Elephants Strike Back
Jul 27 2014

IMG_0635[1]

Phone booths in Dubai

The title of this post comes from my son with affirmation from my daughter.  We are on a journey back to my homeland and plan to see and ride an elephant or two.  As usual, life has been busy and all the blog post ideas that fleet across my mind, never end up making it into a proper post.  I’m hoping that while we are on  numerous airplanes and airports that I will have a few moments to write up some posts to share after we return.

I’m writing this post from the Dubai airport in a lounge that has WiFi included.  Thank goodness for WiFi and modern technology!

We are on our way to my birthplace: Sri Lanka.  I’m such an American now (and I never knew the language) that they will view us as tourists.  It’s been 19 years since I’ve been there and that was when my grandfather passed away.  I still miss him to this day!  He was such a brilliant, unique, and funny individual whose humanity I only came to know about and understand as I got older and after he was gone so I never had the opportunity to talk with him about so many things I wanted to.

This is the first time my kids have traveled this far away from their home and so far they have been amazing travelers!

One of my next posts should include a photo of an elephant.  The photo in this post is of a high tech phone booth in the very modern looking airport in Dubai.

Author: | Filed under: FYI, holiday, Just For Fun, travel | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

Memorial Day Weekend – Remembering Those Who Fought For Us
May 28 2012

Memorial Day is a great day to remember the many freedoms we have because of those who volunteered or were drafted to fight for our American way of life.  There are many around the world who cannot gather with their friends and family so freely, eat barbeque, drink beer (I’m not a beer drinker, but it’s fun watching others drink beer), watch the kids play, and just have a good time.

This weekend the kids and I got to spend time with some very long time friends who have been like family to me for close to 25 years now.  Our kids have grown up together and someone this weekend called them “college cousins” which I thought was a very nice term given I met my best friend in college.

As much as we often struggle to pave the way for our kids, it’s nothing compared to those who have stood on the front lines to defend us the past hundreds of years.  Thank you to those who have served so we can enjoy our freedom!

Author: | Filed under: holiday, travel | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments »

Opportunity Knocks…
Oct 23 2011

Elephants at a Buddhist Temple in China

When opportunity knocks where will you be?  I imagine I’ll be at my son’s soccer game, making sure my kid’s take baths, cooking, or I’ll be doing their laundry.  How do we recognize when opportunity knocks?  Entrepreneurs are supposed to create opportunities, right?  But really, I think we see an opportunity and we try to take advantage of it.  Ideas are a dime a dozen.  People who can validate the idea are rare but those who can execute against those ideas to profitability are even rarer.  It’s not easy to execute against most ideas or take advantage of most opportunities.

One day I want to write a novel.  I want to write a fiction novel and I’d like to write a novel about business.  But right now I’m working full time, making sure my kids take their baths, watching their soccer games, going to swim classes, making sure they do their homework, doing dishes, and folding laundry.  It’s certainly all great material for that novel I’m going to write one day which may or may not ever see the light of day.  I recall my grandfather wanted to write a book.  I think he started writing something, but he was too busy doing great entrepreneurial things, helping kids, hanging out with grand kids, dealing with a sick wife (my grandmother), and helping other people so he never finished putting down in words the wisdom that was in his head.  He died of leukemia at the age of 82.  I bet if he could have blogged, he would have tried it out.  He was a brilliant, yet flawed man like most of us humans are.

Opportunity knocked and I went to China.  Opportunity knocked and I found a guy who I used to work with, Brian Hurdle, to redesign my blog who just redesigned my twitter page.  While flying to China, I read Little Bee: A Novel (about a refugee girl who escaped from Nigeria to England) and The Secret Life of Bees (about a White girl who runs away from her abusive father to live with a bunch of Negro women in the southern US in the 1960s).  The first was written by a man, the latter by a woman.  The overarching theme of both books from my perspective was “men suck!”  Interestingly, little boys did not suck and they too needed protection from men, who ironically were at one point in their lives little boys themselves.  What happens between cute, sweet little boyhood and manhood?  I don’t know, but I hope my boy stays sweet, thoughtful, and caring.  Of course both fiction novels were written for the female audience, which is kind of distressing.  But as I was reading them, I thought these are well written novels.  Not as superbly written as others I’ve read but well written overall.  So after doing some calculations, I figured I need to be a millionaire by the age of 45 to even think of having the time, resources, and health insurance to write such a novel.  I’m not too far away from 45….

Any benefactors out there?

