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Travelin' with Tots

A trip to paradise for most people rarely conjures what most parents face as the realities of traveling with a toddler and an infant. But due to my brother's wedding, we found ourselves taking the leap with our two sons Dash (age 3) and Juna (age 3 months) to fly to Hawaii. After much consultation with fellow parents and the internet we settled on two groundrules. Pack light. Be flexible.

Pack Light:
We found a discount on a time share in a family-oriented condo on ebay because a family just like ours couldn't face the "getting there.." a 16 hour itinerary from the east coast. It made our 6 hour flight seem like a piece of cake! Despite everyone's warnings about packing light--which we thought we'd heeded--we still found ourselves saddled. The bags packed, included our one shared bag that contained t-shirts and swimming suits plus wedding outfits. Then there was the 48 lb food bag--upon everyone's advise about the cost of food in HI was to bring a host of dry goods to last 2 weeks. Had we surpassed the 50 lb limit our "savings" would have been lost in the extra fees to lug such a big bag!

Then there was the "magic" bag filled with plane surprises for our 3 yr old we hoped would be enough to keep him from kicking the seats of the unsuspecting passengers near us or going awol at the flight attendants snack area; the "Baby Bear" flight harness, sling, and two car seats--enough "tie 'em down" equipment for any self respecting parent to use in the name of safety or tantrum control; snacks; mini DVD player (yes we saccumbed to borrowing one!); a hopeful adult book; and diaper bag and whew this was supposed to be a vacation?

Boatbrothers Be flexible:
Letting our 3 yr old stay up until he passed out on the couch in order to insure a good nap on the plane the next day. Turns out he was just tired and wired the whole trip and the day lasted longer because it's 3 hours earlier when we arrive. Both boys woke us up at their usual time (7:30 mainland time) which just happened to be 4:30 am Hawaii time.

As we arrived at the airport I saw another couple we knew also braving the same flight. Mom looked like she'd just been through a sleepless night in hell -- and dad quickly came over and whispered his one feverish wish--to have a single moment alone with his wife...now that would be paradise.

Lost in translation: If you shop at New Seasons then Hawaii prices won't scare you. Don't bother bringing food. Shop at the local farmers market where you can get 7 papayas for a $1 or pick up mangoes and avacados for free outside your condo. And strangely (and so politically incorrect!), Costco and Walmart are the easiest places to get basic dry goods for cheap.


What are your favorite travel tips for parents?

The Henderson Family


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Ahhh...this post makes me want to go back to hawaii!

My best tip is to spring for the direct flight if possible even if it costs more. It's so worth it with toddlers to not have to change planes. Not everyone is from portland, but if you are, you can get to multiple islands in Hawaii direct. Also, make friends with whoever is sitting in front of your toddler and around you while boarding. On the way there everyone seemed in a great mood (I wonder why) so that helped. I found that chatting up the ladies in front of him proved useful when an hour later he wouldn't stop kicking the seatback!! I did wish for a portable DVD player at one point, so would totally try to borrow one next time we go.

I second the Costco recommendation. We were told this before our trip to Maui and stopped right out of the airport. We had enough food/snacks/drinks for our whole trip. We ended up leaving some of the beer/soda for the people at our hotel though. I don't think regular food is as expensive as people say it is. If you eat at the hotels/resorts it's outrageous, but if you go to town it's not that much worse than here.

Next tip: Stay somewhere with a great family friendly pool. That was our best decision because it ensured our son was way tired out at the end of each day and slept like a rock, and also we never felt like his rambunctious behavior was bothering anyone. Definitely don't do the couples resort. We toured a hotel that we drove by which looked great for honeymooners, but was so quiet poolside that kids would have felt strange. We also had my parents come on the trip and meet us over there (adjoining room...highly recommended) and this meant a few stolen moments with my husband ALONE. It was really nice to have an extra set of hands, so I highly recommend this!

Traveling with children can be wonderful. It's so important to expose them to far-off places and different cultures so they will appreciate what they have. Most concerns about travel with children ("they'll be holy terrors on the plane", or "the jet lag is awful", etc.) is unfounded. I'm a firm believer that the children pick up on the cues and stress we give off as adults in their lives. I see it in the office every day when parents are in the room as the children get uncomfortable procedures.... If you travel well, and handle things in a flexible way, your children will do likewise; usually. As a mattter of fact, that might be one of the most important things children can learn from travelling.

The concept of bringing along all sorts of paraphernalia to entertain children while traveling brings up images of "toy pollution" and I would like to caution folks against "attention excess disorder". If the children are entertained constantly, they will not learn to entertain themselves. Remember paper airplanes? origami? tic-tac-toe? Don't get me wrong: I think there's a place for books and toys, but some folks go a bit overboard. Not OK (especially on a cruise ship).

