CX for Traveling Families - A Retrospective

We just spent three weeks traveling around California where I was virtually unplugged for three whole weeks.  As most seasoned road warriors will agree -- there are not too many "perks" left with regard to travel.  However, I've learned it's even worse for parents!  

As we moved from place-to-place with our two year old, we found doing almost everything more difficult.  We were also saddened by some of the individual and collective responses people and various companies had toward us -- or any other people traveling with small children ...

- On the down side, my mind drifts to one unfortunate encounter with a rude, snarky United Airlines gate agent who was downright ugly and dismissive when we asked (on cue) whether we could board early with our exhausted child, bags, stroller, car seat, etc.) a bit earlier.  

- There was also a Shuttle driver who watched us flounder with our bags while our child whined and cried (after 7 hours in an airport) and then cracked jokes about us over the shuttle loud speaker. (Yes. Believe it!)

- Word to the Wise:  California has a horrible track record for having bathrooms with changing tables.  Just sayin'... Thank the good Lord we had an SUV with room to change a diaper now and then!

- Side Note:  It's never EVER adviseable to bring a 2 year old to a Victorian Bed and Breakfast full of antiques. It tends to ruin the relaxed ambience....

However, in truth, I'm actually very relaxed and happy after this trip, which was mostly phenomenal.  So, rather than harping on anything negative, I will instead share some bright spots of this experience: 

United Pilots Rock!  While United's policies (see above) may stink... many people in the flight crew were terrific. We received plane trading plane cards, pin-on wings and many "official" greetings for our two year old. This, along with a small model airplane made our child's flying experience more exciting and real!  "I a WEAL piwot, mommy" made my day more than once.

Props to Mimi's Cafe - About 2 weeks into our trip, our waiter at Mimi's recognized our cranky hungry one and quickly delivered a "rescue kit"  -->  in the form of a sippy cup with juice, a bowl of cheerios, an orange slice, hand wipes and a bib! Brilliant!

Take "Cliff" on Your Next Trip! - Can I just say "Cliff Bars - YUM!"?  Whether it's Chocolate Cherry Almond, Carrot Cake or Chocolate Chip... Cliff Bars made those hungry moments go away quickly... and our little one loved this healthy, not too sticky snack.

Enterprise Picked Us Up.  Great service with a smile from Enterprise Car Rental going and coming.  They even saw our luggage and gave us a free upgrade.  They were proactive, positive and empathetic.  As we dropped off our SUV, our greeter met us with a knowing smile, offered to drop us at our gate and help us with bags! No need to transfer everything to the nearby shuttle. This was a God send!

Parents United! One more than one occasion, a helpful "I'm a Mom too" or "It's okay, I'm a Dad" person would help us manage our boarding by grabbing a car seat or bag we boarded a plane or shuttle. God bless every one of them!


We did a lot of flying and driving on this trip, covering a ton of ground from the coast to the plains.... these things helped us get through it better.

BYO Car Seat!   Our luxury car seat is heavy, cumbersome and isn't airline approved.  Instead, of renting one,we bought a lightweight, FAA approved car seat for $35 on sale and placed it in both the airline seat and our rental car.  We saved bundle against the cost of a rental, and it made our tyke's airline travel more safe and comfortable.

Games Rule!  We got creative making up games to entertain or little one - like counting stuff, singing ABC's, Finding things hidden in a crowded terminal or landscape.... Our favorite game was "Red Light; Green Light."  "Green Light" allowed our ward to run ahead of us. "Red Light" was the command to stop immmediately and wait for adult catch up.  While the instruction sometimes backfired on us, the freedom  this afforded our little one in low traffic areas (terminals, gates, ramps, sidewalks and parks) was priceless. It also amused passers-by. 

Backpack, Backpack!  I ditched my purse and laptop case for a backpack.  Contents as follows:  Compartment 1 - Small, Quick Retrival Diversions like pacifier, hand-held figurines, cars, etc. Compartment 2 - Necessities like diapers, pullups, tissue, wipes, change of clothes, blankie... Compartment 3 - Secure storage for wallet, personal items, Droid and valium (just kidding about the valium). Compartment 4 - Books, toys, favorite animal, art supplies and "special secret surprises" (read: diversions and little books from the $1 aisle at Target)  for various legs of the trip. Additional storage for beverage and/or sippy cup very handy. Worked like magic!

Art Supplies Critical!   Triangular crayons, like these from Melissa & Doug won't roll off the tray or restaurant table for later retrieval (thank you, Lord!). I also loved these mini coloring pages from Crayola... which fold out like a book, have a "pocket" to hold mini markers and feature lots of coloring pages for the prolific artist!  These were helpful everywhere!

Corners for Containment - Keeping a cabin-fever infected child still outside the car or airplane won't work.  Look for corners, booths and nooks to hide out in, this allows little ones to run within defined boundaries without a leash.  Make sure this is away from people who get easily annoyed as well as emergency doors.

God Bless Motorola:  We used our Droid and Google Maps & other apps to quickly locate parks, beaches, arcades and toy stores to help break up any adult-driven monotony with child-focused activity. The local mall play areas also proved to be incredibly helpful for running out pent up energy on rainy days.

I shall leave you now with three short words: "Zip Lock Bags" - they're good for so many things from sanitary storage of items, to disposal of stinky items, to storing liquids and other items. We brought a box and were not sorry.

All in all, we had a terrific trip and I only worked for about 3 days!  If you know me, that is nothing short of a miracle. Of course, family, friend and loved ones, complimented by the beautiful Northern California scenery made it all amazing.  :-)  Now, I'm afraid it's back to the grind!


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I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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