubs have been indispensable during our travels for work and pleasure. I’m happy to report that these clubs are also helpful for families. After going through security, we spent some time in the club by our gate. We had the family room of the club all to ourselves and were able to eat, drink and relax in peace (and quiet). It was so relaxing that George even went down for an unscheduled nap. I know these clubs aren’t useful or relatable to some folks, but I thought I would mention it anyway.
- Wear your baby – Although we have two awesome Moby wraps that we love (and that I use daily), we purchased an Ergo wrap in advance of this trip. The Ergo is more user-friendly for John and is easier on his back. I wore George through the airport in our Ergo and he fell asleep on me in the United Club. He slept through out brief 45 minute flight delay and woke-up while the plane was taking off – perfect!
- Frequent Flier – I have mentioned this before, but we are incredibly loyal to United. I know some folks love it or hate it, but we have always been treated fairly and have had some amazing travel experiences with them. Due to my status with the airline, we were upgraded to first class on our flight. Having the extra seat space and leg room was wonderful. There were only six seats in first class and a Grandma and a couple with a toddler were our seat mates. Again, things couldn’t have worked out better.
- Gate Check – We gate checked our car seat (a Chicco a Key Fit 30) and our travel collapsible stroller (a Chicco Keyfit Caddy). We got tags at our gate and bagged our car seat in a gate check bag that we purchased from Amazon.
- Seating Arrangements – When he wasn’t in the Ergo or with John, George slept on the travel Boppy we brought with us. I also used the Boppy to nurse George throughout the trip and I’m glad that I had it with me. I sat in the aisle seat and John took the window seat. I opted to bring bottled water with me on board because I was concerned about having a drink spill on me/George in-flight. I also just picked up some grab and go snacks at the airport instead of a full meal. Given my nerves and space concerns, I wasn’t sure how things would work out. Even though we traveled over lunch time, I was perfectly fine with grapes, cheese, and a Lara Bar. I probably would have been okay with a cup and a drink, but I didn’t want to push things. Given the logistics of my seat and George, I was not able to use the tray table that extended from my arm rest. However, this wasn’t a big concern for me.
We decided to stay the first night of the trip in Albuquerque. We could have made the journey to Santa Fe on the same day, but we really wanted to break things up in case George (or one of us!) had a melt down.
- Car Rental – We rented a car from Enterprise for the weekend. Because our car seat can be installed without a base, we didn’t bring one. We were upgraded to a Chrysler 300 and it had plenty of room for us, our luggage, stroller, car seat, etc.
- Hotel – As big Starwood loyalists, we stayed at the Sheraton Uptown. We were upgraded to a hospitality suite that had a spacious bedroom, separate living area, living room, refrigerator, etc. We had Club Lounge Access which includes free breakfast and access to drinks and snacks throughout the day. We were also thrilled when we learned that the hotel offers Pack and Plays for its guests. Naturally, we got one for George as this a great place for him to play and relax. The wonderful hotel staff assembled it for us and everything. We always enjoy staying at this hotel and the staff are always excellent to work with.
- Dinner from Los Cuates – Tired from our travels, John picked up “to go” dinner for us and we ate it in the hotel room. Oh how I miss New Mexican food!
- Sleeping Arrangements – Sleep was probably the biggest source of anxiety on this trip. George will only sleep in a Rock and Play. He hates the crib and bassinet, despite our attempts to get him to sleep in it. Since we weren’t bringing a Rock and Play on this trip (although we thought about it; we also considered shipping one there and donating it after the weekend), we bought a small co-sleeper bed to try out. George hated it. He also hated the Pack and Play. I know some people will frown on this, but we ended up with George sleeping on me (2 1/2 hours – I was awake the whole time) and sleeping in his car seat (8 hours). I ended up putting the car seat on the floor by a low couch that I ended up sleeping on. I could literally reach down and touch George at all times. The scenario wasn’t ideal, but everyone got sleep. I will do just about anything to keep George in his routine of sleeping through the night without waking to be fed or changed.
Since my work was in Santa Fe, we spent the majority of our trip there. I love Santa Fe for many reasons, including the ability to walk everywhere. As parents know, this is great when infants are involved.
- Drive – Santa Fe is approximately 60 miles north of Albuquerque. George had a difficult time with ear pressure (we think!) during part of the drive. Poor baby! Other than the brief ear issue, the drive was uneventful.
- Hotel – We stayed at the Inn of the Governors – my “go to” hotel in Santa Fe for business travel. The hotel is three blocks from the Capitol and walking distance to every building I typically frequent while I’m town for work. The hotel upgraded us to a suite, which is obviously ideal when traveling with a little one. We were able to check-in early and enjoyed a casual lunch in our room before doing some shopping. The hotel staff is fantastic -they are always very accommodating and helpful. The hotel also offers a really nice breakfast buffet that is included in the room rate.
- Dinner – We had Upper Crust Pizza for dinner – a delicious GF pie with green chile. Upper Crust delivers to your hotel door room – perfect for cold days or when you are taking care of a little one. George was asleep while we ate, so this was the perfect set-up.
- Sleeping Arrangements – I was worried about sleep on Sunday night too. However, George proved that I was worrying over nothing – he slept for 10 1/2 hours in his car seat. I know some of you are cursing me right now for letting him sleep like that (again), but I checked on him constantly and made sure he was healthy, happy and breathing. We also used a humidifier to combat the really dry air in Santa Fe.
ABQ to IAH
Flights from ABQ to IAH are generally limited at the beginning of the year. Our flight left at 5:00 PM – it wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t terrible. We would have preferred something that got us home earlier, but my meeting schedule made it impossible.
Checked bags – We checked our two suitcases (again) for the journey home.
- TSA Pre-Check – Even though the ABQ airport has Pre-Check, it wasn’t open due to slow airport traffic. It didn’t matter anyway because there weren’t lines and we sailed through security. This time, they let me wear George in the Ergo through metal detector.
- Very Late Lunch – We ate at Los Cuates (the same New Mexican food chain we had dinner from on Saturday night) at the airport. This was our first meal out in public with George and he was an angel. I can’t believe we have waited this long to take him out to eat, but the timing had never really worked out before. Both John and I were able to enjoy our meals while George entertained himself in the car seat (when Mom wasn’t engaging him).
- Ergo – Without fail, George falls asleep when I wear him in the Ergo. He slept at the airport and only woke up when the plane took off.
- Flight – Our flight was about two hours long. Between nursing George, burping him and playing with him, the flight home flew by.
I’m getting better at it, but I can be the Queen of Over-Packing. We spent a lot of time making lists and thinking about what to pack for George. Here are a few notes/tips.
- George and I shared a large suitcase. We may eventually travel with our own, but for now it seems easy enough to share.
- The largest item I packed was the co-sleeper bed that we didn’t use. Go figure.
- We packed 8 burp clothes and we ended up using all of them.
- We packed 4 Aden and Anais swaddle blankets. We love them and you can use them for everything.
- I know they aren’t earth-friendly, but I always pack several sizes of Ziplock bags on our travels. You can use these for a lot of things – dirty clothes, packing wet items, preventing leaks/spills, etc.
And there you have it. Thanks to John and George, I was able to travel to New Mexico and have a very productive work trip. I loved having them with me!
Any travel tips that you’d like to share?