Three’s a charm for family travel coverage

Disco-dancing in Yosemite

Disco-dancing in Yosemite

Our not-so-little-anymore pod got some nice ink this week, with three separate family travel stories in two different outlets.

The first of the stories, a service piece, appeared in our local metro daily, The (Santa Rosa, Calif.) Press-Democrat, and spotlighted 10 tips for easier holiday travel with the kids. In addition to the tips themselves, the story included six pictures of the girls from various adventures over the last few years. Oh, and if you can think of any tips that I left out, please share them in the comment field.

The second and third of the stories, both of which appeared on the Expedia Viewfinder blog, comprised photos (and related captions) from our multigenerational trip to Yosemite National Park this spring.

To read the better of the two Expedia stories, click here.

For more pieces like these three, please stay tuned. Over the next few months I’ll have family travel articles in Family Fun magazine, USA Today’s Go Escape, the Expedia Viewfinder, Alaska Beyond magazine (that’s the in-flight for Alaska), and others.

Holiday family travel tips in local daily

R, planespotting

R, planespotting

I’m a newspaper guy at heart, so it’s always nice to get some actual ink in an actual newspaper on the subject of family travel.

That’s why I’m so jazzed about my latest article for the Press-Democrat, our local metro daily.

The story, titled “Ten tips for easier holiday family travel,” appeared in today’s edition, and offers just what the headline promises: A bunch of suggestions for making holiday travel with kids easier. My editors published the piece with a bunch of pictures from our family travels over the last few months. They included even more of the pictures in the gallery online.

Among my suggestions:

  • Embrace apps
  • Take advantage of the lapchild rule while you can
  • Stick to schedules
  • Let kids own part of the plan

One of the tips I didn’t include: Bring backups—backup snacks, backup books, backup crafts, even backup clothes for those unforeseen bathroom debacles. Because you never know when a delay or a missed connection will result in extra travel time to kill.

What tips would you add to my list?

 

 

 

 

 

Real talk about air travel with kids

My seatmate was cute, but also a handful

My seatmate was cute, but also a handful

Let’s face it: Even for those of us who consider ourselves “experts,” flying with kids is no easy task. I’m not saying you should go and give other passengers goody bags as a way to pre-emptively apologize for your kids being kids (like this NY Times author did this week). I’m just saying that sometimes, as parents, we just need to admit that the majority of the “getting there” part of family travel simply sucks.

I was reminded of this fact on three different occasions yesterday as we returned from Hawaii.

No. 1: Navigating the TSA checkpoint.

When we arrived at the airport to catch our flights, it was hot. REALLY hot. Like, so hot that those prone to sweating (ahem, moi) were sweating like Patrick Ewing hooping it up at Madison Square Garden in the heyday of the Knicks. And that was just when I was standing still.

On the TSA line, the sweat situation got worse. The kids left me with their bags. I was nominated to breakdown the stroller. Then I had to worry about my own stuff.

By the time I got through the scanner, someone asked me if I had just come in from a run.

No. 2: Reacting to the inevitable spills.

Little R, our middle child, is notorious for spilling at least one beverage at every meal. Not surprisingly, her habits don’t change on an airplane. This means that at some point on every flight, the child will spill something. It’s up to Powerwoman and me to minimize the impact of that spill on R and everyone else.

Normally we just bring a change of clothes and administer that change once R has soaked herself. But on this particular flight, when R’s spill soaked her own pants AND the backups—we had to get creative.

The solution this time: Wrapping our wet child in dry sweatshirts.

Yes, this means she was half-naked on a plane. Yes, it meant that the sweatshirt got pretty wet as well. But by the time we landed her primary pants were mostly dry. (My carry-on was another story.)

No. 3: Managing potty breaks on the plane.

Baby G got top priority at 35,000 feet, hanging with me in the only lavatory with a changing table while I handled her business. But when the two of us returned to the seats, BOTH other girls had to go, kicking off an out-and-back parade of Villanos from rows 19 and 20 to the aft lavs.

