Okay, I’m sorry I missed a few weeks, but life happened. Also I’m going back to a trip post. But this is a trip we did with Oliver, and his first international trip, so its mom and travel related. When Oliver was 3 months old, we went to Mexico! Now, it wasn’t the glorious Mexico beach vacation you are thinking, we went to Mauricios hometown, Ciudad Juarez. He hadn’t been there in 12 years and we were finally able to make the trip and see some family. Mauricio has 2 brothers, 2 nieces and 2 (twin) nephews. In the 8 years we had been together I hadn’t met any of them. Mauricio had only met his oldest niece in person. The rest we knew from video chats and some phone calls, but it’s a lot different than seeing them in person, obviously. So after we had Oliver, we decided the time was right to make the trip and meet some family. Juarez isn’t exactly known for being a nice place to visit. It’s frequented the most dangerous cities in the worlds lists, and is basically a hot desert city in the middle of nowhere. But I was excited to finally see the house Mauricio grew up in and meet his family.
This was Oliver’s first international trip, which meant he needed a passport. Getting a passport for an infant is, interesting. Mostly because of the passport photo. Passport photos, as you may know, are basically headshots like on your driver’s license. But they are supposed to be on a white background. If you’re a functioning person, you go and sit in front of a white background and they snap your picture. If you’re an infant who can barely hold their head and can’t sit up, it gets difficult. They prefer the baby to be upright, not laying down like most infants are best at. So the method of choice is basically mom or dad sits with a white sheet over them and props the baby up to try and get a somewhat normal picture. It’s awkward and funny, but in the end, it works. We sent away for Oliver’s passport when he was about a month old because we knew we were wanting to go to Mexico soon, and I believe it’s always good to have a valid passport just in case you want to spontaneously travel somewhere. Oliver’s passport came in plenty of time for our trip. If you’re under 18 when you get your passport it’s only good for 5 years, if you’re over 18 it’s good for 10 years. So, we’ll go through the process with Oliver a few more times in the years to come, but he should be a bit more coordinated the next time around.
We had decided that it would be best to take a stroller to get around the airports with. We also were walking across the border from El Paso to Juarez and since it was July, and HOT, I didn’t want to wear Oliver. Our awesome stroller, which you may remember from my Grand Canyon post, isn’t really the best for traveling. It doesn’t fold down hardly at all, so we had to get a smaller, collapsible stroller for the trip. Also, when you fly with a baby you can check a collapsible stroller at the gate for no extra cost on most airlines. *Check the airline policy when you book* We decided on one that was about $60 from target, a bit nicer than an umbrella stroller, but not some fancy schmancy thing. It worked great!
Since I briefly worked for TSA, I have a pretty knowledgeable stance on the best way to get through security, with or without a baby. Maybe someday I’ll do a post about how to not be a bad passenger. I knew that having a collapsible stroller that would fit through the scanners would be the best situation. Also that it would be best to carry Oliver through the walk through metal detectors. If you wear your baby in a sling, they will have to swab your hands on the other side. It’s not a big deal, but it’s just one more thing to deal with.
Also, just a word to the wise on those traveling with babies/toddlers. The 3.4 oz rule applies to EVERYTHING that is liquid like. That includes those applesauce squeeze pack things. Looking at them now it looks like they changed the size of them to be under 3.4 oz, but when I was working we saw a lot of them that were over that limit. Since they are food for a child you can technically take them, but mom or dad will have to get a pat down. Weird, but yeah that’s the way it works. Moral of the story, you can take snacks for your kids, but to save yourself the hassle, check the size and make sure they are under 3.4 oz each.
Anyways, we got through security no problem and were ready to start our first flight with baby.
For our trip we had a total of 4 flights to take, 2 on the way there and 2 on the way back, and they were all relatively short. Our first flight was from Moab to Denver. Oliver’s first flight ever. I was nervous to say the least. I didn’t want to be the person on the flight with a crying baby for an hour. Oliver had been an easy baby so far, but I was still worried that he would freak out on the plane for some reason and be unconsolable. That didn’t happen. Oliver was his normal content self and the drone of the plane put him to sleep.
Oliver was still nursing at the time so I had it planned to feed him when the plane was taking off, to help pop his ears. I guess it worked because he didn’t seem to mind the change in elevation. I also think it helped calm him down from the commotion of boarding.
We had a layover in Denver before our flight to El Paso. Between that wait and the boarding time, by the time we took off from Denver Oliver was ready to eat again. The only time this plan didn’t work was on our return flight from Denver to Moab. The flight was delayed and we spent and extra hour waiting at the gate. Oliver was hungry but I really didn’t want to start feeding him and then have them announce that we were boarding. By the time we got on the plane we had a pretty grouchy baby and I think everyone thought it was going to be a long flight with us. But once we got going and he ate, the sounds of the plane put Oliver to sleep again and we were fine.
Crossing the Border into Mexico
We didn’t do an international flight to get to Juarez. Instead we flew to El Paso, then took a taxi to the border and walked across to meet Mauricios brother. I was all sorts of worried about taking a taxi without a carseat. Mostly I was worried that for some reason no taxis would accept us going without a carseat and we’d be stranded. I did some googling beforehand, and found a lot of people from cities saying that they take their kids in taxis without car seats all the time and it’s no big deal. So I relied on that. Some of you may think it was super dangerous for me to ride around in cars with my child in my arms instead of a carseat, and maybe you’re right. But I was comfortable with it and so was Mauricio, and that was our parent decision to make. Also, everything was totally fine and I wasn’t scared one time with him in my lap. We had absolutely no problem getting a taxi, they’re happy just to have the business. Our driver was a super old Mexican guy who probably shouldn’t have been driving anymore, but he was super nice and even gave us the change we needed to cross the bridge.
