Traveling with Kids: Part II – How to Pack & Arrive Sane

Vacations bring visions of beaches, breezes, reclining, and reading those books or magazines you just haven’t gotten to yet.  Vacations with kids are often not at all as the brochure advertised.   There is no brochure for a trip filled with barf, missing baggage, or panic over where the favorite toy has disappeared! But these are the realities sometimes traveling with kids.

We traveled on over 100 flights with our first kiddo – for work and for family trips – and many since adding to the family.  We recently took an overseas trip with 20 people, including 10 children – many were teens and two toddlers.  I have learned A LOT along the way and I’ve shared this with many friends traveling with their kiddos over the years.  Travel with kids seems overwhelming, but the ability to expose your children to new places, people, experiences, bond with each other, and make memories is absolutely worth it.  If you think back to your childhood, how many memories were made with parents and siblings or extended family road-tripping or somewhere away from home?  These are special times, and you can increase the enjoyment and decrease the stress with a few no-fail tips for every trip.

 

Here are easy action items and suggestions to arrive sane there and back for any trip:

Manage expectations. True in work, life, parenting, coaching – but no more true than on a sweaty tram home to the parking lot after a long day at Disneyland with two over-tired, screaming kiddos and a stranger’s armpit in your face.  Mickey was great but the ride home should have been one of Dante’s Circles. Start the trip with an honest admission that traveling with kids is hard work – away from routines, familiar places and things – naps may not happen on schedule or at all, people may puke, there may be delays.  Start knowing these things may happen and promising to your tribe you will roll through it, don’t hide the fact that traveling has hiccups from your kids. Prepare them for waits and that problems may arise and we all have to be on the same team to get to the fun parts.  It is worth it for lifelong memories, the bonding time, and for the adventure.  I promise you will remember the crazy and fun decades after you have forgotten what spilled apple juice smells on pants after a 5 hour flight.

Make a list. Sit down and talk about the trip, ask for 2 must-dos or three priorities of EACH member of the family. Let them share without comment from others until the list is made. This works for 2 person or 20 person trips.  Often some of the struggles on a trip can be totally avoided when we take time to figure out what matters most to those we are traveling with and plan around those priorities.  This often will reveal if there are unrealistic expectations and help you prioritize your schedule while traveling and make choices on the fly when plans change.  If you are traveling with a large group or small group, schedule it so that individuals or individual families have meals alone or everyone gets some down time EVERY DAY.  This will save your sanity.  And, take the list with you!

Simplify packing: Unless you are going to a third-world country, even overseas there are stores with diapers, wipes, mouthwash, etc. We all pack as if we were going to the deepest backwoods.  Unless you are…. My take after so many trips, and especially now with bag fees nearing what ticket prices used to be, is to pack only what you need for the trip there plus a day, in consumable supplies, and plan to stop at (with a family member or in your rental car) a Target or Walmart on your way to your first stop.  If you don’t plan to have transportation, it is hard to find a place that isn’t a block or a $3 Uber away from a Walgreens or grocery.  You will have to buy supplies to replace what you take from home anyway, instead of lugging it all around and paying to do so, get the bulk of what you need where you are going. Diapers, wipes, baby food, formula, even toiletries are all on sale and take coupons in nearly every city in the U.S.  Overseas it is harder, but I managed to find a pharmacy with the same over the counter meds we take at home, for less, and it only took 5 minutes out of my trek, instead of an hour to figure out what to pack and not.  Then, you can also buy that full size shampoo in the brand you’d rather use, or save more room for souveniers.  Pack your own medication, clothes, allergy-sensitive or special products, kids favorite toys (mine each get 2 small ones!), shoes, baby gear* (more on that below).  For clothes, consider doing laundry halfway through the trip (if more than 4-5 days).  Most hotels have laundry machines, some will do your laundry for a fee that is reasonable.  In a pinch, there is always the sink for underwear and small things like bathing suits that get worn over and over.  When we go see family, with their prior permission, we often borrow clothes so we don’t have to take much but shoes, underwear, and pjs.  Sounds crazy, but it has made it so much easier to travel and get through airports with much less stuff, and reduce wait times for baggage.

