Saturday, October 20, 2012

Unsolicited Advice: Preparing for Baby's First International Trip

Thanks again to everyone who offered travel advice in response to this post. We ended up buying Baba G his own seat on the plane, and we're also going to bring along his car seat in the hopes that he'd be more comfortable napping in that rather than with us holding him. I equated my husband or me holding him to him being more likely to get distracted by everything going on around us. Both of our flights just so happen to be during his nap times, so here's hopin'!

After researching our options, I decided to try out THIS crazy thing, rather than buy a small cart with wheels to attach the car seat onto:
Believe it or not, people SWEAR this works. And it was only $15...

Our criteria for this first trip out of the U.S. with him was that we wanted to go somewhere neither my husband nor I had been before, it had to be in the Caribbean because we wanted to minimize travel time while also ending up somewhere warm (and I've visited most islands there, so pickings were slim), and ideally it would be an all-inclusive resort with multiple dining options and a baby-friendly reputation.

I Googled "Baby-friendly Caribbean resorts" and found this New York Times article from two years ago. I'd already been to Jamaica, so that was out. We went to Atlantis in the Bahamas for our babymoon last year, so that was out. (This IS one of the few places I would actually return to when Baba G is older, however, because its water park is just so amazing and I know he'd love it... and I didn't get to go on any of that stuff because I was pregnant!) There wasn't a painless way to get to St. Lucia from Chicago, so that was out. We seriously considered Curacao, but that also seemed more difficult to get to, and the resort the article mentioned seemed more appropriate for kids rather than babies. So that left the two places in the Dominican Republic, a country I'd already been zeroing in on because it met all of our criteria.

We ended up booking a "5 Trident" suite at Club Med Punta Cana because we wanted to be away from the rest of the resort and have as much privacy and service as possible. The resort is only ten minutes from the airport, which minimized the travel time Baba G would have to be in his car seat during the transfer. (The main reason we decided to bring his car seat is because we will need to travel by taxi about forty minutes to and from the airport in Chicago, as well as those ten minutes once we're at our destination, and I'm just too paranoid to not have him in a car seat during those times.)

I was also impressed by the high "family-friendly" TripAdvsior ratings/positive reviews CMPC received, but what ended up sealing the deal for Club Med overall was that this location is one of the few Club Med spots that offers that Baby Club Med program. We actually don't intend to leave Baba G with sitters there during our stay at all, but we were desperate to find a reputable place that provided Pack 'n Plays, tubs, strollers, etc., so that we didn't have to haul ANY of that crap with us. This place supplies all of those things and more, plus they even have baby food (the jarred kind) and special areas in the restaurants for those who are feeding babies in high chairs and whatnot.

SOLD! (You're on your own for formula and diapers, though, which was fine with us.) They also have a really cool Baby Club Med play area, although I think that's technically for the people using the daycare option. We'll see.

Go nuts, BG!
We booked everything through Club Med so they took care of our flights, and since they were running a "7 nights for the price of 4" promotion, and since the time we're going is their low season, it was a great deal overall. If I had to do it over again I would probably explicitly ask the Club Med rep to contact the airline while I waited on hold to see if we could get a discount for Baba G's seat, as I heard many airlines do this for travelers under the age of 2. Instead I'm pretty sure we paid a full, ridiculously high price. I don't want to think about it! (They didn't provide a room vs. flight breakdown so I'm going to choose to remain ignorant.)

The next to-dos were: 1) getting Baba G into the kids' travel clinic for any necessary shots and destination-specific advice, and then 2) getting him a passport ASAP. The travel clinic visit went smoothly, the passport photo shoot... not so much.

We first went to Kinko's when it was nearing Baba G's bedtime. That was a mistake because he was getting cranky. We spent a full 50 minutes trying to get a shot where he was actually looking into the camera. Their camera had a multi-second delay, so this was nearly impossible. But once we finally got an acceptable shot... their printer didn't work, and there was no way to salvage the picture. They couldn't email it to us or anything.

The next day we went to Walgreens and a very friendly woman with big hair and exceedingly long nails was behind the photo counter, and she was a bit TOO friendly in Baba G's mind. She kind of got up in his face telling him how cute he was, and since he's in his "Not So Sure About Strangers" phase, he started bawling.

So then we had to distract him by walking around Walgreens for like 10 minutes. We finally got a picture after I asked the woman to help keep the white background secure while a different, less enthusastic Walgreens employee stood in front of BG to get the shot. My husband is holding BG standing up while the Too Friendly woman positioned the white cardboard thingy right behind Baba.

This is one of the outtakes of the shoot. The joke's on him because he'll have to live with this picture for the next 5 years!

Should this be an ad for Walgreens' photo service or what?

I'll definitely have a "Lessons Learned" debrief post after we're back from the trip at the end of November... wish us luck!


  1. Poor kid, more like a mug shot than a passport pic. Auntie MA