Category Archives: Travel tips

Border Patrol – Puppy Edition

Yes, I have issues with animals.  Yes, I now have a dog. Yes, I’m a sucker for  a cute face. I mean come on…

The Most Popular Pup In Boston

Our little guy is small on purpose, we knew we wanted a dog that was small enough to travel because we have no intention of slowing down!  He’s even small enough to fly in the cabin of the plane if needed, though we’ve not done so yet.

Now, we’ve traveled with our child every year of her life, and some years it was every month. We are, therefore, aware that babies travel with a ridiculous amount of gear and it appears puppies aren’t much different. On our 16 day trip to the northeast each human had a carry-on size bag of clothes (laundry is our friend), a pillow, a book or 2, and an electronic device of some kind.  We shared a toiletry bag.  However, the dog had a crate, a backpack in which he could ride both in the car and out in the world, a sleeping pad, 2 towels, 2 blankets, a lifejacket (you can rent lifejackets for humans but not for puppies), a bag of food and treats, and a bag of toys. He is so lucky he’s cute.  His stuff outweighed his cute, 12 pound self at least 2 times over!

The most important thing we had for the dog was paperwork. Humans need passports to cross the Canadian border and dogs need rabies vaccination records.* They are not kidding and there is no substitute. Even if you have the tag on the dog’s collar, you need the paperwork or your entire family can be turned around at the border. I was taking no chances. I Googled, I quizzed my friends, and I quizzed the vet who then consulted some magic vet portal to be sure we had what we needed. NOTE paperwork for driving to Canada is different than flying to Canada, ask your vet.

Border stop one, from Vermont into Quebec.  An un-amused guard did not appreciate us butchering her native French (high school Spanish for me and Russian for hubby, but at least we tried) and checked all the paperwork and faces extremely carefully, including the dog’s.  It was a good thing I got that updated rabies vaccination record, the original one said he was dark brown, which he was at the time of the shot, but his is now mostly cream colored. I’m positive we would not have passed had the paperwork not been updated. She did NOT like us but I’m pretty sure she didn’t like anyone. We forgave her though, that must not be an easy job.

Border stop two, out of Ontario and into Michigan.  The guard briefly checked passports, waved off the the paperwork for the dog that we had out and ready for him and asked us why we were in Canada so long, “You couldn’t get out any faster?!” Funny guy, the first we’ve encountered actually.

The moral of the story, have ALL the paperwork for anything that breathes when crossing borders.  Have it out and ready and be serious when approaching the border guards. Some will make you feel almost like a criminal and some will welcome you in with a smile and a joke.

The last bit of advice, pack very well.  Keep like items together and be extremely organized. If ever your car is searched, it will be so much easier and quicker if you look like you have your sh.., err stuff together. Even if your trunk is usually a wreck, make sure it is pristine before you hit a border, this goes for all bags and compartments inside the car too. It will be easy to search and easy to put back together so you can get on your way. Yup, we’ve had the car searched too. Trust me, this is the way to go.

There yet are we?

*Also note that PIT BULLS, dogs with pit bull lineage, and any dog that may be mistaken for one, are NOT allowed into Ontario and many other places in Canada. They will turn you around at the border no matter your paperwork. Please read up on this before you go! I’m refraining from adding links to this post as this is an ongoing discussion and I want you to research it for yourself instead of relying on what might be an outdated link that I have posted here.

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How To Travel When Your Spouse Prefers Not To

Since I love to travel so much I talk about it A LOT.  This leads to learning other people’s philosophies on travel; why they go, where they go, when they go and why they don’t go.  I come from a traveling family and happen to have married someone who likes to travel as much as I do (OK so it was a requirement for me).  For a long time I had my blinders on, I assumed that everyone liked to travel just to differing degrees when it is simply not true. Sometimes those who don’t care to travel are married to those who do. What do you do if you are bitten by the travel bug but your spouse is not?

Options abound for travel when your spouse or significant other doesn’t like to travel or if you don’t currently have, or want, a spouse or significant other.

