The Good, The Bad & Not So Bad of Traveling with a Small Child, Part 2 – The Good

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 | Posted under Family and Friends, Personal

Way back when, I wrote about why it can be tough to travel with a baby or toddler, but there are two sides to everything, right? So it wouldn’t be fair to make you all think that you should swear off traveling with young kids. I thought about why traveling with young kids might actually be pretty cool. Here’s what I came up with:

People love kids (well, at least outside of the U.S.). I remember our last real trip outside the U.S. to Antigua late last year. I could not begin to describe the Side Eye I got from a young couple at the sight of Baby C running around the airport gate. Yep, she’s a ball of energy but that doesn’t mean she’s going to ruin your flight, people. Contrast that with our experiences in Montreal and Costa Rica, where folks just smiled when Baby C even entered a restaurant. I’m not saying we’re curmudgeons in the U.S., but children are often welcomed and accepted in other countries in ways that they are not here. It’s made it easier to not feel so bad when we’re chasing Baby C around a restaurant knowing that people are a bit more accepting.

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Kids are conversation starters. A small baby will cause many people to stop and say hello or make comments. If anything that becoming a parent has taught me, it’s that people are nosy and like to make comments about kids whether you want them to or not. Strangers have initiated conversations with us in airplanes, airports, buses, and restaurants all because of Baby C. A woman in Montreal even offered to hold Baby C while I ate. That definitely made eating that dinner a lot easier. Baby C made interacting with locals a lot more fun. In a way, she made the introduction for us.

Babies and toddlers force you to travel slowly. I’m a New Yorker, and I walk pretty quickly. In the old days, Husband J and I used to run all over a city all day and collapse at the end of the day in our hotel room before what we hoped to be a great dinner somewhere. Now due to Baby C’s naps, we’ve got to take a break in the middle of the day. I gotta say it can be nice to stop and chill for a few hours and maybe even take a nap myself. Sometimes as travelers we try to cram every moment/historical site/fun activity into our travels. Baby C makes me figure out the highlights, take a breather, and then keep going. Instead of rushing to see everything we can, Baby C forces us to choose where we want to go in that country, stay in one place, and get to really explore it. Some people call it “traveling slowly”. I call it “traveling with a kid”. This is not to say that you can’t jetset with a little person, but sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a place for awhile.

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Babies and toddlers get something out of it, too. As I’ve said before, I can only speak for Baby C, but I have to disagree that you shouldn’t travel because kids “don’t get anything out of it.” For some reason, I’ve been seeing that statement everywhere, and I’m a little puzzled by it. Baby C’s avid people watching is something I’ve noticed a lot when we go away. I’ve also discovered her love of yucca, grilled fish, and other foods that surprised even me. She is seeing new colors, experiencing different environments, smelling new scents, and eating things that I wouldn’t usually cook. Plus, just getting Baby C out of New York isn’t such a bad thing. To me, my child is definitely getting something out of our travels. Maybe she doesn’t get the historical or other significance of everything we see and do, but she’s still experiencing something.

So like I said, it’s not always easy or fun, but travel with a baby or toddler opens up your travel experiences in ways that you might not realize.

For those of you who have done so, what have been the good points of traveling with a small child?

 

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The Good, The Bad & Not So Bad of Traveling with a Small Child, Part 1- The (Not So) Bad

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 | Posted under Family and Friends, Family Travel, Personal, Travel Tips

I am not going to sugar coat traveling with a baby or toddler. If you’ve read anything online that is telling you that it’s easy, THEY’RE LYING. Ok, fine, maybe not lying completely, but they might not be telling you the hard parts of traveling with a small one. Because I love you all, I am going to give it to you straight — no chaser. Traveling is still doable, but there are definitely some things that you need to think about more fully than when traveling solo or traveling with your buddy/significant other. Here are some areas to think about while you prep for your next trip with the little person in your life (You ARE going to keep traveling by the way… because I said so. :))

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Getting ready to head to the beach in Antigua

