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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Traveling With Kid(s)

The boy was three weeks old when he took his first plan trip. The reasons for that will have to be explained more later. We flew to Houston to see family and we have been traveling ever since. Now that he is 7 1/2, he has a favorite airline, knows how to take his shoes off to go through security, knows how to put his bag on the belt to go through x-ray at security, and has been in several flight decks (the new term for cockpit). He has made welcome aboard announcements from flight decks and pushed the fasten seat belt button. He knows how to order his own beverage, knows that when he sees the white lines on the tarmac we are going to take off, and knows that the first "ding" means he can use the portable DVD player. We're talking about a frequent flier and he is in several frequent flier programs. So, we have gathered some tips or hints to make traveling a bit easier, a bit smoother, over the course of our experiences. I will admit that our advice is based on traveling with 1 kid. The nature of children is that traveling with more than 1 could become exponentially more complex and more difficult.
Traveling With Kid(s) Hints and Tips:
  • Plan and Prepare! We make a list of items that will need packed in checked bags as well as carry on bags. When the boy was little, I packed extra clothes for him the carry on bag and an extra set for me. I can't tell you how many clothes he slimed (think various forms of body fluid) while traveling and we both needed clean clothes either upon arriving at our destination or before.
  • In the prepare category, we prepare ourselves with visual images of where we are going. The internet is an awesome source of photos and information. If we are going to a different hotel, we check it out on-line. Most places have a series of photos, slide show, or short video highlighting their location. There is also typically a list of amenities on the sites which helps me with packing. (Am I going to need a hairdryer?) If you still have questions, contact the hotel directly. Also, Disney sites, such as laughingplace.com have videos of rides and attractions. Watching these helps the boy prepare for what he is going to experience. It takes away the fear of the unknown.
  • Comfort objects: when the boy was little this meant his "blankie" which were the diaper rags. We did that on purpose so that they could be washed and we could have a whole bunch of them and they were all the same. . . and had multiple uses. We still sneak one in every now and then, as the texture and smell of one will sooth and help drift into sleep. We also pack a pillow case from home. Again, the smell and texture help induce sleep when in a strange room. When the boy was very little, we would feed him the last bottle of the night while watching the travel channel. The soothing voice of the narrator of the program would help him drift off to sleep in addition to his full belly. So, when he was 18 months old, we traveled to Branson for a family wedding (our first overnight hotel stay with the boy--we had always stayed with family prior to this). So, just in case, we recorded a few hours of the travel channel on a video cassette and took it with us--just in case. We take whatever we need to support the routine, especially the bedtime routine. For example, many hotels have only glass glasses in the room. So, we need a cup to wash hair during bath time. We have learned to pack that as part of the bath toys. And, we stayed at a new to us hotel before our last trip to Disney and discovered that our bathroom only had a shower. Well, the boy handled the shower, but imagine if we were traveling with a child that needed a bath. I mentioned the issue to the manager the next morning and while taking the on-line survey hotels typically e-mail you after a stay.
  • Can anything be shipped prior to your stay or delivered to your resort or hotel? There is a service Babies Travel Lite which allows you to order items--baby food, diapers, equipement, etc. and have it delivered to your hotel or resort worldwide, or to your home or any home. The boy was too old for us to take advantage of this service when we learned about it, but I can just imagine how handy the service could be. If you are traveling to Florida, there is a grocery store service that will allow you to place your order and have it delivered to your hotel or resort--Garden Grocer.com. Check to see if there are similar services in the area you will be traveling.
  • Food: We don't leave home without it. We typically have a cooler in the car with drinks and snacks. We also take food on the plane. Our favorites include small boxes of cereal (which you can also snag at a hotel that serves breakfast), fresh fruit--especially peaches, pretzels, and fruit snacks. All of those items can make it through airport security. This is also a cost saving feature!
  • We do arrive 2 hours before the flight. When kids are little, just getting through security with all the "stuff" can take a while. Strollers have to be folded up and placed on the belt to go through x-ray as do car seats. We have had liquid medications that require extra screening. Then once we are through x-ray, we make our way to the gate. When the boy was little, we lay out a blanket on the floor and let him move around. He had already been in a car seat for a while and we knew that he would be confined during the flight, so an active baby now meant a tired and possibly napping baby later. When he got mobile, one of us would stay with our bags while the other went off and explored. Again, a mobile child now may mean a tired and napping child while on the flight. And, escalators and moving "sidewalks" are incredible things to a young child. We have ridden the "tram" around Houston Intercontinental and the "tram" to and from the main terminal at Orlando International and explored the upper levels at Denver's airport. Also, when he was a baby/toddler, we requested seats near the engines, as the roar and noise would help put him to sleep.
  • As a lap child: Children under 2 do not require a seat on an airplane, they can travel as a lap child. Trust me, we took advantage of this. So, when he was baby stage, we had one of the strap contraptions that allowed for him to be carried on his Dad's chest. This was great on the plane. As he got older, we also used a backpack. More mobile than a stroller. The boy went spelunking was in the backpack on his dad's back. If you are traveling with a lap child and taking a car seat, it is likely that you will need to gate check the car seat. Now, sometimes you may be lucky enough to find that there is an empty seat on the plane. If a seat switch is possible, then you and your family may get the row with the empty seat. In this case, the car seat can then go on the plane and your child will now have their own seat. This occurrence can be rare, so don't count on it. Also, with many airlines now charging for specific seat assignments, switching of seats is now less likely.
  • Scheduling flights during nap time: When traveling, the closer you can stay to your child's schedule the better it will be. We have been known to schedule flights during nap time.
  • Another under the plan and prepare category: plan for almost anything to happen while traveling. We carry on a first aid kit, wipes, children's pain/fever reducing medication, etc.
  • You will be more tired than your child upon arriving at your destination. Our pediatrician told us that and he was right. Especially if your child has napped through most of the journey, they may not be ready for bed time. Pools to the rescue! One thing that would for sure wear the boy out and relax all of us was some pool and/or hot tub time before bed. This may mean packing a lifejacket or other safety devices, but it is worth it.

I'm sure I will think of something else or more upon posting. Your additions via comments will help make the list of hints and tips even more comprehensive. And, remember to have fun!

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