Don’t get me wrong; everybody went. But getting them back and forth was an effort, and getting them into the lavatory and reminding them to a) Not let their shorts touch the scuzzy floor, b) Not to fiddle with the flush button, and c) Not to freak out about the suction-sink definitely tested some patience.

It also necessitated a Dewar’s from the in-flight booze cart, FWIW.

The bottom line: Though some say the wonder of a trip is “in the journey,” when the journey involves air travel, it’s OK to be realistic about how unpleasant the experience can be.

Remember that the next time you’re traveling with your kids, or when you see a passenger who is.

Confessions of a 3-year-old cruiser

Aunt Sherri and Tennyson.

Aunt Sherri and Tennyson.

We family travel writers can pen article after article about how we think our kids enjoy family trips. Nothing, however, beats getting insight from the kids themselves.

That’s precisely why I *love* the latest article from a friend and former editor of mine, Sherri Eisenberg. The article, titled “Confessions of a 3-year-old cruiser,” ran today on Yahoo Travel and outlines the travel perspective of Tennyson, Sherri’s 3-year-old niece, with whom Sherri recently took some cruises.

The format of the article is wonderfully simple; Aunt Sherri lists seven different quotes from Tennyson, then expounds on each sentiment with context and thoughts of her own. My favorite of the kid’s quotes: “Bring some of your own toys…you don’t know what they’ll have.” A close second: “When you get onboard, eat something, then go right to the pool.”

(OK, I also really like this one: “You should eat lots of treats.”)

Powerwoman and I haven’t had the opportunity to expose our trio of girls to cruising—yet. It’s on our list for 2017, and we can’t wait. Perhaps we’ll take some of Tennyson’s advice. After all, the little ones always seem to know best.

More tips for road trips with kids

Sleeping beauties. In the car.

Sleeping beauties. In the car.

We take a ton of road trips in this family, and I’m always eager to share some of my tips and lessons learned with the masses. Case in point: My latest piece for the Expedia Viewfinder blog from Expedia, which outlines five can’t-miss tips for road-tripping with kids.

The post was inspired by our recent road trip from Portland, Oregon, to the San Juan Islands, and back down to Seattle. All five of the tips relate directly to the experiences we had on the trip.

At least two of the suggestions echo some of the pointers I laid out in an interview with Juliana Shallcross of Trips + Giggles earlier this month. The other three are brand spanking new, and feature anecdotes that I’ve never shared anywhere else. (Gotta keep you regular readers on your toes, you know.)

We certainly will be calling upon some of our own suggestions again later this month, as we’ll be road-tripping down to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to report another family travel piece.

(There also is a potential road-trip to LEGOLAND California in the works; stay tuned for details on that.)

We even are open to new road-trip tips; if you’ve got advice to share, please feel free to do so in the comment section below. And in case you missed the link the first time, check out my Expedia Viewfinder piece about road-trip tips here.

Dishing tips for Trips + Giggles

Power, indeed.

Power, indeed.

It’s always fun to share family travel tips with other experts. That’s why I’m especially excited to share a Q&A I did with my buddy, Juliana Shallcross, the gal behind Trips + Giggles.

In the piece, I offer a number of creative options for keeping kids happy and entertained during family trips. Perhaps my favorite hack: Progressive Storytelling, a fun and no-tech game that the four of us played at least once a day on our recent trip to the San Juan Islands.

I also used the opportunity to share some news: Our pod is expanding this November when we welcome another daughter into the mix. (Stay tuned for more on this, obviously.)

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll recognize some of the other tips—Perler beads for hotel rooms, window clings on long plane trips, Dum-Dums for take-offs and landings, and Rory’s Storycubes for more creative fun.  For a complete transcript of the interview, click here. And if you’re not currently reading Trips + Giggles, add it to your list.

Great tips for improving family vacations

Tip: Have kids do research before a big trip.

Tip: Have kids do research before a big trip.

I enjoy many benefits of being on the Board of Directors of the nascent Family Travel Association (FTA). One of my favorite perks: Getting to know people such as fellow Board member Keith Bellows.

Keith, emeritus Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Traveler, has been an advocate of family travel for years. Covering it was a priority of his when he headed up editorial coverage at Traveler. He also wrote books and longer articles on the subject himself.

