Flying With Babies

I’m back with the second part of my traveling with babies series! My last post was all about taking a road trip with little ones, so if you’re going on a long car ride and you’re looking for suggestions, you can read that HERE. That post was fun to write, but I had a lot more interest in flying! I should start by saying that I’ve only flown with Joanne twice and they were both during a pandemic. I’m sure I will learn a lot more once everything is back to normal, but I’m not an expert.

As I said in my last post, this is based on my experiences ONLY. Joanne was only drinking milk during the times we flew and she’s been a great baby from the beginning. We’ve also only flown domestically. I’m sure it would be a lot different on an international trip. I also flew independently with her both times. If you’re flying with another person, I’m sure it will be 10x easier!

BASICS TO FLYING WITH BABIES

There are two ways to book your baby’s flight:

  1. You can buy a seat on the plane and put them in their carseat.
  2. Most airlines allow children 2 and under to fly for free as long as the baby is seated in your lap. Book your flight and then call the airline and tell them that an infant is traveling with you for free. They will put their information into the system and you’re all set!

Documents:

  1. The closer your baby gets to the age of 2, the more likely you’ll need to bring their birth certificate or passport to show their age.
  2. When flying internationally, all babies need a passport. The passport is good for 5 years once ordered.

Joanne took her first plane ride when she was 5 months old. To make things easier on myself, I picked a flight where I knew she would be happy and sleepy. Joanne is happiest in the morning. After 5pm, her mood goes downhill very quickly and she is a lot harder to please. This is why I decided to take a flight that was at 11am. I understand that not everyone has a flexible schedule, so just pick what is best for you and your baby. She woke up at 7, I fed her, let her roll around for a little, and then I put her in her carseat and took her to the airport. She slept in the car (1 hour) and I made sure to feed and change her before we walked into the airport. Having a baby that is rested and fed before entering the airport really helped! By the time we were ready to takeoff, I snuggled her close and gave her a bottle of milk. This put her to sleep and she slept the entire 1.5 hour flight.

Let’s back things up a bit.

Getting Through TSA With Milk:

Like every mother, one of my biggest concerns was feeding her. She eats every 2ish hours and I had both breast milk and formula. Breast milk and formula (powder or liquid) are accepted through TSA. In the diaper bag, I had a few bottles of breast milk (which I knew she’d drink before they expired), and I had the small individual liquid bottles of formula. I also had a container of powder formula packed into my carry on. I placed all my bottles with liquid in a clear bag so it was easy to take out. Security will scan the contents to make sure they’re actually for feeding, but they can’t take them from you. On her second flight, Joanne was only taking formula so I filled her bottles with 6oz of water and kept them in the bag. This way, all I had to do was scoop the powder into the bottle and I didn’t have to worry about finding water. They got through security without any issues. Normally, you can’t take over 4oz of liquid through TSA, but I had no problem with the 6oz bottles of water because they were in her bottles. Also, if you’re traveling with a breast pump, you can take it through TSA in your carry on/diaper bag and it doesn’t have to be checked. Check your local airport, but some airports even have breastfeeding rooms. We used the breastfeeding room in Charlotte and it was wonderful!

Before Boarding:

While we were waiting at the gate, I put a blanket on the floor and let Joanne roll around and play. I wanted her to stretch and be stimulated as much as possible because I knew we’d be confined for the flight. Right before boarding, I changed her in the bathroom and got her diaper bag situated with everything I’d possibly need. Her diaper bag would be under the seat in front of me, so anything that I needed easy access to had to be in that bag and not my carry on bag that was going to be stowed in the overhead bin. The good thing about traveling with little ones is that you get to board the plane in the beginning! If they don’t announce “parents will small children” over the loudspeaker while boarding, just go up and ask.

Strollers and Carseats:

Let’s talk about car seats and strollers because this was a really popular question. You can check your stroller/carseat at the gate for FREE. If your carseat is separate from your stroller, both of them can be checked at the gate for free. Ours connects, so we collapse it as one piece. All you have to do is see the person at the desk once you get to your gate and ask them for a tag. They will ask you if you need one or two tags (depending if your carseat and stroller are separate). Once your stroller/carseat is tagged, you just leave it at the end of the terminal right before you get on the plane. Someone will be there to store it under the plane and you will get everything back as soon as you step off the plane. This helped me so much while traveling solo because I could push Joanne in her stroller through the airport, and then get her stroller/carseat easily to our next destination without paying a dime. If you don’t want to bring your carseat, you can always rent one from local car companies as well.

