A lot of travel enthusiasts are able to snag awesome awards at the very last minute because they’re not married, they only need one seat, and they don’t have any major responsibilities holding them back. That’s not me. That being said, I’ve been able to enjoy some pretty amazing travel experiences with points, but I’ve had to plan them pretty carefully. My wife and I travel together and we both have fairly demanding jobs. If that didn’t make it hard enough, let’s toss in a new variable: a baby!
This past November Baby Z came into our life, and every moment with him has been a blessing, but Katy and I knew that our frequent flier lifestyle was likely to change once the little guy came into our life… On Easter weekend it was time to test the waters: Baby Z’s first flight!
Before we even got started on our journey, it was time to pack. Haha the adventure began early! Gone are the days of a simple carry-on working for a weekend away. Nope. This was a lot of stuff.
Here’s what we’ve got…
- One suitcase for me
- One suitcase for Katy
- One suitcase for Z
- The stroller
- The infant car seat (and the four month old infant)
Luckily my parents have an extra playpen and crib. Eek! While I normally don’t tip parking shuttle drivers, with this much stuff, we absolutely did! When we arrived at the curb, we got the wonderful news that our United flight was delayed a couple hours. Sigh… we were there two hours ahead of our scheduled flight time, not knowing how much extra time we might need with the baby.
Step one: check our bags. All of them. This was probably the most difficult part of the journey. Carrying all of those bags, and our son, to the check-in desk was quite a trek, and we had to stop a couple times to adjust our grip. I didn’t travel that much in 2015 so I’ve dropped down to Premier Gold with United. With my being a million miler, that means my wife is Premier Gold as well. Premier Gold members get two checked bags each, but we were one over the limit. It turns out that strollers and car seats are considered exception items. So even if you have zero status with United, you can check your stroller and car seat. We were told that it’s way easier to just wear the baby with an ergobaby carrier than have to take the stroller through security and stuff. Another piece of advice we were given was to stuff as much stuff in the stoller bag as possible. It not only protects your stroller… but since that gets checked free, you get more free checked luggage! We didn’t do that for this trip because we didn’t have that much, but that’s good to know for the future. Once all of our bags were checked, we felt pretty light! My wife and I both had backpacks. Other than that, she had Baby Z strapped to her chest, and we were ready to go through security!
Katy and I have TSA Pre-Check, and we had no problem going through Pre-Check with our infant. Everyone in line wanted to make funny faces and play with the baby, which was a nice welcome for his first flight. I’m not sure if our fellow travelers would have been as excited if he were crying…
We had some time to kill. We hit up the SFO Centurion Lounge, one of the best domestic lounges in the USA, to grab a snack!
I mean… What can I say? Like father, like son. This kid lives for the lounge life ;-). We got one of the cubicle style spots in the lounge, and we tried to have Z take a bit of a nap.
He resisted… and started to make some noise. At this point, I picked the kid up to go for a walk to try and calm him down. I know the last thing everyone in that lounge wants to hear is a crying baby. While working on soothing him, I stopped by the bar.
A little beer makes everything better. Right?
At this point, the baby started to get a bit more unruly. Quick! To the Centurion Lounge kids room! I LOVE the fact that the Centurion Lounge has a spot for kids. I think Baby Z will LOVE this spot in a year or so when he’s more interactive and can play with the toys. We used this spot to try and make a little covered bed for the baby so he could take a nap. We got him to sleep for 15 or 20 minutes, and while that was better than nothing, Baby Z still wasn’t too happy with that United delay. That happy baby in the green chair turned into…
We headed down to Gate 60 with a howling baby. He hadn’t gotten his proper nap in, and he probably felt generally confused with this new change of routine. We stopped briefly along the way so we could feed him, with hopes of calming him down a bit. That seemed to work… Baby Z still looked a bit uncomfortable, but he relaxed a little. We knew there was a good chance that he would fall asleep in his baby carrier. Luckily, he did. Calm baby: achievment unlocked!
Unfortunately for us, we got to Gate 60 in T3E at SFO, and we found out that there would be ANOTHER 60 minute delay for our flight. Geez… The travel gods just didn’t want us to a have an easy first flight with our four month old man! Well, there’s a United Club right near that gate, and we happened to have a couple of those Hyatt United Club passes in our bag. I figured that if we didn’t go now, we would probably forget about the passes and they would expire. We went in. I used this as an opportunity to get another beer….. Of course, unlike the Centurion Lounge where I could get a Racer 5 IPA for zero dollars, my free beer choice was limited to Coors Light. Sure. Whatever. Give it to me.
This is a brand new United Club, and as I explored the food options of hummus, chips, nuts, etc, I felt good about my decision to let my United Club membership expire a couple years ago. It just isn’t that relaxing of a place to be. It was overcrowded. Good beer wasn’t free. The WiFi was slow. Terminal 3 at SFO has gone through so many improvements. Even if I didn’t have Centurion Lounge access, I’d rather just hang out at one of the many great sitting spots in the terminal than in the United Club. In any case, maybe that hour delay was good for us… Baby Z continued his nap for the full hour, and then we were ready to board the plane! He woke up while we were in line to board, and he was in a pretty good mood!
Speaking of boarding, he had his very own boarding pass, which was cool. We made our way to our two economy plus seats, the window and the middle, and we got ready for our flight. Taking off, Z was really cute on my lap. As soon as the plane started to accelerate and we started to feel that pressure of takeoff, he got really low, and he had a very focused look on his face. He stuck his arms out a bit, as if to balance. As soon as we were up and off, though, he was good to go! When the flight attendant came by, she was quite surprised to see the little man, and she was very excited to give him his very first set of wings!
He started to fuss a bit on the descent into LA, but I think that had less to do with him being on a flight and more to do with the fact that it had been a long day of delays. Heck. I was cranky by then! My dad picked us up at LAX, and it was sure nice to have an extra set of hands to help us with all of our baby gear! Our trip down to LA was a success! A few days later, on Sunday, it was time for us to go back home.
This trip would prove to be much more simple. No delays. No nonsense. My parents dropped us off at the airport, and that made the check-in process easier, as one of them was able to come and help bring the baggage to the check-in counter. We got our boarding passes. Check out Z’s seat assignment: INF.
It had been a great weekend in LA, and we were pretty tired. Apparently so was the baby. Before we ever took off, I fell asleep, and he fell asleep on me. We both woke up about 2/3 of the way through the flight, and he was a bit antsy to land. In fact, for about five straight minutes, he turned into “that crying baby” on the plane. We did our best to soothe him, and pretty quickly we touched down at SFO!
So what did we learn? What advice can we give another new parents? Well, I guess we didn’t learn that much… It helps to relax, not be afraid to check EVERYTHING, and… to relax. But to be honest, the flight was only an hour long! We hope to take Baby Z on a real vacation in the near future, and that will be a test of his ability to be a young frequent flier!