If you ever want to feel bulletproof, I recommend completing a solo cross-country trip with a seven-month-old baby. Or try it with a 19-month-old who looooooooves to walk. I've done both, and enjoyed it.
(At left: the seven-month-old, distinctly unimpressed with the Five Guys at Dulles International Airport.)
Part of the reason is because the occasions gave me an excuse to make checklists and do some advance planning. And part of the reason I enjoyed the trips was because I had planned ahead.
Here are the general steps I take to keep from losing my mind with all the logistics of flying for two.
Make an itinerary and have both electronic and paper copies easily available. Your itinerary is going to be fairly basic:
- Where you're going
- How you're getting there
- When you're expecting to depart and arrive
- What your reservation numbers and confirmation codes are
- Who to contact if it all goes pear-shaped
- What anticipated activities/obligations you have each day
I keep my itineraries in Evernote, because I can access all my information via the Evernote iPhone app and pull up what I need.
Use your discretion as to what kind of information to include on your itinerary. For example, when my mom watched Trixie during a business trip last year, I included Trix's medical information because that might have been useful in case of an emergency. An itinerary left for a housesitter? Not getting our medical account number.
If you go to my shared Evernote notebook titled "Checklists," you can see samples of the itineraries I put together for a business trip last year and for a short family roadtrip.
Make a list -- for both legs of the trip. I got this genius idea from my girlfriend Erin A., who got it from her sister the engineer. When you make your packing list, make a column which you can check off as you pack for your departure, then add another column which you can check off as you pack for your return. This really reduces the odds that you'll leave another cell phone charger in the bathroom[*], or forget your kid's favorite pajamas at Oma's house.
In my shared Evernote notebook, the checklist titled "Carry-on bag, Trixie edition," will show you the dual-column format.
Print out maps, restaurant suggestions, confirmation emails -- basically, anything you researched and accessed via a Web browser when planning your trip. Yes, you can also access this stuff via your smartphone, but when you're trying to remind a hotel desk clerk that you did reserve a room with a fridge, it's helpful to have the printout. With salient passages highlighted. (I speak from experience.)
Stuff all your papers into one central folder -- and tack a list of the contents onto the front or inside. The whole point to the sticky note is to prod your memory as to what you've printed out and/or act as a checklist for corralling a dozen printouts when you're in the middle of a eight day trip.
Say it along with me: "In my shared Evernote notebook..." there's a checklist titled "Pre-trip checklist, flying edition," that ticks off all the information to be gathered and errands to be completed during the pre-trip prep stage.
Do not stress about packing for your kid. In fact, let's leave the contents of carry-ons and suitcases for another entry. Ha! I love an ongoing series ...
[*] And if you do, you can increase the odds of getting that mobile phone charger back by slapping an address label on it somewhere[**]. I've done this for all our chargers and computer power sources -- it makes it easier to find those suckers in the lost-and-found.
[**] And now I've realized that I have one more thing to add to the post-move checklist.