Travel

Traveling with Kids

We’ve been traveling a lot lately – four of the last five weekends we’ve been out of town. We didn’t do this intentionally – it just happened.

The truth is we’ve never been ones to let our kids keep us from doing something. Though traveling with kids can be hard, a well organized parent will go a long way to keeping it enjoyable.

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Here’s a few tips for your adventure:

Make lists! Lists help my frazzled travel brain keep up with all the little loose ends that I might forget. Last year when Evie was 3.5 and Alvy was 18 months old we all went to Puerto Rico for a week. I made this worksheet to help me plan our packing.

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In the two weeks leading up to the trip, before I could actually start packing, I started brainstorming things we might need to take with us. It helped me plan how we were going to manage the kids and the things I would need to take to make sure the trip was successful. It was much easier to do this in the morning over a cup of coffee while my brain was fresh instead of while I was rushing around the house in a panic looking for Alvy’s other shoe.

Know your destination. Get on the internet, call the hotel, ask friends. Find out as much as you can about your destination. Does your hotel room have a pullout? Rollaway? Crib? Refrigerator? Continental breakfast? Coffee in the room? Restaurant in the lobby? Find out as much as you can so you can prepare for your stay. An informed parent is a prepared parent!

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Choose fewer bags! It’s much easier to juggle one larger bag than three smaller bags. Even for easy weekend road trips I take my rolling suitcase and pack the kids stuff in with mine. To keep everything separated I use packing cubes. The ones I got are from REI but you can find similar ones at Target.

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If you don’t want to buy packing cubes go get some mesh bags used for washing sweaters. I got some for $2 each at the grocery store. They’re also great for putting dirty laundry in your luggage.

Keep necessities close at hand. When we fly, I use my backpack as our diaper bag and put the Sugar Snap Files in to keep everything organized. They keep stuff from falling to the bottom of the backpack and getting lost, which happened a lot prior to using them. When I need to change Alvy’s diaper, all I have to do is grab the “Dipes + Wipes” file and I don’t have to lug my whole big backpack to the bathroom. The more I use them, the more I love these silly files.

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To keep messes at bay, I take a few baby wipes out of the package prior to leaving the house and put it in a zip top bag so I can put them in an outside pocket of my bag or in the seat back pocket on the plane. They’ve come in very handy when I’ve had to break out the emergency bag of mini Oreos to make it through the last 15 minutes of a flight – Momma needs supplies ready to clean up the aftermath, lest the plane window get smeared with Oreo hands!

For road trips I always keep napkins in a zip top baggie in the glove box, along with bendy straws stored in a toothbrush holder.

Pack food! Hungry kids are cranky kids! Snacks, stuff for sandwiches, cereal, etc. anything you can eat in a hotel room will save you money. Though eating out with kids is possible and sometimes enjoyable – no one wants to go through that kind of stress three times a day.

If you are flying and can’t take food with you try to visit a grocery store when you reach your destination so you can stock up.

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Utilize the car seat! If your kid is over two and has their own seat take your car seat on the plane. Not only is it safer but they’re used to sitting in it for long periods of time and it’ll keep your two year old from wanting to climb on you for four hours. If you’re flying with a lap child, before you board the plane ask the airline staff if the flight is full. If it’s not, they’re likely to let you take your car seat on board with you and relocate the passenger beside you so you can strap your child in an empty seat.

Take toys! Bigger toys are better for car travel and are easier to find in a messy hotel room. Small toys are better for plane travel.

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If you’re traveling by plane with more than one child remember that you may be split up. Each child needs their own bag of entertainment. When we fly each of our kids take their own backpacks which which are full of age appropriate toys for the flight.

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Protect their sleep! Take books they are familiar to them, any loveys they’re used to sleeping with and stick as closely to their sleep routine and schedule as you can manage. A well rested kid is a happy kid! Does your kid take afternoon naps? Plan your day around the nap – have fun in the morning and retreat to the hotel room for an family siesta then head back out in the evening.

