Monthly Archives: February 2011

How Much Is Your Baby Worth? Ask An Airline

Back in January, a mommy-friend had posted a link on her Facebook page that caught my attention as a mommy that travels with infant a lot. The article, “Oil Prices Don’t Vex Airlines; But Fees Could Rise,” talked about how airlines were likely to start up-charging for more than seat upgrades and checked baggage:

“To offset higher fuel and operating costs, airlines might push through a wave of new fees that are sure to be unpopular. One industry watcher has a lineup that shows how inventive the airlines might be:

Charging for lap-held infants, paying by the pound for checked luggage, fees for carry-ons, and a ‘convenience’ fee to book on the Internet.”

Of course, the whole charging for a lap-held baby thing snagged my attention. Seriously? That sounded absolutely ridiculous to me. And I’m someone that would pay for an extra seat for an infant if I was on a long-haul flight. I mean, anything less than five hours and I’m not going to be bothered with the price of another seat. And anything over eight and it’s almost a must, especially if you’re traveling alone, as I most often am. I mean, what are you supposed to do with a sleeping baby when you have to use the restroom?

Last week I booked an overseas trip to Europe for baby and momma. Given that I was traveling internationally, I would’ve considered booking a separate ticket for baby had it not been for three things:

  1. The flight itself is just shy of my 8-hour rule
  2. The price of tickets was nearly double what I paid last year
  3. It’s a direct flight, so once I’m settled in on the plane, that’s it; I don’t have to worry about a layover

Given those three considerations, I decided it was doable, even by myself, to hold baby on my lap. After all, if I played my cards right, he might be racked out for the night within 90 minutes of the flight taking off.

So, I booked one ticket. As I was checking out online, I noticed that the final price was something close to $160 more than the price was listed online. About $130 was attributable to taxes and fees (I still don’t understand why those can’t just be included in the price when advertised), but there was another random charge:

Gives new meaning to new addition

Yup. Continental now wants to charge me nearly $30 for holding the baby in my lap.

How messed up is that? It’s not like baby is an extra piece of luggage, a superfluous valise full of clothes that you’ll never wear on your trip but you bring anyway. You can’t just choose not to take your baby with you. Not to mention that a mom with a lap-held infant is a good thing for the airlines. It’s a chance to not only sell a seat at a potentially higher price but also to sell as seat to a traveler who might make additional purchases of alcohol, in-flight entertainment, or Skymall junk. Plus, a baby doesn’t complain when there are no more beef meals left.

But I guess in the world of airline business, every additional pound you pack on board has at least a fuel cost and probably some labor cost associated with it, although I would argue that a crying baby takes up less of a flight attendant’s bandwidth than a cranky frequent flier. But how do airlines figure out what to charge is my question.

I mean, how did Continental come to the decision that $28 was the price for a lap baby? Are they charging by the pound? Maybe. I checked the WHO’s growth charts for infants. There may be something to my theory.

On paper, the fair way for airlines to figure out what average weight to factor into their fee calculations would be to just use the average weight for a 12-month-old baby. This would assume that half the babies traveling are under a year old and the other half are 12 to 24 months old. At around a year old, average babies hit the 21-23 lbs mark, depending on whether the baby is a girl or a boy.

However, in reality that may not be true at all. I would venture a guess that most traveling babies are older babies, at least six months if not a year+, when they really start traveling. (My baby being a bit of an exception, of course, given our family situation.)  So, really maybe airlines are guessing that, on average, babies on board are about 18 months old and, therefore, weigh a bit more.

Assuming this is the case, it looks like Continental thinks a baby costs them about $1 per pound to fly.

I don’t know if that seems like a lot or a little. I don’t think I’ve quite digested the fact airlines could, in fact, be charging on an average poundage. And given that this fee is totally new to me, I can’t say whether it’s based on travel distance or not. I haven’t flown Continental domestically recently to be able to compare the infant fees.

But honestly, doesn’t the idea of charging for a lap-held baby just seem wrong? Shoot, sometimes I think the airlines should credit me the $28 to do that.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under babies, baby travel, daily life, infants, travel

Setting Our Sights Overseas

I have traveled a lot with baby in his short life. We’ve gone by land, air, and sea, but to this point, it’s all been domestic. But baby and momma are about to change that.

