I’ve decided to turn this “first flight” series into a trip report since I think we learned some things about how travel differs with an infant. We arrived in D.C. at 8:00 AM on Saturday, and by 8:00 PM Sunday both we and the baby were exhausted. Here’s what we did and the lessons we learned each step of the way.
Stop 1: Residence Inn Alexandria Old Town
The first thing we did was drop Jess and baby M off at the Residence Inn in Old Town Alexandria. We surmised, correctly, that the baby would need to take it easy after the flight – plus she needed to eat. What we did not count on is the fact that there are TWO Residence Inn’s within a couple blocks of each other, so naturally we went to the wrong one first.
We weren’t staying at Residence Inn, but we were in town for a family wedding and our family was there. We decided not to stay at the Residence Inn because they refused to extend the wedding rate through Sunday and Monday night. I thought that was pretty poor customer service on Marriott’s part, especially considering we asked three months in advance and before the weekend had been determined to be peak cherry blossom time. I’d also like to add that Marriott refused a status challenge or match to my Hilton Gold status, which has completely soured me on the program altogether. I hold grudges because I’m immature, and Marriott not extending the rate really burned me. Don’t flame me. For the record, they wanted to charge us double for the non-wedding rate nights. Anyway, despite the Hilton devaluation, I have found in my experience their customer service to be far more customer friendly than Marriott. /rant
After my friend and I dropped Jess off, we went to Chick Fil’A for breakfast. I should have taken pictures of that. Anyway, the baby got to rest and eat, and so did mom, so Stop 1 was a great success.
– There are two Marriott Residence Inn’s in Old Town Alexandria
– It’s good for both baby and mom to rest after an early flight (duh)
– The breakfast sliders (Chick-n-minis) at Chick Fil’A are chicken nuggets in biscuits and are awesome. Don’t forget the honey roasted BBQ sauce!
Stop 2: Tyson’s Corner Mall
Next, we met up with two couples we knew from college at Tyson’s Corner Mall. We all have kids now which is crazy. We had to find a central location that was kid-friendly. We decided the mall food court was the best option because there is a lot of background noise (baby M loves it) and because then people could eat what they wanted.
Well, it turns out Tyson’s Corner Mall has like three food courts and we parked on the complete opposite side of the one we were going to. So we had a pretty long walk which cut into our reunion time. Also, it turns out it’s tough to have a conversation when you are watching three babies at once! But we knew that already. Still, it was great to see old friends, although this stop was the beginning of baby M’s overstimulation, which we now call “OS” for short. It was funny how everyone was on the clock baby-wise, at 1 PM we were all out of there so fast you could see a cloud behind us where we had been sitting.
– Tyson’s Corner Mall is huge
– Planning get togethers is a lot more work with babies
– Having a simple conversation is even more work than planning
– The “upstairs” food court at Tyson’s Corner (by the movie theater) has absolutely nothing to offer besides Five Guys
Stop 3: Homewood Suites Alexandria
We dropped by Homewood Suites in order to check in and get ready for the wedding. I called the night before asking for early check-in; I’m not sure if it did anything but when we showed up they had our room key ready already (didn’t even need to program it). It’s a very nice hotel, nothing spectacular, but with a little kitchenette, living room, and separate bedroom it’s very convenient for travel with an infant. The most wonderful thing was that there was an exhaust fan built in to the microwave which really helped put baby M to sleep. It wasn’t an instant knockout like our fan at home but it was pretty good. Also, as a HHonors Gold Member we got two bottles of water and Milano cookies as a check-in gift. Huzzah! After taking a shower and putting real clothes on baby M for the first time in her life, we headed out for the wedding in Del Rey, an area of Alexandria.
The wedding was nice, although as I was going in I saw my wife taking baby M up to the front to sit with the family. Woah there! I wasn’t about to have baby M to ruin the entire wedding so I quickly grabbed our family and seated us in the back. Things worked out great, the wedding was beautiful, and baby M slept through the whole thing in her carseat.
Baby M didn’t need to feed yet, so we decided to go get some ice cream.
– Little baby girls are cute in dresses
– Don’t sit at the front of the church with an infant at a wedding
– If you’re lucky and the baby is sleeping during the ceremony, don’t touch anything! And be ready for a fast escape.
