28.10.2009 - 02.11.2009
I'm starting a new category of entries called Flashbacks where I describe some of trips I took with my oldest daughter. The sum of these experiences are what inspired me to start my blog, and I learned some valuable lessons on each trip.
I'll start with the first trip I ever took with my daughter. She, my husband, and I went to Lansing and East Lansing, Michigan when she was 5 1/2 months old--about the age that her little sister is right now. One of the conferences I regularly attend was being held at our alma mater of Michigan State University. When I first heard the announcement, I was still pregnant with my daughter, and I naively thought that this would be a great opportunity for friends and family to see her. The conference was over Halloween weekend, so i was excited about having my daughter celebrate her first one with family...
and having the chance to see all the fall colors that I missed when I was living in Phoenix.
Staying with my parents would be homier than a hotel and give me access to baby essentials like a rocking chair and a fridge. I would even have babysitting for when I was at the conference sessions! It all seemed so perfect. I submitted a paper to the conference, had it accepted, and eagerly awaited my first family trip. My daughter learned to sit up a few weeks before the trip, so we also came up with the seemingly brilliant idea to leave the car seat travel system at home, use the folding umbrella stroller at the airport, and rent a car seat from the rental car company.
Fast forward to October: I caught one of the flu strains that wasn't covered by my flu vaccine, which knocked me out for about a week and set me back at work. Normally I go to conferences with my presentations done, but I found myself leaving for this trip just barely having started it. This meant that I had to use every minute where I wasn't already booked to finish it... and there was very little time that I wasn't already booked. If I wasn't at sessions, family and friends were dropping by my parents' house or we were seeing them at their homes. As for renting a car seat, we did end up with one, but getting it was much more difficult than we had imagined (see below).
On top of all that, my daughter, who had been sleeping through the night like a champ for weeks, decided not to sleep in Michigan. Maybe it was the time change, sleeping overnight (not just an occasional nap) in a pack-n-play, or the unfamiliar surroundings in general. Maybe it was all of those things in combination. Either way, she was sleeping about 4 hours a night, and because I was still nursing, I was the often the one to settle her down when she woke up. Even though you'd think that my daughter would have made up for a lack of sleep at night with some longer naps during the day, the opposite happened: she hardly napped at all. Here she fell asleep but woke up as soon as we laid her down.
As a result, we began a vicious cycle where she--and I--became increasingly overtired. It was not good. I was miserable and exhausted.
Frustrations aside, it was good to see people and have them meet my daughter. It was also my first in a series of lessons learned about traveling with a little one.
1. Do not combine personal and professional obligations on your first trip with baby.
This trip sounded like a great 2-for-1 experience in that I could visit home for my work travel, but in reality I was never able to fully enjoy either aspect of the trip. Perhaps I would try it again in the future, but definitely not for my youngest daughter's first trip. It was just too much for me.
2. Things won't always go as planned.
I'll admit it--I knew this before I ever had a child. Still, I mention it because it takes on a whole new level of meaning when you travel with a child. This trip reminded me that the unexpected can pop up in any form, whether it's lack of sleep or a still-unfinished presentation. There's no way to prevent such things from happening, so I guess the best you can do is not book yourself too tightly so that you have some flexibility when these things happen.
3. Beware of car seat rentals.
When you book a rental car online, the reservation is being made by a central reservation office. They don't check to see what is at the specific location where you'll be renting. Our experience was a prime example. We requested an infant seat when we made our reservation online. When we got to the rental office in Detroit, they only had convertible car seats. That was a bit annoying because we had requested an infant seat, but a convertible seat would still work, so we said it was fine. When my husband realized that the seat they gave him couldn't be installed because it was missing a base, they brought out every convertible seat and base they had. None of the seats went with any of the bases. They said that they didn't know this because nobody rents car seats from them. They ended up sending my husband to Walmart to buy a seat. In all, it took about 2 hours before we could get on the road. Even though the rental company paid us for the seat and gave us a discount for the inconvenience, I would have preferred to pay full price with and have the appropriate seat waiting for us. We have since rented a booster seat for my oldest in Italy without any problem, but I will always be a little wary of renting car seats.