Carry On EVERYTHING: On all but maybe 10 of those flights… we carried on everything. I know you think I am nuts, but this decreases the time we are in the airport (germs, hassles, lines, stress) by at least two hours every trip, we don’t have to arrive as early and we can go straight to our car/transportation getting off the plane, usually skip baggage claim and bypass everyone waiting.  Even when the baby was little, even when I traveled alone, even when we went on long trips.  We roll our clothes, use space saving bags, and Dad gets the bags, I get the kids.  If I’m traveling alone, I usually identify someone in the security line that looks like a mom, dad, grandma or grandpa and ask for help with my bags getting on the belt or on the plane.  Usually I don’t need help if I have a roller bag and stroller and a backpack.  The stroller carries a LOT and you can bungee a carseat to a roller bag.  Older kids can also take a bag or two.  Our 3 year old did an entire trip recently with no stroller and dragging his own bag.  Mostly because he didn’t want his sister touching his bag, but, you know.  He did it.  I usually try to consolidate the kids into one suitcase for their clothes and the toy they sleep with, we share a suitcase, and then we and they each get a bag they promise to carry (backpack!) with their books/tablet/coloring stickers/snacks for the plane.

Essentials: Your kids are going to be bored once you reach 10,000 feet or 30 miles from home in a car. I promise.  If you are tech free family, all power to you.  Bring thin/light books, a coloring book they haven’t seen, crayons (plan to lose some on the floor at landing), snacks like granola bars, fruit leather/snacks, pouches if you are brave.  Window clings and those wixisticks are for whatever reason at least 15 minutes of fun.  Stickers/sticker books.  If you are a tech family, PRELOAD and don’t expect working wifi, most won’t stream video.  Make sure the tablet/phone has games and at least one movie that will work if there is no WIFI.  Plan to pay for wifi.  Southwest has a lot of free video content if you just connect to their WIFI.  And, plane trays and seat pockets are dirtier than most public restroom toilets.  I always – ALWAYS – wipe the entire tray, armrest, window down with a Wet One.  I don’t mind looking like the crazy mom if my kid avoids Influenza A the first two days into our Disney vacation.

Baby Gear: I may not offer a popular opinion here, but we found most of the baby gear (we tried A LOT and regret it) to be totally useless. Under 3 (probably 4) a stroller is essential.  Beware if you take your nice one…. When you gate check it, it will come off the plane with something bent or broken, possibly beyond repair.  Happened every flight.  We finally bought a $20 travel system on Craigslist, Evenflo, that lasted us through two years of travel.  It was a lightweight seat/car seat too, and worked great, had a big basket.  Graco’s wheels are too big for security belts at TSA… and will lead you to screenings you don’t want.  An umbrella stroller is better than no stroller, you can hang stuff on it.  Bring your booster seat (they can’t use these on the plane if no back).  And for a car seat between bucket and booster, we got a Cosco (not Costco) Scenera for $30 we use for any travel or we used to borrow one from a friend.  We now have an extra to loan to friends. TAKE YOUR CAR SEAT if you can.  Kids under 3 will often sleep if in a seat, and if not, they want to get down which is often not possible.  If kiddo is under two and you didn’t buy a seat and you are on any airline but especially Southwest, ask if it’s a full flight – really full – and bring it on anyway.  9/10 times we choose the last row, and no one wants to sit by two people and a baby.  If there was a seat, we got the open one and if not, they will gate check your seat (bring a bag even a garbage bag or sports bag to put it in).  Get tags for your bag and stroller BEFORE boarding is called.  Baby seats MUST go in a window seat. So consider that when booking, it is an FAA regulation for safety and non-negotiable.  Don’t pay for seats, they must seat a parent with a child and a baby in a window.  So unless you want to be sure you all sit in a row, you do not have to pay ahead for seat selection.  With the four of us we usually take two seat in two rows.  When you buckle a baby seat in make sure the buckle is facing away from the seat or into a space you can lift to release it.  We once had our seat stuck on a plane for a bit because we had buckled it facing the hard side of the seat and could not lift the tab to unbuckle it.  Ask for an extender if you need it.  And check to see where the buckle lies, in case kiddo is sitting on it.  Often there is nothing you can do but you can pad it with a diaper.  Take a bag that is a tote, zippered, on the top so you can reach into it easily while seated.  Or a backpack with easy front pockets.  I pre-filled bottles with toddler formula and breastmilk, so all I had to do was add water or open them.  TSA will likely screen breastmilk and bottles.  It’s annoying.  Be prepared to have to go to a different area with all your junk and have them swab them.  Buy water for bottles past security don’t take it through, even though it’s allowed, they are usually difficult about it.