Author: | Filed under: book review, books, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, parenting, travel, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

When In China…
Oct 15 2011

Great Wall of China - October 2011

I recently got back from a fabulous trip to China.  I signed up for a 9 day tour coordinated by the Austin Chamber of Commerce.  We had an aggressive itinerary and hit most of the major highlights in Beijing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Shanghai.  While I was there Steve Jobs passed away and pretty much everyone in China was talking about it too.  I’m not sure why I was a little surprised, but there were iPhones and iPads in China despite access to Google and facebook not being allowed.  What a profound affect Mr. Jobs had on the entire world, but in the end we still cannot avoid death.  In his life, he accomplished more and touched more lives than probably any before him.

His death with the background of ancient China was sort of appropriate in some ways.  The people who built The Great Wall, one of the 7 man made wonders of the world and visible from the moon, are not remembered but the Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who directed it’s construction is remembered.  Although 99.99% of us won’t be remembered much past our life times, hopefully we will have a positive impact on those around us so they continue to spread our wisdom to future generations.

Today I ordered an iPhone 4S at a nearby AT&T store. Rest in peace Steve and may your entrepreneurial stardust land on a few of us left here on earth.

I am going to try to find time over the next few weeks to blog about my trip  and include some photos.

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, steve jobs, success, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Sky More Traveled Than 50 Years Ago
Oct 3 2011

I’m going to be taking a little journey to a place very unique and ancient.  I’ll write more when I return.  Life has been very busy, but in a growing, learning, and accepting sort of way.  I’m still trying to make a difference to people, somewhere, here, everywhere, while making sure my kids know I love them and accept them for who they are in ways words can’t express.  Pretty much like a billion people before me have tried to do. :-D

Author: | Filed under: parenting, travel | Tags: , | Comments Off

Streets of Barcelona
Jun 6 2010

Pigeons in BarcelonaI just got back from Barcelona, Spain, and I don’t recall another time in my life where I’ve had the time to sit, think, write and let the words come without having some daily routine distraction.  I was in Barcelona visiting my cousin, Ashan Pillai (a true Outlier) on my way back from a business trip to Portugal.  After getting all the gifts for my kids (couldn’t forget the Spanish team soccer/futbal outfit), I sat in a plaza near the famous Ramblas shopping area in Barcelona with a notebook, listened to the people, listened to the street noises & pigeons, and waited for the words to appear.  I had a lofty goal of writing 7 song lyrics.  I should have gone with the goal of 3 that Brett Wintermeyer, our courier at work and also band member of The Sophisticates suggested, but I have an ‘eyes bigger than stomach’ tendency.  I wrote 3 lyrics and started 2 others.  I wrote 5 poems and started 2 others.  Many more started and swirled around my head but never made it to paper or computer.  I still have no idea if my lyrics are any good as I haven’t yet put them to actual music.

The thing with poetry that I’ve discovered over the past year or so is that sometimes its meaning is different between the writer and the reader.  Who or what the poem is about becomes about the readers personal experience or interpretation of the words.  As a writer I know that I often write things that have double meanings which are both true but the degree to which one is truer can only be fully known by the writer and possibly specific readers close to the writer.

The meaning can also slightly change depending on how it’s read out loud…the rhythm of the reading can affect someone in ways unknown.  If you are a poet, this is probably not news to you. I suppose that’s the point…if it can touch someone even if it’s different than intended then it would have served its purpose.  I wonder how many poems/lyrics go unread by others because there are so many writers out there who write for themselves as they struggle with their humanity.  I suppose the really famous writers have their poems discovered after their death and people are left to interpret them best they can, but for us mostly unknown writers they probably disappear into oblivion.

I have never shared my poetry on this blog…well not the serious ones anyway but after being inspired by Shaku letting me post her Icarus In Flight poem on my blog, I thought I’d share just one.  On a side note, in addition to me knowing Shaku through a non-profit organization, she also worked for an Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) company called Webify that was bought by IBM.  It’s a small world considering I work for ATI now.

I wrote the following poem in my cousin’s neighborhood (the day before I went to the Ramblas) after hearing a song in a video my aunt was playing for me that evoked many juxtaposing emotions that compelled me to escape outside.  Fortunately, the weather is gorgeous in Barcelona this time of year.   This poem is a mixture of recent stories…a little bit of mine, a little bit of his, a little bit of people who changed our lives.  He is in the middle (or shall I say the beginning) of an experience no new father should ever have to go through.  So without further ado…

Streets of Barcelona

On the streets of Barcelona
I wander with ancient tears in my eyes
Thinking of you and nights all alone
At Last the song with many sighs

A translucent marriage to a soul
Recently departed to a sully sea foam world
Because one could not wait to grow old
Afraid to take comfort in touches never know’d