Baby On Plane:

While boarding the plane with Joanne, I like to push her in her stroller to the end of the terminal. After I drop off the stroller, I snuggle her into the baby sling so I can get on the plane hands free. The great thing about flying with a baby is that people are always willing to help. The flight attendants can get you warm water if you need it for formula or find you a seat with an empty seat beside you for more room. Don’t be afraid to ask the flight attendants for anything you may need. The worst they can do is say no.

I don’t know where I read this, but feeding a baby during takeoff can help ease the pressure in their ears. I have no idea if this is true, but I always aim to feed Joanne while we’re taking off and she’s never had any issues with her ears bothering her. It also betters my chance of her falling asleep. When we’re at home, I don’t like putting Joanne to sleep with milk, but when we’re flying, I LET IT GO. Flying with a baby is not my time to be super mom, HA! I would much rather her stay quiet and sleep on a flight rather than stress about my parenting choices and disturb everyone around me. She is more likely to fall asleep if I give her milk, so that’s what I’m going to do.

If you need to change your baby during the flight, there are changing tables in the bathrooms. They’re typically on the wall behind the toilet.

Airport Essentials:

  • Baby Sling or Carrier – This is great if you’re traveling solo. It keeps your hands free when you’re trying to get on the plane/get through security.
  • Collapsable Stroller – This is what we use and it travels well. The carseat attaches easily and we’ve never had any problems getting it from one destination to the next.

I hope this post wasn’t too scattered and it brought you some peace if you’re flying with a little one in the future! If I didn’t answer something and you want to see more information about flying, let me know and I will see if I can share based on our experiences! Like the last post, I’m going to leave some of my product recommendations.

Road Trips With Babies

When I began writing about traveling with babies, I thought it would take one hour tops and I’d have all the information included in one post. However, I spent 2 hours writing while Joanne was napping and I realized that I had so much to say! I may not be the most experienced traveler with a baby, but I had a lot of suggestions and recommendations. I had questions about road trips and airplanes and getting baby gear from one place to the next, so instead of writing one long post with an overwhelming amount of information, I decided to break it up into two separate ones. The first one will cover our road trip experiences and the second one will cover our airplane experiences. I hope you enjoy!

Before Joanne was born, Taylor and I decided that we were going to immerse Joanne into our busy lives 100%. We didn’t want to adjust our lives to fit her, but instead, we wanted her to adjust her life to fit ours (as much as a baby can that is). This isn’t for everyone, but it was really important for us to have her acclimated to a busy and well-traveled life. Taylor and I are constantly traveling or doing something, so we wanted to make that as easy as possible for our baby. This meant Joanne had to be good at sleeping on the go.

During the past 9 months, Joanne has changed a lot and we’ve had to adjust the ways we travel to work for everyone. This post is just going to be the things we do and the tips we have for anyone looking to travel with a baby. Again, I’m not an expert and we’ve been limited with our travel due to the pandemic, but I’ll share what I know.

Also, this entire post is based on our experiences ONLY. Joanne has been a great baby from the beginning and this is all based on our experiences with her.

ROAD TRIP TIPS & TRICKS

The first thing I can recommend to anyone taking a road trip with a baby, is to travel while your baby is asleep. The younger they are, the more they sleep and the less they need entertained. When Joanne was still a newborn (probably 3 weeks old), we went to the beach. It was a 3 hour road trip, and her first long car ride. I think this is one of the best times to road trip with a baby. Newborns eat, sleep, and poop, so a car ride isn’t nearly as awful as you may think. She also didn’t hate the car seat. Around this time, her naps were frequent and she was eating every 2 hours. We chose to leave early in the morning after she’d already eaten and had her first wake window. We loaded her in her carseat as soon as she was ready to take her first nap and she slept most of the ride. When she woke up, we stopped so I could feed and change her. Then, we hit the road again and finished our drive. This never negatively affected her nighttime sleep either. We’ve traveled to and from the beach several times in the past 9 months and we always leave when she’s ready to nap.