His most recent piece, which appeared today on the FTA blog, might be my favorite of his family travel pieces ever. In it, he lists 10 very simple tips for improving our family vacations. Some of the tips are straightforward—most of us traveling with children likely would share experiences with them and regale them with stories and myths about our destinations before we go. Other tips are new and life-changing; Keith’s expertise changed my entire perspective on how I’ll approach our next family trip.

My favorite tips of his promote individuality in kids. No. 1 on my list: His tip to give each kid $10 to spend on whatever he or she wants every day, so long as the purchase is a tangible good that is difficult to find at home.

Other highlights IMHO include giving kids destination-specific challenges to solve on the trip, and encouraging them to make and/or tell their own stories about the experience.

I won’t steal all of Keith’s thunder; for a more complete POV on his tips, read the whole piece here.

Once you’ve read it, feel free to add some tips of your own in the comment field below. I’ll make sure Keith sees them before our next board meeting. Who knows? Maybe you can change his life the way he has changed mine.

Pool safety during summer family travel

The pool at Aulani, one of our favorite resorts.

The pool at Aulani, one of our favorite resorts.

It’s no secret that summer is prime time for family vacations, and many wandering pods build their trips around resort hotels with pools. This makes pool safety an important part of the family travel experience. Sure, many resorts employ their own lifeguards to keep visitors from putting themselves in danger. Still, the responsibility to keep kids safe falls almost squarely on us moms and dads.

To get a better idea of how parents can promote pool safety when they travel with kids, I chatted recently with Dr. Kristie Rivers, a Bundoo pediatrician who also serves assistant medical director of the pediatric hospitalist program at Chris Evert Children’s Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Rivers specializes in child safety. Here are some of her most salient tips.

The resort is not responsible for your kids. “As parents you have to always be on guard, whether you’re at home or at a water park or public pool,” Rivers says. She notes that just because a lifeguard is present doesn’t mean your kids will avoid injury.

No running. “Those signs are up for a reason—running around pools usually leads to slipping, and slipping can create all sorts of injuries,” says Rivers. “I tell my own kids that when they’re near a pool they need to walk at all times. That way it is second nature, and they’re never tempted to do anything else.”

Be aware. Rivers notes that it’s critical for every family to establish pool rules and enforce them without fail. “No playing around the drains—if a child’s hair gets caught, that child could drown,” she says. Rivers advises that families should prohibit breath-holding games, and only should allow children to jump or dive into deep ends (with at least 5 feet of water), provided they know how to swim.

Avoid the ickies. “Parents may not realize that the chlorine in a pool doesn’t kill germs instantly,” Rivers says. “E. coli, norovirus, and giardia all can be found in pool water that’s heavily chlorinated, and if kids swallow even just a little bit of the water that’s contaminated, they can get sick.” She also adds that the potential germs carried by diarrhea in resort pools can be just as problematic, and recommends that if parents or children see “floaters,” they should report them to a lifeguard or other staff member immediately. “If your child has had diarrhea at any point in the last two weeks, he or she should not go into a pool,” she declares.

Mind the nappies. There’s a reason diaper companies make swimmy diapers—regular diapers aren’t designed to hold in poop and pee when they get wet. Rivers notes that parents ALWAYS should put their children in swimmy diapers, even if it means making a special trip to the store to buy them. “It’s common courtesy,” she quips. “Even babies can spread germs.” She adds that parents should check swimmy diapers every 30-60 minutes, and change them immediately when the diapers become soiled.

Practice sun safety. Even the sunscreens that say they’re waterproof really aren’t. The lesson, according to Rivers, is to reapply on the kids every hour. “Once you reapply, give the sunscreen a few minutes to work,” she says. “The last thing you want is to be diligent about reapplying, then have it all come off because you didn’t follow simple instructions on the bottle.”

Just say ‘no’ to floaties. Here’s a shocker: the American Association of Pediatrics does not recommend floaties for your kids. “Floaties give them a false sense of buoyancy,” explains Rivers. “Also, they can deflate without warning and might put your child in danger.” She notes that floaties even can lull parents into a false sense of security. To avoid this, just say no.