The blustery city noises and a pigeon’s soft coo
Might wash out the pain of consequence ridden choices
And obliterate irrelevant, life altering feelings taken by you
While holes you exposed must be filled with clear voices

True sadness eludes me because fear
Overrules the quixotic, addictive emotion of love
But steely sharpness of knowledge shall bring forth to bear
Wavering courage to continue onward from Above

© May 30, 2010 Aruni S. Gunasegaram

Author: | Filed under: father, marriage, parenting, poetry, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Entrepreneurship in Portugal
Jun 1 2010

I went to Portugal with 4 other colleagues (3 of us presented) to help give a workshop on incubation management and on-shoring opportunities for Portuguese technology companies to the US.  The UTEN program is also run through IC2 which the Austin Technology Incubator (where I work) is also under.

[Boat photo: Taken in Porto. These were the types of boats that people used to transfer port wine to different parts of the Europe and the world.  The bridge in the background I believe was built using the same material used to build the Eiffel tower.]

In my previous post on culture, food, and technology, I discussed a little bit about the culture which is very different than the US culture, and I believe culture plays an important role in entrepreneurship.  I don’t have a lot of time to write this up since I’m in Barcelona, Spain and will be heading outside soon to enjoy the weather, listen to people & pigeons, read, and write before I head back tomorrow so I’ll keep it brief:

The people we interacted with (incubator managers, professors, technology transfer officers) were all eager to learn how to help make their country more supportive of entrepreneurship.  Their government has allocated money to support programs like ours not just with UT Austin but also universities like MIT, Harvard, Cambridge, and Carnegie Mellon to help them in this mission.  We were there giving a workshop on incubation management that included exercises on negotiations, case studies, due diligence best practices when selecting companies, how to mentor companies, etc.

The cultural norms of late lunches, late dinners, arriving fashionably late, siestas and sometimes waiting for things to happen versus making things happen doesn’t always mesh with the capitalistc entrepreneurship traits we are so used to in the US.  The people in the roles above have a challenge ahead of them to help not just the entrepreneurs but the entities playing supportive roles to move faster and connect the dots in different ways than they are used to.  Many of them are so energized about their potential roles in making this happen and have made significant progress!  It’s hard for them, the government, and even us to appreciate how far they have come in the last few years and how much hard work is ahead of them.

[Man cooking photo:  This was taken in Porto outside of the restaurant I mentioned in the food, culture, technology post I mentioned above.  This entrepreneur was cooking sardines and bell peppers on the streets.]

The companies that are in their incubators today are not just technology related as most of us in the US understand them.  They include innovation in textiles, marine biology, foods, etc.  It will be fascinating to see how and if they can get the few entrepreneurs in their country who have made money on traditional businesses to take the risk on technology investments.

There are very few business angel investors and as I mentioned most of them are not used to investing.  Their wealth is also typically not as great as the investors in the US.  The venture capital market is virtually non-existent and I think most of the venture capitalists have home bases in other places in Europe or the US and will occasionally invest in a Portuguese company.

Overall I was impressed with the people, the program, and the vision.  I was so glad I had the opportunity to go and contribute to the success of the program. There are so many moving parts including a government under economic stress, as are other countries in Europe, but the fact that they have intelligently identified an opportunity to invest in knowledge enhancement in the world of entrepreneurship (dear to my heart) is in my opinion a very wise, long term strategic decision!

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, travel | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Portuguese Food, Culture, and Technology
May 29 2010

I’m still in Portugal and luck has shined on me.  The weather has been great, the people have been great, and the experience has been new and adventurous.  I’ll do a post on my Portuguese incubator, tech transfer, and entrepreneurial experience next but part of that has to do with the culture and possibly the food.  In the interest of time, here are some highlights because I don’t have time to make the bullets work with the pictures:

The food is good but not the best in the world.  They are known for their salted cod dishes, and I think I tried cod twice.  I’m not a big fan of cod.  The joke is that they have 1001 cod based dishes. However, the best meal and wine I had was at a restaurant called Fernando in the city of Porto recommended by one of my colleagues and we did have to bust the bank (our per diem for meal reimbursements was long overshot) on this meal but it was worth it.  The grilled prawns were probably the best I had ever had.  The red wine that another one of my colleagues selected was outstanding.  The multiple ways they prepared the huge crab were delicious.  I even took a picture of it and it’s the one accompanying this blog post.