1. Vacation with family or friends who live in the same town as you do.  This makes planning easy and you can share a car or ride to the airport.

2. If you don’t have people who live in town who like to travel, then travel to see people who do and then continue your adventure together. Bonus: you’ll get to spend significant time with people you don’t get to see often.

3. Join a travel group or club – many cities have groups of like minded people who meet and travel together.  These groups offer everything from day trips to those lasting a month or more.

4. Go on a group tour – there are scores of companies that offer wonderful tours domestically and all over the world. Head out with one of these groups and you’ll come back with friends from all over the country, maybe the world.

5. Travel by yourself – there is nothing like the flexibility that comes with having to answer to no one but yourself.  If you want to get up at 5 a.m. and see the sun come up, no one whines.   If you want to sleep in until 11 a.m., no one will bounce on the bed because they are bored. It is much easier to pop into a hotel or hostel and find room for 1 as opposed to 2 or more.

Get out and see the world!

 

Road Trip Passenger 101

It’s like this folks, on road trips my husband loves to drive and hates to be a passenger.  I, on the other hand, prefer not to drive and rather enjoy being a passenger. A match made in heaven I tell you. In our more than 18 years together and 70,000+ miles of road trips I have driven for exactly 3 hours.  Yes, a scant 200 miles or so.  Wanna know why I drove those?  For 2 hours my husband was still recovering from food poisoning and if it weren’t for the lake-effect snow we were trying to stay ahead of, we would have camped out at the hotel for another day.  The other hour was because he was so tired he couldn’t keep his eyes open.  Kansas is kind of boring to drive through folks, even if the reward at the end is Colorado. I swear I-70 is basically just 450 miles of grain.  Many thanks for feeding the country though, we genuinely appreciate your hard work!

Therefore I am the best darn road trip passenger you have ever seen. It works out for us.  I essentially wait on him hand and foot which he loves because I never do so at home, unless he is just this side of hospital sick.  In return he drives me all over the place to visit friends and family and go on adventures.

I don't like traffic, particularly in cities but places like Chicago are between me and vacations sometimes.
I don’t like traffic, particularly in cities. However, places like Chicago are between me and my vacation sometimes. Thanks for driving hubby!

While he drives I navigate, reroute us around traffic jams, get snacks, open water and soda, manage the music, manage our munchkin (though she is pretty self sufficient now and almost as tall as me at 11 years old), answer the phone, text responses for him, call for reservations or with travel updates to our family members or Airbnb hosts.  I’ve even listened to audiobooks (reading in the car makes me ill) and worked on craft projects to occupy myself in city traffic so he can concentrate and I can keep from looking for the brake on my side of the car every 30 seconds.  (I never said I didn’t have control issues, people, just that I am better at being a passenger than my partner in crime.) At least once during each trip I sing loudly and purposefully off-key which he doesn’t like to admit he finds funny. Lately our munchkin does too.  It’s hysterical. (In case you are wondering, we sing “On the Road Again.”)

Sock knitting in the car
Sock knitting in Chicago traffic. Sanity for all of us!

Mainly we talk, a lot.  We plan for the trip, for life after the trip and we catch up on all of the funny little things that have happened over the last few months that our over-scheduled lives have kept us from mentioning to each other.  My goal is to keep him well-fed, entertained and awake. Such people are better and safer drivers. That’s good for me, him, our daughter and anyone who happens to be on the road with us.

Happy travels!

Packing List For A Tent Camping Trip

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You’ve decided to go tent camping and made a reservation at a campground.  Now you need to go about acquiring the items needed to make this trip work.  Remember that camping trips like these are driving trips, it is not practical to fly with all of this stuff.

I cannot stress this enough, BORROW as much as you can the first time or two you go camping. Once you know you will camp regularly, then buy your own supplies. If you think you don’t know anyone who has any equipment, ask around and find a Boy Scout, particularly a Boy Scout leader. You would not believe the amount of camping equipment that resides in these homes.