A word on hotel cribs…they can be questionable or they can be awesome. There’s really no way to know until you get there. If your child is particular about their sleeping environment and you’re not flying I’d advise you to take your own crib if you can.

Manage your expectations! As with anything related to children they are unpredictable. Realize that you can’t take them to a nice dinner or on roller coasters. Don’t plan on doing something that you can’t do as a family. Know that maybe you won’t be able to go on that 10 mile hike through the rainforest and opt for the 45 minute tour instead.

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With a little careful planning and organization, traveling with kids isn’t just possible it’s enjoyable! There will be rough patches and it won’t be easy but it will be worth it in the memories you make! Go pack your bags and get ready for an adventure!

What are your favorite tips for traveling with kids? Do you have any favorite travel hacks?

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How to Attach Car Seats to Rolling Luggage

We’ve been traveling a lot lately. I’ve got a whole post coming on traveling with small kids but for now I want to talk about something very specific and important to anyone who has ever tried to fly with kids. Car seats, planes and how to get car seats through airports and onto planes.

This isn’t a post about organizing so much as it is a post about relieving stress and being prepared. Nothing is more stressful than trying to lug kids and your crap through an airport.

Unless you’re traveling to a destination that has a mass transit system you will need a car seat when you get there. This leaves you with one of two options:

  1. Rent a car seat (most rental car companies will rent car seats, though I’m not sure I trust my kid’s life to a car seat I know nothing about)
  2. Bring your own car seat

If you choose to bring your own car seat then you have even more options:

  1. Check it and risk it getting damaged or lost and not having it when you get to your destination
  2. Haul it around the airport and gate check it/take it on the plane

{The good news is that almost every airline will check your car seat and stroller for you for free regardless if it’s checked at the check-in or at the gate. Win for parents everywhere!}

In our case, we were visiting with family who was picking us up from the airport so renting car seats wasn’t an option.

I didn’t feel comfortable checking the seats when we checked in and I wanted to take Alvy’s car seat on the plane anyway so hauling the car seats through the airport became a very hot topic around our house. How do you haul the silly things around? If you’re pulling a carry on how do you carry your car seat?

You could buy one of these but at $50 a piece I just couldn’t justify spending $100 (we would need two) on something we would probably only use once. Then you’re having to pull your carry on luggage AND a car seat. That just doesn’t sound fun.

Then there’s this which appears to be totally genius. I was prepared to shell out $25 for two of these little gizmos until I read a review where someone mentioned you could do this yourself with some stuff from the hardware store.

YES! YES YOU CAN!

Here you go friends, a little tutorial on how to attach car seats to rolling luggage.

PinterestWe have two car seats (which are identical) and two different rolling carry on suitcases. For the record the car seats we use are the Britax Boulevard 70 and the luggage is an Eagle Creek 22 inch carry on (which is brand new) and a 22 inch Samsonite (it is probably 10 years old, I don’t know the model). The Eagle Creek is mine and is kind of a hybrid of hard and soft sided and Jason’s (the Samsonite) is hard sided all the way around with a flexible top. This little tricks works equally as well on both suitcases.

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Both of our suitcases are the two wheeled kind. I don’t know if this would work with the four-wheeled luggage. You need to be able to tip it back and either pull it behind you or push it like a stroller. The added weight of the car seat and the kid might tip a four wheeled suitcase over.

Now go shopping. For the record, I bought all my supplies at Lowes.

For each suitcase/car seat combination you will need two 2-inch diameter o-rings and one 3/16 inch quick link. The o-rings I bought have a 200 pound working load and the quick link has an 800 pound working load…I think that’ll do just fine.

I spent a grand total of $9 on all the hardware I needed to attach two car seats to two carry on suitcases.

Now time to assemble.

Go ahead and attach the two rings together with the quick link.

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Lay the car seat face down and completely loosen the LATCH straps and lay them off to the sides. Lay your tether over the top of the seat to get it out of the way.

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Clip one of your latch buckles to one of the rings.

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Lay the suitcase on top of the car seat with back facing out (the front where the pockets are go up against the car seat. Make sure the bottom of the car seat is flush with the bottom of the luggage.