The customer service is over the top.  We in the US think we have good customer service but outside of maybe Nordstrom’s you don’t see this kind of customer service.  They go out of their way to make sure that you have what you want.  The best example is that the restaurant I mentioned above gave another of my colleagues a free bottle of the white wine he liked.  They also let me try what they called a different kind of shrimp which was really a barnacle (I have pics of that too) despite me making a funny face at how weird they looked.  Another example is a shop owner opening up especially for us to look at her knick knacks and port.  A third is the Director of the Digital Media incubator spending the late afternoon with me to find some things for my kid’s school and good port!  Her name is Fatima which I found a little coincidental because the girl Santiago falls in love with in the desert in The Alchemist (which I just wrote about) is called Fatima.  Barely a touch was exchanged between them, yet they both knew.  The book ends with Santiago finding his treasure and then going back to be with her.  I know it is a fable, unrealistic romance, but us humans (especially us girl humans) fall for that kind of stuff.  My whole point is (please excuse that aforementioned little reverie) is that you feel very much included in this culture.

I was disappointed that I never made it to a port/wine cellar in Porto.  I hear they are lovely, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get to try several ports and wines.  I tried their famous Vinho Verde (green wine) and even though I don’t usually like white wines, I liked it.  One of my colleagues recommended a type of white port tonic drink (can’t recall the name) that was really nice and refreshing.  I am going to bring some port home!

They love their sports teams (i.e., football/soccer) and the gear is expensive but my son wanted a Portugal team shirt so what is a mom to do but buy one! :-)   Their loyalties on the different soccer teams are fierce in different regions in Portugal so be careful what you say.

It’s been over a decade since I’ve traveled for business to Europe and technology has come a long way from internet connection, to Wi-Fi, to Skype.  I can use Skype on my iPhone to call my kids for something like 2.1 cents per minute compared to $2 per minute if I used my regular plan.  Of course I have to be in a free Wi-Fi spot and it’s not always clear but to me that is amazing.  I’m sure I’ll still get phone charges because people have called and texted me and I don’t have a plan (and it wasn’t worth upgrading for the time I’d be here because international plans aren’t cheap).  However Wi-Fi is in places I never thought it would be.  I find this particularly cool because Wi-Fi Alliance has been headquartered at the Austin Technology Incubator for a few years now.  The hotel I’m about to check out of has ethernet connection to the Internet but the microphone on my laptop isn’t configured/working so I can call out on Skype but people can’t hear me.  Sigh.

The people still smoke a lot here.

They don’t take American Express in most places except for the hotels.  Ah well.  I guess I could have left home without it.

Now, I’m off to Spain…

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, food, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Please, Please, Please Vote To Send Me To Tobago
Jan 12 2009

So I’m not really sure how the winner will be selected or how much the independent voting counts but in case you missed it, I entered a contest to win a $5,000 trip to Tobago.  I mentioned things like steel pan drums, blue water, cabana boys, foot massages, and 4 bedrooms in my contest entry post that was exactly 350 words long.  I NEED this vacation like a fish needs water and to have it for free (well there’s no such thing as a free lunch — so almost free) would be blissful.

So if you could be so kind as to click this link: http://blog.homeaway.com/node/42 and hit the Vote button, I would be ever so grateful…well as grateful as any gal can be to people she might or might not know who vote for her to win something fabulous based on a blog entry. 

When you hit the Vote button it will bring you back to my blog and show you the original entry.  At the top of the browser, you will be asked to enter your email address in order to vote.  Of course HomeAway, the sponsor of this competition, wants to make sure the voters are legit!  Voting is open until January 15, 2009 I think.

UPDATE: You should get a confirmation email with a link you HAVE to click in order to confirm the vote.  If you don’t get it, please check your junk/spam folder and if you still don’t find it, please email Victor at Victor at vwang@homeaway.com and let him know.  I know this is a lot of steps…too bad this isn’t for a $20,000 vacation so that all of you could come with me! :-)

THANK YOU from the bottom of my weary brain and heart that both long to sit under a palapa listening to the sound of the ocean and tropical birds, while sipping the perfect pina colada. 8-)

Author: | Filed under: Just For Fun, travel | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Calgon Take Me Away
Dec 28 2008

Yes, I need a getaway (click this link if you want to learn how to enter the contest yourself) and here’s my entry to win a dream vacation valued up to $5,000 from Home Away in exactly 350 words: 

Actually, Calgon can’t help me now.  The day job, after hours job, two kids, husband, a house, financial crisis, etc. have taken their toll.  And the 1970′s Enjoli perfume commercial (click on the YouTube link to see a beautiful, perfectly figured, exceptionally tall, blonde woman who wears 3 outfits in one day strutting her stuff!) that glorified women bringing home the bacon, frying it up in a pan, doing laundry, and never letting you forget you’re a man is a bunch of bull corn.  Yes, I said bologna bull corn.  Hitting her man on the head with the frying pan is much more realistic! 