We took our next road trip when she was 1.5 months old from South Carolina to Pennsylvania (10 hours). One of the best things we did during this road trip was leave before she woke up for the day. We had the car packed and ready to go the night before, so all we had to do was get in and go. Joanne was getting up for a feed around 3 or 4 in the morning at this age, so we decided to leave whenever she got up for her middle of the night feeding. When she got up we fed her like we normally would, kept her in her pajamas, snuggled her into her carseat, and started driving. We were able to drive 4 hours before she even woke up for the day! This is the best thing you can do when traveling with a baby on a long road trip. You could even do the opposite and travel at night! The key is to spend the most time driving while baby is naturally ready to sleep. Now that Joanne is older, she’s harder to travel long distance with in the car. We leave as early as possible, but she needs more entertaining and she takes fewer naps.

When we pack the car, I like to make sure there’s plenty of room in the backseat and in between the center consul. I like having easy access to Joanne if needed. Sometimes, she just wants me to sit and entertain her. Also, an overstuffed vehicle stresses me out. Going off of this, I think it really helps to have your diaper bag with anything you may need readily available. You don’t want to dig around looking for something when your baby is screaming and you’re flying down the highway.

If you’re feeding your baby formula, you can fill some bottles up with water before leaving. All you’ll have to do is add the powder and mix!

We try not to travel with her on long road trips anymore, but when we do, we have to allow more time or leave even earlier. The last thing I can suggest when traveling by car with a baby, is to give yourself more time than you think you’ll need. If the GPS says it’s going to take 8 hours to get there, tack on an extra 2 hours. Your baby is going to need fed, changed, and time to wiggle. Sometimes, your baby will have a meltdown or a blowout you weren’t anticipating, which will take more time. Babies can sense stress, so if you’re stressed about arriving somewhere at a specific time, they’ll sense your anxiousness. The more easygoing the trip, the better.

Positives & Negatives to Road Trips With a Baby

  • Positive: One of the benefits to traveling by car with a baby is that you can take all their stuff. You can take the pack-and-play, carseat, toys, bottles, whatever they need.
  • Negative: It takes longer and there’s a lot of time spent in a carseat.

Road Trip Essentials:

  • Mirrors – These are amazing because you can see your baby at all times. She likes to look at herself too!
  • Portable Sound Machine This is our MUST HAVE baby item. When people are expecting and they ask us what to get, I always suggest this! Joanne always sleeps with a sound machine and this one is amazing for travel. It holds a charge for like 12 hours! We hang it on her carseat when we’re in the car and we put it around her pack-and-play when she’s sleeping at night. We have the Hatch at home and adore it in the nursery, but it’s bigger and has to be plugged in, so I don’t recommend it for road trips.
  • Portable Baby Dome – With summer coming up, I thought this was a good recommendation for anyone traveling to the beach with a baby. We went to the beach when Joanne was 3 weeks old and we loved using this! It’s breathable, shaded, and has UV protection. You can attach a portable fan to it too!

I think we’re at a point where we can travel easily with Joanne in the car, but I want you to know that this was all a learning experience. Not every car ride is happy and easy. We’ve experienced our moments of screaming and stress, and we’ve used those moments to reevaluate what’s working and what doesn’t. This is what’s worked for us during the past 9 months, but you’ll need to adjust according to your own baby’s needs. Every baby is different, and just when you think you’ve got everything figured out, your baby’s needs change and you readjust. I will say, the more you travel by car, the more flexible your baby becomes. Babies thrive on consistency, so anything that’s out of rhythm can really throw them off. If your baby is use to traveling in the car, it won’t be new and scary and they’ll know what’s happening.

What are your tips and tricks for traveling with little ones in the car?

Let me know what you want to hear about in my next post, all about flying with babies!

Our Belongings That Are Still in China

As a mini update on life for the Stevens family, I thought I’d write about something we always get asked. As many of you know, we came home for Christmas vacation in December of 2019 (WHAT?!) and we’ve been here ever since. The virus pushed our return week back by a week, then another week, another month, we had a baby, and we’re still not back. If you’re interested, here’s the breakdown of our current situation.