Sleep – Some people are blessed with children who will sleep anywhere everywhere at whatever time. If you happen to be one of them, then please bow down and worship any deity that you choose or at least thank the Universe because many kids aren’t like that. I kid you not as I am drafting this post Husband J and I are trying to figure out where to go in 2015, and part of what is holding us back are time zones. People travel with kids all of the time across time zones, but when you’ve got one like mine that seems to have low sleep needs and wakes up at the butt crack of dawn, wanting to brave a drastic time zone change just doesn’t sound fun. Time zones definitely played a part in our experience in Costa Rica, and I can tell you that it is dark at 3am in Costa Rica in August…in case you were wondering. Our trip to Canada in 2013 was before Baby C was even sleeping through the night. With a little co-sleeping we took care of that, but good dear, we were a little bleary eyed for parts of that trip.

 P1090380Hanging in the Park in Montreal – She’s going to kill me when she’s older for posting this. 

This is all to say that sleep is real, maybe more for some kids than others, but if your kid sleeps well or even if he or she doesn’t, it will still be a factor in how you experience your trip.

Oops…I almost forgetting napping. Baby C needs to nap in a room. She’s fallen asleep in a stroller a total of five times her entire life. When she was a smaller baby, she would nap in the carrier and that was helpful because we just kept it moving during the day.

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Carrier naps are your friend! 

These days, Baby C needs to have things shut down, or she won’t shut it down. She really does need to be in a room in some sort of a crib to get that necessary nap. Yes, that nap is necessary. Baby C is great kid, but she’s even better in the afternoon after a nap.

Activities – Baby C is still at the age where activities can be tricky. Unlike during her small baby stage where we just took her almost wherever we wanted to go, we now have a mindful little person who is beyond curious and is absolutely ready to run everywhere and touch everything. I know not all kids are like this, but this is one we’ve got, so we’ve got to work with this little bundle of energy. One of the reasons I was hesitant to go to Costa Rica was the fact that we’d be limited in some of the activities we chose. Zip lining? White water rafting? Probably not. That doesn’t mean that we weren’t able to do fun things. We just needed to be more particular.

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Off for a walk in Manuel Antonio Park 

Food – Okay. I’m not going to totally count this as a possible difficulty for us while traveling with a small child. Baby C gets modified versions of things on our restaurant of choice’s menu. We try to steer clear of the children’s menu, but boy, does she love her some French fries like her mother. I know some kids are a little pickier than others; so for some, having to be limited in where to eat can be challenging. I do remember the time we went to Antigua, and Baby C wasn’t totally eating regular solids (we did start with pureed food). Food pouches are your friends in that case, but we did bring some of our own food for her. Depending on where you are, some hotels are helpful in preparing baby–friendly foods or staying in an apartment like setting with a kitchen can help if you just need to have a meal in for the night.

Rooms – I don’t really know if I can stay in a small, little hotel room anymore. Baby C goes to bed early (often by 7:30pm!). I have no desire to go to bed then. None. We’ve stayed in a larger hotel room, but even that wasn’t much more comfortable. We’ve had a much better time with Air Bnb and other rental apartment set ups where we could spread out with the gear we try to limit bringing with us (that’s another post). I will say that I did like our hotel in Costa Rica, which had the benefit of essentially being a large apartment. It was actually bigger than where we live now! If you’re okay with smaller spaces and have one of those kids mentioned above that sleeps through anything, then a traditional hotel room might work. Being choosy about accommodations is just another aspect of travel that just changed for us.

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Don’t look down, Baby C!

Did I forget anything? I hope this post hasn’t dissuaded anyone from traveling with your young one. I’ve actually enjoyed many wonderful travel moments with Baby C. Seeing her observe the parts of the world we’ve visited since she was born has been one of the best parts of being her parent.

There are absolutely great things about traveling with small kids, and I’ll highlight those in a separate post.

If you’ve traveled with a small child, what was the hardest part for you?

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My 2013

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014 | Posted under Family and Friends, Personal

Yeah, where I have been? Good question. I’m not even going to try to apologize and rationalize my time away from this blog. I’ve been pretty hard on myself about the fact that I haven’t been able to write as much as I’ve liked. I mean I did produce a human in 2013, and for the first 5 1/2 months of her life, I was her primary caregiver for 11-13 hours per day. Maybe I’m not such a slacker after all?