tobago-jacarandaSo yes, I need a getaway to a warm, sunny, seaside location where I can sit under a palapa sipping margaritas, pina coladas, cosmopolitans, Mexican Martinis, oh heck why not some straight up tequila shots!  Somewhere (with a beach view) that I can wake up the next day not hung over (hey, this is a dream vacation, right?) with svelte cabana boys (ssshhh, don’t tell my husband) waiting on me hand and foot…especially foot.  I’m a sucker for a good foot massage… 

So you might be asking yourself where is this location that I can blow $5,000?  Is it in Mexico, in Asia, South America, in Europe, or even on this planet?  Well my first choice of Tahiti apparently does not yet exist in the Home Away network, or I’m not capable of using the search feature correctly…which is quite possible.  So I had to settle for Cuba.  Just kidding! 

But seriously, I’ll take Tobago because there were far too many options for Hawaii for my currently stuffy allergy and/or cold ridden head to process.  I’ve been to Tobago on a work related trip many years ago.  The water was the bluest I had ever seen and the steel pan drums were the steeliest I had ever heard.  So check out Jacaranda house (click to see the property). It has 4 bedrooms (for the cabana boys and my girlfriends), 3 bathrooms, and rents for $2,086 to $3,129 per week.  Ahhh, I can smell the coconut rum already…

Author: | Filed under: Just For Fun, random stuff, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Traveling With Children – Know Your Rights and Limitations
Sep 1 2008

And now for a fabulous guest post from the ex-general counsel at Expedia, Mark Britton.  I wish I had known about his site, Avvo, before I experienced my Traffic Court Tribulations

Being the ex-general counsel at Expedia and now running Avvo and its free legal advice Q&A forum, I get a lot of questions about travel-particularly travelers’ rights and responsibilities.  As a parent of three rambunctious little boys, I offer this post to help traveling parents everywhere.  On that note, I am reminded of one of Expedia’s great early ads which said something like, “Whoever said getting there is half the fun has never gotten there with a screaming two year old.”  

So, in that spirit, here are some nuggets of knowledge for your next child-laden trip: 

1.  Traveling with kids doesn’t give you special legal rights.  A lot of people assume that because they are traveling with kids they have special rights and preferences granted by the Federal Aviation Administration or some higher authority.  The reality is that your rights-with or without children-are largely whatever the airline chooses to give you.  Don’t think you can be involuntarily bumped with children?  Oh yes, you can.  Outraged that the airline denied you early boarding with your pokey young children? Tough beans.  Not able to avoid your child’s tantrums by letting her run up and down the airline aisle? It’s the flight staff’s call. 

2.  Add 30-60 minutes to get to your gate.  Let’s face it, kids take their time.  That dead cockroach en route to your gate may be disgusting to you, but it absolutely requires closer inspection by a five-year-old.  I learned long ago that rather than trying to whip your kids into an adult pace, allowing more time to get to your gate preserves family harmony.  Just going through security is stressful for a kid-take it slow and make it fun. 

3.  Reserve the allowed seats for your kids.  One place that the feds do get involved is where your children may sit on a plane.  They may not sit in an exit row, and if they are in a car seat, they must sit by the window.  So don’t think you will book your young child in an exit row and the airline will have to live with it-they won’t.  The flight attendants will move you-I see it happen all the time.  Also, don’t book two aisle seats-one for you and your car-seated kid.  Just take it for granted that your child will be sitting by the window and you will be sitting in the middle by the big hairy guy who hogs the armrest. 

4.  No need to smuggle your baby food.  Keep in mind that while you are not allowed to take liquids on a plane, you may take liquid-based baby food.  Many people don’t know this, and so they attempt to come up with creative ways to smuggle on formula or the always-popular peas and carrots.  Stow your criminal tendencies, and simply declare the baby food.  You can take up to one-day’s supply on board, but I have found that TSA personnel are always very sympathetic and accommodating when it comes to food for your infant.  

5.  Kids can get the boot too.  Finally, keep in mind that an airline can deny you boarding-or even ask you to deplane-if your kids are disorderly, abusive or violent.  This goes for adults too, but people are always surprised that it pertains to kids. 

I could go on and on (bring a DVD player with headphones, seat your child behind a parent, etc.).  However, I think I have already exceeded my word limit.  Of course, if you have any more legally related travel questions, we are always here to answer all of your questions.  You can go directly to our free legal advice Q&A forum to ask your personal legal questions- anonymously if desired-and real attorneys will answer them. 

Travel sanely. 

Mark Britton
Founder & CEO
Avvo, Inc.