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Bring the two latch buckles around the back of the suitcase (remember one of them already has the hardware attached) and clip the other latch buckle to the other ring. Pull the belts as tightly as you can.

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Stand the car seat/luggage up and then thread the tether through the luggage handle and clip the tether to the quick link. Pull the tether tight, then roll up the rest of the tether strap.

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Ta Da! You’re done!

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Insert the kid and you’ve got a great way to carry the car seat and your kid through the airport.

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Both the kids loved riding in our car seat rig. It was about 1000 times cooler than a stroller and easier on mom and dad too.

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All that being said, you can learn from a few of our mistakes. Here’s a few helpful tips.

  1. The car seat straps need to be tight. I mean TIGHT. As tight as you can possibly make them. When you put your kid in the car seat and then start going over bumps in the airport flooring (i.e. transition from carpet to tile, grout lines, over lips in elevators, etc) the car seat will settle if it’s not tightened enough. You will end up having to pull the suitcase almost horizontally to keep it from drooping to far. Trust me on this. I’m pretty sure Alvy spent the entire time we were at the Newark airport staring at the ceiling.
  2. I would highly encourage you to try this out at home in the street/driveway before you take it to the airport. The airport is not the place you want experiment. Roll the kid around, turn in circles, push it, pull it, tip it forward and then backward. Practice!
  3. You will have to take your rig apart at security and again at the gate. The stress of the security line isn’t the place you want to be learning how to disassemble and reassemble your rig. PRACTICE IT AT HOME FIRST. More than once if possible.
  4. This works best if your suitcases are very full. I would assume since you’re traveling with kids you’ve packed everything you own – so this shouldn’t be a problem.

That being said, once we got it figured out, this worked extremely well for us. We got a ton of comments as we were walking through the airport asking if we had special suitcases or special car seats. As we walked I heard more than one person say, “Oh that’s a good idea.” We didn’t need to take a stroller and we got to use our own car seats at our destination. If only they were this easy to get on the plane…

Happy travels!

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Labor Day Weekend

I had a much different post planned for today. It is drafted, edited and missing only a few pictures. I had every intention of hitting the “publish” button yesterday evening but sometimes life is uncontrollable.

We went to Virginia Beach over the weekend to run the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon. Jason took the day off on Friday and we flew out first thing in the morning.

Getting all four of us packed and navigated through the airport required a ton of planning, some failure and a lot of learning. Somehow we managed to get our our two kids, three carry on suitcases, three backpacks and two car seats on three different airplanes without checking any luggage. It wasn’t without stress but it was successful! Win!

We have family in Virginia Beach so we got to run the race and have a great extended visit with some people we rarely see. It left us all feeling physically exhausted but emotionally full.

The race was Sunday morning. I won’t bore you with the gory details but I will say that the race was FANTASTIC. The course was great, the spectators were fun and the weather was as good as can be expected for early September. I’ve been training for this particular event for about the past month and though I fell slightly short of my expectations I still finished with a personal best time.

Unfortunately, sometime when we were on our return flight home I was struck with a tremendous head cold. You know the kind that leaves your head feeling like it’s being squeezed in a vice? Yeah.

Instead of finishing my planned post and making myself miserable while trying to get my throbbing head to concentrate, I decided it would be much wiser to save it for a day when I can give it the attention it deserves and spend the extra time taking a nap. I would much rather do it right later than do it halfway now.

I’ll be back next week with new posts but for now I’m going to leave you with some pictures from our trip.

on plane

start line

race medal

picnic on the beach

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clean car

Keeping Your Car Organized and Clean

{Disclaimer: these are photos of my car. Because I want to keep this blog as real as possible I didn’t wash or vacuum my car prior to taking these pictures. At the time the photos were taken it had been two weeks since my car had last been cleaned. Yes, there is dirt but life and dirt happen. Please excuse the mess.}

clean carOur cars. They’re our transportation, our offices, our storage units. They take us to grocery stores, soccer games and on dates.  But as much as we rush to clean our homes when company is on the way we don’t seem to bother with keeping our cars clean.