The border from the US to Mexico in El Paso is the Rio Grande, which means crossing the border is going over a bridge. There’s three main bridges you can cross, we used the Santa Fe Bridge, I believe it’s the most popular. We opted to walk across for a few reasons, one of the main ones was to save time. Waiting in the car line coming into the US can literally be hours, and I didn’t want to waste some of our precious time sitting in traffic. When you’re crossing into Mexico it’s super easy though. We literally gave a guy in a booth 50 cents and walked on over. Like I said the bridge goes over the Rio Grande, but in El Paso/Juarez its literally a concrete canal with a trickle of water in it. Not so grand. Halfway across the bridge you enter Mexico, where we were met by one border patrol agent and, the best part, our family! Mauricios oldest brother, his wife and two daughters had come as far as they could come to meet us and it was so amazing finally seeing them in person. Mauricio was video chatting with his mom while we were walking and she was crying when we were finally all together. Don’t tell Mauricio I said this, but him and his brother cried too. It was a lot to take in on a tiny hot bridge, but it was amazing.
I unfortunately don’t have a lot of tips for you guys for travelling in Juarez. I honestly hardly knew where we were most of the time we spent there. Once we got off the bridge, Mauricio’s brother took us and go some delicious drinks before we got to their car. He haggled over the price of them a bit, Mauricio and I figured out later that we got 5 64 oz drinks for about $3. Stuff is CHEAP in Mexico compared to the US. Then he took us to a few landmarks, and finally to their house. Mauricios brother lives in their family house, the house the Mauricio grew up in. He had told me stories about his house and neighborhood so I was excited to see it in person! We visited his grandma’s house as well. I had met her several times, she comes to the US for half of the year every year to spend with Mauricios aunt. But it was still cool to see her house in Mexico, as well as the family photos she had.
I was really excited to go through old pictures and find some of baby Mauricio, to compare with Oliver and baby pictures of me. But since Mauricio is the 3rd child I guess they ran out of interest in baby pictures and they youngest pictures we could find of him he is about kindergarten age. Still cute though. Especially since the youngest pictures I’d seen before that were when he was about 11.
We spent 2 days enjoying family, eating good food that Mauricio’s brother made and just really relaxing. Mauricio’s other brother, who is the middle child, lives about 30 minutes away so we took an afternoon to go down and see him as well. I mean, we’d come all this way, we weren’t going to let a 30 minute drive keep us from seeing him. We caught him at a good time and it was so emotional seeing the three brothers together.
The three of them hadn’t been together like that in 12 years! Even though our visit with him was short, it was so nice to finally meet him and see the three of them together. After we saw him we went and saw his twin boys and their mom. We’ve seen pictures of them over the years and chatted with them a bit, but seeing them in person was so different and I don’t really know if they knew who we were. They are identical twins and I mean identical. The whole time we were there I never really figured out which was which.
After some time visiting with our nephews, we went on and got some delicious ice cream. Our nieces were so excited about it, they told us it was the best treat in all of Juarez. The ice cream was good for sure, but getting to know them and what they liked after all these years was the best part about it.
Crossing the Border into the US
When the day finally came for us to head home we had to get up pretty early and get on our way. I say pretty early, it was like 8. We aren’t morning people. Anyways, we had to get right up and going because there was a lot for us to get through before we could get on our flight. We had to cross back into the US, get to the airport and get through security. Mauricio and I had been out of the country once, but hadn’t ever crossed at a border like this. As I said before, the car line can be hours of waiting, which is one of the reasons we walked. The walking line spanned about halfway across the bridge. We were standing in line waiting and Mauricio’s brother asked someone if we had to wait if we were US citizens. The answer was NO! They pushed us right to the front of the line. There we had to say our teary goodbyes to our family with the promise to visit again.
Once we were at the front of the line, we didn’t really know what we were supposed to do. Usually we’d watch the people in front of us and follow their lead, but we were the people in front. We were waiting behind a small gate, the kind of thing they have an amusement parks while you wait to get on the ride. In front of us was a building that had a few entrances, each with a different status above it. So I figured we had to go through the door that fit our status. When the gate opened, we ended up following people. They all knew what they were doing and we just slowly walked through. Everyone went to the same, closest, door. So we did too. Inside, that made sense. All the doors opened into the same giant room where you’d then go to the line that fit you. Oliver and I are US citizens, Mauricio on the other hand is a permanent resident. So we were anticipating that we would get separated at some point. However, the signs led us to the same line the whole way through, we just went to different booths to pass through. Oliver and I went up and easily went through with our sacred blue passports. Mauricio went to another booth and handed them his Mexican passport and US resident card. The border agent asked him where he was going and if it was his first time crossing the border. Apparently, they don’t need to see your passport if you have a permanent resident card. Which goes against everything that I had found about traveling with a green card, but whatever. We all made it across just fine, found a cab and went to the airport.
As I mentioned earlier, I worked for TSA for a while so I know how things work at checkpoints. The El Paso checkpoint was a bit different. Even though it’s in the US, there was a border patrol agent at every booth where they check your ID’s. Oliver and I didn’t get a second glance, again because of our blue passports. Mauricio on the other hand had a border patrol agent looking over the TSA agents shoulder at his ID. He used his Utah drivers license, which is totally acceptable, and passed on no problem. I assume if he had just shown his Mexican passport, which is also acceptable ID for TSA, the border patrol probably would have asked for more travel documents. It was just interesting to see that extra layer that isn’t seen at most airports.
We made our way home just fine, except for the delay I mentioned earlier, and as usual were happy to be home. We absolutely love travelling and this was a special family filled trip, but there really isn’t anything like sleeping in your own bed after a vacation.