What you need, in no particular order:
  • A tent with a rainfly (make sure that all of the seams have been sealed and the sealant has dried before packing it up, get the instructions on how to put it together too)
  • A ground cloth (a piece of thick plastic that is the size of the bottom of the tent, bigger is better as you can tuck in the edges)
  • A hammer to drive in the tent stakes
  • A sleeping bag for each person
  • An air mattress or thick pad for each person
  • A lantern of some kind to light the inside of the tent and the picnic table area (your site with usually have one)
  • S’mores makings – marshmallows, chocolate bars, graham crackers, roasting sticks
  • Cups, Plates, bowls, utensils (try to bring reusable ones, you are in nature after all)
  • Kitchen towels and paper towels
  • Dish soap and sponge for cleaning dishes
  • Garbage bags – leave the site as you found it or better
  • Food for meals you plan to eat at the campsite – SIMPLE is better. Your first time out it may be best to make sandwiches and things that don’t require cooking.  Cooking over a fire or camp stove can be tricky and will usually take longer than you think.  Delayed meals make for cranky campers.
  • Water bottles
  • Cooler – large, hard-sided with a drain near the bottom is best.  You can buy ice at the camp store. (usually $1-$3 per bag)
  • Cooking pots, pans, & utensils if you plan to cook
  • Camp stove – try it out in your backyard ahead of time!
  • Extra fuel for camp stove
  • Matches or starter for camp stove as needed
  • Flashlights (1 per person)
  • Extra batteries for flashlights
  • Deck of cards – everyone plays cards while camping, I don’t know why
  • Flip flops for shower
  • Plastic container for shower supplies (1 per person)
  • Toiletries
  • Towels (shower and beach/pool)
  • Clothesline
  • Pillows
  • Clothes appropriate for your activities.  Long pants and hiking boots are best for hiking in the woods in most parts of the U.S. due to deer ticks and the threat of Lyme Disease.
  • Extra pair of shoes per person. Shoes, especially kids’ shoes, always get wet while camping.
  • Day packs especially if you plan to hike.
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Hats – wide-brimmed or baseball hats are best
  • Rain jackets or ponchos
  • Flexibility – this is a new experience, roll with it.
  • It is best to pack cooking items and food in plastic tubs (think rubbermaid products or similar)
  • Clothes are usually best packed in duffle bags but if you are worried about more than one day of rain, plastic tubs are best here too.
  • Newspaper and matches to start a fire
  • You generally don’t need to bring firewood (and in many places aren’t allowed to due to the risk of transporting bugs).  Wood is generally available at the camp store, usually about $5 per bundle.  Note, if it is a particularly dry season/summer you may find you ARE NOT ALLOWED to have an open fire even in the fire ring at your site due to the risk of wildfires.
  • Quarters and laundry soap – there are usually laundry facilities

tent Sierra_Designs_Antares_(118511632)

Happy camping!

 

 

Photo credits:
Title picture – By Eeekster (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons, text added by Dream Depart Explore

2nd picture – By Josh Larios from Seattle, US (DSC00163.JPG) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

So You Want to Try Tent Camping

So You Want To Try Tent Camping

You’ve decided to get out into the world and you want to try tent camping, that’s great! There are lots of reasons to do so; to get back to nature, to save money on accommodations, to have a little more flexibility, etc.  This time of year, just the thought of warm weather activities brings happiness so let’s get planning.

This is what you need to know:

  1. People who camp are almost universally wonderful people. I think it is all of the fresh air and s’mores.
  2. Campground owners are wonderful too, though every once in a while it takes them a little while to warm up.
  3. Bicycles, scooters and skateboards are frequently welcome at campgrounds.
  4. Many campgrounds have pools and laundry facilities.
  5. You are going to need bug spray!  Seriously, bring it.
  6. Some National Parks DO NOT have showers but they are available in the nearby town. (Rocky Mountain National Park is one such place but the views are worth the extra effort.) Get the details before you book.
  7. Bring shower shoes (flip flops) and a plastic container for your shower supplies (the kind that college kids use is best) regardless of where the showers are located.
  8. Your first time out, BORROW most of the supplies from friends (with full instructions on how to set up the tent). Please don’t spend money on new things when your friends have them for you to borrow.  Save the purchasing until you know you love it, then buy what you love and use the heck out of it.
  9. You need a ground cloth (a large sheet of thick plastic about the size of the bottom of your tent) under your tent no matter what anyone tells you.  It also must be completely under the tent, if it sticks out even a little it will collect rain which will run under your tent. Disregard this if you like but I don’t wake up in puddles, even if it rains.
  10. You MUST stake down your tent.  This is to keep the shape so it is comfortable for you and to keep it where you put it.
  11. Assess your site carefully. Do NOT put your tent at the bottom of a hill or near a body of water if it is likely to rain, rivers rise when it rains folks.  If you are concerned, ask for a new site.  See #2.
  12. Many campgrounds offer some kind of community activity in the evening, usually around a fire. It is a great way to meet people.  See #1.
  13. When borrowing or eventually buying a tent, you need to know that they generally sleep fewer people than the box says. Ours says it sleeps 5 but we can only get 3 in it.  The number on the box for ours is accurate if a group were to all sleep side by side, without air mattresses,  didn’t have any gear/clothes in there with them and no one was over 5’6″. Did I mention that my husband is 6’3″?  You will almost always need to sleep perpendicular to the suggested direction.  Don’t get frustrated by the discrepancy in capacity, just know this going in.
  14. If there is severe weather, GET OUT OF THE TENT!  Find a secure building. The camp office is usually your best bet.  We were camping one night in Nebraska (we were in a camper this time) and a thunderstorm came up with some noticeable winds, nothing to bother the camper but the tent in the site next to us ended up in the lake.  See #10.  Please note that had the winds been any higher we would have had to vacate the camper too.  If you are camping out in the open in an area of the country where high winds and tornadoes occur, talk to the camp office about emergency procedures. They have them, I promise.
  15. Tent camping usually means that you are further out into nature than you may normally be.  Be careful with your food.  If you leave food out, you will likely have visitors.  The other humans will leave it alone but the raccoons, bears and their friends can actually smell it from a mile away.  There are quick and easy ways to contain your food and prevent an unplanned run-ins with your woodland neighbors. Check with the camp office for their recommendations.  Call or email them before you arrive so you can bring the supplies you need.  I’m purposefully not giving specifics here as many campgrounds have their own regulations based on their facilities and local wildlife.

Next time: A detailed packing list for a tent camping trip.

 

Original photograph by: ByBy Kbh3rd (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Text added by DreamDepartExplore

Car-Tripping With Little Ones

car tripping

It is time, your sisters-in-law are pregnant and it is time for baby showers!  Your darling sisters-in-law have been very kind about your vacation time and money.  Even though they are due about 3 months apart, they scheduled their baby showers on back to back days so you only have to make one 30 hour roundtrip car trip instead of 2.  Did I mention that you ADORE your sisters-in-law?  (If you don’t actually like yours, I’m sad for you because mine are awesome!)

You decide to make a family vacation out of it by planning several overnight stops in a few states with lots of fun along the way, the whole trip takes 12 days. You pack up the car and help your 4 year old settle in. Now you face 30 hours in the car over the course of 5 days or driving.  This is doable people, planning is key!

