just for fun

Traveling with Tots


I’m a mom. wife, ex-doula, ex-teacher, ex-yoga-teacher, and current Health and Wellness Advocate. The truth is I still love all my “ex” jobs, but made some choices to be home with our two kids. My daughter is almost 2.5 years old. My son is 5.5 months, and we’ve lived overseas since before they were both born. My husband and I were born in America, but lived in Swaziland for 5 years. We have always loved travel, so traveling with kids was just a given. Since children were born, we did a lot of road trips to see other parts of Southern Africa, or flew transatlantically to visit family, take vacations, etc.

Flying with kids is no joke, but it’s also not as difficult as some may assume. Yes, every kid is different, but there are some general hacks that may travel with young ones easier.

Because I’ve flown to and from the USA several times with our kids, I have experience traveling with children aged 2.5 months, 3.5 months, 13 months, 15 months, and 5 months. My husband has solo traveled with our daughter at 27 months, so I’ve consulted him on some ideas.

By far, the easiest age to travel has been before 4 months of age! At this age, Baby sleeps most of the time, is flexible with nights and days, is usually only drinking milk, and sleeping locations are more flexible. When flying internationally, you can also get a bassinet for baby, so big win there. BIG win.

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Headed out for our 40+ some hours of travel. Asa was 4.5 months old.

Flying with Baby/Toddler Tips Internationally 

Cost: Children under 2 years fly free domestically, but very discounted internationally. Their fare is usually 10% of an adult ticket on the day the ticket is purchased. If you’re booking a ticket before the infant is born, you’ll need to phone back with birthday, child’s name, and gender once baby is born. The child’s ticket price will be 10% of an adult fare on the day it’s purchased (not 10% of your fare). If you want the child to have his/her own seat, you will pay about 80% of an adult fare. 

Seating: 

Infants Under 6 months: When traveling with a child under 6 months, you can request the bassinet seat. Bassinet seats attach behind the bulk head (think by the bathrooms, or after first class) to the wall. Bulk head seating has extra leg room, so it’s considered Economy Plus seating and usually costs extra, but with a child, it’s free! Have baby, will travel in luxury! Because of bassinets, I actually think traveling with an infant is easier than on my own! Who doesn’t want extra room to stretch out?

Rules (may vary between airlines, but in general): Infants must be under 10 KG (22 lbs), be unable to sit on their own (the more strict airlines like Lufthansa will not allow a child who sits to be in the bassinet).

How to Book: Book a ticket for all adults, other children, and any Lap Infants. You’ll need the Lap Infant’s name, gender, and birthdate at booking. When booking online, there’s no way to request a bassinet seat. As soon as you book, call the Airline’s Reservations number. You can request a bassinet.

Some airlines allow you request the bassinet seat months and weeks in advance (United, South African Airways are ones). However, some airlines (Lufthansa for one) only allow seat assignments for any Economy passengers 24 hours before check-in. That means no one gets an assigned seat in Economy until just before the flight. It’s harder to secure bassinets in this way, so I always book with airlines when I can secure a bassinet beforehand.

You’ll call the airline, request the bassinet, they’ll assign one if it’s available. Your seat assignment should reflect the bulk head position.

When flying a multi-leg journey, you’ll need to secure bassinet seating for each leg of your trip. If you’re flying with different carriers, you’ll have to contact the carrier of each leg to book the bassinet.

Listen! This may sound like a little hassle, but that extra room with be amazing! You’ll especially want this if your child sleeps independently. Holding even a 10 lb baby in your arms for 10 hours is exhausting. 

Even when my daughter was too big for the bassinet, I still requested it, and we got seated by the bulk head. During a mostly-full flight, we swapped our bulk head seating, for a row at the rear of the plane where we had 4 seats together. My husband and I book-ended my daughter & she was allowed to sleep on the 2 middle seats. Game changer for us since airlines don’t allow anyone to sit or sleep on the floor. (boo!)

Sleep: If at all possible, consider your take-off times and landing times. If you can, book a flight that leaves around or slightly before your child’s bedtime. You’ll board early, can feed them, put on pajamas, then hopefully as they take off, they’ll be lulled to precious sleep. If your child does not sleep well in other places, booking a day-time travel may be your best bet.

For jet lag:  All of the rules that apply for adults work for babies and kids, too. Eat meals at the “new time zone’s” time, but eat snacks when hungry. While adults may resist napping, I’ve found that letting my kids sleep whenever is better. However, I may wake them from a jet-lag nap around the same time they’d wake from a normal nap (no more than 2.5 hrs of napping).

