Monthly Archives: March 2013

Advice for flying with kids

Once you have kids, flying becomes a whole new adventure.   If your kids are under the age of four it is a potentially dreadful adventure.

When Bubba was fourteen months old we flew from the East Coast to the West Coast.  After that trip my husband and I swore off flying with him until he was older.  Everyone told us that he would nap on the flight.  He did nap.  The only problem was it was the half hour when we were waiting for the flight to take off.  Ten minutes into the flight and he was awake the duration of the flight.  I think the excitement of the flight kept him up.  This was before we had the electronic devices we now own.

In my opinion, I think it is easiest to travel with a child before they can crawl.  Once they can crawl I don’t think I’d want to be flying on a long flight with a baby….you cannot let a baby crawl around on an airplane.  If they are walking, then at least you can walk your child up and down the airplane aisle if necessary.  You cannot do this with a crawling child.

However, around the time your child learns to walk becomes the age when you never know what to expect.  I didn’t really start to relax when flying until my kids were three and a half.  Here are some things I have learned through the years:

  1. Pick out your seats ahead of time if you can.  Remember – if you are going to bring a car seat on a flight the car seat needs to be in a window seat if you are flying in a one aisle aircraft.  If you are flying in a two aisle aircraft it either needs to be in a window seat or in the middle of the row. I will usually find the best flights using a tool like Kayak, but then I will go to that airline’s website to book the flight.  This usually allows me to pick out my seats as I make the reservation.
  2. If you can book a bulkhead seat, book it.  First, if you have young kids then they cannot bother the people in front of them by kicking their seat.  Second, there is generally a little more legroom in the seats than in other rows.  More legroom = more room for your child to play in.
  3. Do not book seats in Exit rows.  You must at least 15 to sit in an exit row, so if you have a child with you then you will be forced to move your seats and you run the risk of being separated.
  4. If you bring along an entertainment device such as an ipad/DS/etc., PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE only allow your child to use these with headphones or with the volume on mute.  There is nothing more distracting to other passengers when we hear these devices.  If you at least have your child use headphones when using these, it at least sends the message to other passengers that you are trying to be considerate.  Practice using headphones before your trip.  Make sure you have child size headphones as well.
  5. Talk about the airplane ride before your trip.  Every time we fly I remind my kids how we are expecting them to behave and that flying is a privilege.  Good behavior on flights equals more trips in the future.  If they repeatedly behaved poorly I am sure we would have stopped flying with them years ago.
  6. Take your kids to the bathroom in the airport shortly before you start to board.  This past January we were on a trip and I took my daughter to the bathroom before we got on board.  However, she still needed to use the bathroom on the plane.  Those bathrooms are not meant for two people.  She is still too young to go in there by herself, but it was pretty tough maneuvering in there.
  7. Read up on the TSA’s website about what you can and cannot bring on a flight.  I believe you can bring juice boxes and milk if you are flying with young ones.  But take a minute to google it on the actual TSA’s website before you go.
  8. Remember that airlines are not responsible for providing you with water for your formula, warming  bottles, or having enough milk on hand for your toddler.  If you need these items, bring them.  Bring extra formula in case weather delays or mechanical delays delay you from reaching your destination.  Once you get through security you can always get ice from a restaurant – make sure you bring a bag or a cooler to put it in.
  9. Post-it notes, old magazines, a coloring book and crayons go a long way with toddlers.  Both of my kids loved to just put post-it notes up everywhere.  They both enjoyed grabbing magazines and tearing pages up.  To this day both of my kids enjoy a fresh box of new crayons and a new coloring book.
  10. Clean up after yourself once you land.  Flight attendants do not want to be cleaning your mess.  If you make a mess, do your best to clean it up.
  11. Bring your own snacks.  Even if a meal is available on a flight, I always assume mine won’t eat it.  I pack plenty of snacks.  Plus, if your child is in a mood having a snack tends to help things.  In addition to things that they normally eat, also pack things in there that they normally are not allowed to have.  I rarely buy fruit snacks, but they are a special treat when flying.
  12. Remember turbulence can happen in the air.  And when turbulence happens, the “Fasten Seat Belts” sign goes on.  When that sign is on you are not supposed to leave your seat.  So make sure you take your kids to the bathroom when that light is out.  If you are flying cross-country than half-way through the flight is a good time to have a bathroom break.
  13. If you are potty training and worry about your child having an accident – have them wear underwear, but put a pull-up on over the underwear.  That way if they have an accident or are afraid to use the airplane toilet the only damage that is done is to the underwear.
  14. If your child is disruptive, remind yourself that chances are you will never see these people again.  And chances are the majority of the people on the airplane are parents or grandparents so they have been in your shoes before.  That always helped me keep my sanity when one of my kids broke into a scream on a flight.