After 25,000+ miles of car trips with a child these are my tips on how to arrive the same happy family you were when you left home:
  • Snacks – You’ll be spending hours in the car each time you get in and if you have to stop every time someone is hungry you will never get out of your own state.  Apples, carrots, trail mix, granola bars, nuts, cheese sticks, etc. in a cooler will be plenty, oh and water too.  Have a SMALL amount of something sweet as an occasional treat if you like.  However, think about how your little one reacts to sugar and imagine the whole reaction strapped to a carseat 2 feet behind you.  Like I said, planning is important.
  • Toys/surprises – there are lots of versions of this.  The basic principle is this, have something new to hand to your child every hour or so.  The novelty of a new toy will help pass the time and keep them active when you need them to be awake instead of sleeping and messing up their schedule.  Some people wrap the toys up or put them in a mystery bag each time.  Borrow toys from friends instead of buying if you like.  Do what works for you.
  • Bring a blanket.  If the driver likes the car cool, like my husband does, kiddo is going to get cold.  Cold kid=cranky kid=LOOOONG drive.
  • Movies – 30 hours of movies when you are home? Uh, no, head outside little ball of energy.  On the road? You bet!  Again, this is novel and since your little one can’t move that much let them watch their favorites so they are entertained and you can maybe talk to your spouse.  Load up the iPad or bring along DVDs (and a DVD player if your car is old like mine.  I still have a tape deck people! No tapes though, curious…)

car-tripping movies

  • STOP THE CAR! – Even if you are worried about “making good time” like my husband you have to stop the car every couple of hours.  Despite all of that entertainment your little one is going to get antsy, cranky and need to use the bathroom.  So stop the car at a rest area, stretch your legs and use the facilities. However, if your child is happy, well fed and otherwise enjoying the drive don’t feel the need to stop exactly every couple of hours. Keep going and stop when they start to fade.
  • Run! – This little tactic has gotten me more strange looks than anything else.  While at the rest area, find a nice grassy area that is NOT the dog run area, ew. Take your munchkin over there and ask her to run between this tree and that one and then between those two.  Run with her if you can. People WILL look at you strangely. This is what to do, look them straight in the eye and with your kindest look and most pleasant voice say, “We are going to be in the car for 6 hours (or 8 or 10) today and we are burning off some energy.” Then take your child by the hand and stroll back to your car. Wait for it…..then listen.  The person who just looked at you like you were completely out of your mind will say something to the effect of “Honey, go get Jimmy!”  As you drive past the grassy area where you burned your energy, Jimmy will be running between the trees.  If this ever happened to you along I-90, particularly on the New York State Thruway, my name is Cheryl and you’re welcome.
  • Plan stops for fun things – My brother and sister-in-law are particularly adept at this trick. They like to find somewhere fun about half way through a day’s drive and then stop for 2-4 hours. Zoos are a popular choice for them but parks, playgrounds, and lakes are great choices too.
  • Know your limits – Figure out how many hours your family can realistically spend in the car in one day and stick to it.  After all these years of travel, our family limit is about 15 hours (up from 8 hours when my child was 4), after that we start to get cranky. OK, I start to get cranky. If you can’t make it to your destination under your threshold, you need to get creative.
  • Sleep –  Sleep in this case means hotels.  If you have a very long drive that exceeds your threshold, break it up.  Our favorite trick is to leave after school, drive about 3 hours and then stay at a hotel.  I always pre-book these hotels and I look for ones with pools and near areas we’d like to explore or at least near restaurants we like.  We wake up the next day and try to get out by 8 a.m. at the latest.
  • No-go Day – Once we reach our destination we find it is best if we keep the munchkin out of the car completely the following day. This was especially important when she was little.  These days though she is just as eager to get going as Mom and Dad.  She is stronger and more resilient now.  More trips for all!
Well that is all great dear, but my child gets carsick, any suggestions there?

Actually yes, and they come courtesy of one of my fantastic sisters-in-law mentioned above.  Lest you think that the carsickness gets in the way of traveling for her family, let me assure you that she travels as much, if not more, than we do. It just takes planning, some knowhow and watching your kids closely to figure out what works for them.

