Sunday, August 21, 2011

Traveling Coast-to-Coast with Mr. Barfo and the Baby-Backpack

As I’ve mentioned previously, our family tries hard to live a sustainablitarian life-style.  You know, eat/shop locally, walk instead of drive, recycle, use cloth diapers, etc.  Unfortunately, one part of our lives has had a huge non-sustainablitarian aspect: airline travel.  If you go onto any of the websites that help you calculate your carbon footprint (for example, the Nature Conservancy has a good one), you’ll quickly see that no matter how insulated your house is or how little you drive, if you fly a lot, your carbon footprint will go through the roof. 

Not even a year-old yet, and Jack has a huge carbon footprint!  He’s not yet traveled internationally (though that’s been discussed), but he’s probably been on a plane at least once a month since he was 4 months old (sometimes 2-3 times a month).  He’s been to California, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, Georgia, New York, Florida and New Jersey so far (several of those places, more than once), and that doesn’t count the 6 other states he visited while he was in the womb. So, we’re well-seasoned baby-travelers.  

West Coast Baby

East Coast Baby

When we traveled before Jack came into our lives, it used to be us, our laptops, and some clothes—no need for bag checking and a zip through the airport in no time.  Now that Jack’s in our lives, the stuff that we have to take along with us has more than quadrupled:  a bunch of cloth diapers, baby food, utensils, Jack’s clothes, a car seat, and tons of other random stuff.  But I believe we travel much better with a baby than most, and I’ll now share two of our secrets:

1)      The baby backpack.  I’ve already mentioned that when Jack was little, we were attached through the Baby Bjorn much of the day.  This also made travel much easier.  Hands free to get the laptops out of their cases and through security; to put the luggage up in the overhead bins, and to read while he slept.  Once he outgrew the Baby Bjorn, we moved on to the next best thing—the baby backpack.  It amazes me how many families we see at the airport struggling to push around strollers, gate checking them, waiting for them after arrival. The baby backpack is awesome.  You can zoom right through security.  Grab a bite or a coffee, board the plane and get your luggage stowed, all while Jack just rides along up high, checking everyone out.  And, then, the backpack folds up nicely and stows right in the overhead with your luggage.  I love the backpack so much, that I often use it instead of a stroller at home or when away.  Jack loves it too.

Mr. Barfo (Patent Pending)

2)      Mr. Barfo. Every time we board a plane, people look terrified.  “Please don’t sit next to me, please don’t sit next to me, please don’t sit next to me!”  I know, because I always used to be that guy.  They always ask: “his first time flying?”  “Nope, we do it all the time”.  We have it down to a science: get him onboard, have plenty of snacks on hand, breastfeed at takeoff, and nap on the flight.  People always remark he’s the best flying baby they’ve ever seen.  Not a peep. Smiles at everyone.  Naps well.  We sometimes bring a few toys along, but in a pinch, pretty much anything can be a toy.  One time, we were flying, and the toys were stuck crammed under the seat, and we were jammed in there so tight we couldn’t get to them when Jack got a bit fussy.  He was grabbing at the complimentary magazines in the seatback pocket…and then pulled out the barf bag.  Well, a minute later, a bit of scribbling with a pen, and we had the best toy ever.  Mr. Barfo!  Mr. Barfo kept Jack entertained for at least an hour before he took a nap.  Now, he makes a guest appearance every time we fly, much to Jack’s delight! 

Jack with Barfo on a plane

A couple of other random thoughts for those of you readers out there who happen to design airports (I know you’re out there!).  Go check out the San Francisco airport…the most family friendly airport we’ve encountered yet.  Airports with ‘Family Assist’ Restrooms Rock!  Not just some little pullout changing station right next to the stalls.  But an actual room that is closeable with a changing area, toilet, and other luxuries.  It seems like only about 50% of airports have these, but they are so useful.  But, a note to the childless guy who once used one of these before us to take a giant dump: Not cool, dude, not cool.  The San Francisco family assist restrooms even have toys and other stuff for the baby to play with in there.  Another thing that San Francisco has that seems to be lacking at many other big airports is an awesome play area for babies and kids.  We had a 2-hour delay, but it seemed like minutes with that play area…check out Jack playing with some older kids at the ‘Tornado’ making machine.  How sweet is that? 

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