Saturday, March 22, 2008

Vegas baby!

Yeah, that's right. We took our child to Vegas, the gamblers heaven that has given up any pretense of being family-friendly and returned to its roots as Sin City, the adult playground.

As a friend who lives there explained, "Well, they crunched the numbers and realized people with kids who come here don't fill the city's pockets. They don't drink booze, gamble in smoky casinos, or go out to strip clubs and pricey shows because they're putting the kids to bed at 8 p.m. in a hotel room and turning in for the night." He should probably clarify that to "People who aren't named Britney Spears with kids who come here..." But otherwise, I totally agree.

Ava on the Strip, where she was soon disappointed to learn that despite her mastery of the one-armed bandit grip, the slot machines have buttons now insteaad of arms and she didn't meet the age requirement.

Every night, we were in our hotel room in our jammies by 10pm watching cable while playing with Ava or trying not to wake her. Not that there are many options. The Wynn hotel even had a sign up indicating "for the safety of our guests, no strollers allowed inside." What?! I witnessed more pedestrian near-collisions caused by men gawking at the racks on the floor hostesses than I could have caused with a stroller.

And after making the trek between my hotel and the Wynn with a baby strapped to my chest like some urban sherpa, I can assure you I would have been much safer and less upsetting to the place's apparently delicate, luxury-oozing sensibilities pushing a lightweight stroller and baby through the joint than I was in my tired, dehydrated, mildly sweaty state, which left me in danger of collapsing from exhaustion on the thickly carpeted, marble accented floor. But I digress. We stayed at TI, the hotel formerly known as an unpronouncable symbol. Kidding. It used to be Treasure Island. The rooms were very nice, it was close to my conference site, and there was a mall and other non-casino eateries just across a skybridge nearby. This turned out to be important because kid-friendly eateries were hard to come by. One place in the Bellagio actually turned us down when we went out with my co-workers for dinner because they didn't allow kids! They sent us to a place overlooking the conservatory that was very kid-friendly though. The staff there welcomed us with open arms, which was good because we were running out of options.

Ava did great in the hotel, despite having to be wheeled through a smoky casino to reach our room. Seattle is so non-smoking that I'd almost forgotten what it was like in a cigarette and cigar-friendly place, which is to say smelly and acrid 24/7. Note to self. Hopefully we didn't shave more than six to nine months off her total life expectancy with the secondhand smoke exposure. Bleah.

She did have one meltdown day with Jason, probably because of all the changes (flight, different bed, hotel room, new sights, sounds and smells, etc.), but she was fine once I came to retrieve her and she slept all the way there on our flight and all the way back. Whoo hoo! We'd been told to let her nurse on the way up and down to counter the ear pressure issue, but on the way home she was sleeping and rather than wake her to eat, I let her ride and there were no problems. The people in front of us on both flights said, "Wow, we forgot she was back there." Sweet.

Here's Ava in her lightweight travel stroller at baggage claim. No, we didn't actually check her. The shrink wrap seemed a bit much. We did gate check her carseat and stroller though, which helped.
At the 6 month mark for her, sleep is still a challenge, but it's all relative. Is she sleeping 12 hours a night as some folks claim their babies have been doing since 2 months old? No. Frankly, I think it's an urban myth. :-) But she does sleep about 2 hours in the early evening, then down for 6-7 hours more after we go to bed, with a couple short sips of milk during the night for which neither of us really wake completely. So for now, it's quite manageable.

Flight tips for people traveling with a baby? Don't do it alone if possible. There is just a lot of stuff to carry and way too many TSA-required steps to manage alone if you can help it.

Use the security bypass line for wheelchairs, infants and TSA personnel. Note: because of the restrictions on 3 oz. of liquid or less, you are not even allowed to bring bottles of water through security! A couple bottles of milk and a breast pump were fine, but even if you need the water to make formula, you have to mix it before you go through security or throw the water out. And of course you are not supposed to keep formula at room temperature for more than an hour after you mix it. Grrr.

Once you get to the x-ray machine, put your bags, laptop, belt, jewelry, coat and shoes in the bins, and put the stroller and car seat on the conveyor belt. Take the baby out of the car seat! Carry her through the x-ray machine. Pray your pants don't fall down since you no longer have a belt. Retrieve everything on the other side. Ignore rolling eyes, heavy sighs and looks of annoyance from people behind you who feel anyone carrying more than a laptop bag should have to use a separate line, preferably far away from them.

If you need help, ask for it. On the return trip, J. and I had separate flights so I took the baby. As I tried to gate check the car seat, hold the baby and fold the stroller at the plane door, a pilot asked if I needed help. Uh, yeah! I had him hold Ava while I got everything else situated. She dug the gold wings on his tie pin. All in all, it was a very good first flight for Ava and a decent change of scenery for us.

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