First, we have a wonderful opportunity to go visit my parents in Chamonix, France. It’s a lovely little ski town in the French Alps, nestled pretty much at the base of Mont Blanc, that’s overrun with Brits (in a good way) and brimming with cozy restaurants, delectable food shops, and beautiful baby boutiques. But getting there requires a little extra work.

Of course, there’s the issue of the passport. Infants need a passport to travel overseas. I found that the best–best meaning very economical–place to get said passport photos is Costco. It was never on my radar until the hubster and I went to go pick out a new TV (and second car seat, as it turned out) that I figured out that, for less than $5, I could get baby’s photo taken to the correct specifications.

But the actual passport application process was very stressful for me for some reason. First off, I didn’t realize that when applying for a passport for a minor (<16 years old), both parents have to be present, with the baby, when the application is submitted. So, of course, getting the passport taken care of became a last-minute, yet time-consuming errand to squeeze in before hubster went off to some pre-deployment training.

And in D.C., because I wasn’t leaving in less than two weeks, I had to make my way down to the Notary and Authentications Office, which is conveniently only open from 9am-1pm. To start off, on the one day that we could go, the federal government had a two-hour snow delay. So, it was going to be a flip of the coin as to whether the office was empty or packed. Fortunately, it was only moderately busy when we arrived.

However, I became very nervous very quickly about the application submission process because, as the lone man manning the office reminded us, the office only accepted applications and verified identifying documents, they did not guarantee that the application was filled out correctly. I was feeling totally frazzled as I kept looking over our documents, hearing in the background the lone man telling everyone as he or she came to the counter that s/he was missing some sort of documentation or had the wrong documentation. I was sure we were missing something. But we paid our expedited fee and left, my only consolation being that if the application was rejected, I would still have time to go downtown to the emergency passport office and get a last minute passport, if necessary.

International Man of Mystery

Low and behold, less than two weeks later, a package arrived with baby’s passport. Several days later, his birth certificate (you have to submit the original document along with the application) came back to us. I had been worried about that, too.

But now that baby and momma are both properly documented for international travel, I’ve started to think beyond Chamonix. Second on our travel agenda is a baby-momma cruise to somewhere warm. I’ve got nothing planned as of yet, but the idea of on-board daycare sounds amazing. Now we just need some friends to join us.

But being as that I have never been on a cruise–I just don’t think of myself as a cruising kind of traveler–I think I have a lot to learn about not only cruising with baby but cruising in general. Fortunately, a mommy-friend forwarded me this great article, “Baby on Board? The ABCs of Cruising with an Infant or Toddler.” It truly is a great primer on the perks and pitfalls of cruising with baby in tow.  My favorite tips?

Diapers not allowed: If you’re cruising to a warm weather destination, you’ll be expecting to take your little one into the ship’s pool. However, all cruise lines except Disney Cruise Line do not allow diapers or swim diapers in their pools in accordance with Center for Disease Control’s sanitary codes. On the Disney Magic, the Mickey pool has a separate filtration system in its “ears.” Thus non-potty trained children are allowed in this area since it can be easily emptied, cleaned and filled if there is a diaper accident. On the Disney Wonder, toddlers can enjoy Mickey’s Splash Zone, a 385-square-foot play area with interactive fountains.

Verandahs: While verandahs cost more, they are well worth it if you have a baby or toddler who naps daily. While your little one is napping inside, you can sit on the balcony and catch some sea breezes and sunshine. This beats being stuck inside a dark cabin on a glorious day at sea. Prices for verandahs vary greatly, depending on the cruise line, length of itinerary, and ship (newer ships tend to get higher rates than older ships in the same fleet). For example, Carnival’s Conquest Class ships — the newest in the fleet — charges $679 per person for a cabin with an ocean view (but no verandah). The same ship on the same sailing charges $150 more per person for a verandah cabin.

Baby baths: Most ships only have bathtubs — the preferred way to bathe an infant or toddler — in their most expensive categories of cabins and suites. Hence, chances are that you will have to hold your baby in your arms and have your spouse use the hand held shower nozzle to bathe your child. Alternatively, Disney ships have bathtubs in all cabins.

