Thursday, November 3, 2011

Travel Lessons Learned

Phew. We're back home! Just over 48 hours later than we had originally planned but we made it. A quick snow storm on the east coast took us somewhat by surprise (we were expecting it to happen after we had left) and left us stranded at LaGuardia airport in NYC for 11 hours and then back into the city for another 2 nights before we got booked on another flight. It was crazy but surprisingly, it wasn't the most challenging nor the most exciting part of our journey.

At work today I was working on preparing for facilitating a project close out meeting and was looking at the different headings we use:
  • What went well?
  • What didn't work?
  • What what would you do differently next time?
Keeping in line with fastidious project management practices, I'll recap my travel "Lessons Learned" for you all.
Baby's first stoop in NYC

What went well?
  1. Lots of things! The flights down were calm and relaxing and uneventful. We left on time and arrived on time. We made sure we had eaten before we got on the plane and timed the second flight to take off about an hour after Baby's normal nap time - so she slept on the plane.
  2.  We made sure we had a fridge in every room we stayed at. We were able to request one and it was helpful to have lots of snacks available for Baby.
  3. Stay where there is a pool! A swim at the end of a hectic day exploring was a nice "away from home" routine.
  4. Having a rental car with Baby's car seat installed was a nice luxury after catching buses for 5 days.
  5. We brought our own car seat and gate checked it with our umbrella stroller. No extra charge and it minimizes the possibility of it being damaged as checked luggage. 
  6. Going with the flow in terms of nap time and the effect of the time change. We followed Baby's cues and even though it was a rough few days she was napping fairly well after that. She started napping in the stroller most days while we were out and about. We didn't force naps and didn't cancel our plans if she didn't nap. We just went on with our day.

What didn't work?
  1. Baby became OBSESSED with the iPad. She asked for it every day. It was crazy. She had only played with it a couple of times before we left but by the end of our trip she could turn it on, navigate to the apps she liked and was doing puzzles, matching identical items and feeding her horse...all on her own. I guess I could argue that this was actually a "what went well" thing because it did keep her occupied when we really needed a distraction but neither S nor I liked the experience. She hasn't seen the iPad or asked for it since we've gotten home. I deleted all but 3 apps.
  2. Baby didn't eat much while we were away. We resorted to giving her cheese strings a few times a day and french fries a lot just to make sure she was eating something.
  3. I wouldn't take a toddler back to a big city like NYC. While we had some great fun there it really wasn't the experience we wanted. I guess I picture NYC as a city where you explore for hours, you go to museums and galleries and shopping. You dine out and drink wine. We weren't really able to do any of that with Baby so it left us frustrated and mildly annoyed. We bickered a lot.
  4. Night time flights aren't a good idea - Baby cried a LOT on the way home because she was over tired, couldn't nap because we were traveling to the airport or waiting for our flight during nap time.
  5. We weren't prepared for the rain or cold weather. Luckily this was only a problem for 2 days but time I'd like to be more prepared.
Relaxing @ The Belvedere in NYC

What what would you do differently next time?
  1. I would plan flights for a bit earlier in the day just in case we were delayed.
  2. I would pack for rain and cold when traveling in the Fall or Winter. Baby got really wet and cold one day and it was entirely my fault for not packing her rain pants, boots and warmer clothes. She had a rain jacket but it was mostly useless when the rest of her was soaked.
  3. I would book where we are staying every night before we left. In the past, when we are on road trips we just wing it and stay wherever we want at the last minute. This was a big mistake with Baby as we were often driving around in the dark looking for somewhere to stay in places we'd never been to before.
  4. And finally, I wouldn't choose to go to a big city at all with Baby again any time soon. We were tossing around the idea of going to Western Europe in the next couple of years but I think we'll wait. For at least 3 or 4 years....maybe longer if we add another child into the mix.
I'd say our first big vacation with Baby was a success even with the "what didn't work" stuff. And now that we are pros at it....we're all ready for Vegas in March (oops, another work conference).

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