Caribbean,  Travel

Flying with kids-Baby and Toddler Edition

We recently got up the courage to go on a plane with the kids. Four planes in fact. We had the plan that for our 30th birthdays we would each get to choose a vacation to go on. This year is my turn. However, my birthday is sandwiched right in between the kids, all three of us are in the same month. So I decided we could do my trip a bit early and get away from the winter cold. After searching around a bit I decided on the Dominican Republic. I wanted to do a trip where I didn’t have to plan any special activities, any meals or anything really. I just wanted to go be in some nice beachy weather and not worry about what was on the agenda for the day. So I planned a trip unlike any I had planned before, a full week at an all inclusive. And yes, I decided to take the kids as well. I just love sharing experiences with them and I knew that I would feel bad not taking them. So we got to experience flying with a 3 (almost 4) year old and a 9 month old. I’m going to focus this post mostly on the traveling part of the trip. I’ll get a little post together in the future about our resort and the Dominican Republic in general. 

This trip introduced us to a number of firsts. This was our first time flying with Oliver getting his own seat. On our last flying vacation, right before Covid shut the world down, Oliver could still be considered a lap infant. Obviously the biggest difference was we had two kids to wrangle now. But another new thing, for us at least, was we were checking a bag. I have big nerves about checking bags. I’ve heard way too many horror stories of lost bags or busted open bags that I have always avoided checking a bag and gone 100% carry on. Also, it was our first time going international with kids somewhere other than Mexico. I feel like we know the drill when it comes to Mexico, but this trip I had to do some research about the Dominican Republic and what to expect. Of course it was much more of a process returning to the US, especially with Covid test requirements. 

Oliver tuned in to his movie, Genevieve just happy to be next to him

So, first up, flying with two kids. Since Oliver had his own ticket it meant that he was able to have his own personal item. So I packed his backpack with good plane activities and he was in charge of carrying his own bag, which was only an issue once on the whole trip. His bag had an eye spy card game, a koosh ball, a pop it toy, his water bottle and his headphones. I also snuck  a little bag of toys for Genevieve in there, but don’t tell him that. We broke down the day before we left and bought an ipad that someone was selling and took that for him to watch movies on the flight since the airplane didn’t have screens in the seats. I’ve gone back and forth a lot about getting a tablet for Oliver to use, but I will say I’m glad we had it for the trip. He did play with his toys but the movies loaded on the tablet were just so perfect to pass the time. I mean everyone likes watching movies on flights don’t they? 

Brief nap with dad

As for Genevieve, she was a wiggly 9 month old for this flight. This was a stage that we never flew with Oliver in. He had flown as a 3 month old who was basically along for whatever and as an almost 2 year old who could handle some basic instruction. So this flying with a 9 month old who is exploring her own mobility was a new game for us. For the most part Geneveive was pretty good, she was happy to switch back and forth between us and even snuck in a couple tiny naps. A little side note here. I have basically never had Genevieve nap in my arms. When she was a newborn we did it a couple times, but I’ve got a toddler and laying on the couch napping with a baby doesn’t really fit in the daily schedule. She loves her crib and goes to sleep on her own pretty great. I love it. However, it’s not the greatest for flying. Geneveive can sleep through lots of loud noise, but if you reposition her a little bit, those eyes fly open and she is AWAKE. So her naps on the plane were very brief to say the least. She did nap in the stroller in between flights really well though, so even though the plane rides were mostly busy, she did get some decent sleep on travel days. Her worst flight was our very last one. We were getting in real late and it was a solid 12 hours of traveling to get home. She was worn out on the last flight, past the point of sleeping and we were those people with a crying baby on the plane. We weren’t the only ones though, a few rows ahead of us there was another crying baby, so I strangely found some comfort in that.

The bag was the best part

I mentioned that I brought along some toys for her as well. She had a little bag with a play phone/rattle, and shaker toy, a little mirror and those baby ring things that you can make chains with (sorry I don’t know what they’re actually called…). Her favorite toy to play with out of all of it was the bag that I put her stuff in. The girl likes a zipper tab and she was happiest with that. She also really enjoyed the information papers they put in the pockets of the seats, as did Oliver. So don’t overthink packing toys for a baby, they like it simple. 

