Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Adventure at the Park

It's Tuesday and I got travel on my mind with my tot... travel to far away places where it feels like fall. But reality sinks in when I consider that in the next three months we already have major travel and events planned: My brother's wedding in early Nov, my godparent's 50th wedding anniversary in Monterry, MX; two friends' weddings; three birthdays; a few bridal and baby showers. That's not even considering the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday travel! So how can we fulfill our travel urge without further stressing our already packed calendar, or wallets?

How about the park? Yes the PARK. Any park you and your kids like as long as it's an actual park and not just a playground Look for picnic tables, trees, and an open area to run and play. Here are some tips to make your everyday trip to the park feel like you're on holiday.

  • Make sure to pack the essentials: change of clothing for all kids (and maybe for the adults also), sunblock, bug spray, first aid kit, camera, snacks, and plenty of water. Music is also nice so bring a radio, iPod, etc. if you can.
  • Prepare your age appropriate activities: scavenger hunts, nature walks, bike ridding, races, crafts, Frisbees, catch or football, etc. Some great memories of travel as kids for my brother and I include visits to parks where we met up with family for food, fun, games, and community. Try to make it a daylong affair (at least 5 hours) or if you have small children half day (3 or 4 hours max)
  • Plan a picnic or cook-out. Yes you can run to a fast food place and pick-up something but that is much more ordinary than "special" food packed in a basket or waiting for the burgers and hotdogs to be done while mom or dad stand at the grill.
  • If you have a small or medium tent bring one with you and set it up. It works great for young kids as a place to nap or older kids as a fort. It can be a changing room, a shelter from sun or unexpected rain, etc.

The key to a great day is to approach it as an adventure. From collecting rocks, leaves, and insects; to playing tag- your day at the park with the kids can be as much fun as any other trip sans the airfare, bags, and hotel.
Reality: there's nothing like your own bed after a long fun day especially for your tots.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tips to Make Travel with Kids Easier

In my last blog I talked about how children travel through life stages and change us in the process. Vacations and trips also afford us the opportunity for experiences that help shape our character and that of our kids. With the long holiday weekend ahead of us I’d like to offer you our proven tricks to make the process of traveling with kids less stressful and more enjoyable.
  • Pack only enough supplies for your first day of travel. Of course make sure to bring extras in case you encounter delays but either use a service or buy the items when you arrive at your destination so that you don’t have to lug all the diapers, food, formula, bath items etc. You can shop online and ship your package to your travel destination so that your baby supplies are waiting for you when you arrive.
  • Use a CARES harness instead of a car seat on a place. Juggling the luggage, stroller, child, diaper bag, etc. is already hard enough why make it harder with a car seat added to the mix. Yes you want your kids to be safe on the plane but if they are 1 to 4 yrs old (or for special needs kids) you can check your car seat with your luggage and use a CARES harness on the flight. Even better, you can add the GoGo Kids Travelmate to your convertible car seat and use it as a stroller in the airport and then gate check it right before boarding and use the CARES on the plane. It is super easy to use, weighs about 1 lb and keeps your kids safe and secure during flight.
  • Consider renting your major baby items. Whether you’re flying or driving not having to bring the stroller, car seat, crib, playpen, etc. will save lots of room, hassle, and/or extra baggage fees. Most major cities have companies that specialize in baby equipment rentals which are reasonably priced and very clean. In San Antonio, you can visit us at www.mytotstravel.com.
  • Stops are a great tool. If you’re driving with a child or children older than one but younger than four make sure you factor in several stops… about 1 every 2 hours… and that you take into account their routines. Are they most active in the morning or afternoon? Do they like books, music, movies/cartoons? If your child starts to get really fussy it is always best to stop and let them regain their composure out of the seat. Of course if they are napping don’t stop.
  • Use music to set the mood and silence when appropriate. My child LOVES music. Since birth we noticed that she is emotionally engaged and gets energized if the song is upbeat and slows down when the beat is slower. With this in mind I have made compilation CD’s for all our trips (compilations on your iPod will work also). Trying to be prepared I have a “favorites” mix, a “fast & fun” mix, and a “winding down” mix. They are in our changer and we use them as necessary. If she is awake and would normally be running around we play the fast &fun mix and dance and goof-off along with her. To get her to wind down we try her sleep music and obviously when she is acting up or getting cranky we try the favorites since we know these always get her attention. Sometimes we also just turn it off or rely on mom’s bad signing since she likes it so much. Of course if your children are older let them make their own mixes and if they don’t have portable music devices take turns listening to their CDs.
  • Toys and games and props, oh my! For the little ones, bring their comforting friends (stuffed animals, blankies, books, etc.) and for the older ones allow one small bag for their fun (video games, books, etc.). Little ones love new things so you might save one or two small toys for the trip. Interactive games are a lot of fun for older kids so bring a list of ones you can try in the car like “I Spy” or “the alphabet game”. You can also ask your school aged children to help you compile a record of the trip and assign the a task such as take a picture of every town we go by or list the cities, states, etc we cross during the trip. The more you interact or keep them busy the shorter the trip will be for all of you.
  • Make the drive a journey worth remembering for your children. Some of my most treasured memories and biggest bonding moments with my family came during a car trip. We talked about school, family, movies, songs, books and life decisions. My parents always engaged us in conversations that made us feel grown up and important while allowing us to share with them our views and concerns. It always seemed so much easier to talk in the car. So ask the questions and let them talk. Find lessons and teachable moments in your conversations but mostly just let them feel like their views are important to you.
  • Don’t underestimate the types of things you can do with kids. Just because you have kids doesn’t mean that every trip you take has to be Disney powered or that you can only visit theme parks and water parks. Go off the beaten path. Take your kids on hikes or to remote towns. Help them learn to appreciate nature, or art, or food or other cultures as much as you do. Let them learn with you that there is more to the world than the way we live. The key here is just to be prepared. Do a little research before you go. Shop and wash along the way to carry a lighter load. Don’t hesitate… your kids might like the dude ranch more than Six Flags.
  • Get organized once you arrive. Create areas in your hotel room (or guest room) designated as kitchen, changing table, and play so that you can easily access all your needs.

Accept that travel with children is different from your days of traveling alone. You have to consider them, their needs, their safety and their enjoyment even more than your own.Remember that it is as much about the journey as the destination. You can’t control all factors just be prepared and enjoy the detours thrown your way. In John Steinbeck’s wise words, “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”