I've been working on this long winded post for a month now. I know it's outdated but I thought it might be useful to someone, even if that person is future me as reference.
I Love Florida!
After some internal debate about cost, I decided to go with SouthWest airlines. You can check 2 bags per person for free, which is a huge bonus these days with the luggage costs most airlines charge. They also allow you to change your flight date/time without any fees or penalties. I thought worst case scenario if Riesling was sick and couldn't make the trip at least Jim could go and I could save my ticket for another time. The prices ended up dropping significantly so overall cost really didn't end up being much of a factor.
Children under two years old are able to fly on your lap free of charge, but make sure you bring their birth certificate to verify the age. They definitely ask. You can also check a stroller and a car seat free of charge with your luggage or at the gate. We brought our extra hand-me- down stroller and pushed it through the airport. I was worried about checking the car seat with the luggage because they seem to toss stuff around without much thought, so on the flight there we checked it at the gate. It was a bit annoying carrying it through security and dragging it around until we boarded, so we decided to check it with the luggage on the return flight. It survived but my guess is the did not handle it with any extra care. You can also rent a car seat from any of the rental car companies, but it costs extra and who knows how often or well they are cleaned.
As carrying on items I brought along her diaper bag, the GoPod, our Ergo, and a medium tote bag stuffed full of crap. I definitely brought along a lot of stuff that we didn't use but who the heck knows what can happen once you're in the airport. I had a few changes of clothes (including layers...it was very chilly in the airport!), extra blankets & burp cloths, plenty of diapers & toys. There was enough room for the Ergo (when Riesling wasn't in it) and a small cooler bag in the tote bag so it wasn't like we had to carry a lot of items through the airport. In the cooler bag I put her breakfast, an empty sippy cup, a bib, several spoons, and a bottle with breast milk. I did not expect her to take the bottle when she could just nurse on demand but I thought it would be nice to have 'just in case'. I asked that the cooler bag not be put through the X-ray machine, so they hand checked it and swabbed it for gun powder or whatever they are looking for, with no problem. Everyone at security was very nice and helpful. They even have a separate family line so you can get through faster. SCORE!
Happy baby waiting for our morning flight
I tried to time it so that Riesling could nurse on the take off and hopefully again on the landing. I had been told that some babies/kids have issues because their ears won't "pop" with the change in altitude and that the sucking helps. She did nurse on the flight both times but really only because she was hungry. She had no problem flying. Not a single tear, whine, or whimper. The worse thing that happened was when she reached over the seat and grab some guys newspaper. He was nice about it so no harm done. The hardest thing was keeping her occupied. She did really great, but I will say that I'm glad it was a really long flight.
I hate packing! I have a tendency to over pack even when we're just going to Ohio or camping for a long weekend. I have lists and piles of stuff everywhere for at least a week before the trip. Then I have to try and streamline it down, sort through the mess, and combine all my crazy lists. I really am my own worst enemy in this category. I have been trying to improve and with a little extra preparation I think I did pretty well this round. We had a 3 suitcases (one per person) and a garment bag for the wedding attire. I tried to divide things up a little bit thinking that if one suitcase got lost at least one person wouldn't be without all his/her stuff. For Jim and I it was your normal vacation packing. We ended up wearing/using pretty much everything so I think I consider it a packing success. I did bring along a pair of long pants and sweatshirt for each of us, which we never ended up wearing because the weather was so nice while we were there.
I pretty much packed every piece of clothing that fit Riesling at the time. She grows so fast that I try not to overbuy in one size. She had about 10 onesies, a few pair of shorts, 3-4 dresses, 5-6 pair of PJs, 2 swimsuits & a sunhat, plus some long sleeves and pants which she also never wore. I brought 3-4 lighter weight muslin blankets, all the burp cloths we own, and plenty of toys. I recommend bringing along toys that can be washed or wiped off. We were in all kinds of weird places throughout the trip and everything always gets dropped or thrown, so it turned out to be a wise decision.
I wasn't sure if we would make it through the trip without doing a load or two of laundry so I brought along a few scoops of powder detergent I use. I also had a few dishwasher tabs in case there were none in the condo (I wanted to avoid buying a whole new bottle), a bottle brush and free & clear dish washing detergent that I use on Riesling stuff (and ours for that matter). For feeding I packed a few extra spoons and an extra bib & sippy cup, in addition to the one in the carry on. (See EATING for further details)
For a moment I had the insane idea to bring along the cloth diapers and deal with washing them in the coin operated laundry at the development. Thank god I came to my senses. I love our cloth diapers but did enjoy having a little break and being able to toss them away with no extra thought. I bought 2 packs of chlorine free EarthBest's diapers on sale before we left, brought plenty in the diaper bag & carry on and packed the rest. I also brought a pack of swim diapers. And don't forget the sunscreen! Our condo provided beach towels, bath towels, and linens so no worries there. I threw in a small tote bag and an old flat top sheet to use at the beach. I am hating packing even more than before just writing all this down!
Just remember whatever you bring you have to load/unload at the airport, while carting your baby around. Which bring us to....
We used a valet service in Philadelphia that drops you off and picks you up in your own car. This avoided any shuttles, car seat installation or extra loading/unloading of luggage. It was slightly more expensive but well worth it. I got some good deals on other areas of the trip so I didn't mind splurging a little. They dropped us off right at curb side check in and helped us unload and the same when we arrived back in Phila. We brought our extra car seat base so we didn't even have to worry about removing one at the airport.
In Florida we rented a car from Avis. The biggest hassle was dragging our stuff from baggage claim to the car rental area. It wasn't far but you only have so many hand. Jim looked like a pack mule. We thankfully had no issue with the rental car or any part of the experience surrounding it.
Da Da and Riesling at the beach
The great thing about nursing a baby is you can do it anywhere. I breastfed Riesling at the airport, on the plane, at the beach, poolside, at the country club, at the wedding (which was on the beach), and pretty much anywhere in between. It can be a little difficult at her age because she is easily distracted but if she's hungry enough she will eat regardless of what's going on around her. I find the most important thing is making sure I wear something that is comfortable and makes for easy access. I don't use a cover up or blanket so I usually just have a burp cloth on hand to put over the top of my breast if it's exposed and quickly pull it down if she unlatches. The only trouble I had was at the actual wedding. She was extra hungry after patiently waiting around to be in some of the pictures and started violently pulling at my dress which ended up ripping the seam. Jim said no one would complain about a little extra cleavage.
At this point she was also eating a solids twice a day. Because of my incessant concern over food allergies, I didn't introduce any new foods for several days before the trip or during. I bought a little stock of EarthBest's pouches in pear and banana and that was it. Normal for restaurant or out of home outings that involve food I use a portable high chair with a tray but it was too bulky to bring along. Of course most restaurants have high chairs but some of them are a little too big for my squirming baby, plus I wanted something to use in the condo. So I bought a collapsable one that hooks to the table and packed it in pieces. This turned out to be a waste of space because we never used it. Our condo had a glass top table and it didn't hook on securely so we just fed her in the stroller and used whatever was available at the restaurants.
At the Country Club for the rehearsal dinner
Where we nursed in the ladies room (quite lovely)
This area seemed like it could be a challenge for some families. I think the best option for most is to rent a crib. I guess you could bring a pack n play but that just one more thing to carry around and risk getting damaged on a flight. We are Ok with co-sleeping so I just planned on Riesling being in our bed and didn't give it much thought beyond that. The only issue was during her naps one of us had to stay in the bedroom to make sure she didn't wake up and crawl off the side. There was a TV in the room so one of us either napped with her, read or watched TV.
Early Morning wake up call
Part II coming soon.....