Accredited Online
If you are interested in the law and your rights and want to interrupt the status quo, consider earning a law degree online. Taking courses online allows you to set your pace and live your life as you choose.

Author: | Filed under: baby tips, father, FYI, parenting, toddler tips, travel, working father | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Trouble With Checking Emails
Aug 12 2008

While out on vacation for almost 11 days, I had to check emails.  I can’t fathom not checking emails at all and coming home to thousands of emails.  I think I would have cried…not that I don’t already feel like crying over the mental draining-ness (not a word I know) of keeping up with day to day emails.  Currently, I actively check 3 different email accounts. 

I know that tons of busy business people get overwhelmed by email and some have even stopped responding altogether to email, but I haven’t reached that point yet.  Companies like NutShell Mail (I met the founders at SXSW here in Austin earlier this year) attempt to solve it by having all of your emails going to one place.  Right now when I’m home two of my email addresses download into one Outlook and the third to another set up of Outlook on a different desktop at my day job.  When I’m on the road, I have to log in to 3 different webmail accounts.  Fortunately, I’m not on the road that often. 

What I found interesting is that I ended up probably deleting about 40% of the email I received (which included newsletters, news updates, blog feeds, friend updates, etc.) while I was gone.  I’m still deleting some even though I’m fairly caught up because if I tried to read them, I wouldn’t get to anything else!  It’s making me wonder if I should even be getting those emails and instead rely on the ‘if it’s really big news, I’ll hear about it from someone’ belief. 

The risk of doing this is looking stupid if something big has happened (especially in your market) and you unknowingly wear a blank stare when someone exclaims ‘Did you hear about xyz?!” 

I guess one always has to take calculated risks in life.  In my current life situation, I have to take the risk that I might not be in-the-know in exchange for paying attention to the rest of my life.

How do the rest of you cope with email overload…or do you?

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, travel | Tags: , , | 13 Comments »

15 Tips For Traveling With Baby – Guest Baby Tip
Feb 10 2008

I babble about business, babies, and parenthood on this blog, so those of you who come here to read my posts on entrepreneurship but do not have babies, please forward this post to your friends and family who do have babies. For those who have babies and dabble in business, these tips might be right up your alley.  If you have babies and have no interest in business, then send it on to the folks you know who are knee-deep in business and encourage them to have a baby! :-)   To see other great baby tips, check out the baby tips category.

Maryam Ghaemmaghami Scoble was kind enough to let me re-publish her January 30, 3007 tips on traveling with baby that she said was inspired after I asked her if she would write a guest baby tip for my blog.  She also sent me an adorable picture of her looking at baby Milan.  Maryam has been working as an event planner since 1995 and is now taking time off to be with her newborn son.  Maryam’s husband, Robert Scoble, is none other than the “Scobleizer” a strong presence in the blogging community.  Maryam spends her free time blogging about living, loving, and working with geeks as well as life, love, and everything else.   If you are new to the blogosphere, you might not have heard that she and Robert had a baby, but they did and now she has great tips to share!

Traveling with Baby? Here are fifteen things I’ve learned.

milanandmaryam400x267.jpgI honestly thought that my days of traveling adventure would be over once our baby was born. Not so! Barely four months old, Milan has accompanied us without much fuss to Paris, London and Vegas, traveling via Trains, Planes, and even on a bus. We are headed to Geneva next.

If you are traveling with child I highly recommend checking out My Traveling Buddy website.

Baby Center has a great checklist on things to take with you while traveling with child.

My advice based on my own experience:

1) Don’t pack too many little bags and suitcases. You will leave things behind or else won’t be able to carry all of them together. While it was easier before to have smaller, lighter suitcases, you now need to try and consolidate as much as possible. Remember in addition to the suitcases, you also have to push the stroller and you only have two hands :) I used to pack a suitcase, a carry on and a bag for each of us and it worked perfectly before, but now one of us has to push the stroller while the other carries everything on the cart. My heart goes out to single parents!

2) Don’t forget the baby Bjorn or other form of baby carrier with you. You need to check in your stroller and sometimes have to walk long distances before claiming it back after you get off the plane. You can check in the stroller right where you check in to get on the flight, but you won’t get it back when you land until you walk all the way to baggage claim. In London, we had to walk far and long, and wait quite a while before getting our stroller back. Thank God, I packed a baby carrier with me.

3) Don’t forget the bottle washer and soap. It’s hard to wash bottles without the bottle washer and the soap at the hotels or airports might be too fragrant for the baby. I had to send Robert out to search for a bottle washer in Vegas and I had a hard time finding a perfume free soap in beautiful Paris, home to many famous perfumes.