  • Accept that your child who is prone to being carsick will likely get sick at least once or twice and (over)prepare with supplies.  My SIL went to a medical supply store and bought bags similar to these.  They aren’t the most exiting purchase ever but they will help keep your child and your car clean.  They may make getting sick almost a non-event. According to my SIL, a single adult who is driving can hold this for a child when needed. She’s got skills people!
  • Be especially careful in how you dress your child.  Dress for the car ride itself and dress for comfort!  PJs, yoga pants and t-shirts, etc. You want nothing to be pressing too hard on their bellies.  Hmm, comfy travel clothes, see a theme in my family?  In this instance though, socks and shoes are optional.
  • When dressing your child, consider adding one extra layer on top, a hoodie is a good option.  This way when they start to get hot and queasy, they can take off the layer and the change in temperature may be enough to settle the stomach.  If not, open the window a little bit if you can, the cool air frequently helps too.
  • This is the only time I’ll give this advice since I love books. Don’t let your child read.  This is one that I know very well myself.  I can’t read in the car.  The shadows constantly remind my brain that I am moving but the stationary page insists otherwise, hence the motion sickness.  Some people can watch movies in the car with no trouble since the picture is moving, my daughter and I fit into this category.  Others can only watch for 10-15 minutes before they need to stop and look out the window, this would be my niece’s realm.
  • Play “I Spy” instead.  You get to learn more about how your child sees the world, literally, and she won’t get sick.
  • Sing songs or talk.  Again entertainment that doesn’t require focusing on something that is stationary.
  • My SIL swears by this cooler that you can plug into the car (or the wall later on).  For her, having the kids’ favorite things to eat on hand works wonders for mood and motion sickness. The variety this cooler affords helps as well and she always travels with ginger ale. The nice thing is that you can bring this into a hotel for an overnight or into your cabin, etc. when you arrive and skip the grocery store for a day or so.
  • Drive at night.  The kids will be sleeping anyway so you may as well be moving. The issues that cause motion sickness are severely lessened at night and pretty well eliminated while sleeping.  Make sure the driver is well rested and switch drivers throughout the night to stay safe.

Ok, pack the car and the kiddos and head out for some fun!

 

Quick Tip: Use Washi Tape to Quickly Identify Passports

Use Washi Tape To Quickly Identify Passports

When we travel my husband usually carries all of our passports. However, when we go through checkpoints everyone needs to have his or her own passport and ticket.  Since all of our passports look exactly the same from the outside I used washi tape to differentiate them to make passing them out a little easier. I left my husband’s blank, I taped mine near the top and my daughter’s near the bottom.  We happened to have different patterns of tape but if you don’t just vary the position and it will work just as well.  I wish you happy travels and fast-moving customs lines!

Why I Fly Carry-On Only and You Should Too

Why I Fly Carry-On Only And You Should Too

There are lots of theories on packing for a trip, this is mine.

Plan very carefully, pack only what you need and then you can fly with just a carry-on anywhere you go.  When you fly carry-on only you get to skip the ticket counter and the quibbles and problems of other people trying to check items in line ahead of you, you get to skip the baggage fees, you get to skip baggage claim, the airline can’t lose your luggage and once you reach your destination you move with ease through transit. All of this leaves you with more money, more time, more flexibility and less stress. Yay!

London Underground

Despite every single person I know telling me I was crazy, last October my family of 3 traveled for 11 days in Europe with just 3 carry-on sized backpacks. This made our lives so much easier. We had no trouble getting our luggage in our tiny rental car while we had it, we had lots of floor/table space in our friend’s home and hotel rooms, we moved with ease through Tube, train and Metro stations not to mention the streets of London and Paris. The friend who took us to the airport even commented, “It looks like I’m taking 3 kids to school not a family to the airport for a European vacation.”

How did we do it?

  1. We used 2 carry-on size convertible backpacks and 1 smaller one for our daughter.  We also rolled our clothes and used packing cubes. 
  2. We packed small toiletries and shared the space in our 3 allowed (1 per person) 3-1-1 bags.
  3. We used technology to our advantage with phones, iPods and eReaders serving as our entertainment.An eReader is your friend
  4. We made sure everything we brought could be used at least 2 ways.
  5. Each person packed a limited amount of color coordinated clothes;
    • 4 long sleeve shirts
    • 3 short sleeve shirts
    • 2 sweaters or hoodies
    • 3 pairs of pants
    • 2 pairs of shoes
    • 1 semi-formal outfit for the wedding (did I mention we attended a wedding too?)
    • 1 warm jacket
    • 5 pairs of socks
    • 5 sets of undergarments
    • No more than 3 accessories (my daughter and I took scarves and my husband chose not to take anything).
    • 1 pair of small gloves
    • 1 warm hat
    • 1 small umbrella (we were headed to England after all)

