Parental Leave, Yes Please!

We recently added a new member to our family! 😉  While we were waiting patiently for her arrival the Zika news was a big deal so we halted all travel for about ten months (six months before she was born and a few months after). It was horrible! And being pregnant didn’t help… We received some awesome news in March, BJ’s employer increased the paternity leave program and he was going to get 4 weeks off work to bond with our little bundle of joy (my employer increased parental leave in 2015 so I was getting a total of 14 weeks off). Dad’s leave needed to be used before baby was 6 months old and it took me about a week to decide we should wait as late as possible to use it and go on as long of a trip as we could brave. The planning stage took a little longer than usual in this case, having a new baby will do that to your life… we knew we wanted to get some kite-boarding lessons in, we wanted some sort of medical facilities nearby (we were traveling with an infant after all) and we wanted something a little ‘off the beaten path’.  We finally decided on ~3 weeks in Ambergris Caye, Belize.

We found a deal on a house on VRBO and convinced some friends and both sets of grandparents to visit (and help with the kids) while we were there. The thought of traveling with 2 very young (2 years and 6 months) children to a (somewhat) remote island was a bit intimidating, but honestly I love a good ‘travel’ challenge. I immediately started organizing all our luggage in my head and lost quite a few hours of sleep trying to decide if we should bring our double stroller (we did and it was worth it!), life jackets for the kids(ditto), swim toys, a potty training seat, two car seats (we didn’t), two travel cribs, beach towels… I thought I was able to pack light for myself before traveling with children, now I can cram my stuff into about half a carry-on bag. Between all 4 of us we ended up with 3 large checked bags and 1 small, ~200 lbs of luggage! We decided to just check the Mountain Buggy Duet stroller in a Baby Jogger travel bag to keep it safe and not have to worry about getting it through security and putting it away before boarding the plane. The stroller is amazingly nimble and light for a double but there isn’t a great way to pick it up so my thinking is it should always go in the bag whether checked through or gate checked. Our local airport has a terminal exclusively for Southwest Airlines (our airline of choice, see Tips & Tricks for why) so we knew we didn’t have far to go carrying 2 kids there, we just crossed our fingers we weren’t running through multiple terminals at our layover in Houston. Now, if you’re keeping track, we’re each carrying a kid and we have 4 bags (plus 2 ‘over the shoulder’ carry-ons). This is where things got a little hairy. We parked the car and before we could even get our stuff out the shuttle came right over to pick us up. We were able to get all the bags in the shuttle before taking the kids out of the car… unfortunately, when we were dropped off by the shuttle we were a little stuck. I had come up with this great plan to put the stroller bag on wheels and attach bags together… but in the end some other very nice travelers actually helped us get our bags in the door. Whew! Next step, check in.

Since we were traveling with a lap child we weren’t allowed to check in using the kiosk… and I guess when I made the reservations I didn’t match our tickets to our passports. Unfortunately, this caused check-in to take about 30 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Southwest and I think this was a fluke because the guy kept going to another computer to try to complete the process, but we were starting to get a little worried when the plane was going to start boarding. Luckily, we convinced the attendant at the Southwest priority security line to let us through and we were very glad we weren’t traveling with carseats. We made it to the gate just in time for family boarding. Honestly I can’t remember much about the flight (I’m finally sitting down to write this a few months after the fact) so it must’ve been smooth. 😉