If you didn’t know, you need a visa to enter China. Unfortunately, our visas expired in September, keeping us in America even longer. China isn’t currently letting dependents into the country (meaning Joanne and I), but Taylor has been working on getting another visa for himself through his work. The process has been long and slow, so we’re still waiting. Taylor will hopefully get everything sorted out with the company and return soon.

Our apartment complex from above, in Nanjing

As you can imagine, neither of us were anticipating such a long stay in America! We packed our bags for one month and ended up staying for over a year. When I came home, I was pregnant and it was winter, meaning I had nothing to wear once spring hit and certainly nothing to wear once I was postpartum. We had a life in China. We had an apartment in China (we technically still do). Because of this, so many of our belongings are still…you guessed it…in China. Whenever people realize that all our belongings are still there, we get one of three responses. The first is always, “what do you have there?” The second is, you don’t need any of that stuff because you’ve been living without it for so long.” The third is, what do you miss the most?” I’ll answer all of them here for you.

Our apartment is to the left, along the river.

What is still there: Everything! HAHA. We have all our clothes, shoes, books, souvenirs, luggage, makeup, xbox, hair straighteners, medicine, contacts, bibles, cameras, jewelry, blankets, and MORE. Anything you’d live with in your home is in our home in China. Sometimes, I forget what’s still there, but then when I’m looking for something specific and I can’t find it, I realize that it’s in another country. Sigh.

We don’t need any of it because we’ve lived without it for so long: This is one of my biggest pet peeves. It literally makes me cringe when I hear these words. I can’t stand when we get this comment for several reasons. One, most people who make this comment (or all) have never been in a situation like this, so they couldn’t possibly understand. Two, how would you feel if some of your most precious belongings were just sitting in an apartment that you couldn’t get to? Three, it’s just insensitive. I understand that it’s probably true, I can in fact live without these items, but it still hurts. We have a lot of valuables there.

What do we miss the most: When I asked Taylor, he said he misses his xbox, a specific pair of shoes, and our scooter. (Do you think our scooter is still in the parking garage or has it been stolen???) We also have a fantastic wine collection from our travels that we’d both like back. I really miss my bible the most. I miss all the other items too, but if I could go back and repack my bag, I would bring my bible home. Taylor gave me that bible for my birthday in 2019, so it’s really special. Taylor has several bibles here in America, so he’s not missing the one he took to China.

Scooting through our apartment complex.

Thankfully, we emptied the refrigerator and took out the trash before we left HAHA 🙂 But in all seriousness, we have some great people in China who are keeping an eye on our things and we hope to get them back soon. The worst case scenario is that we have everything shipped back to America.

I hope we can be reunited with our belongings in 2021!

Our 1984 Yellowstone Camper Renovation

This post was a long time coming and honestly, one of the most requested blog posts I’ve ever received. A lot of people want to see our camper renovation, so I’m excited to show you that today!

One of the most exciting things Taylor and I have done during this pandemic (besides give birth to a perfect baby girl) is renovate a 1984 Yellowstone Camper together. Neither of us had done anything like this before, but we were PUMPED. We purchased the camper in Pennsylvania back in June when we saw it on Facebook Marketplace. We replaced the tires right away and drove it down to South Carolina. When we arrived, we jumped in and spent the next month gutting it and making it into something more esthetically pleasing and functional for our family of 3.

The previous owner of the camper did a wonderful job at taking care of it. It was clean and in great shape when we bought it, but there was a lot of wood and it was very brown. It felt dark and dysfunctional. Before we made any changes, Taylor and I spent time talking about what we wanted to do and if we could make it happen. We each had individual things that were really important to us in order to feel comfortable in the camper, so we wanted to make sure we could make those changes possible.

Our number one priority was making it functional for our family with a newborn. Joanne was only 2 months old when we purchased the camper, so she wasn’t able to sleep on the pull-out couch and she was still sleeping in her pack-and-play. We also agreed that it needed to be brightened up! After priming, we used the color, Going to The Chapel by Benjamin Moore on all the walls. We chose this color because it was a warmer shade of white. It still brightened up the space without feeling sterile.