4) If you are using formula, make a bottle ready before going through security screening. They won’t let you carry a bottle of water but they would let you carry the milk through. The bottle would be safe for an hour and two and you are not forced to run around and look for bottled water in the airport. The security officer in the Vegas airport told me that I could get out of line, mix my formula with water and go through again if I wanted to. I didn’t want to wait in line again, but next time, I will just make the formula ahead of time.

5) Check in early for your flight so you can make sure your baby has a bassinet on board. You can’t reserve one on the phone and if too many babies are traveling on board, you may lose out to those who checked in before you. We were late to check in for our flight to London and couldn’t get a bassinet as there were twenty other babies traveling on board. We got smart on the way back and checked in early :)

6) Make sure your baby is sucking on a pacifier or a bottle during take off and landing. The air pressure won’t hurt their ears as much. We were feeding Milan while the plane was taking off and landing and he fell asleep each time without crying.

7) If traveling by train find out where the bathroom with diaper changing table is located and book your cabin close to that. I had to walk through over ten cabins while the train was moving with a baby that badly needed a change, all the while worrying if we were going to reach the station soon.

8)Pack enough formula and diapers. Babies sometimes show allergic reaction to different brands of diapers. It’s also very hard to find the same brand of formula while traveling abroad and babies stomach often react to new brands.We ran out of formula in Paris and I couldn’t even read the instructions on the formula I bought and had to trust the reluctant pharmacist advice. Luckily Milan liked the new formula and it worked fine for us. Next time, I will pack extra formula though.

9) Having a travel system based car seat and stroller (we use Graco) works best because you can use the car seat in the cabs, buses, trains and cars, and then place the seat easily in the stroller when walking around. The stroller folds easily and is light to carry around. You can also use it as a cart to carry stuff around.

10) If you have older children I suggest running them through the airport to let them exert some of that extra energy so that they are good and tired and ready to sleep in flight. Planning travel during their sleep time is also a good idea.

11) With older children taking some cheap new toys and coloring materials helps keep them occupied during flight. When Patrick was younger, I always bought him a bunch of magazines so he could read them during the flight and of course he had his trusty hand held game players.

12) Remember that there are different rules for traveling with babies domestically vs. internationally. For example, babies traveling on your lap can fly for free on United inside the US but you have to purchase a ticket for them while traveling abroad. It usually comes to about 10% of your adult fare plus taxes, etc.

13) You need a valid passport for children traveling abroad with you, even if your child is only four months old like ours.

14) Before traveling make sure to check with your pediatrician about any medical issues you need to be aware of. Traveling with babies under three months is not recommended and some airlines won’t even allow a new born to fly. Depending on the country you are traveling to, your baby may need to get special vaccinations. I packed over the counter  gas-relief medicine and baby Tylenol with us just in case.

15) Last but not least, check the weather and pack accordingly for your child. It was raining hard in London and Paris and we looked around for a long time before we were able to find a waterproof plastic cover for Milan’s stroller.

Bon Voyage and Happy travels!

______

If you like this tip, you might be interested in our other recent guest baby tips:

Throw A Baby Kegger For Your Buddy by Clay Nichols at DadLabs

Keeping a Baby Food Journal by Neena at A Mom’s Life at NeenMachine.com

Increasing Milk Supply by Carole Hayes at Alias Tex

Note to new readers: these tips are based on our experiences, as well as those of our friends and readers. Please always consult with your doctor before implementing any tip that might impact the health of your baby. If you have a tip you’d like to submit please send an email to blogger at babblesoft dot com.  Please check the ‘baby tips’ category to make sure your tip (in some form or fashion) hasn’t already been posted. If it has been, feel free to comment on that post and support the tip. We also welcome respectful challenges to the tips because as is noted in our inaugural baby tip ‘everything is relative!’ We will, of course, give anyone who submits a tip we publish credit and lotsa link love!

Author: | Filed under: baby tips, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Musings of a Texas Gal in NYC – Planes, Trains, and Subways
Jul 29 2007

I’m going to begin my musings with describing my travel to/from/within NY.  I flew Delta Connection (run by Shuttle America) direct from Austin to JFK.  I was in the very last row on a seat that didn’t recline.  Whenever the pilot or flight attendant said something over the loudspeaker all of us in the back row jumped with surprise and covered our ears because it was so loud.  The plane seemed new and the first one that I can recall flying on with two seats on either side of the aisle….Embraer 170.  One of the flight attendants looked like he really would rather be somewhere else.