Talk with your doctor, but we’ve used melatonin drops for our kids at different ages. Melatonin helps their bodies relax into sleep, but won’t necessarily keep them asleep. We gave this to our kids (with PA approval) both on the airplane, and each night at bedtime for several days. Also, some homeopathics may approve Relax-a-Tone for you to give preceding travel.

When the sun is out, let them get sunshine and exercise! Hold them up to a window. Go for a walk. Play outside if the weather permits.

Get Organized: I’m quite the organizing freak who likes to maximize efficiency, so I’ll brag and say I’ve got traveling with a baby on lock-down! I’ve traveled with a 2.5, 3.5 and 5 month old solo on transatlantic flights longer than 30 hours, so I know how to survive.

First. Luggage. You’ll want a baby carrier (I used an Ergo), diaper bag, and carry-on rolling suitcase. Strollers are cumbersome in airports and when traveling alone, it’s tricky having a stroller with other luggage.

In the diaper bag, I pack: diapers for about 8 hrs, wipes, a few toys, an outfit change, snacks & water for me, any carryon items for me (ditch the book, you probably won’t have time!), a blanket/warm layer for the chilly plane, pacifiers, etc.

A neck pillow acts as a great arm rest when you’re holding baby or putting him to sleep/feeding. Those seat arms are uncomfortable!

In the rolling suitcase, I very strategically packed:

  • diapers enough for beyond the 30 hour flights. You never know when a stomach bug will be caught, or your stash might go faster than you think!
  • several wet bags or plastic bags (for blow outs, wet clothes, etc).
  • an outfit change for YOU (we’ve all been peed on before, right?)
  • more snacks (you may be up a lot more than you’d like and need a snack)
  • any food for baby – bottles, nursing covers,
  • If you’re traveling with a child who eats, pack way more than you think. Squeezy-packs are great; freeze-dried meals (found at outdoors and backpacker stores or websites) if kids have dietary restrictions (flight attendants will give you boiling water); dried fruit; nuts, and their own re-usable cups.
  • extra of everything your child uses during a 24-hr period.

Whenever I need to get into my rolling suitcase overhead, I restock the whole diaper bag. So dirty clothes go into plastic bags and into the luggage. New diapers, a change go clothes, snacks, and anything else Ill need in the next 4+ hours goes into the diaper bag.

Once You’ve Arrived: Generally, if you have only traveled a few time zones, you may keep your child on the same schedule, especially if your travel is less than a week.

I prefer flights that have us arrive close to the evening. That way baby and parents are tired, and your child will likely pass out!

Expect some rough nights the first few days. I’ve found that fighting a un-tired baby back to sleep is fruitless and frustrating, so don’t do it! Instead, keep the lights low, but let baby play. When she is ready for bed, quickly whisk her back off to sleep. If baby usually wakes up at 5 am, but jet-lagged sleeps till 8, by all means – LET HIM! If you have an agenda when you arrive to your destination, try to keep it light the first few days. You’ll likely be tired.

After 4 days, gently push Baby back onto his normal schedule. You may wake him from naps after his normal duration has passed, but don’t stress yourself too much.

Traveling with kids, especially babies can have its challenges, but remember why you are traveling in the first place – because you love it, you love doing it with your family, and it’s worth it. Travel at a pace that honors all of your family members. Take time to slow down and take naps with your kids. We’ve found that by keeping SOME of our routines, our kids can handle the break of other parts of our daily rhythm. For example, my toddler daughter does best when we eat meals at the same time, have regular snacks, and can maintain bedtime. If she misses a few naps while traveling, she survives, but we can’t forsake all of the routine without having ourselves lots of meltdowns.

And a note on meltdowns – if you notice your baby or child is having more “meltdowns” aka tantrums or behavioral outbreaks, LISTEN. Your child is trying to tell you that they’re tired, stressed, or just cranky from traveling. So LISTEN. Slow down your pace. Re-root yourselves in the aspects of life your child thrives in (naps, playing, nursing sessions, etc). The Eiffel Tower can wait because aint nobody enjoying it with a screaming toddler!

I’m happy to hear some of your tips when flying with your littles! You can contact me with further questions.

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Lufthansa gets me. Stroopwaffles and a bassinet!

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One way to keep track of your toddler.

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Categories: aDventures in Doula-ing, Family Life, just for fun, Swaziland Updates, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Release Yourself


  
As I was having some quiet time this morning, my heart was just aching for other mommas and parents and ministers and friends that I know need a change in their lives, but just haven’t done it yet.

 I’ve heard too many mommas talk about just needing an hour, or a get-away with their husbands because it’s been years of focusing all on the kids. 

I’ve heard ministers speak about their exhaustion in ministry and need for refreshment. 

Parents who know they’re neglecting their health, but feel too stuck to change. 