The pull out couch wasn’t functional for us and it was HEAVY. We decided to rip it out and Taylor built a U-shaped bench for seating instead. We have plans to install a table in the middle one day, which will fold down to make a full bed. For now, Joanne’s pac-and-play fits perfectly into this spot, so we’re leaving it open. In the picture above, you’ll notice cabinet space above the bench. The whole front face of that cabinet folds down to form a single person bed. There’s a ladder that isn’t pictured and a mattress topper that fits over the cabinet holes. A small child would love this space! As for us, we’re leaving it as storage.

We ordered thick foam off of Amazon and cut it to fit the measurements of our bench. Then, I bought fabric and upholstered it to the foam! The back pieces of our bench are specifically cut into sections, because they will fit onto the future table when it drops down to make the bed later on. (I hope that makes sense!)

All the old laminate floors were ripped out and Taylor installed brand new hardwoods. They’re waterproof and really heavy duty!

Along with the couch, we decided to remove the large dresser to the left of the bed and the cabinet hanging above the foot of the bed. There’s already a ton of storage in the camper, so we didn’t feel like these two were necessary. Removing the dresser beside the bed also gave us room for Joanne’s pack-and-play, so she could sleep beside the bed too! I’m really thankful that we took this dresser out, because there was a lot of water damage underneath. Thankfully, Taylor was able to remove all the wet wood and repair it. When we removed the cabinet at the foot of the bed, it revealed the breaker, which was an eyesore, but it made the space feel much more open and breathable. We also added shiplap paneling behind the bed to add more texture.

There was a rip in the ceiling wallpaper, so we racked our brains on how to fix it. We opted on cedar planks, which was one of the best decisions we made. Not only do they smell good, but they’re warm and cozy and a really unique feature! We found the cedar planks at Home Depot. They’re 1/4 inch thick and super lightweight.

We found a two pack of wooden shelves on Amazon and installed one in the bedroom and one in the kitchen. We specifically placed the shelf at the end of the bed because our iPad can hang off, and we can watch movies from bed! I also painted the arch around the shelf to give the space more character!

As for the windows, I made custom curtains out of a dowel from Home Depot. I took black hooks, black clips, and linen napkins from Amazon and assembled the curtains! I think they turned out pretty good! To keep the sun and heat out, we custom cut, double reflective polyethylene to fit each window. We can velcro them on when needed, and they fold and store easily.

A lot of changes happened in the kitchen! We painted the lower cabinets green (April Arbor by Valspar), added new hardware, painted the stove top and hood black, installed new countertops, and added a peel-and-stick backsplash. We lost one of the cabinet doors to water during the renovation, so I’m on the hunt for two matching baskets to fill the space! All the hardware and backsplash can be found on Amazon! (I have it all linked below)

The bathroom took a lot of work, but I think it has one of the biggest transformations!

We ripped out all the wallpaper, added new shower walls, added peel-and-stick backsplash, new flooring, new countertops, and installed a brand new toilette. Originally, we were going to leave the toilette that came with the camper, but near the end of the renovation, we agreed that it would look better with a new one. I’m so glad we spent the extra money on this, because I think it makes a huge difference! We left the original bathtub because it was in great shape, but Taylor and I don’t ever use the shower in the camper. We always use the bathhouse at the campground, so the tub is really only used by Joanne. Realistically, we store our clothing hamper in here. 🙂

Because we had the free time, the renovation only took about a month to get it to a point where it was “campable.” Then, we spent another month casually adding the finishing touches. We poured a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this camper, but it was worth it. Our only regret is not doing it sooner! We’ve had a blast traveling around in this little camper together, and we’ve really shared a love for camping. Joanne really enjoys it too!

Besides adding the table to the living area, the camper could really use a good coat of paint on the outside! Taylor and I are still going back and forth on whether or not to invest in this! Let us know what you think! Do you like the current paint job or should we update it to match the inside?

Links to some of the products we used:

What was your favorite part of the renovation?!

I Can’t Believe We’re Still Here

Hi, Everyone!

The other day I was thinking about how much I missed writing on this blog. I haven’t written much recently (and for good reasons). I just had a baby (beautiful baby girl!) and Taylor and I have been “stuck” in American ever since Christmas. The two of us have been joking about how long we’ve been here. We came home in December with one suitcase between the two of us because we thought we’d be returning in 4 weeks. It’s been 7 months! For those of you wondering, Taylor can’t return to China because they aren’t allowing any foreigners to enter the country. So we wait. With all the chaos happening in my life, I finally feel like I finally have a grip on things and have time to sit and write.