There was a baby on board who was very unhappy and it seemed like no matter what the parents did, the baby was determined to be unhappy.  I helped them out by giving them something I had in my purse, but I’m not even sure they knew it came from me because I asked the people in the row in front of me to pass it up…it seemed to calm him down a bit.  It gave me an idea for a future Baby Tip by Babble Soft that I’ll post about soon.

The thing I found most unusual was that for a 4 hour flight over lunch time they had no meal service.  They had a few snacks but by the end of the flight they had run out of the Sun Chips and they had run out of Ginger ale!  I don’t drink ginger ale but some of the women sitting across the aisle from us did.

So once at JFK, I was of course starving.  Seeing only a Burger King with a huge line and a non-descript Pizza place, I decided to wait until I got to my cousin’s place.  I made my way to the Air Train and was helped by a nice MTA employee named Mohammed.  He helped me buy my $5 Air Train ticket and when I told him I would be here for about a week, he advised me to by the unlimited week long $24 Metrocard.  On Wednesday after the conference was over, I realized I probably only needed a $14 card.  I think he assumed I was a tourist and was going to use the subway a lot, but I only used it to/from the airport and the conference.  Anyway, his intentions were good and he was extremely helpful.

MTAFrom the Air Train I took the A train towards Brooklyn. An Asian woman let me look at her map and once I got out at the appropriate stop an African American woman could tell I looked clueless asked me if I needed help and pointed me to the right exit. [I mention the races of the people who helped me primarily because I was attending a Multi Cultural Women’s conference, and I will elaborate more on the race topic in future posts.]

Contrary to what people usually say about New Yorkers being cold/rude, I experienced the opposite.  Stereotypes are quick to surface and not so easy to change.  I always find it funny when people ask me if I have a cowboy hat or cowboy boots and if I know JR just because I live in Texas.  For the record, I do not currently own a cowboy hat or cowboy boots and I don’t know JR.

MetrocardThe subway is so convenient and full of life.  It’s a sea of humanity all crowded into a bunch of little tubes.  I am always amazed at how many different kinds of people are on the subway. 

I’m typing this post on my return trip on the same type of aircraft.  Our flight was supposed to depart at 5:25 pm but we did not actually take off until 9:30 pm.  We sat on the tarmac waiting to get into the line to get on the runway for over 3 ½ hours.   They told us that one runway was closed down but they didn’t say why.  They allowed us to turn our phones on and when I called my husband he said all they said was there were delays due to weather and I can assure you there was no inclement weather….a few clouds in the sky but that’s it.  Personally, I think there was some security issue going on because later the attendant said the reason was that for planes flying SW they have to fly over Robinsville 6 and that was shut down and that it would be up in 30 minutes.  Huh??!??  I was scratching my head over that one.  [Found out later from a friend who works at NASA and another friend who flies planes that Robinsville 6 does exist so it wasn't a conspiracy after all!]  So 15 minutes later we were taking off.  The flight attendant is funny and cheesy at the same time.  If he was trying to distract us from thoughts of imminent doom, he did a good job.

Since they were showing off their signature drinks, I decided to try their $5 Passion Fruit Mojito with a splash of OJ while waiting.  Many others on the flight also enjoyed a drink.  My guess is that they made more money on drinks on this trip than normal.  So far I’ve had some non-descript Biscoff biscuits and a bag of Sun Chips for snacks.  Thank goodness I had that horrible $11 tuna salad sandwich with soggy fries in the airport before I got on the plane. :roll:  

Now it’s almost 11 pm NY time so I think I’ll attempt to read a book and lull myself to sleep.  Oops just hit a patch of turbulence they said would last 20 or so minutes so no book for me.  I miss my family.

Update: I arrived in Austin around midnight that night and realized the next day that I left the book I mentioned above in the seatback in front of me.  I have called lost and found twice and left two messages but still have not heard back.

Author: | Filed under: new york city, travel | 7 Comments »

Working Mother Conference in NYC
Jul 21 2007

I’m going on a trip ‘on my favorite rocket ship!’  Well not really a rocket ship but on my not-so-favorite cramped plane.  I am attending the Working Mother Magazine Conference on Multicultural Companies in NYC next week.  I was planning to go anyway to help my cousin with her new baby and wasn’t sure I would even get into the conference but after I booked the tickets, they emailed me to let me know I could attend on a scholarship basis.  Yay! :-D

I’m looking forward to meeting some amazing women at the conference but most of all I’m looking forward to meeting my new little nephew! :-)

With all the recent press about flying with kids, I’m kind of glad my kids are staying behind with their Dad!

So, as you may have guessed, posting will be light next week unless I have a brainstorm of ideas that I can write about and schedule for future posting.

Aruni

Author: | Filed under: blogging, travel, working mom, working mother | 1 Comment »