I hear these confessions and hear a lot of them, friends, and as I was sitting this morning and thinking of those faces who do so much for others, but feel guilty to invest in themselves – be it a massage, or supplements to support their stressed body, or an hour in a morning for quiet moments – my heart just ached

I had 4 minutes left in my “personal study” time, so I opened up Hands Free Life and within a page, this stuck out to me. The author Rachel had painted a picture of a young bride whom she spied at a hair salon. The pained, overwhelmed look on this lady’s face brought her right back to her younger years and what she wishes she could tell her 27-year-old-self, as a 40-year-old-woman. 

You are going to feel a lot of pressure in your lifetime- pressure to do things at one-hundred-and-ten-percent performance level, pressure to look and act a certain way, pressure to be all things to all people. You’re going to think  that the pressure is coming at you from all directions, but in most cases, it’s not. That unrelenting pressure is going to come from one place: you. So do yourself a favor, dear one. Take the pressure off. Take the pressure off now- don’t wait until you’re forty. In fact, don’t wait another day. 

Ahhh. Do you feel that sigh in your soul? That longing to free yourself from the intense pressure? The ache to actually allow yourself to do the thing for YOU that you know your spirit and body need for refreshment? I bet the people who care about you would agree. 

I bet your best friend would say, “Yes! Do something for your health!” 

I bet your spouse would say, “Absolutely! When are we going on that adventure?”

Because they know your heart and have its best in mind, just like you’ve been having their best in mind for so long. 

A perk of not living in America is I get to watch her from a removed difference. I get to feel her racing pulse without living in the over stressed, run-down, exhausted, but I-can-do-more attitude. (Yes, I’m not utterly immune to her lure, nor do I claim perfection, friends. You know how broken and real I am!) Sure. I’m seeing a lot of her through emails, Facebook messages, and IG posts, but I see what you’re sharing, America. I hear your tired parts, your exhausted selves, your ragged bodies poorly fueled by Coke & cookies ( In my most stressed, self-imposed-pressure days, I lived on fast food & lean pockets & creamer-laden coffee!). And I just want to remind you – that you, my sweet and precious soul will do more for this world when you’re rested. You can serve longer, give deeper, make greater change when you’re fueled well, rested properly and when you’ve said NO to more. 

I don’t have the answer for your situation. Ok, I actually do. It’s called Jesus and rhymes with “Hod” because I have only found how to rest from believing the truths He’s said about me. What I mean, is I don’t know what your rest needs to be. 

But I know you need to release yourself from the pressure. It’ll feel really awful and awkward at first, but it’ll get so rich and full that you’ll look at yourself a year from now and wonder, “How in the heck was I living like that?” 

And until you do take that brave step, I’ll keep listening and holding your stories and praying for the courage for you to take the pressure off, dear one. Don’t wait until your forty or sixty. There’s a whole lot of life to be enjoyed. 

Categories: just for fun, Kingdom Coming Related, Public Confession | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A [delayed] Mother’s Day


Mother’s Day weekend we spent rock climbing with friends and freezing in our tent. While we had fun, it was a bit tiring for a weekend, but I was happy being surrounded by friends and enjoying the outdoors with Cedar and Sean. I was surprised when Sean told me, “I’m going to treat you to a Mother’s Day make up, since we didn’t do anything too special on the real day.” Not one to deny a treat, I quickly agreed.

Sean had recalled my comment from months before of “If you ever want to treat me, you can take me to Forresters Arm for a night.” So off we went into the mountains of Swaziland. The air is cool. The fires are cozy. The beds are to collapse in. And the food is enough to gorge yourself on.

Three things I love about this place. 1. Wifi. 2. Dinner and breakfast incuded. 3. It’s away.

I’ll start from the bottom. It’s away. We have found that it’s incredibly and increasingly difficult for us to relax, rejuvenate and connect as a family while staying at home. A lovely hazard of communal living, but still a hazard. Our greatest solution is to be away from home on the days we need some time to ourselves. Forresters’ Arm isn’t so far we have to travel all day, but it’s far enough away that we can’t easily be interrupted.

Dinner and breakfast included. As a special treat for Swazi residents, the owner adds dinner into the discounted price for locals. This is no chintzy dinner. They have a set menu with 2 appetizers, 4 mains, and 2 desserts. All the portion sizes are small, so you could literally have a taste of them all if you like and your stomach can manage. Plus, there’s divinely baked breads and home-presserved jams, veggies and fruits to enjoy. Their dinner is one to linger over. Open a bottle of wine. Stay for tea and coffee. Relax. Take your time. Your seat is yours for the night and you’re invited to be there for so long.