Then late 2013 I decided to accept a job because, you know, I had so much time on my hands (UM, WHAT?!!). Being a Work Outside the Home Mother is rough, but I believe in the work that I do. It was hard to leave Baby C for the first weeks, but I will say that my life is seeming a little more balanced these days, if not completely busy and overwhelming at times.

My goal for 2014 is figure out what balance means to me and what this next phase of my life will look like. Husband J and Baby C will be central to that of course. My love of travel, food, and blogging will hopefully figure into the mix as well. It’s been hard to carve out the space for myself and my pursuits that aren’t work related, but I hope 2014 brings me the ability to create a “Terri Zone” (free time? What’s that?!) for tapping into the things that I love to do for fun. Some days I feel like it might mean that I don’t sleep at night to accomplish the things I need to. We’ll see.

I was busier living life and not documenting it in 2013, so here are some things that I didn’t get to share and/or reflect what my year was like.

1. Going to see Mrs. Shawn Carter. As a very generous and fun first Mother’s Day present, Husband J got me tickets to see Beyonce. I know lots of people love to hate her, but I have to say that this woman can PERFORM. I was completely impressed by the show, and put on a show she did. After awhile I stopped counting the costume changes, and Ms. Bey sounds amazing in person.

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Of course she decided to drop an album without even having to advertise as if to say, “I know you fools gon’ buy my stuff anyway, so here it is.” Uh huh. I find it hysterical that Beyonce was one of the highlights of my year, but I just don’t get out as often as I used to. 🙂 Seriously though, this concert represented one of my first evenings out alone without Baby C (and Husband J), and it was really nice to have some fun again (that wasn’t family focused).

2. Learning to travel as a family. As I mentioned in my last post, 2013 was about us learning how to travel as a family. Having to navigate naps and hoping and praying for a smooth flight with a baby were just some of the new aspects of the little bit of travel we did this year. I’m happy to say that Baby C is a pretty awesome traveler so far. We were able to also fit in a trip to Antigua to introduce her to my family there. More on that soon.

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Husband J, Me & Baby C asleep in the baby carrier at the top of Mont Royal Park in Montreal, Canada

3. Little Miss Baby C. 2013 was the year of Baby C, and I have to say that I think I’ve given birth to a kindred spirit. She loves her daily time outside, and she is fascinated by people and new environments. We have been very lucky so far with her as a travel partner.  Her patience, curiosity and ability to go with the flow have amazed me. While she’s not always the best sleeper while we’ve been away, she’s seems to charm people wherever we go.

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Baby C’s first Halloween. She was a ladybug.

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Baby C’s first holiday season.

With the dawn of a New Year there’s often lots of hope and good intentions. I’m hoping 2014 will mean sharing more with you.

What are you hoping for in 2014?

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A Passport for Baby C

Monday, July 22nd, 2013 | Posted under Family and Friends, Travel General

As you can see from the plethora of posts lately (Ha!), I’ve been having a hard time keeping the blog going. As a matter of fact, after I criticized my blogging platform, WordPress, publicly on Twitter, a post I’d been working on for weeks disappeared into thin air. I swear that I was on the verge of tears for a solid fifteen minutes. It’s hard to fit in blogging at times. Case in point: Parts of this post were typed with my right hand because I often need to hold Baby C for her naps in the crook of my left arm!

Learning to be a mom has been a mix of exhausting, eye-opening, and now fun more and more each day. Baby C is getting to be a pretty cool hang out partner. I’m hoping that she’s also going to be a great travel partner for me and Husband J. Before she can go anywhere outside the country, she’ll need one very important thing:

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Baby C and her passport. I was very happy that I got her to smile.

Husband J and I will be taking a few trips this year, and Baby C will get her first taste of travel. All babies and minors from the U.S. traveling by air need a passport. If you’re driving across U.S. borders, a birth certificate will suffice. By the way, I’ll reveal our destinations in a separate post, if that’s okay with you.