We travel quite a bit with our kids (5 and 18 months)- Mexico, Washington DC, Central America, Seattle, camping, Florida and the Midwest. I have found several things to be helpful. The bag of new or not recently used books and toys is great for the plane. I have been known to walk off a plane covered in stickers, looking like a fool but with a happy child. The only time I like to use the mess free paint and markers by crayola is on a plane - it can keep a child busy and happy and you don't need to worry about a huge mess. Since they are only used during travel they are seen as special by the kids.

We also pack some things for the layover such as a beach ball. We have been known to be stuck in an extended layover and have found an empty terminal that has become a soccer field.

I also believe in special snacks. My kids never get individual fruit cups or applesauce except for when we are traveling (or if we have some left from a trip). They are special and I don't feel horrible about them. Also the freeze dried fruits and veggies (I personally can't stand the texture) are hits with the kids. I think the strawberries kept my then three year old happy for over an hour in the car. They are spendy but a good for you treat. Trader Joes carries some now at a better price.

We always look for accomodations with a fridge, at least a microwave and prefer a washer and drier for longer trips. We have been on trips without a fridge or microwave and for even a few nights it is hard. On a recent trip to Seattle we had a fridge and no microwave - it would have been nice to reheat their leftover lunch for them to have for dinner. Eating every meal out is way to hard and ruins the trip for me.

If at all possible have a seperate area for the adults to hang after the kids are in bed. Even an hour of alone time at the end of the day or during a nap can be refreshing.

We also try to maintain the kids' schedule as much as possible before, during and after the trip. Well rested children just have more fun. If they get to bed on time the night before they are also more likely to enjoy endless story time on the plane or do an art project. On the trip we try to schedule down time to let them rest up. We also try to maintain their bedtime. It is not always easy but if you can do it it will pay off.

We are headed to Hawaii in November and looked at a lot of accomodation options. In the end we are going with a two bedroom cottage in someone's backyard. It gives us space, a way to cook and a yard to run around it. In the future we figure we can go to a place with a view but for now other things (our sanity) come first.

Thanks for the great pointers!! We are going to Hawaii in April with my family and I am a little nervous about the trip. I decided to get my daughter who will be 18 months her own seat so I have a little peace on the flight and I have been trying to find her a special backpack that I can pack with a ton of fun stuff for the trip. Since my neices will be there I will have extra hands available at all times, but it is nice to know the food prices are comprable to New Seasons. Thanks again!

Getting your child under two there own seat is the other big advice I give. Make sure to sign them up for their own frequent flyer number. The miles can add up quickly. Alaska Air offers special deals for kids under 12. When we went to Mexico our daughter's ticket was half price. I was told by a friend that they will do that to other destinations at times if you ask. We also have a credit card with them and use the buy one get one for $50 coupon. It saves a lot on trips to Mexico - three years ago we had three seats to Cancun for around $600 total. Everyone also got miles which we use a lot to travel.

Take an early morning flight! I took my infant and 2 1/2 yr old on a 6:30.a.m. flight recently and they did beautifully, I think, mainly because of the time. They were well-rested from the night before and excited about the new surroundings of the plane. Any flight over 2 hours DEMANDS a portable DVD player--my preschooler could not nap on the plane and there's no way I could have entertained him for that long.

We have traveled lots and lots; we are a bi-coastal family and an international component. Being flexible is the most important part of the travel. I remember Philly was just starting to potty-train when we had a trip to back to New York from Atlanta. She had an accident before we even got to security check-in. Ugh....

Leads to my next big tip: be as prepared as possible. It's a pain, but I bring an extra change of clothes on every trip. You never know. Tati has had poopy accidents on trips and I'm just so glad we had extra pants/underpants. Then, again, if we didn't have extra clothes, we'd just have to employ tactic #1 - be flexible. We would've gone without underpants or just bought something to hold us over or done whatever we needed to keep her comfy.

In a perfect world, we'd have a direct flight everywhere, but we often have layovers, which could lead to delays. So, tactic #1 - be flexible. Let them run in the airport during layovers, understand it's no fun to have to stay put for hours on end, have a little sweet treat or something, bring out special toys. We have been stuck at Cincinnati once for 8 hours during some winter travel. I think we went to the Golden Arches twice for ice cream cones. You know - do what you have to do!

I also like trying to stay in a place that allows us to cook a little. At the very least, I make them some instant oatmeal making hot water in hotel coffee pots and I try to keep fresh fruit and milk available in the fridge. When we're in a place without a fridge, I have done my best to keep milk cold by filling a waste basket with ice or by sticking the milk on a winter window-sill in Philadelphia in the middle of winter. Peanut butter is also a great way of getting nutrition while on the road. I bring little packets of peanut butter even for myself when I travel for work.

We do the DVD thing, too, and we usually pull that out when they've colored and read as much as possible.

Here is a nifty restraint for lap infants. I wish I had known about this last week since we are out flying tomorrow!


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