Transportation: Car rentals are cheapest in the US usually weekend day to weekend day, weekdays are more. I like carrrentals.com the best. Go there, check the price, then check the cheapest company’s price on their website.  We have found more and more that Uber and Lyft are cheaper in most places (even Hawaii and overseas) than renting or even than some public transportation.  Obviously, be cautious and you must feel comfortable using these services.  We would send screenshots of the driver and car to whomever wasn’t riding with us for safety.  I even do this now in the US when I use it locally.  If you decide to venture into public transportation, ask for help from your hotel/someone that works at the train station, especially if you are in an unfamiliar place, before you set foot on the bus/train.  TRUST ME it will save you a lot of time and headache, and scary experiences.

Other People: Do not make gift bags for people flying on your plane with your baby. If you have to fly with a tuna sandwich your neighbor is eating, or their B.O…. you do not need to make apologies for procreating and traveling with your family.  There is a terrible truth in travel that upsets me every time I enter an airport.  Take a 30 something women, do her hair, put her in a suit and people will fall over themselves to help her on a plane or help her with bags. Take the same woman, put her in yoga pants, a shirt with spit up, baby on hip, and give her a stroller and people will literally part waters around her in an airport to avoid helping her.  My family has taken to seeking out moms traveling alone in airports just to offer a hand to get on the plane, or help with gate checking, ANYTHING, after so many terrible experiences seeing how parents are treated.  It is nearly the inverse for fathers traveling…. But that’s a whole other blogpost for another day. 😊 ASK FOR HELP IF YOU NEED IT.  From airport gate staff, or friendly-grandparent types.  Usually they are just thrilled to offer help carrying a bag or just helping get situated on a plane.  Obviously do not leave your kid or stuff with them, but they can be a hand to get through security or on the plane.  And OFFER THIS HELP even if it seems weird when you see a parent struggling traveling alone.  That one act of kindness can change an entire day/trip/memory.  Our youngest got seriously hurt when he tripped in the gate area on a trip last year, he cut his lip on the charging station on a seat, and was bleeding profusely, EMS were called and it scared him and us.  We were all shaken, including our older child.  A mother and her son ran to the nearest store, bought each kid a small toy and asked if they could give them to them.  (Don’t assume – ask…)  This distraction of them coming to ask and the toy calmed our son down enough to be examined.  He was fine, we were able to calm down, take a breath, and managed to make the flight.  The whole thing could have been much different and we may have been refused boarding, if he had not been able to stop hyperventilating-crying long enough to be looked at.  He was fine, we were fine, and those two happened to be sitting next to us on the flight.  Both kids – even the little one – made them thank you notes on take off.  Today, it is a sweet memory of the kindness of strangers instead of a traumatic memory.  Be that person.  We try to pay it forward every trip to other families with kiddos.

Drivealogue: If you haven’t seen these cards, they are conversation cards for families, for the car ride home from school, dinner table, etc. THESE ARE AWESOME FOR CAR TRIPS AND PLANE TRIPS and they make them in different age ranges.  Even great for couples!  I have a friend that sells them locally if you want some or you can buy them online.