Wifi. No, it’s not because I can just check my email while I’m away. But wifi means several treats. Streaming yoga classes for my body and spirit (a luxury African internet does not often allow me) and the use of our Baby Cloud Monitor. We feed Cedar dinner, tuck her into her luxurious duvet and crib, set the monitor (that uses wifi!), lock the door, and bounce 100 meters to the restaurant. On this Mother’s Day get away, we did just that. Sitting in the restaurant with audio and video to watch our sleeping peanut, while we went on a date. A real date.

Rare are the evenings we get to go out since Cedar’s birth. It’s not that we don’t want to leave her, but that babysitters are limited and places to go within 30 minutes’ drive after 7pm are also very limited. So rare is the evening date. Rare and luxurious.

On this evening, the wine was uncorked. We lingered over an appetizer of salmon slivers on toasted ciabatta slices with cream cheese and herb; spiced lamb curry with fried veggie slices; vegetarian lasagna with feta; plus a dessert of homemade orange ice cream and fluffy chocolate cake. The tea was warm. The lighting low. The conversation hushed. The times good. After leaving the lounge where we’d had our final drink, this tired momma slunk down the rock path to that cozy bed and drifted off.

That afternoon, prior to our delightful dinner, we had planned to take advantage of some other fun things Forresters’ has to offer – babysitter & a horseback ride. With babysitters on staff, we planned to leave Cedar for an hour and head out on horseback to trot around the forest. Alas, our horse plans were thwarted, but a tandem bike enticed us. A tandem bike that originated circa 1971. . .and had a broken seat. . . and only one gear.

It wasn’t past the first speed hump that I went hurtling off the seat, cackling in disbelief as the rear seat had tipped back & dumped me plum off! I climbed back on, righting the seat and trying to sit forward to prevent the seat’s nose from jutting skyward again. No such luck! Sean did the jiggle and wiggle test, but didn’t have any tools, so we decided, “We would keep going,” because to return for tools would mean an utter delay. Plus, I’m always up for a challenge.

Sean switched with me, so I could steer from up front. Steer us I did – straight into the azalea bush 2 feet away. hah! Well, that wasn’t working, so back to our original posts we went.

We made it to the main road and headed uphill. Now, dear friends, I am essentially riding a fireman’s pole. A fireman’s pole. Uphill. While clutching desperately to the handle bars and laughing too hard to care if I’ve peed myself or not. After breathless protests of “No! Really! Stop! I’m going to fall off. I’m falling off!” I surrendered my unheeded shouts & deftly (it actually was deft, which is a stroke of luck if you know me) hopped off the back of the bike. Sean promptly halted the fireman’s pole and we drug that 30 pound beast to the side of the road and collapsed in laughter.

How ridiculous is this? 

How much did we pay to rent this bike? 

Seriously. I couldn’t hold on any longer. 

I just need something to wedge underneath it. 

Our search for the perfect rock ended in finding the multi-purpose water bottle. Tilting the seat slightly more forward than “normal”, we wedged the Klean Kanteen (love these guys!) between the underside of the seat and the bike’s frame. When I plopped my derriere down upon the seat, lo and behold, it stayed! Off we went again. Now I could rest my hands on the handle bars. .. and my feet on the peddles. Let’s be honest, a one-speed tandem bicycle who weighs 30 lbs is not for the mildly in shape mother. That is why I married a-beast-of-a-man who proceeded to haul my behind around town.

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The broken-seat-fixing water bottle

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Obligatory shot on our tandem bike date.

We walked up hills (we’re not crazy!), coasted down hills, laughed and got greeted by the neighborhood watch who welcomed us to his neighborhood. We sipped water from the bottle/seat and snapped pictures that my WordPress won’t let me upload. With a glance at our watches, we did an about face and headed back to our daughter dear, a warm bath, and playing on the grass.

The rest of our time rolled by gently with gentle ease. We played with Cedar on the grass. We lounged. I napped. Sean napped. I soaked in the bathtub. I read my book. We watched a little tv. We had a screaming child in the wee hours of the night (why does that always happen when you leave home and have 10 neighbors all trying to sleep in?). We rubbed our bleary eyes and stumbled to a gourmet breakfast. We watched fires crackle in their places and headed out before the rain.

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Breakfast with the little girl who makes me the happiest momma!

When looking back on the weekend, both Sean & I’s favorite moments came from that ridiculous bike ride. As many parents of young children know (or recall), sometimes the moments you get to discover something new together are more limited with a tiny tot, but we’ve found when we take the hour or three that we get, when we get it and do something different, it’s always a rich reward of laughter, quality time, and just, good memories. A perfect weekend for this woman, wife, and mother.

Categories: Family Life, just for fun, Swaziland Updates | 2 Comments

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