Now, for checking a bag.This part may be a little boring, but it was something new for us, so I want to include it. This was our first trip where we’ve checked a bag, and it basically just came down to money. We flew Frontier. Which if you aren’t familiar with airlines, its a budget airline with super cheap flights but they charge for literally everything. All you get to take with you on the flight is a personal item. You know the kind that can fit under the seat in front of you, not in the overhead bins. Typically, we would each just pack in a carry on but Frontier was going to charge us $50 per flight per carry on. If we each took a carry on it would be an extra $400, nearly as much as our flights. The checked bag fee was only $50 each way, so only $100 total. So we opted to go the checked bag route instead. Now, I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty good at packing a lot into a little space. So I was able to get all 4 of us packed into one checked bag for the week. I was able to fit formula for the week and diapers into the bag as well. Previously I’ve given the advice of not packing diapers, most times you can buy them wherever you’re going. But since on this trip I didn’t plan on leaving the resort, I didn’t want to worry about trying to find diapers. However, the resort did have a little store where they had some necessities, and I definitely could have bought them there, for only a little more than I got them at home. One good thing about taking diapers and formula in the checked bag was that it was all used while we were there so it made room for souvenirs on the way back.

The best I can find of our personal items

Checking a bag also made the airport shuffle easier. We each had a bag that we were carrying, plus a stroller, so it was nice to not have those bags weigh a ton. We technically each had a personal item with us, I had a large purse, Mauricio had a backpack and Oliver had his backpack. For Genevieve we had her diaper bag as well as the stroller. These things are free when you fly with a lap infant, take advantage of that. Our personal items primarily had entertainment and snacks, remember how Frontier charges for everything? Yeah even snacks. But we also brought our toiletry bag with us, just in case our checked bag didn’t make it, at least we could brush our teeth. But our checked bag did make it, both ways with no issues. Maybe I’m over my fear of checking a bag? Maybe. I”ll let you know the next time we fly. 

The final new thing I’ll touch on is going international. With the kids we’ve mostly just been to Mexico, so I had to do a little research about the Dominican Republic before we went. Mostly what I had to research was Covid restrictions, so while this may be relevant today, it could very well be different tomorrow. For our trip, there was no testing or vaccination required to enter the Dominican Republic, but they did say there would be random testing at the airport that could be bypassed if you were vaccinated. I took our vaccination cards with us, just in case, but I didn’t see a single person being checked or tested in the airport. Our hotel, Iberostar, did have a temperature scanner when we checked in and masks were encouraged at the buffet, which I definitely appreciated. But other than that it was a normal stay at a resort. 

Layover fun watching the train

Coming back to the US was a different story. We had to get Covid tests done no less than 24 hours before our flight. The very nice thing about staying at a resort in the covid world is you don’t have to search around to get your test done. Most resorts offer testing for those who need them to fly home. In our case, we were given 2 free tests with our stay, but we needed three. Oliver, being over 2, did need to get a test, but Genevieve did not. So we only had to pay for one of our tests and we were able to get them done right at the hotel and have our results emailed to us to show at the airport at check in. At the airport we were a bit blind sided by some forms we had to fill out before check in. They were essentially immigration forms, which I had received an email about on our way in and had completed. But we were unaware that we had to do them on the way out as well. So we had a little bit of time getting them completed before we got checked in and no one ever asked to see them. So I’m not totally sure who they were supposed to be for. Once we were on our way it was pretty smooth, back to watching movies on the ipad and trying to get Genevieve to nap. We flew into Orlando on our way back and had to go through immigration, get our checked bag, resubmit the bag and go through TSA. That’s standard for coming in from an international destination. So if you’re booking a flight and think you have a long layover, don’t worry about it. We had a four hour layover which was more than enough time to get all that done, but it also allowed us to not stress about it if the lines were slow. We were able to move through all of that quite easily and then had the time to lounge, get some wiggles out and get some food before we were off on our next and final flight. By this time we had been up for a long time, and it was the middle of the night. We were tired. It was easily Genevieves worst flight. She did sleep during the layover, but it was the time of day where she wanted to be in bed, and being in our arms was not cutting it. It was also our fullest flight of the trip, which meant no extra rows to move into and try and lay her down flat. We took turns fighting with her the whole four hour flight. She snuck a little bit of sleep in, but she was definitely happy to be back in the stroller, car seat and bed. As we all were at the end of our 12 hour travel day.

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