Regulate temperature. Believe it or not, pools often are not warm enough for infants. In fact, Rivers says that infants under six months old probably shouldn’t be in the pool for more than ten minutes at a time. “It sounds crazy, but they could develop hypothermia,” she reveals.  “At the first sign of shivering, get your baby out of the water right away and wrap him up in a warm towel.”

Fun new site from an old friend

Great tips, cool insight on Trips & Giggles.

Great tips, cool insight on Trips + Giggles.

As a journalist who spends at least 50 percent of his time and energy on family travel, I’m always looking for great new sources of information, insight and insider knowledge on the subject. That’s precisely why I love the new site, Trips + Giggles.

The site debuted earlier this month with the goal of fun and original content for “parents who just happen to have some kids in tow.” It’s fresh. It’s cool. And it happens to be run by a friend of mine.

Admittedly, as of today, there aren’t many stories on the site. Obviously, though, that will change over time. For now, definitely check out “6 Hotel Brands that Want Your Kids to Stay the Night” (a story with which I can relate after our recent experiences at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe), and “This Airport Really Understands Its Most Frequent Travelers.”

I also really like the piece about what to pack in a travel first-aid kit.

What’s more, heed the plea on the site’s “About” page and sign up or the weekly newsletter. I did. And I can’t wait for my first installment.

In addition to this blog, what are your go-to sites for family travel information and insight?

Downsizing what you pack on family trips

Building fairy houses on the road.

Building fairy houses on the road.

I was inspired earlier this week when I read a post by my writer friend and family travel buddy, Julie Schwietert Collazo, about how to stop packing “so much crap” when you travel with kids. The story, which Julie published Monday, prefaced a trip she and her family were taking this weekend. The gist of the piece: Among family travelers, downsizing what you bring on trips always is a good thing.

I’ve got many favorite lines from the piece, but this, by far, is tops: “Your kids don’t need all the things you think they need. Children are far more resourceful than we give them credit for. In fact, they are far more resourceful than you are. For them, anything can be turned into a toy.”

In our family, we’ve proved this very sentiment countless times. Just this week, in fact, during stops on two of three local road trips, L’s used twigs and tree leaves to build “fairy houses.”

Beyond this advice, I *love* Julie’s recommendation for subjecting all of the kids’ items to a “wants” and “needs” test. This is something we do before every trip as well—down to laying everything on a bed and evaluating the items individually. Our needs: a few basic outfits, a streamlined toiletries bag, a box of crayons and some paper. Our wants: Extra princess dresses, travel board games, maybe some bubbles.

As Julie suggests, it also is a good idea to prioritize packing items that serve multiple functions and require minimal management. Julie’s best example is an all-purpose sarong. Our fave: The Kindle Fire HD, which currently has about 100 kids’ books (we used to schlep the old-fashioned kind everywhere).

In addition to these great suggestions, we have some other tips to share—secondary recommendations for downsizing the stuff you bring on family trips:

  • Bring sponge and tiny squirt-bottle of dishwashing detergent. This enables you to leave multiple cups and snack containers at home. If you’ve got a little little one, this setup also is a great way to clean pacifiers (and minimize the number of pacifiers you bring in the first place).
  • Embrace the glue stick. Having this little sucker will allow you to leave at least half of your child’s coloring implements at home. It also will allow your child to make artwork that incorporates items and objects from real life. (Such as leaves. And twigs. And local currency.)
  • Give each child the opportunity to bring three small personal items. This process teaches them how to be selective. It also gives them the opportunity to feel like they have an important say in how the packing experience plays out.

Finally—and Julie suggests this, too—consider packing only backpacks instead of roller bags. This strategy minimizes the Sherpa-shlep for us dads, and allows for freer movement around airports. It also eliminates those inevitable moments where we parents accidentally roll over our kids’ feet. Traveling is challenging enough on its own; the last thing we need as mom or dad is to spark an unnecessary meltdown.

What are your tips for downsizing the stuff you bring on family trips?

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