Some simple math would indicate that we didn’t have 11 of anything. My friends, laundry is YOUR friend on a trip like this.  We stayed with a friend the first 2 nights and made use of her washer before we left her home. From there on out, we did laundry as needed at the hotel either in machines or in our room.  I do a lot of hand-wash laundry at home managing my daughter’s dance clothes so it took no time at all. (To be perfectly honest, we pack this same way regardless of where we are flying not just on international trips.)

If you end up doing laundry in your room, I have two suggestions;
  • Do it as soon as you arrive, it will have a much longer time to dry,
  • Consider bringing a clothesline to string in the shower, though the lovely European heated towel racks will do in a pinch and are actually much faster what with being heated and all.  As a rule hotels don’t love you doing your laundry in the room because they worry you will string it up everywhere or leave it draped over all of the furniture and ruin the finishes.  If you keep it in the bathroom, especially in the shower, you will have no problems at all.

Trust me on this, 20 minutes of managing your laundry will certainly be worth the aggravation and space you save.

When picking out clothes, choose 1 color palette so all of your clothes will go together.  Be sure to bring pieces that layer well so that you will be warm enough if it gets colder than you are expecting. We only had one day that was really cold, of course it was the day we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and later experience the tail of a hurricane sliding through Europe.   Nevertheless we had fun and got some great pictures.

Eiffel Tower - 22 October 2014

Happy Travels!

*Note: I have no affiliation with eBags, I just happen to like their stuff and have had good luck with everything have I purchased thus far.

I’m stuck in an airport with a child, now what?

Child at Airport

So, you’ve booked your flight, packed your bags, packed your child’s bag, got your tickets and you are that the airport ready to go!  Then you hear it, the announcement that your flight is delayed an hour or two or worse.  Now what?!?

I’ve been there my friends, usually in a connection city and frequently when flying on an airline with a hub in Detroit.  Once we were even in Detroit…5 hour delay. They’re not a bad airline just one I personally have had terrible luck with.

First things first, if your flight is cancelled, find a new one.  If your flight is delayed to the point that you will miss a connections, talk to the counter agent and get a new connecting flight.  If you will be stuck in the next city overnight, get a hotel room now, not when you get there.

Flight delays happen, heck 8 hour planned international layovers in Toronto happen.  You can either roll with them or let them make you crazy.  I suggest you roll with them, no need to see the inside of airport jail.

Suggestions for your new found time:

  • Race your kids up and down the terminal or at least take a walk to “explore”.  Do this at least once, you will be glad for the energy they burn off.  When others look at you strangely, ask if they want energic or calm children to share the plane with them.  They’ll acquiesce quickly.
  • Let the kids make silly faces or play silly games, if you can keep them relatively quiet, you’ll get grins from your fellow travelers
  • Watch the planes. Unless it is a massive weather shut down, other plans will be flying and kids love to watch them!  Try to guess where those planes are going, make up wild stories.  Heck if you know more about areonautics than I do, explain how planes fly or just ask your smart phone.
  • See if you can spy the buildings in the downtown area of the city – even if you can’t see them, get the kids too look, it is good for at least 3 minutes.
  • Look around and learn about the city you are in.  There are frequently art installations in airports that tell about the history of the city or special events that are going on.  In Charlotte, my beloved Charlotte airport, there are rocking chairs to sit in and relax.  Ask around and find out why.
  • Play “I Spy”(our family rule is you can’t spy people, I feel the staring and pointing that will ensue is rude).
  • Let them watch a movie if it is a fairly long delay or layover but try to do so with your device plugged in, you’re going to need that battery life.
  • Color pictures, play tic tac toe, or play some other game on paper – be creative, make stuff up.
  • Go get water, 20 minutes later go get snacks, 20 minutes later go to the bathroom – use the facilities and then make silly faces in the mirror.  Most other travelers will simply smile at you and your cute kiddos.
  • Get a meal if you have time, hungry parents and/or kiddos stuck in airports spell disaster

The important thing is to try to make the best of it.  My daughter still talks about the 5 hours in Detroit when we giggled and played our way through the airport, stopping for a smoothie and later a snack on the way to my parents’ house one summer.

