Travel Time, Take 3

Six Months, 2 Weeks.

kate playpen travel 3 blog.jpg

We were on the move YET AGAIN this week, and it was a biggie: I took Tucker out to Oregon to visit my parents, by myself. I was pretty nervous about the travel, since a couple weeks ago on the Florida trip it was smooth but hardly easy when I had Ben with me for a shorter, direct flight.

We were flying on random days with a mileage ticket—Ben scored me first class for the flight from Boston to Portland, which we figured would be better than coach. On the way out, I'm actually not sure that it wouldn't have been easier to have two seats in coach. I was really stressed out, trying to make sure Tucker didn't make any noise at all, even happy squawks, since most of the other passengers were obviously working and on business trips. (My seatmates in both directions were extremely kind, I have to say.) It was also really hard to manage holding him for the entire 6+-hour flight West, even though I brought a big pillow to make it easier to have him on my lap. He didn't sleep as much as he usually does on planes, and I just felt really claustrophobic. In both directions I ended up sitting forward in my seat with the pillow behind me so I could have him in the carrier for part of the time. The flight attendants on the west-bound flight were terrific—one even held him for a little while so I could take a break. On the way home the flight is about 4.5 hours, and he slept for about 2.5 of it! Much easier.

The other thing I'd change was the stroller. I don't know what I was thinking, except that having the big Uppababy is really nice for walks and things once we've reached our destination. But it's so heavy and bulky to manage for gate-checking, and in the airport I found it easier to keep him in the carrier, for the most part. I had to get it in and out of the gate-check bag (to keep it clean) in Portland and then put it back in because we were taking a puddle-jumper to Eugene. It *was* nice to have it at home, but a lighter-weight travel stroller would have been just fine. My goal before our Europe trip in May is to figure out which lightweight stroller I want; I'm thinking Uppababy G-Luxe but a lot of my friends love Maclerens. Something that weighs 10 pounds and folds down small sounds like a dream! Any opinions? We will use it in Europe on fairly bumpy streets, and will have to carry it up stairs frequently.

Here's how I packed: -Checked 1 suitcase (carry-on size when not expanded) with my stuff and his stuff -Gate-checked stroller -Carried on: —Large LL Bean Zip-Top Tote (with pillow in it); mine has regular handles but shoulder handles would make it perfect for this. Contained extra diapers, clothes, toys, etc. in case we were stuck overnight in Portland (there was snow when we were flying in), plus my vest, his jacket, a blanket for him to play on in the airport, and so forth. —My small purse/tote (a prototype from the company my brother designs for, Archival Clothing). Contained a large ziplock with two diapers, wipes, vaseline so I could easily take stuff to the bathroom to change him, small cloth bag with favorite quiet toys, pouches with snacks for me (untouched), my headphones (untouched)/chapstick/breath mints/etc, extra pacifiers/pacifier clip/etc, many burp cloths, small fleece blanket. Also a book and a copy of Vanity Fair, both untouched and left out on the return flight. I should have tucked in a board book for Tucker but I forgot. —Ergo carrier

One of my good friends from school (since first grade, actually) now lives next door to my parents with her husband and one-year-old, so she loaned me a Bumbo chair, playmat, carseat and snap-and-go, which was amazing. When we go back in August Tucker will be too big for the bassinet (he was almost touching lengthwise and enjoyed patting the sides!) and might have outgrown bucket seats, so we'll probably take his carseat, and my mom is going to get a pack-and-play to leave there.

By the way, I don't think I've ever talked about that playmat, the Twist-and-Fold Activity Gym by Infantino. I linked to the one we have at home, which we also borrowed (ha!); the one we used in Oregon was just a different pattern/different toys. I had scoffed at the built-in-arches mats since Tucker was very happy with the Ikea "baby gym" we have, but he fell in love with it at my friend Lauren's house and she loaned it to us. The arches are soft and he likes to pull them down and make them bounce back up. The toys it came with are also favorites of his, and the whole things collapses and folds up so it can be tucked away. Great product. The "Vintage Boy" pattern is totally unisex and pretty cute.

The visit itself was fantastic. It was amazing to watch my parents with Tucker on a longer visit, and he just adored them. My dad did a lot of lying on the rug next to him and allowing his face to be poked and prodded with some serious force. They also did lots of bird watching out the kitchen window, and he read the bedtime story. My mom and I went on long walks and just generally had a great time. It makes me really sad that they live so far away, but I also know our kids will grow up loving trips out to Oregon—when Tucker is older my dad will teach him to fly fish and we'll all go on lots of bike rides, walks and hikes, trips to the coast and mountains... My mom is a great cook and there will be trips to the farmer's market and mucking around in the garden and kitchen. And that glorious summer weather! I'm already excited for July.

Kate Flaim is a freelance journalist and food blogger based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.