YOUR TRIP: Finally, these are all musings from my experiences traveling as a mom and in business travel. I am an admitted over-organized, overthinking, germaphobe and plan ahead for even the relaxing trips.  Your style may be totally different (and, frankly, better)!  Set your expectations and then make sure what you do around housing, activities, packing, and schedules on your trip mirrors those must-dos and what you really want to get out of the trip.  There is no wrong way to travel with kids, just easier and harder ways.  Try to do it in the way that mirrors your family’s day-to-day needs and focus on the goal of time together and memories.

 

I wish you an amazing Spring Break whether you are staying home or traveling far, and pray that all your travels are safe and full of less stress and great memories!  If you have questions, feel free to email me or message me.

by: Liz D, Tempe Mom

 

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Traveling With Kids Part 1: Passports

 

Does the thought of traveling with kids give you hives or make you giddy with excitement… for me, it’s a little of both!

There have been many MOMnation posts asking questions about traveling with kids, so we hope to tackle a few of these common questions in the blog!  The first one is asked often: When Do You Need a Passport and Where?  And how do you get one?

Perhaps the best advice I’ve ever heard, from a fellow East Valley Mom, was to not call all trips vacations, even if it is “Spring Break” or “vacation time.” Some trips are just trips…. A lot of packing, travel, effort – worth it, but NOT relaxing.  Some trips are vacations and time to have fun, unwind, relax.  The MOST important thing to enjoy and survive a trip with kiddos is to manage your expectations of what the trip will be.  And…. Plan more vacations and fewer trips!

After over 100 flights with littles, hauling baby gear, breast pumps, strollers, so many security searches, and dealing with sea sickness and kiddo barf in a rental car (longest, smelliest 7 hour drive EVER… ironically – one of the most memorable)!  I can say emphatically, manage expectations and that will make your trip and your kids’ experiences much better.  And, I can’t say this enough, you never EVER have to make “I’m sorry for my toddler” bags for people around you on planes, unless the guy with the tuna sandwich or snapping gum plans to give you one too. Families have a right to travel and fly, and to do it without hassle from other travelers OR mom-guilt.

On to passports: Laws have changed over the years and the enforcement of passport rules can vary by area/checkpoint. But the State Department has clear rules (as do other countries) about what must be presented, and it seems enforcement has gotten more strict at the border since we were kids.  Even if you have heard, my friend said she didn’t have to show her license, even…. last time we went a few years ago, etc. It is always best to recheck both the State Department current guidelines and travel advisories before leaving the country.  It’s also important to note, this advice pertains to short trips, not long stays in countries that may require Visas and other documents.  You should always check the State Department for the specific requirements of the country you are traveling to.

Travel advisories are important as well.  They are advice.  In very few countries does the State Department actually prohibit travel, but you should know before you go.  If there are travel warnings, you must be aware and make a conscious choice to still take the trip.  We recently traveled overseas with a large group, including many kids, to a country that had an active advisory.  We went with a plan to be very observant, clear rules for adults and kids about safety, and stayed in tourist-friendly and “safe” areas.  We also signed up and registered our travel with the State Department so they could alert us in the event of any activity, and I’m glad we did.  The trip went well but I was glad we had the information before we left and to know we would be alerted in the event of a security concern.

Here are the details on land/air/sea travel and what you need for documents:

For Mexico:

If traveling by land you can use a passport card.  This is the size of a driver’s license, but NOT a driver’s license. Few places now accept only a driver’s license to reenter the U.S., and there are no guarantees that even if you did a year ago or years ago, you will be allowed back in the country.  If you plan to visit Mexico by land, get a passport card or passport.

The passport card allows for re-entry ONLY FROM LAND from Mexico, Canada, and sea port re-entry from the Caribbean or Bahamas.

If traveling by air even to Mexico or another country, you will MUST get a passport book.  These are more expensive but far more useful/used for more purposes, and also can be used for a variety of identity verifications in business and life.