Seriously, I don’t think I would’ve ever realized the diaper thing or even thought about the added convenience of an in-room bathtub. But for as much as it’ll be a learning experience, I’m sure it’ll be a fantastic getaway for some babes with their babes.

2 Comments

Filed under babies, baby travel, infants, moms, travel

Two Windows into One World

Sometimes I wonder how my life would appear if it was played out on a big screen. I think tonight’s scene would’ve been best captured with a split screen.

First, the good stuff happening upstairs…

Baby was getting very close to figuring out that whole crawling thing. Guess mom needs to get going on baby proofing.

Meanwhile, the not-so-good stuff happening downstairs…

Sadly, that was after we’d been to the dog park. I guess he was excited to watch the Westminster Dog Show.

2 Comments

Filed under babies, child development, crawling, daily life, family, infants, pets, Uncategorized

Nursing Mothers Unite!

Last Friday, baby and I ventured out of our neighborhood into the ‘burbs of Northern Virginia to go to an inaugural get-together with this group called Bonjour Les Amis. A friend had sent me the link to the group’s Meet Up site, which was a new group that was forming to promote French learning for children (infants to five-year-olds).

This whole random mommy-and-me group thing is a new concept for me, but baby and I went despite my ridiculous cold. The whole experience is totally worth a separate blog post, which I promise I’ll get to soon enough, but I’ll just say it was pretty cool. Totally awkward at first, but a pretty positive experience overall.

But the best part… While I was there I met this woman with whom I had a lot in common. She was an American but had lived in France for a good amount of time and spoke excellent French. She was married to a Czech man and they have a seven-month-old son. As we were nearing the end of the play date, she whips out her nursing wrap and begins to nurse. All of the mothers in the room basically tell her that there’s no need for modesty with them.

She then begins to tell us about a woman from Rockville, Md., who was nearly kicked out of a museum in downtown D.C. for breastfeeding in public. The news of the incident spread like wildfire through D.C. metro mommy networks, spurring some mommies in the area to organize a “nurse-in.” This one particular woman was planning to go to show her support.

Hell no, we won't go!

This was all news to me, so of course I went home and at the first free moment started Google-ing the event. The story is that roughly 100 mommies showed up at the museum last Saturday morning with their wee ones and, at the stroke of 10 o’clock, executed a synchronized unsnapping of the nursing bra and latch on. The whole point being to remind the public of all mommies’ federally protected right to feed their children in public.

Now, as a breastfeeding mommy, I’m personally not all that comfortable with basically whipping out the boob in public–nursing wrap or not. That’s of course not to say that I wouldn’t ever if my kid was in full meltdown and I had no other option. But I just personally feel awkward. I think it’s because I like my nursing time with baby to quiet, relaxed, low key–pretty much just about me and baby. And that’s not exactly the environment you get when you’re out at some place like Buffalo Wild Wings, watching the football game with a bunch of friends on a Sunday afternoon. Even if all your friends have their own babies in tow.

Honestly, I think if I had been the woman at the museum to whom the security guard said she had to move her nursing to another area like the restroom, I probably would have complied with the request even if there wasn’t a convenient nursing area. I can so see myself contorting in a bathroom stall just so I can get a little privacy while I give my baby enough food to get him to stop crying. Oh wait, I’ve done that before. Foxy’s bathroom last summer. As we were waiting for our bill, baby went into a code red meltdown and it was the only option other than listening to him scream bloody murder from Fishers Landing to Clayton.

But I do think it’s awesome that there are women out there who feel so strongly about their right to feed anywhere, anyhow that they will make enough of a stink about it to remind the public of their legal mommy rights. Not only good for them, but good for me. I appreciate their “lactivism.” I mean, breastfeeding is hard enough–I’m still amazed I’ve gotten to this point–that it’s nice to know that other mommies have got my back (or chest, as it would seem) if and when I ever need it.