We throw our trash in the back seat. The kids bring in toys that never leave. The dog slobbers on the windows. You track in mud. Over time our nice clean cars turn into a disgusting mess. My husband refers to the accumulation of trash, shoes and toys in the back seat as a sedimentary rock. He’s not far from the truth.

Clutter and trash cause stress, driving (especially with kids) is stressful enough. Whether you’re driving to commute or run errands, keeping your car organized and clean will help reduce your stress level and make you happier when you’re behind the wheel.

I’ve adopted a few simple rules that help keep our sedimentary rock at bay:

Always take out what you bring in.

Immediately. It’s that easy. If you bring it into the car when you leave the house remove it from the car as soon as you get home. If your car lives in a garage make it a policy not to close the garage door until the car is completely empty (the open door will remind you to go get that coffee cup you left in the cup holder). If you park your car outside try some other type of reminder, like laying your keys out in a prominent place and not putting them away until the car is empty. Every time you walk by your keys sitting on the counter you’ll be reminded to finish the job. You will probably need to take multiple trips to get everything out but that’s okay. You’ll thank yourself for the extra work the next time you go to the grocery store and your trunk is clean and ready to carry home your groceries, not full of stuff you brought home from the beach the week before.

Implement a car cleaning schedule.

Make a pledge to wash and clean out your car once a month. Not only is it good for your paint job, you’ll take more pride in a clean car and you’ll be forced to clean out the small items that accumulate over time. I wash my car the first week of every month and though I would love to do it myself, I just don’t have the time. Instead, I’ve found a car wash near our house that will wash and vacuum it car for me in under a half hour. If washing it yourself is your cup of tea then by all means, go for it! Can’t do either of those? The car washes at newer gas stations are very nice – find one you like and run your car through when you fill up with gas or keep some quarters in the car and go to a local do-it-yourself car wash. Pack a sponge for the hard to reach spots and a chamois to make it shine!

Get a car trash can.

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You can buy a special car trash can if you want but personally I prefer a plastic shopping bag with the top rolled down to hold it open. Every time I buy gas I empty it and I keep spare bags in the back so I have one ready when it needs replacing.

Note: limit car trash can contents to stuff like straw wrappers, napkins, tissues, coffee stirrers, etc. Nothing will turn your stomach faster than a week old banana peel left to bake at 140 degrees F. Blech.

Have storage for toys.

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Kids bring toys into the car. It’s a fact of life. If my son is holding onto a toy and he’s insistent on bringing it then I’ll let him bring it to avoid a fight. That means having a designated place to put it that’s not on the floor. In my case small toys are stored in the backseat doors. Evelyn’s toys are stored on her side and Alvy’s toys are stored on his. I clean out the accumulated toys monthly when I wash the car.  Large toys leave the car when we return home.

Teach the kids to help.

As soon as you can, begin teaching the kids to take out what they bring in. My 4 year old daughter is fully capable of bringing her water bottle and toys inside by herself. It’s one last thing I have to carry and it’s a great way to teach them responsibility. I double check that the back seat is empty before I go inside.

Give everything a home.

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There’s a lot that needs to live in a car. Umbrella, hat, sunglasses, car chargers, hairbrush. Each of those items needs a home. Look at the existing storage in your car and use it! Cubbies in the doors, the console, the glove box, the sun visor, they all provide great storage places for the stuff you need to keep in the car every day. Decide which items need to stay in the car and assign those items a designated home. Just remember: only the stuff that lives in the car, stays in the car!

Make cleaning up messes easy. 

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Put a handful of napkins in a zip top baggie in glove box and a package of baby wipes in the door . You’ll be happy to have them handy when you accidentally spill coffee all over the dashboard or you forget to wipe the peanut butter off your toddler’s face before you leave the house. (Yes, both things I’ve done recently.)

Our cars are an investment, for most of us they’re the second most expensive thing we’ll ever buy (next to our homes) so let’s show them so love and keep them clean!

Do you have a good suggestion for keeping your car organized and clean? Let’s continue this discussion in the comments!

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