Due to increased regulations, there is no guarantee that a driver’s license will allow re-entry into the country, or a birth certificate for a child.  I highly recommend not taking the risk.  Some will disagree with me, but after reading some of the stories from moms who have been stopped at the border, I highly recommend getting passports for ANY travel outside the country.  Due to the increase in child trafficking, border crossings are doing much more screening for this and it is important to be able to prove the relationship with your child (which is what a passport provides).

For air travel INSIDE the country, you do NOT need a passport, you need a state approved and AIR approved ID and I usually take my kids’ birth certificates or passports.  I have NEVER in 100+ flights been asked for this traveling domestically but I like to have it with me just in case.  Arizona licenses are only good through October 1, 2020 (next year!) for air travel.  Then you will need an air-approved ID or passport.  I recommend just getting a passport.

To obtain a passport card or passport, there are multiple requirements.  I recommend filling out the paperwork at home, getting the photos at CVS or Walgreens, and then presenting this packet at a local office (there are many in Phoenix Metro area).  This ensures that your documents are all in order and speeds up the process.  To obtain a passport or passport card for a child, both parents must be present or have a signed affidavit from the second parent – in order to avoid parents taking a child out of the country in a custody battle.  You need a birth certificate to prove citizenship and parent relationship, the other parent or a document giving consent, and passport-approved photos for the child.

If you need a passport quickly, there is a Tucson passport office that has fast-track appointments available and passports within two-weeks or even the same day in the event of a (provable) life-or-death emergency – i.e. a family member with a grave illness, etc.  Information below.

There are many passport expediting agencies that claim to get your passport faster.  I used one of these when I lived in D.C.  It did make the paperwork slightly less overwhelming but I found out I could have done the exact same thing for far less cost, and had it expedited as well, just applying myself.

Expedited service is usually within two weeks (barring a government shutdown), and regular service within four.  However, I requested expedited and received mine in just over a week.  You must send off original documents with the application, so be aware of that and watch for them to come back!  My best advice is plan travel as far as possible ahead and apply early for your passport!

Here is how to determine what passport/passport card you need:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/apply-renew-passport/card.html

Here is the information on the Tucson location (you do NOT need to go here to expedite service, only if you need the passport for an emergency or trip in less than 2 weeks): https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/where-to-apply/passport-agencies/western.html

Applying for a Passport for Children, rules vary for under 16 and 16/17 year olds:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/apply-renew-passport/under-16.html

Cost to obtain a passport card is $50-65, about half of the passport fee ($115-$145), rates vary based on renewals/new, adult/child.  Expediting fee is $60 per passport on top of the usual fees:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/fees.html

Where to Apply:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/where-to-apply.html

Check the State Department for safety advisories:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html

Travel advice, and registration for traveler advisories:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel.html

by: Liz D, Tempe Mom

 

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Kid Friendly Holiday Craft by Banks Craft Co ☃️

Need a cute, kiddo friendly craft to keep your littles occupied and in the holiday spirit?  Here’s are a few awesome craft ideas brought to you by Banks Craft Co! 

Hand/footprint Wreath Supplies:

Square canvas
2 different green acrylic paint colors
Red acrylic paint
Letter stickers or marker to write on the canvas
Ribbon

STEPS:

Draw a circle with pencil. You can use a bowl of any kind to get that perfect circle.

Start handprints with one color green. Going around the circle but leaving enough room for the other color green (see image).

Next start the other color green. You can do all hands or all feet or a combo of both. Since we did 2 kids we did the younger ones feet & the older kid hands.

Add red paint circles for the “berries”. You can use a finger or pencil end.

Once dry you can add your stencil letters.

Using a hot glue gun, glue the ribbon to the canvas and enjoy!

“Let it snow” Snowman supplies:

Any size canvas
Any color finger paint
White, black and orange acrylic paint
Stencil letters

STEPS:
Let the kids finger paint the background!

Once dry apply white paint to the bottom of your kiddos foot and make footprints.