Photo: Courtesy of The Washington Post Online

2 Comments

Filed under babies, breastfeeding, feeding, infants, lactation, moms, nursing

What’s for Dinner

Just a quick catalog of the things that each of us has put in his (or in my case, her) mouth yesterday:

The baby…

  • Boob
  • Bottle
  • Index finger
  • Baby food
  • Infant ibuprofen (for teething pain and the slight fever he was running)
  • Rice cracker
  • Teething biscuit
  • The ear of a stuffed Tigger
  • Rattle/teether
  • Valentine’s Day card

The dog…

  • Rice and dog food
  • Dog treats (including Milkbones, rawhide bones, and a BBQ pig’s ear)
  • Rice cracker
  • Teething biscuit
  • The tail of a stuffed Tigger
  • Baby socks
  • Baby blanket
  • Baby hat
  • The nanny’s hat
  • Baby bottle
  • Baby book
  • Rattle/teether
  • Valentine’s Day card
  • Workman’s glove
  • Frozen dead rat (I wish I was joking)

Me…

  • Medium D&D chai
  • 16 chocolate covered pretzels
  • 1 brownie
  • Pear
  • Glass of orange juice (a feeble attempt to ward off a cold)
  • Half a glass of boxed red wine (about all I could handle before I fell asleep on the couch way too early)

Yup, that about sums it up for me these days.

Leave a comment

Filed under daily life, feeding, pets

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

In my pre-mommy days, when temperatures plunged like they have in D.C. lately, I always wondered why moms would be so silly or stupid or selfish (or maybe a combination of all three) to bother taking their babies out in the stroller, making them endure the below-freezing temps. I mean, why wouldn’t they just stay home where it’s nice and warm and not bother trying to wedge the kid into a snowsuit?

Not only that, but weather shields–you know, those cheap plastic covers that slide over the whole stroller–were soooo tacky.

Now that I’m actually a mom, my perspective has done a 180. First, I don’t let weather stop me. If I’ve committed to doing something or being somewhere, we’re going–rain or shine, heatwave or snow flurries. (The obvious exceptions being a blizzard or tornado or something.) My reasoning is that for however inconvenient the weather is on the day I’m supposed to go somewhere, with my luck, it’ll be worse on the day that I try to reschedule.

Because we live in downtown D.C., going somewhere more often than not involves the stroller. Consequently, the tacky weather shield has been my best friend. It only took one morning of getting caught in a torrential downpour, where I had to wait in the Target lobby for 45 minutes for the rain to subside, to make me never forget it again.

In the winter, on 20-degree days like today, the challenge is to figure out how to keep baby warm when he’s prone to losing booties and blankets. So, I’ve been checking out other moms to see how they’ve tackled the challenge. Some go for the super puffy snowsuit, throw on a hat and maybe some boots and it’s all good to go. Others opt for what I like to call stroller sleeping bags, basically sacks that essentially fit around the stroller to insulate baby. But then, there are always the old school hold-outs, who live for this option:

That's one way to keep baby warm

I’m not sure exactly where I am in the spectrum. Baby started out the winter in a fleece one-piece snowsuit, but by the beginning of January it wouldn’t zip on him despite that it was sized for a 12-month-old. Then, I went for just dressing him only in fleece pants and sweatshirts and then throwing on his fleece jacket, a hat, and some booties and then covering him with a fleece blanket. But then the dog destroyed all the booties.

So, on frigid mornings like this one, about the best I can do is put as many clothes as I can on him, throw on an extra blanket, put down the weather shield, and walk really fast. Like this:

My bundled up bundle of boy

 

5 Comments

Filed under babies, baby clothes, baby gear, daily life, infants, weather

Lost Today, Found Tomorrow

There are good, kind people in the world. My cynical nature makes me forget that sometimes, or, well, most of the time. But it’s days like yesterday that remind me that maybe human nature might be human after all.

See, the day before that I was having one of “those” days. You know, the ones where the harder you try to get things done, the less you get done. So, I was way behind on a deadline, which was stressing me out all day. (Lord knows I hate to miss deadlines, even though that’s more like the norm these days.) The dog also needed to go to the vet to get to the bottom of his GI issues.

So, I make arrangements with the nanny to come get the baby for the afternoon, so I can get my work done; we decide she’s going to keep him at her house, and I will swing by and pick him up on my way home from the vet. Now, being the city mom that I am, realize all this is happening on foot. Walking not only alleviates worrying about parking (or worse, a parking ticket), but the dog gets some exercise.

Everything goes swimmingly at the vets. The dog is rather well behaved from the time we get there right through when he gets what seems like a gazillion shots. Nearly $300 later and 90+ minutes later, we’re out the door, headed for the nanny’s.