I hope my list helps you the next time you fly somewhere with your kids.  And to all of you non-parents out there – I assure you that when a baby is crying his/her parent’s are doing their best to calm the child.  It is very stressful travelling with a child.  We are trying to do our best to keep our child entertained.   Though you cannot hear it, we are apologizing to you in our heads.  We are eagerly awaiting the day when flying on an airplane becomes much less stressful.

Categories: Airplanes, Kids | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Flying and identification with kids

Rhubarb age two

Rhubarb age two

My kids have been on an airplane about once a year since they’ve been born.  They are now four and seven.  I always purchased an airline seat for my kids when they were younger than two.  It just didn’t make sense to me – all the other passengers are required to buckle up so why wouldn’t I buckle up my baby in a car seat while flying.  Plus I love my kids, but I would rather not have to hold them the duration of the flight.

Even though we’ve always paid for a seat on an airplane, I’ve always brought my kids birth certificates.  I figure they don’t take up much space and who knows if you’ll need to prove the kids age to anyone.  Once some friends of ours called us because they were at the airport and flying with their one year old.  They did not bring the birth certificate and the airline required it for lap babies.  They were eventually able to obtain some identification for the baby but it was a frustrating experience for them.

Rhubarb age one

Rhubarb age one (sorry for the bad picture)

I know that Southwest requires documentation for any one under the age of two not flying in their own seat.  I’m not sure what other airlines policies are.  Even if you are not flying on an airline that requires you to be able to prove your child’s age there is a possibility that you could end up on an airline that requires the documentation.  What happens if there is a problem with your original flight and you are put on another airline?  That airline might need that information.  I’m not sure – but in my opinion it is better to be safe than sorry.

I still travel with my kids birth certificates even though they are over the age of two.  I’ve just gotten in the habit of doing it.  If I consistently do it, then when they reach that magic age when they do require documentation then I will have that documentation on me.

Categories: Airplanes, Kids | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Easy hike for kids at the Grand Canyon South Rim

Last year we visited Arizona and New Mexico during my kid’s spring break. The primary objective of the trip was to visit the Grand Canyon. I knew that we would not have time to hike to the bottom and back up and I also knew that Bubba and Rhubarb were not old enough to do that yet. But I knew I wanted to do at least one hike while we were there. I am also afraid of heights so I did not want a hike that had drop offs on the sides of the trail. I started doing my research.

GrandCanyon2

Angie at the Grand Canyon (I think this is Shoshone Point but I am not sure)

I found the Shoshone Point trail. This trail was perfect. This hike is about a mile to the Grand Canyon. The hike is along a dirt (or gravel – I can’t remember) road. It is pretty flat. Bubba had no problems walking it. Rhubarb rode in a jogging stroller. The hike is through a Ponderosa forest until you get to the rim. The views at the rim are amazing and there are also not a lot of people here. Once we reached the rim I still maintained twenty feet between me and the rim.

When you reach the rim there are picnic tables which I believe you are supposed to have a permit to use. I remember there being toilets but without running water. Basically the toilets that you only use if you really need to go.

GrandCanyon

Bubba at the Grand Canyon (I think this is Shoshone Point but I am not sure)

So, if you go to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and you fall into any of the following categories:

  1. You have young kids, one or more of which may be in a stroller 
  2. You want a flat hike no longer than two miles round trip
  3. You are afraid of heights but want to be able to say you went hiking at the Grand Canyon
  4. You want a hike that is secluded from the many tourists

then be sure to google the “Shoshone Point” trail before your trip. This website has pretty good information on the trail including where it is located and where to park.

Categories: Grand Canyon, Sight seeing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chip and Pin credit card?

As I read up on Europe I have learned that a lot of places use a Chip and Pin technology in their credit cards. This means that you enter your credit card pin number after you insert your credit card. In the US though our credit cards have a magnetic strip. There is no pin to enter. I called my bank yesterday to find out if they were going to issue this type of credit card in the future and they said they have no plans to right now (though their website has information on them…)

My research indicated that we would probably be fine with just our standard US credit cards. I found that places we are most likely to run into trouble would be toll booths, gas stations, and train stations. However, we are planning using the train system and we are planning on renting a car – which will mean gas and tolls. So I thought it made sense to obtain a Chip and Pin credit card just in case.

The credit card I applied for is considered a Chip and Pin credit card but it will first act as a Chip and Signature credit card unless the place of business cannot handle that sort of transaction. Then the credit card would be a Chip and Pin credit card where I need to enter our PIN number to use it. Additionally, I found a Chip and Pin credit card issuer who does not charge an annual fee and does not charge a foreign transaction fee.

