This past summer I was blessed with a beautiful baby girl we call Heléna. All my friends and anyone who peruses through my blog knows that I love travel. So the big question was how will baby impact Cultured Americana travel? This is a question I pondered throughout my whole pregnancy and I still wonder. I decided I'd take baby steps. Heléna is almost 4 months old. She spent her 1st month of life in the NICU as she was 6 weeks premature and 3 pounds when she was born. She spent most of the second month of her life at home since she was still so itty bitty. Around half way through the second month, I decided that I needed to carefully introduce my lifestyle to my little one. We started doing weekly day trips around the Bay Area. With all the hoopla of getting used to having a baby with me, I didn't really take good photographs on those day trips. If I had, I would have included them in this blog as they were fantastic collected experiences. I say all that to say those day trips were preparation for Heléna's first road trip affectionally known as H.R.H (Her Royal Highness') First Southern California Tour.
What to pack for a road trip with an infant? I suppose the question might really be. What not to pack. In my former life (pre-mommy life), I prided myself on packing light and being part of #teamcarryon. Therefore, I was quite amused to the fact that I A) reserved a mid-sized SUV for the trip for all her stuff since my 3 series BMW was not going to cut it and B) Got to the rental car place and looked at the mid-sized SUV and immediately requested an upgrade to a large full size SUV because the mid-size wouldn't accommodate my 7 pound baby and her equipment Here is a high level list of what was packed in the SUV:
- Pack N Play
- B.O.B Jogging Stroller
- Rollator for Grandma (it's a fancy walker with wheels grandma uses to be more mobile)
- 1 large suitcase for Grandma (The Queen Mum)
- 1 large suitcase for Mommy and H.R.H
- 3 reusable shopping bags full of essentials like spare diapers, wipes, snacks and water
- Diaper Bag
- Hospital Grade Breast pump ( can you believe it........I had to bring a full breast pump)
- 1 infant carseat and base
- 1 dog car seat
- 2 dogs
- 1 Grandma
- Bouncy seat
Whew! The amazing thing is, we actually did not overpack! We used everything listed above. Now I will admit I did pack about 10 outfits for Heléna for a 4 day trip but I wanted to ensure H.R.H had options AND she is a baby so who knows what could happen regarding her wardrobe!
Destination: Long Beach, CA
The drive from Walnut Creek, CA to Long Beach took about 9 hours since we made several stops to feed ourselves and feed and change the baby. We rented a beach cottage via homeway.com in the Belmont Shore area of Long Beach, CA. I have been wanting to do a beach vacay for awhile and Long Beach is close to my family so it seemed like a good option. It worked out really well! Our 1920's beach cottage was adorable, comfortable and a stones throw away from Long Beach City Beach. Every morning I enjoyed walking my daughter and the dogs on the beach (there was even a dog beach). After our walk, my daughter and I would drop off the dogs at the cottage and then walk down to the local Peet's Coffee to pick up breakfast. One reason I love renting homes as opposed to getting a hotel when I travel is it allows me to borrow another lifestyle and try it on for size. Beach living is fantastic!
What was on the itinerary?
This was a family trip. If you have read my other post you will note that I usually travel solo and do a lot of ripping and running around. This was a different type of trip which is fitting because my life is very different than it was 6 months ago. The main purpose of this excursion was for some of my SoCal friends and family to meet my daughter. As such, we received visitors at the beach cottage and visited people as well in different parts of Southern California. One highlight outside of visiting with loved ones was taking Heléna to her first pumpkin patch. Of course she won't remember it but she will always have the pictures to look back on.
Observations from traveling with a new baby
The carseat situation was a little tricky. It would have been straightforward if I had taken my own car. Initially, I rented a carseat with my rental car. The purpose of my doing that was to ensure the carseat was installed properly. Well, apparently I didn't read the fine print because the car rental company does not install the carseat. They leave that fun task to the renter to avoid liability. The carseat they gave me looked like it was from 1982 and I didn't want my baby anywhere near it. Since the carseat looked horrible and they didn't install it anyway, I returned it and opted to take my own. The only problem was, I didn't want to remove my base from my car since it was installed and inspected by CHP before we brought my daughter home. Therefore, I opted to use the carseat without the base and took it to be inspected by AAA. This sounds easier than it is. AAA cut me a break as you must have an appointment for inspections from AAA, CHP or anyone that I know of that does carseat inspections. The AAA guy confirmed that I installed the carseat correctly but advised me on the benefits of having the base since it ensures the carseat is always installed correctly. I took that advice and decided to buy another base on our way down to Long Beach. Once we settled in Long Beach my mother called around to try to secure an inspection for us and we got the run around. Therefore, I installed the new base and felt pretty confident since AAA had explained it to me and I followed the instructions carefully, This all was a hassle and a learning experience. Since I love traveling I am working on some ideas to make this aspect of traveling with infants less of an issue.
My daughter is an excellent road-tripper! Stay tuned as I think our first plane trip will occur in the next few months and after that Cultured Americana and Baby are going international. My goal is for H.R.H to have her first passport stamp by her first birthday!