When I arrive at the nanny’s, it’s well into his witching hour, but baby is giggling up a storm. That good fortune lasted about as long as it took me and nanny to get him and the stroller down the flight of stairs to the apartment building lobby. At that point, it was a zero-to-60 meltdown.

Fortunately, I live one block north and about four blocks east of the nanny, so we didn’t have too far to go. But when baby is screaming bloody murder, it can seem much, much further than it really it is. I mean, the dog could barely take a sniff at something before I was yanking his leash, telling him to hurry up. I assure you that to a mommy there’s nothing worse than her baby in full meltdown.

After what feels like an eternity but is in reality five blocks, I arrive in front of our house. I lug stroller with baby (and dog) up the front stairs–baby is still screaming, mind you–and get the keys in the door. Once inside, I turn the stroller around to take the little sweetie out. Ummm, where’s his blanket? And even more concerning, where are his socks?

At this point, I’m realizing that for at least a portion of our journey, if not the whole thing, my kid has been in his stroller with his bare feet completely exposed to the winter weather. And I’ll tell you it was cold. I was wearing hat, gloves, and quilted jacket, so I’m totally feeling like a negligent mother. How could I have possible missed the fact that he kicked not only his blanket but his socks off during his tantrum? I would have had to all but run over the darn blanket.

The thing that especially sucked is that this was one of my preferred blankets for baby. It wasn’t expensive–Circo for Target–but it was awesome. Super soft, velvety fleece on one side, and warm, cuddly, shearling-esque fleece on the reverse side. Damn, why did I have to lose it?

I’m not going to lie. This simple act of losing this blanket, which in all honesty was totally replaceable, nearly caused me to have a mommy meltdown. It’s hard to explain mix of emotions that I was having–I was pissed at myself for everything from not finishing my story to not realizing that the blanket fell off of baby; I was upset by the fact that my kid was screaming his head off, no doubt partially because his little hobbit feet were probably freezing; and I was feeling a little helpless because with it getting late and baby in full meltdown, I couldn’t just go back and retrace my steps. I was frazzled to the point where any logical suggestion as to how to remedy the situation seemed like it would take a Herculean effort. All this compounded by the fact that I was utterly exhausted after getting up at the ungodly hour of 3am to try and get a jump on finishing my story.

I resolved myself to just going to bed at 9pm, getting some much-needed rest, and buying a new blanket the following day, assuming that the Target had one in stock. For the benefit of all those who live in the suburbs, I’ll point out that in urban retail locations, it’s pretty much a given that the store will be out of whatever you are looking for. Literally, you will see bare shelves in a place like Target. For example, I’ve come to realize that it’s extremely hard to find baby socks at this time of year despite the fact that I probably pass by the Target at least three times a week to check.

After a fairly good night’s sleep, the situation seemed way less dire than it did at 8pm the previous evening. Baby was in a fantastic mood, so our morning routine actually was ahead of schedule. So, at 9am I realized I might have enough time to pop the baby in the stroller, get the dog on the leash, and get out and retrace my steps before my weekly 10am Tuesday conference call.

Honestly, I didn’t expect to find the blanket. But I thought I would give myself some peace of mind (and the dog a little exercise) if I just got out and checked. Four blocks from the house, I saw this:

Blankie, blankie, wherefore ought thou, blankie?

That’s right, someone had seen the blanket, presumably strewn across the sidewalk, and hung it with some care on the fence. This is Washington, D.C., mind you. People aren’t that nice.

Or are they?

This is the second major baby gear casualty I’ve had–and the second one that has come back to me. The first was a bootie that was lost on the way to the gym and found as I retraced my steps home. I thought that was awesome. But I also thought it was a single-shot kind of stroke of luck. But being reunited with the long-lost blankie after it spent a cold, harsh winter night on a street corner? Never thought that would happen.

Needless to say, I’m glad I was able to get it together by the morning to get out and look for the darn thing. But even more so, I’m glad to know that I live in a neighborhood where people actually have the heart enough to make it as easy as possible to retrieve lost baby items. It’s like they can appreciate how hard it is to just get out of the house on time, much less make a special detour on the off chance that someone hasn’t snatched up such a lovely baby blanket. For that small courtesy in a big city, I am grateful.

2 Comments

Filed under babies, baby gear, daily life, moms, strollers