Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Take only what you need to survive"

or "Holiday travels with small children"

This Christmas we were blessed to be able to go visit my parents.  Unfortunately that involved a 2 hour car ride, navigating a rather large airport, 4 hours in a plane, navigating another large airport, and a second car ride of undetermined length (I fell asleep).  And then we had to go back.  Thank God for tailwinds and non-stops.

Was it fun getting there?  No.  Was it worth it? H-E-double-hockey-sticks yes.

Its a trip we've made a couple times already with at least one child and I like to think we get savvier at airport travel with toddlers each time.  The first time was with Izzy as an infant.  We took her travel system.  Better decisions have since been made.  The last time was with Johnny in my lap, and Izzy in her car seat strapped to a Gogo-Kidz Travelmate.  Getting close.

This time, with a 3 yr old and an almost 2 year old I decided we would not survive the airport without:


1.  Safety.  In large crowded places where my attention is divided I am a firm believer in kid restraints.  Be it a stroller, carseat, or baby carrier if my child is strapped down I know where to find him/her.  The Diono RXT+Travelmate gave us the option of wheeling the kids through the airport strapped to their carseats.  When they got tired of that, or absolutely needed to be held (like Johnny did on the way back), the Ergo allowed us a free set of hands for carrying bags while keeping them secure.

Yes my son is picking his nose.  *sigh*
2.  Ease of boarding.  Take a Diono RXT, attach a Gogo Kidz Travelmate, and cue Handel's Messiah.

The Travelmate makes traveling through the airport with a car seat much easier, but the Diono RXT makes it pure amazing because it is narrow enough to fit down the aisle of the aircraft.  Barely.  We just strapped the kids in, wheeled them to our seats, removed the Travelmate, installed the seat, and sat down.  Last time my husband had to carry our car seat to our seats because it wouldn't fit down the aisle while I navigated our baggage, an almost 2 year old, and a 3 month old to our seats.  I couldn't imagine doing the same x2 car seats.

3.  Hands-free comforting.   Johnny had a meltdown on the way back.  I mean full-blown I'm-going-to-cry-for-20-minutes-and-there-is-nothing-you-can-do-about-it meltdown.  Turns out he's not a huge fan of new experiences he hit his limit just as we joined one of LAX's famously long lines.  First I tried back carry in the Ergo.  He kicked and screamed -- with Hub's help I couldn't even get him strapped in.  I 100% forgot I was pregnant (don't say its never happened to you), plopped him on top of my 28wk bump and strapped him on with the Ergo.  He was still screaming, but at least it wasn't for lack of being held and I still had two hands free for luggage.  I left Johnny strapped in through security which turned out to be a good idea since the TSA absolutely had to check his Mr. Giggles for explosive devices.  Unhitching him to walk through the metal detector might have cued another inconsolable melt down, but thankfully the agent let him stay attached and we passed with flying colors.  And the TSA agent even hand delivered Mr. Giggles right away after proving he was just a stuffed animal.

4.  I don't trust the baggage handlers.  That's a personal problem.  We could have checked our car seats.  In fact Johnny could have sat on a lap.  I figured at 30lbs he would make a pretty nasty projectile in a crash though.  More importantly I like to know our car seats are intact on the other end and safe to use.  Whether they will actually get thrown into the cargo hold like a rugby ball or placed gingerly, I can't shake the thought of the former scenario from my head.

5.  No strollers.  The Ergo is so much easier to travel with than a stroller.  It folds up, we don't have to check it (see above), and its one less bulky item we have to squeeze into the vehicle picking us up on the other end.  Granted my parents have a stroller, but it was nice to know we didn't need one because we had the option of carrying the children in the Ergo.  Our kids walk most places now, but I did end up back carrying Johnny a couple times while we were visiting.

Notes and future improvements:

The Diono RXT + the Travelmate does not fit through the xray machine even though the TSA agents desperately wanted it to.  Requesting a hand check before they even tried manhandling it into the machine made things go smoothly on the way back.  Yes it might have fit if we took off the Travelmate, but having it hand checked was so much easier.

Hubs and I found the release latch for the Travelmate is not simple to operate when we are tired and stressed from travelling.  Practicing ahead of time might have made boarding go more smoothly.

We probably could have left the second Ergo with the industrial strength hair dryer. Hubs used it once the whole trip when Izzy wanted to be carried.

In case you missed it, the Ergo didn't set off the metal detector.  Hallelujah.  I was kind of excited about that.

Security is still a hassle.  Kids don't have to take off their shoes anymore -- hurrah!  But there was still the "take off all coats, belts, shoes, empty those water bottles, pull out the tablet, empty those pockets and pray you're not hiding some microscopic piece of metal" dance.  At least one bag each way had to be hand checked for suspicious items anyway.  We found it best to find a line with a long set of tables and wave people past us as we took our time getting everything binned.

We could not fit the Diono RXTs in Economy class rearfacing.  We tried.  We really wanted to.  It just wasn't going to happen.  If you plan to take an infant on a plane who needs to be rearfacing and plan on sitting said infant in a car seat I would suggest taking a different car seat.

Lastly, muchos gracias to the Delta employee that moved our family + screaming toddler to the front of the baggage check line.  I think the people standing around us in line that could still hear really appreciated it, as did we.

P.S.  For those of you who are wondering, no we didn't travel with cloth.  We had a package of gDiaper flushable inserts and some disposable wipes shipped to my parents house and packed in our carry-on bags enough flushable inserts and disposable wipes to get through the airport and then some.  We left the extras at my parents' house in hopes we will go visit them sometime before Baby potty trains.

Disclaimer:  I have in no way been compensated by Diono, Delta, or Gogo Babyz for this post.  I am a gMum and get regular shipments from gDiapers.  I also have received one free Ergobaby Bundle of Joy from Ergo for review.  The other Ergo carrier we bought ourselves and love :)  These gifts have in no way influenced my opinion of the products made by these companies and all opinions expressed in this post are my own.