Category Archives: Packing

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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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

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 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

Flying With Littles – How a Well Planned Travel Outfit Will Save Your Sanity and Other Tips from the Trenches

The time has come.  Your little is now 2 years old and you are rocking the SAHM gig. You decide you to fly to see your folks instead of braving the 10 hour drive by yourself with a very self-assured child with the patience of … a 2 year old.  You can haul off and hope for the best OR you can learn from my mistakes and experience.  My “little” is now a very accomplished 9 year old traveler with 100s of hours of travel under her belt but this is how we got there in the early years.

The travel outfit for your child (as well as an identical back up outfit or 2) is far more important than you would think.  Remember that children age 2 and older MUST have their own seat on a plane, no more lap babies.  This means they have their own seatbelt.  They’ve never sat in a seat with a belt like that, they’ve always had a 5 point harness.  So when that grown-up seat belt and crazy metal buckle get lodged up under their cute t-shirt and press against their tender tummies, they lose their cool, fast. Ask me how I know.

This is my recommended outfit for Littles:

travel outfitHere is why I recommend this specific outfit.  Even if that mean old belt or buckle gets under the hoodie, it won’t get to skin which has caused more than one child to just lose their mind.  You can take the pants or hoodie off if your little gets too hot.  Generally planes are chilly though and this outfit will keep them warm enough. It is an easy outfit to change diapers in.  If you are unfortunate enough to to have to change a diaper on a plane, either do so in your seat or leave the pants and hoodie on your seat and just take your pouch with diapers, wipes, onesie and diaper disposal bag to bathroom. Most airlines request you don’t leave soiled diapers in airplane bathrooms, some forbid it.  Don’t ask the flight attendants to handle soiled diapers either, the FDA forbids it as they handle food. 

These are the other vitally important things you should take in a small, well organized backpack that will fit under the seat in front of you.  I usually use zipper pouches to contain like items.:

  • Snacks- twice as many as you think you will need for the flight and terminal time.  Hungry child stuck in an airport=bad day for all
  • Sippy cup (you are usually allowed to take one cup of baby formula or milk through security if you are traveling with a very small child).  Some airports are more strict and allow this only if you have an actual baby, not a toddler, with you.  Be flexible here.
  • Entertainment- 3-4 favorite books, 3-4 quiet toys, iPod/iPad or similar stocked with games and/or movies, chargers and an EXTRA POWER supply
  • One comfort item for child (a blanket is best because it helps keep them warm if the plane is especially chilly)
  • Diapers/wipes/onesie/diaper disposal bag/waterproof changing pad in a quick change zipper pouch- twice as many as you think you will need for the flight and time in terminal(s)
  • Extra outfit for child, 2 if you will be traveling for more than 6 hours total
  • Extra shirt and maybe pants for you – kids spill things, on you, at the worse possible time. Yup, I’ve been there too.
  • Pacifiers if you use them – pressure changes can cause major ear pain for little ones and sucking on a pacifier, thumb, bottle or sippy cup helps.  The pressure will be worse if the child has an ear infection.  Three, count ’em, THREE times this happened to us before our little was 5 years old. She has only had 4 in her life.  She didn’t get them on the plane. Each time we left home with the infection and the medicine to fight it. It was uncanny!
  • Your purse/wallet
  • Your phone
  • Your itinerary
  • Your tickets
  • Any medication you or your child need. (You’ve got to declare liquid medication at security. Take it out of the bag and put it in the bin with your shoes and 3-1-1 bag.)

backpack with zipper pouched

One carry on, that’s all, everything else gets checked.  Make sure you adhere to the weight limits for bags set by your airline.  Check your airline website under checked baggage.  You will likely have to pay per checked item so pack those carefully too, roll up space bags are your friend.

Be sure to bring an umbrella stroller and get a gate check tag from the gate agent before your section is called to board. Your fellow travelers will thank you or at least not scowl at you as you rush to get the tag on the stroller while getting your child out and trying to fold it up. You’ll leave the stroller plane side at the end of the jetway and get it back plane side at the next city.

That’s it – a backpack, a stroller and a child.  This will be plenty to juggle.

filled bag

Check the car seat, there are great car seat bags that will protect the seat in transit.  (If you just feel you have to bring the car seat on the plane with you, it MUST go in the window seat unless there are 2 car seats next to each other, it is never allowed in the aisle seat. The flight crew will make no exceptions to this, ever.) Remember if you bring it, you get to install it in your parents’ car … after a flight with a 2 year old.  Sooo, you might ask your parents if they know of someone they can borrow a car seat from and then you can leave yours in your car. Before you leave you will also need to measure your child from the seat to the top of their shoulders so that your parents can set up the shoulder straps properly when they install the seat before you arrive. Otherwise you get to reposition them in the airport parking lot and reinstall the seat, and you know where this is going.

If you forget something you absolutely need, buy it at the airport or find another family to take pity on you.  Do not pack too much for “just in case”, you only have 2 hands and one small backpack.

This is the one instance where I will suggest you check anything; when you are traveling alone with children too young to carry their own things.

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” -Confucius

 

Aiplane at Sunset Photo Credit: By Cubbie_n_Vegas from Las Vegas, USA [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Text added by DreamDepartExplore