– Plan your feeding strategy, in our case we knew we had a bottle with us
Stop 4: Dairy Godmother in Del Rey
Our friends had told us we needed to go to Dairy Godmother for frozen custard since the wedding is Del Rey. Of course, since we have a baby, we totally forgot. But as we were walking to our car, we kept seeing people from the wedding walking by with ice cream cones. Hmmmmmmmmmmm. Not one to be denied, I asked how far the ice cream place was and it turns out that three blocks from the wedding was the very Dairy Godmother our friends had spoke of! Excellent.
We went to get frozen custard, and baby M continued her slumber in her carseat. Jess realized it had been a long time since she had walked in heels, so that was a minor adventure. The frozen custard/ice cream/whatever was great, I got chocolate and vanilla. Jess had an elderberry fruit bar which was also excellent. By this time, baby M was in and out of sleep and she had “met” quite a few people. Thus her “OS” was beginning to really percolate.
– There’s always time for ice cream
– Bring flats
Stop 5: Reception at Mount Vernon
Our next stop was the wedding reception at Mount Vernon. When we got to Mount Vernon, I was like…hey….this sounds familiar. Turns out George Washington lived there or something. And it also turns out that this “George Washington” guy is a pretty big deal. Who knew?
Anyway, the entire restaurant at Mount Vernon was booked out for the reception. The tables were spread out in different rooms so we all had to gather in the main room on the dance floor for toasts and things like that. It was at this point that baby M’s overstimulation and hunger really started to take its toll. First, she woke up. Then, she started screaming because she was hungry. That would have been fine, except it all started during the bride and groom’s first dance! And, since they were surrounded by a circle of people, we couldn’t get to an exit. It was practically a disaster – I felt so bad. But then I noticed that there was an open window leading to another room, so I threw the plant that was in the window for decoration on the ground, grabbed the baby, and somersaulted into the other room. It was epic! (Okay, I actually just placed the plant on the table and Jess handed baby M to me after I had crossed to the other side. But I DID have to climb through in my suit).
At that point we decided baby M had had enough and it was time to feed her. So after the first dances and speeches were over and the main room cleared out, we went to find baby M’s diaper bag to grab her bottle. Except, remember in Part 3 where I said we packed a bottle? Turns out, I forgot it. Father of the year. At this point we had three options: a) Get out of dodge, b) nurse in public with a cover, or c) find a place to nurse. I felt really bad about a), and b) isn’t something we are too comfortable with, at least not at this point. We were about to do a), but then we saw there was a handicapped bathroom. Perfect! Except, the toilet was disgusting. Yikes.
Anyway, I’m legally obligated to spare you the details. Let’s just say that when you are trying to placate a furious baby, your standards of cleanliness change. Also, at some point, the bride was in there with Jess simultaneously. Luckily, they are cousins, so it was only about half as awkward as it should have been.
After that whole situation, dinner went fine although we needed to leave because with all the new faces baby M had become completely overstimulated by 9 PM. Unfortunately, at 9 PM the speeches started again, so we couldn’t get out until 930. And then after we left we thought we lost our camera so we went back. Moral of the story: everything is crazy with a baby. But it was still a lot of fun! I really thought we leveled up as parents that night. Ding!
– when you say you are going to pack a bottle for backup, actually pack the bottle
– finding a suitable place to feed a baby may require creativity and a lowering of standards
– flexibility and a calm demeanor go a long way towards preventing insanity
– always have an exit strategy; from now on I’m always going to make sure there is a clear path to the door
Reflecting on our weekend (and this was just Saturday), Jess and I decided we did a lot – maybe too much. Although objectively we didn’t do as much as we used to do on vacation pre-baby, we still did quite a few things and went to a lot of places. In short, we forced it. Not sure if it is something I’d recommend, but baby M definitely was overstimulated on this Saturday – thankfully she slept that night and wasn’t overtired. But we were just starting to learn how things change when you travel with an infant. I wouldn’t say it was better or worse, it was just different. More on that later, but for the time being, I will say that overall it was a blast! I mean look at how excited baby M is below!