Recently, Taylor and I have been reminding each other how EXTREMELY BLESSED we are. We came home when I was 20 weeks pregnant and we’ve gotten to experience the most luxurious maternity leave ever. Taylor was here before Joanne was born, here to help me recover from a tough post-labor, and we’ve gotten to spend 2 amazing months together loving on little Joanne as a family. This virus has been horrible for so many, but can I just say how much of a blessing it’s been to us? We will always thank God for choosing his timing. Seriously, we’re in awe.2I went back to work this month and Taylor is still doing what he can remotely. Add taking care of a newborn on top of this (as if we didn’t have enough on our hands), we decided to buy a 1984 Yellowstone Camino to renovate! We found her on Facebook Marketplace and fell in love after touring her in person. The camper was in fantastic shape and we’ve enjoyed having something to work on together. Some of my best memories as a child are from camping trips with my family, so I’m thrilled to continue the tradition with Joanne! IMG_5650IMG_5642Although the camper was in good shape, it was outdated. IMG_5605IMG_56091Currently, we’re about halfway through with the renovations, and I’m so excited to share the before and after pictures with you once everything is done! Here’s a little sneak peak…IMG_6124It’s going to look so incredible when it’s finished! We’re planning on taking the camper up to PA to visit family in the beginning of August, so it needs to be at a good stopping place, if not completely finished by then. Life is never dull around here! 🙂 Stay tuned for more camper renovation updates!!IMG_6179Talk to you soon! ❤

Life Update: Traveling & the Coronavirus

Hello!

I haven’t written anything on here in a hot minute, but I thought it was time to update y’all on what’s been happening for the past few months!

Let’s jump straight to the topic that everyone is most curious about: the Coronavirus.

Taylor and I came back to the States December 17th for our scheduled Christmas vacation. We had one month to see family, enjoy the holidays, and take a few trips! If you follow me on social media, than you’ll already know that the Coronavirus threw a wrench into our plans to return to China, because as you can see, we’re still in America. On the morning of our flight, we got a call that we had to cancel our flight to China until further notice. Currently, we’re being told that we can’t fly back until March 10th. However, that’s still subject to change because most major airlines aren’t flying to China until later this spring. Originally, I was supposed to return to China at the end of January and then fly back to South Carolina on March 10th, where I’d remain until the baby comes (did I ever mention I was pregnant?). Now, I don’t have time to go back to China without it being too close to our delivery date.

It’s very bitter-sweet, because I was looking forward to spending a few weeks in China before coming home for the birth. All my belongings are in China, and I won’t be able to get any of that back until Taylor returns in May. However, I’m grateful for the extra time at home and I don’t have to worry about long travel days during the third trimester.

If you know Taylor and I, you know that we’ve been filling all this extra time up with loads of adventure and quality time together. Really, the second trimester has been one giant baby moon! 🙂

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Let’s recap:

In January we rang in the new year in Ireland! IMG_2766IMG_2772

Then, we spent a few days exploring the countryside of England and the streets of London. IMG_29021

My family in Pennsylvania threw us a beautiful baby shower for baby Stevens!IMG_31972

We’ve been to a couple of Clemson basketball games.IMG_3372

We went to visit Kendall in Arizona for a week, where we watched the Waste Management Open. 2IMG_3427

We explored Joshua Tree National Park while we were out west.IMG_3456IMG_3466IMG_3489Where we stayed in the cutest tiny house via Airbnb! You can see the house HERE.

Get $79 towards your first Airbnb trip!

BDC05D6F2F945AF79C1178CC090ED45D1Joshua Tree was the perfect park for me because I didn’t have to hike in order to see all the beauty. Taylor and I were able to drive through the park and relax. IMG_3454

That leaves us with today, where we’re spending time getting boring adult stuff done and trying to plan the next month. 🙂 We don’t have plans at the moment, so we’re taking each day as it comes, snuggling with our favorite girl. IMG_3515

Stay tuned for more updates, and have a great week!