I’m your mother, not your valet

I'm Your Mother, Not Your ValetMy child hears this one a lot.  I believe in teaching her to do for herself; as much as possible and as soon as she is able.  I’m not lazy, I’m trying to teach self-reliance, life skills and a good work ethic. This is especially important when we travel.  There are so many things to learn and when we are traveling or getting ready for a trip it all seems FUN!

When my daughter was teeny tiny, we did everything for her of course.  However, since she was about 4, she has been responsible for carrying her own carry-on or managing her own bag in the back seat on a road trip. She could bring whatever toys or games she wanted but it had to fit in the little rolling backpack we got her.  Her clothes fit in a carry-on suitcase with mine and her father and I managed those. As she has gotten older, she has gotten incrementally more responsibility. Just this last fall when she was 9, she packed her own convertible backpack and small purse/entertainment bag and jetted off to Europe with us for a wedding.  Since we all had backpacks and flew carry-on only to Europe for 11 days, we were all REALLY careful about what we brought knowing it would be on our backs through airports and train stations aplenty. I was so impressed by her ability to cull her choices to those she knew she would need and those that she would use often enough to justify carrying.  She was even very careful about her purchases knowing she had to carry them.  She came home with postcards, pictures, a couple of books, bookmarks and candy.  She’s 9, of course there was candy.  She saved her money all year and we converted it to pounds and euros.  She got to spend it on whatever she wanted but if she ran out, that was it. Thus continuing our lessons on budgeting.  She was really careful with her money and even had some left when we came home so she could show her class what it looked like during her presentation.  She made a scrapbook full of the pictures, postcards and her travel journal entries. (Whereas my scrapbook is still in pieces in a bag waiting for this weekend’s crop!)

Since she started reading, my child has been responsible for getting us to our gates for our flights and helping us find exits on road trips. Have we ended up heading down terminals we didn’t need to be in? Sure, but that little girl can now navigate an airport with the best of them, even in French if she has to.  With family all over the country, she will be allowed to fly on her own at some point and I will know she has the skills she needs to get from point A to point B managing her paperwork, money, etc. as she goes.

LondonHeathrowAirport

All this planning and self-reliance has earned her the ability to help plan our trips.  When we went to Florida a couple of years ago, we met Winter the dolphin for Dolphin Tale at her request. When we went to Europe this last fall, she got to choose museums and other locations to visit.

Our adventures encompass everything from science, math and literature to architecture, history and art of all kinds.  There is no major structure, just listening and talking. I always do some research before we go, usually with my child, and for everything else there is Google.

So please, give yourself a break, don’t be your child’s valet at home or on vacation.  Have your kids pack and carry their own bags, manage their own money, lead the charge through airports, do their own laundry, keep their stuff organized. Teach them the difference between credit cards and debit cards, what it takes to earn money, and to manage every day expenses.  Teach them to deal with disappointment when things don’t go their way. Teach them to travel and to see the great big world around us, to enjoy what others have created, to celebrate differences and understand that this place would be really, really boring if everyone was the same. Encourage them collect states and countries along with you. The memories and the stories will last a lifetime.

This is all very easy for me to say, it is how I was raised so I don’t know any differently. My parents made sure we had all the necessary life skills to survive in the world.  They also made sure we saw as much of this great big country as possible and taught us both how to travel and how to it love every minute of it – even if it doesn’t always go as planned.  The missteps and surprises make the best stories anyway.

Airport photo credit:
By Jnpet (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons