Bring This, Not That: Packing for Young Children

December 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Many new parents are often tempted to pack almost the entire bedroom when planning to travel with their kids. They want to make sure they’re prepared for every contingency, every situation.

Don’t let this happen to you.

Your kids just don’t need as much stuff as you think they do to survive a flight — you only need the key essentials. There’s often a tendency by new parents to overdo it, because they want to have everything and anything they need.

English: A typical baby's diaper bag, over-sho...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dragging an enormous diaper bag around the airport, in addition to everything else you have, is just going to exhaust you, and you’ll end up not using most of it anyway. Pack what they need: enough diapers, formula or snacks, one change of clothes, and a small blanket. Everything else you need can be checked in your regular baggage.

The other big concern when traveling with small children is keeping them entertained. The very little ones don’t need much at all, maybe a toy and a rattle. Your best hope is that they fall asleep on the flight, so try to arrange your schedule to make that happen.

Toddlers generally need more to keep them occupied, so a tablet can come in handy. If you don’t currently have an iPad, Galaxy, or Kindle Fire, we recommend getting one for traveling with children. You’ll get to enjoy it as well, so it’s a win-win situation.

Load your tablet with your children’s favorite movies, and some new ones, some games and puzzles, and a few of their favorite tunes. With this setup, you could keep your toddler occupied for the entire trip.

If your child has a favorite toy or blanket they’re emotionally attached to, you absolutely must bring it along. Otherwise, the pain of separation will be loud and heart wrenching to you, your child, and everyone seated nearby.

Flying with Your Child

November 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As airlines continue to find new profit streams, more and more fees are being levied on every aspect of air travel, especially as it relates to convenience and comfort. Included in that list of conveniences is automatically receiving adjacent seat assignments when buying more than one ticket.

This can create nightmare scenarios if you’re not prepared. For example, two parents flying with a three year old and seven year old could face the possibility of everybody being seated separately.

On board Flight QF2 from London Heathrow LHR t...

On board Flight QF2 from London Heathrow LHR to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi BKK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s why parents need to plan ahead when buying tickets. The best thing to do when flying with children is buy tickets well in advance, after making sure your chosen airline has a system in place to reserve seats at time of purchase. If you buy far enough ahead, the chance of snagging adjacent seats is high. The chance that doing so will be free is not as high. Many airlines now charge extra for premium seats, including aisle and window seats. Or, you can fly Southwest, which doesn’t have reserved seats, but offers priority seating for travelers with children under four.

But everything doesn’t always go according to plan. Travel is sometimes last minute. And some parents have strict budgets in place. Should you not be able to reserve adjacent seats at the time of purchase, see if you can work with the airline to get seats with your kids. Call after you buy your tickets or arrive early on the day of the flight.

Even after all this effort, you may still find yourself on a flight with your kids in a different aisle. Many people will take pity on your plight and trade readily to keep your family together. But don’t assume the stranger sitting next to your kids is in the mood to trade seats, especially if he or she paid a premium to sit in the spot. Be prepared for a round of airplane “Let’s Make a Deal.”

Put your game face on and find someone else to trade with you. Or go prepared with a treat bag or gift cards to bribe the other person. Even if the person traded without blinking an eye, giving them a hearty thank you and a Starbucks gift card can make them feel better about helping you out.

How do you travel with your children? Have you ever been in this situation? What did you do to solve the problem? Leave us a comment here on our blog or on our Facebook page.

Bring This, Not That: DVD Player Vs. Tablet

June 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Ask any parent, and they’ll tell you the biggest problem when planning a long road trip isn’t figuring out the driving directions. It’s how to keep the kids entertained. The younger the kids, the more difficult the task.

Teenagers can keep themselves entertained as long as they can text and listen to music. But how do you keep a trio of 8-year-olds entertained?

Portable DVD players have been the go-to solution for years. All you needed was either a DVD player hardwired into your car. Or you had to bring batteries, headphones, and DVDs, and your kids were entertained for hours. They became so popular as an after market product that many vehicle manufacturers included them as upgrades to their cars. That definitely eliminated the battery problem.

However, as technology has advanced, the portable DVD player has become less and less useful.

student_ipad_school - 234

student_ipad_school – 234 (Photo credit: flickingerbrad)

Tablet computers have become the new default entertainment system, although they don’t have DVD slots.

Whereas portable DVD players are not as portable as you might like, tablets can often weigh as little as a pound. They also have easily rechargeable batteries. Instead of grabbing your giant bag o’ batteries every three hours, you just plug in your tablet to a regular electrical outlet or car charger when it needs a boost.

You can also legally download movies or “rip” DVDs to save to your tablet, which means you won’t forget to pack your kids’ favorite movies.

All tablets can connect to wifi, which means they work at hotels, restaurants, and with a personal wifi hotspot. And many have their own data connection, which is great when you’re on the highway. Add a streaming video service like Netflix and Hulu+, and hundreds of movies are available at the touch of a finger.

Bottom Line: Tablet

If you already own a portable DVD player, by all means, keep using it. But if you’re trying to decide which child-entertaining portable device you need for your next car trip, we definitely recommend the tablet. Whether it’s an iPad, Galaxy Tab, or even the Kindle Fire, you can do so much more with it than just watch DVDs.

Our advice? Buy yourself the tablet and let your kids use it only when they need to be entertained. Otherwise, make it your own personal viewing device for when you get bored.

Super Savvy Summer Travel Tips

June 5, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Warmer weather and longer days can only mean one thing: summertime is finally here!

While every family spends their summer days differently, one common thread is travel. Because the kids are out of school, the months of June and July are ripe for family vacations.

English: family vacation summer 2007

Family vacation summer 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In order to get the most out of your next summer vacation, you need to thoroughly prepare beforehand so you know how to react no matter what life throws your way. To help you plan, here’s a short list of things to consider to make your next vacation go smoothly.

  • Scan and move any important travel documents to the cloud, including passports, travel insurance, medical records and anything else that can be needed in emergency situations. Storing these documents in a Google Drive, for example, will provide safekeeping and easy access. You can also use Dropbox or Evernote. You can also share these documents with family members and friends.
  • Pack a first aid kit. You never know when an injury may occur, so keep pain relievers, bandages, sunscreen, and any medications (inhalers, etc) in a water-resistant, cool environment. If traveling by car, keep a kit in the vehicle. If you’re hiking or enjoying the beach, keep the kit in a backpack or in another convenient place.
  • Plan for the worst-case scenario. Make sure everyone knows what to do in case someone in your family is separated from the group. For young children, it is generally advised that they stay in the same place and wait for a parent to come back and find them. For older children and teens, choose a location to meet in case of any separation or threat.
  • If traveling by car, be prepared for any mechanical failures. Bring jumper cables, a spare tire, tire iron, flashlight and safety flares in case your vehicle breaks down. It’s also a good idea to keep a bottle of water and a blanket in your vehicle in case you are stuck for long periods of time without help.
  • For small children, bring snacks, toys or books to keep them entertained on long drives or flights.

We could go on and on and on with all the different tips and ideas for family summer travel, but experience is the best teacher. Enjoy your summer and travel safe!

Another Airline Rolls Out a ‘No-Kids’ Zone

December 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

You’ve had a long, busy trip and are planning to keep sleeping until you land in your home airport. You’ve just boarded your flight, have stowed your bags, buckled your seatbelt and have just begun to nod off when you’re jolted awake by a blood-curdling scream from two rows back. Ah yes, the infamous in-flight screaming baby.

Whether you’re a parent trying to calm down your child or a fellow passenger trying to tune out the noise, dealing with a screaming child in-flight can be a stressful experience. With this in mind, some airlines in Asia have begun offering “no-kid zones.” This past summer, the budget airline Scoot (a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines) began offering a new seating zone on their airplanes – the appropriately named ScootinSilence.

A Malaysia-Singapore Airlines Boeing 707 at Zu...

A Malaysia-Singapore Airlines Boeing 707 at Zurich 1972. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The ScootinSilence section, which is only open to passengers over the age of 12, is positioned directly behind business class and occupies four rows. The 41 seat section costs an additional $15 per ticket, but for those looking to spend their flight napping, the investment may be worth it. When asked about this decision in a recent interview with The Australian, Scoot’s CEO Campbell Wilson said, “No offence to our young guests or those travelling with them — you still have the rest of the aircraft.”

Scoot isn’t the first airline to put restrictions on their younger passengers. If you’re a parent looking to fly first class on Malaysia Airlines with your young ones, you’re out of luck. Recently, the airline opted to ban children under the age 12 from sitting in the first class upper deck of some of their flights. When asked about the decision, the Malaysia Airlines stated they made the move after receiving too many noise complaints from first class passengers. As an alternative, the airline offers a 350-seat “family friendly” economy zone on the lower deck with facilities to suit families. These include eight toilets and its own entrance, separate to the one used by first class passengers.

We’d love to hear your feedback. Do you think this is a good idea? Parents, would you prefer to be seated in a “kid friendly” section, or do you think this type of seating arrangement is unfair? Share with us in the comments section below or post your thoughts to our Facebook page.

Have a Little Time on Your Hands? Travel by Train

August 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

When it comes to your travel “bucket list,” there’s one thing that everyone should try at least once in their lifetime: travel by train.

There’s a common misconception that train travel is boring and downright “old-fashioned” — after all, many people would argue that airplanes were invented for the sole purpose of replacing travel by train. The truth is, train travel is making a comeback, and if you haven’t done so yet, we encourage you to jump on the bandwagon railroad car at least once.

Here are eight great reasons why you should take a trip by train:

1. You can stop and smell the roses

English: The (arguably?) most breath-taking tr...

English: The (arguably?) most breath-taking train travel in the world. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While some people simply adore air travel, others find it extremely stressful. The long lines, massive crowds, the “race-against-the-clock” atmosphere or the threat of being trapped in the airport on a long flight delay can be downright anxiety-inducing for some. A relaxing train ride is not only a great option for those that dislike air travel, it’s also a great way to simply relax and enjoy the journey.

2. It’s easier (and more comfortable!) than driving

Train travel has all of the benefits that the good old American road trip does, and then some. Unlike driving, however, you don’t have to stare at mile after mile of boring highway. You can actually get up and walk around. Oh, and if your family starts bickering? You can go hide in another car.

3. It’s a great way to see the country

Sure, air travel will get you to your destination faster, but why not enjoy the view for once? Whether you’re traveling from coast to coast or just a few states away, the beautiful and unique sights you’ll see from a train window will give you a whole new appreciation for this country.

4. You can make stops

Unless you’re planning on parachuting, air travel has one major disadvantage: you can’t make pitstops along the way. Going from New York to Miami? Why not stop in Washington DC, the beaches of North Carolina, or Savannah, Georgia along the way for a little sightseeing?

5. You can increase your travel cred

Sure, you may not be getting off the train in each state, but if you’re traveling by train, you can definitely add those states to the laundry list of states you’ve visited. You’re hereby granted permission.

6. It’s great for families

Travel by train is thrilling for kids of all ages. Not only will your little ones adore the experience, but it’s also a great way to squeeze some learning into your vacation. If you’ve got a child who loves Thomas the Tank Engine, they’ll get a thrill out of a train trip!

7. It’s a great way to meet people

Train travel is a great option for solo travelers, especially when in other countries. Need proof? Watch Before Sunrise… and then go book your train ticket.

8. Upgrades are affordable

For the average traveler, airline upgrades are simply impossible to afford. When planning a trip by train, you’ll be pleased to discover that first class upgrades are actually quite affordable. You can spring for that private sleeping cabin, and it won’t break the bank.

These are just a few of the many reasons why we suggest everyone take a trip by train at least once in their lifetime. Whether you’re traveling within the US or planning the trip-of-a-lifetime abroad, you’ll likely find that train travel isn’t just relaxing, it’s also quite memorable.

Luxury Travel Is Making a Comeback

April 18, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Say farewell to the “Staycation” – for many travelers, budget-friendly tours of one’s own city have become a thing of the past. Not only has travel increased overall, but consumers are actually investing in luxury travel again, thanks to income levels returning to pre-recession levels.

Just how much is luxury travel increasing? According to an article in The (London) Guardian), the sales of luxury experiences grew 50% faster than the demand for physical goods. This change can be partially attributed to demographics – namely, the fact that the consumers who drove the luxury boom in the 1990s are now beginning to retire. Instead of acquiring material goods, affluent Baby Boomers are more interested in investing in life experiences.

Maharajas' Express Luxury Train (India)

Maharajas’ Express Luxury Train (India) (Photo credit: Train Chartering & Private Rail Cars)

Demographics aside, many travel experts have noticed an overall increase in consumer confidence, meaning that travelers feel comfortable investing in high ticket, once-in-a-lifetime trips. In a recent Travel Weekly article, Dan Mahar, CEO of Tauck, a luxury travel operator in Connecticut, said “In the post-meltdown era, there’s been a resetting of priorities.

In other words, consumers, particularly the affluent, are focusing more than ever before on making memories and spending time with friends and family.

According to the Travel Weekly article, this year’s luxury travel hotspots are all over the map, including exotic eastern locales such as Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. Once overlooked Eastern European hidden gems such as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are also becoming quite popular, as are exotic once-in-a-lifetime experiential trips such as safari trips to Botswana.

Another surprising trend is a large increase in consumers booking trips on luxury cruise lines. When it comes to visiting exotic locales via the high seas, travelers are willing to overlook the cruise industry’s recent woes. In fact, many travelers are booking cruises that run upwards of one month. Such cruises visit multiple exotic destinations on all seven continents, making them an appealing option for those that want to get a bit of variety during their trip.

9 Must-Haves for Traveling With Kids

March 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re a parent, you’ve no doubt read your share of articles on travel with kids. Regardless of the duration of your trip – whether its an hour drive or a half a day of air travel – we’ve got some suggestions on what to bring with you so you don’t find yourself wishing you’d never left home in the first place.

We saw a recent post by Kristy Carlson on that reminded us of what it was like when we were traveling with kids ourselves. Here are some of her recommendations, plus a few of our own.

1. Your tablet. If you have a Kindle Fire, iPad, or any other tablet device, this is a surefire way to quiet your kids. Tablets allow for movie watching, reading books, and playing games. Of course you don’t want your child to become addicted to electronics, but if you have a long flight ahead of you, your tablet device is a must-have.

2. Battery backups, chargers, and adapters. We can’t suggest that you bring your electronics without also suggesting that you’ve got an extra battery, charger, and an adapter. After all, what good does your mobile device do with a dead battery? At the very least, bring an extra charger cord.

3. A travel French Press. One of our favorite Kristy recommendations. If you need your morning cup of joe in order to function like a normal human being, consider bringing a French Press with you on trips when you’re not sure if coffee will be readily available.

4. A travel hand coffee grinder. If you’re the type who silently nodded your head when you read our previous recommendation of a travel French Press, consider getting a hand-powered coffee grinder. Bring your favorite beans as well.

5. Self-locking bags. A good, sturdy self-locking bag, like a Ziploc, can store snacks, toiletries, toys, and practically anything else you can think of. You can never have enough. Oh and there’s one more thing you can store in a self-locking bag that we think any parent can’t live without:

6. Huggies Wipes. For many parents, these are a life saver. Huggies Wipes aren’t just for babies’ bottoms. Did your child spill ketchup on their favorite shirt? Use a wipe to clean it up before it becomes a stain. After washing the shirt, you’ll forget the spill even happened in the first place. We’ve known people who continued to carry these long after their kids needed them.

7. Travel diaper bags. If you thought it was hard to change a stinky diaper while on a trip, it’s sometimes even more difficult to get rid of the offending diaper after it’s been changed. A travel diaper bag is something no parent should leave home without.

8. Hand sanitizer. After you’ve changed your kid’s smelly diaper, and before you have lunch or a snack, use hand sanitizer to get rid of any germs the diaper wipe may have left behind.

9. A carry-on just for kids. If your child is old enough, it will be beneficial for overall family packing capacity to provide them with their own piece of carry-on luggage. This will count as your child’s carry-on, rather than you sticking all their stuff in yours.

The Blurring of Business and Leisure Travel

March 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re like many business travelers in recent years, you may have found yourself visiting the same city for a conference every year without spending any time outside of the conference circuit. However, the blurring of lines between business and leisure travel is becoming more common, as business travelers are finding ways to optimize their travel time and experiences.

With the arrival of online travel companies more than a decade ago, and mobile technology enabling even wider access to great travel deals, it is becoming more common for business travelers to take an extra day on one end or the other of a business trip to see some tourist attractions, try a few local restaurants, or visit a museum.

If you can take advantage of a day or more of leisure travel time while on a business trip, why not try it? For example, you could invite your spouse or significant other to join you on your trip, since you may be more likely to try a new restaurant or activity if you’re with a companion. Combining a business trip with a vacation (even a short vacation) makes sense in a lot of ways.

From a travel standpoint, it may be better for you to kill two birds with one stone. Why book multiple flights and hotels when you can cut costs and simplify your travel experience by adding on some leisure time before or after a business trip? This makes sense from a financial standpoint too — it’s less expensive to take a vacation since your company will cover at least some of the cost of the trip, even if it’s just getting you out there and back home.

And while it’s true that modern day business travelers are adding leisure time on to business trips, the reverse is also true – people are more and more frequently fitting work time into vacations. Often, travelers are deciding to schedule an afternoon of networking meetings into a vacation. That way, depending on a company’s travel and expense policy, some part of the trip can be expensed (or if self-employed, deducted on their taxes), and employees can feel like they aren’t abandoning their jobs.

Although there is a movement in favor of “unplugging” during vacations, the benefits to combining leisure and business travel can’t be ignored. After all, if you’re spending time traveling for any reason, you may as well get the most value possible out of your — and your company’s — time and money.

Family-Friendly Travel Gadgets

November 13, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

We’ve talked about traveling with little kids before, and Fodor’s recently came out with an article about the best gadgets for kids on the go. These are great for keeping your little ones distracted on a long flight or car trip. Here are a few of our favorites:

Crayola MyPhones

These kid-friendly headphones serve a dual purpose: First, they’re customizable with special markers, stickers and paper inserts. Second, when they’re done decorating, they can listen to their tunes on the headphones they created — comfortably, and at a safe volume.

Kurio Kids Tablet

It’s kid-friendly, but it’s a real Android tablet with games, e-books, Internet capability and more! You can create eight different profiles for the whole family to use this gadget, and with parental controls on app downloads and more, you can let your kids of all ages surf independently and maintain your peace of mind.

Kids Cooler Backpack

Give your children a little independence with a backpack they can carry themselves, with compartments for everything they could need during your journey. The best part: The front pocket is insulated and protects snack foods from getting crushed among the other items you’ve packed.

4moms Breeze Playard

Many pack-and-plays for babies don’t live up to their name…the packing is simple enough, but when it’s time to play, you’ve got a real challenge on your hands. The Breeze is a portable crib with a removable bassinet, changing pad and travel case — all in one easy-to-open package.

Our Two Cents

On the practical end of things, one of the best gadgets you can get for your kids doesn’t involve keeping them entertained; it’s more about keeping them comfortable.

We can think of two special tools for keeping kids comfy and feeling great during your travels, especially if they’re new to long trips.

The first is EarPlanes, which are ear plugs that control pressure in your ears during takeoff and landing. They make special sizes just for kids! The second is Austin House’s Motion-Less wristband, which helps control motion sickness during long car rides, cruises or flights.

Traveling with kids can be tricky, and it requires a lot of extra preparation, but making memories with your family when your kids are still young can be well worth it.

If you’re a frequent family traveler, what toys, games, tools and tips do you have for folks who are new to traveling with young kids? Share them in the comments.

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