Add the snowman details with a small paint brush.

Add stencil letters.


Reindeer and/or Christmas Tree supplies:

Any size canvas depending on if you want to do both or just one design

Green, red, brown, yellow, black acrylic paint

Letter stickers

STEPS:
Using footprints arrange the desired design on the canvas.

Once dry add the details to the design you choose.

Apply stickers.

We hope you enjoy making these cute crafts with your little ones.  Keep an eye on our page, at Banks Craft Co, for more kid friendly and MOMs night out crafts!

 

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MOMnationAZ ROCKS the World kickoff at the Tempe Festival of the Arts 🎨

MOMnationAZ participated in the super popular Tempe Festival of the Arts this past weekend and hundreds of kids flooded the booth to join in the two free art projects provided by awesome volunteers from our awesome local MOMs group

We met thousands of visitors over the weekend and enjoyed booth after booth of local art, live musicians, food trucks and, of course, the fun and interactive booths in the Kids Block.

MOMnationAZ offered free nature crafts and rock painting to kids of all ages along with a goodie bag chock full of freebies, trinkets and toys for the kiddos.

Rock paint artists were free to take their rock home to enjoy forever or were invited to join us at MOMnationAZ Rocks the World, a Facebook group following the travels of our painted rocks.

 

The instructions on the back of each rock read, “Post a pic on MOMnationAZ Rocks the World Facebook page and re-hide”.  If you see one of our rocks during your travels throughout the Valley, take a pic and post it to MOMnationAZ Rocks then re-hide.  Lets see how far these colorful rocks travel!

 

Join us at MOMnationAZ Rocks the World!  Just paint a rock, add the tag on the back, post a pic and hide it! 

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MOMnationAZ.com presents PROM2018: A Prom for Parents

On Saturday, August 18, from 6pm to 11pm, 100 couples and probably even a few singles going stag, will gather at the historic Crowne Plaza in Chandler to dance the night away at this Prom for Parents. ‘As parents we don’t have many opportunities to get together and party the night away old school style’ as Katie Halle Lambert, the founder of MOMnation describes.

East Valley mom of four, Jessica Nelson, not only attended PROM2017 last year she also helped with decorations and the evening’s agenda. ‘I really enjoy the social opportunities that MOMnation offers but I also love diving in and helping with all the awesome events the group organizes throughout the year.’

And, just like the high school prom, some moms that have attended the event in the past say their emotions and confidence can be a rollercoaster ride.

Jeni Cohen, a Mesa Mom of five, admits ‘I was a little shy and hesitant about meeting new people before I joined this group over three years ago and now I can’t imagine life without them. The variety of events and opportunities that group provides help Moms of all personality types find real friends that they click with.’

Mesa business owner Emilie Nikolich Mom of two states, ‘My life is busy.  MOMnation gives me an opportunity to plug in when I can on a social and professional level and I never feel like I have missed a thing.’

All agree that the annual Prom for Parents is an amazing way to recharge their social batteries and meet new friends.

What’s to expect at this Prom for Parents? MOMnation’s founder, Katie Halle Lambert says, ‘The ticket price includes a great variety of yummy appetizers served throughout the night, an entry into the drawing for some awesome prizes (someone won an iPad last year) and entertainment emceed by a pro DJ. And, of course, we’ll crown Prom King and Queen.’

This is the second annual Prom for Parents that the Phoenix moms group has organized and last year, the first, was sold out. Each year is a different theme. The PROM2017 theme was the 80’s and this year it’s masquerade ball. The upcoming event is open to the public and is priced at $28 which includes appetizers. Crowne Plaza is offering discounts on rooms for Prom attendees. For more information, visit the Eventbrite page.

MOMnation is a Phoenix, AZ area based social group exclusively for MOMs that coordinates social gatherings, business opportunities and local resources for its members.  Follow @momnationAZ on Instagram.

Contact:

Katie Lambert,MOMnation Leader/Founder
MOMnationAZ@gmail.com