I figure someone out there may want to know what the process is for getting a U.S. passport for a baby, so I thought I’d share our experience. I’ll be throwing in some of my favorite Baby C pics, too.

The main thing you need to know is that both parents need to apply with the baby in person. The fact that someone needs to get their hair done or has to go to a barbecue that day just won’t cut it. By filling out a form DS-3053, you’re essentially representing to the government that you have special circumstances that prevent you from finding the other parent so that they can give consent (a section is provided on the form for the non-appearing parent’s consent).

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Here’s a run down of the passport acquisition process for a baby:

Step 1 – Make sure you’ve got the right application. For minors, that’s a form DS-11. You can download one, and fill it in on your computer or by hand. DO NOT SIGN IT. You’ll need to do that in person when you apply.

Step 2 – Have your documents in order. Both the minor applicant and the parent(s) will need to present documents that verify identity and citizenship. Being only a few months old, Baby C really only has a birth certificate and a Social Security card. A certified birth certificate was perfectly acceptable for her identification. As for us, we simply used our passports. There are other options for identification such as a drivers’ license.

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Step 3 – Have a payment ready with you. Checks will work. It’s $80 for a non-expedited passport book for a minor.

Step 4 – Get a passport sized photo (2 inches x 2 inches). You’d think this part would be easy, but it’s actually somewhat of a pain with a baby. Imagine telling a two month old baby to stop squirming, not to blink, and to stare straight ahead with a head they can’t even hold up on their own. Yup, not gonna happen too easily. In the end, Husband J ended up kneeling down and holding up Baby C so that the woman at the passport acceptance facility could take her pic. In her pic, it seems as if she has elephant ears. Those extra “ears” are actually Husband J’s hands.

Step 5 – Go to a passport acceptance facility, post office or passport agency. As I mentioned before, you can only apply for the baby’s passport in person. It’s necessary to go to a passport acceptance facility; or if you’re traveling within 2 weeks or less, a passport agency. Do you remember my trip to the passport agency last year? You can only apply for new passports at passport acceptance facilities, passport agencies or a U.S. post office. Our passport acceptance facility was the Brooklyn Public Library Central Branch at Grand Army Plaza.

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Our experience at the Brooklyn Public Library was a good one. I will say as with anything related to dealing with the government, get there early. We arrived at about 10am on a Saturday morning and a group of smart people were already there. The room isn’t that big, and there’s not really a system for figuring out who is serviced when. There’s an intake line, and you’ve got to hope that you get a little attention when you arrive.

In the end, if you come prepared, you’ll get out of there pretty quickly. I have to give the passport folks props, since we got Baby C’s passport just four weeks later. Not too bad, right?

When did you get your first passport? Were you less than four months months old? 🙂

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Yo!

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013 | Posted under Blogging, Family and Friends

Hmmm…..

Baby C turns six weeks tomorrow (already!), and I have to say that it’s been a combination of mesmerizing, tiring and the steepest learning curve ever.  She has grown from the little peanut she was at birth to this full fledged baby. Each night after being with her approximately 12 hours per day by myself (Husband J works long hours), I often don’t have energy to even keep my eyes open much less whip out my laptop. Being a parent to a newborn can be a little rough. Someone asked me how I was doing, and I said that my life has been taken over by an 8 pound person with no teeth and a strong set of lungs.

I’m getting to the point where I need to start doing fun little things for myself, and blogging is definitely one of those things. I think I realized today that I am going to have to take charge of my time a little more (well, to the extent you can with a young baby). Let’s hope that I can do that.

I’ve also been feeling guilty that I haven’t traveled anywhere new yet that I can feature on this blog. Do you guys mind that I still have tons to write about India, haven’t even scratched the surface of Iceland and barely talked about food in Argentina? I have so much to share, but I guess I feel a tad inadequate because I have nowhere new and exciting to share with you.

I will say that Husband J and I are thinking about our first trip with Baby C for later this year. I’m toying with how ambitious we’ll be with a baby, but that’s for another post.

This was just to say hi and to say that I am thinking of all of you.

How are YOU doing?

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