I’m hoping to travel more internationally after this trip too. So it made sense to get one of these cards. From what I’ve heard though sometimes it can take a while to actually receive your card. The company (Andrews Federal Credit Union – anyone can join) I went through to get our card apparently requires a lot of documentation before you receive the card. So I think you should plan on applying for a Chip and Pin card at least a month before your trip. I sent my application in today. We’ll have to see when I finally get the card.

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Practice at packing light

I am visiting my parents soon as my kids are on spring break. We will be there for five days. I am planning on using the trip as an experiment to see if I can pack light and fit my things and Bubba’s things in one carry on suitcase.

I am aiming for four days of clothes per person for Europe, and two sets of shoes per person. We will have one set of clothing on so I only need three sets in suitcases. So when we head to my parents I will pack similarly. I will need to pack items that coordinate with other items. For my daughter this means no pink shorts. All tops must be able to go with all bottoms. The same is true for my clothes and my son’s clothes as well.

So, we shall see if I can pack light for our trip. It is currently spring so clothes are bulkier. In the summer the clothes will at least be less bulky. That is one nice thing about traveling in the summer – the clothes are not as big.

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Saving money on a car rental: Part one

Last year my family went to Arizona and New Mexico. We flew into Phoenix and flew out of Albuquerque. We rented a car for the duration of the trip, ten days. When I started researching rental cars I was alarmed at the price we were going to have to pay. Renting at the airport was going to cost us over $1200. I thought this was a little excessive, so I started looking into better options.

First, I discovered that the Phoenix airport has one of the highest rental car taxes in the country. Second, it was more expensive to pick the car up in Phoenix and drop it off in Albuquerque than it was to pick up in Albuquerque and drop off in Phoenix. I believe this is because there is a higher demand for cars in Phoenix than Albuquerque.

I began to wonder if I could get a rental car cheaper. I could have reversed the order of our trip but since we were heading out West in the early spring I wanted to be in the potentially warmer areas first than the potentially colder areas….I was worried about snow. So I did not want to switch our itinerary around.

I then started to investigate off airport rental car locations in Phoenix. This would have been easier if we had landed on a week day between the hours of 9 to 5. Most off airport rental car agencies are open then. But because we were landing on a Saturday night I had a little more of a challenge since nothing was open when we landed. However, I managed to find a rental agency that opened at noon on Sundays. The cost to rent a car from this location? Less than $700 (I can’t remember the exact price). That was a savings of over $500 for a minor inconvenience. Could we make it work?

We knew that we were just going to spend the night at an airport hotel that first night. But the off airport location did not open until noon the next day. Noon was not a problem for us because my Dutch friend, Angie, was joining us on our trip and would not be arriving until after 1 PM, so we had time to kill before she arrived. I discovered that Phoenix has a light rail system that went downtown. This was perfect for us. Sunday morning we hopped on the light rail and headed to the Phoenix science center for a few hours until we could pick up the rental car. It also gave us the opportunity to get a glimpse of Phoenix. Additionally, I discovered the rental car location was accessible by the light rail system. While I had no problem taking a $20 taxi ride to get there now I was able to get there spending less than $5.

The moral of the story is to think outside the box when it comes to rental cars. For a minor inconvenience I saved over $500. In my next blog entry I will write about another way to save money with car rentals.

Categories: Rental Cars | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The kid’s luggage

We took the kids to Arizona and New Mexico last year. We did not plan on checking bags. As a result, we wanted the kids to each have a bag that was not too big and that they could handle. We discovered the REI Wheelie Bags. These bags are perfect for kids!

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The bags are big enough to fit plenty of clothes in. They have a large compartment and two separate compartments. One compartment I typically use to store socks/underwear/swimsuits. The other compartment is smaller but I can still store a stuffed animal or a small pillow pet. Additionally, the bags also have a small book bag that can be disconnected from the larger suitcase. This is great as a carry on for an airplane. Finally, the bags are on wheels. Last year when my daughter was 3.5 she was able to handle her own luggage.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure if we’ll be bringing these bags with us on our trip. We are really, really, really trying to pack light. I am hoping we will get all the clothes we need for four people in two suitcases. If we do that then my husband and I will bring our suitcases and the kids won’t have theirs.

 

 

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The kids

The kids

The kids

Our trip to Europe will be my kids first trip out of the country. When we go Bubba, my son, will be seven years old. Rhubarb, his sister will be four and a half years old.

Bubba

The Bubba

The Bubba

Bubba is very excited about this trip. I have no concerns for him on the trip. He is really excited to try new foods. He can’t wait to learn about other cultures and experience McDonald’s in every country we visit. Bubba asks a million questions a day and before you can answer a question he is onto the next question. One thing that he constantly asks about is how will we communicate if we don’t speak the language. I can’t wait for him to experience this and for him to find ways to communicate when he does not know the language. In restaurants we will probably tell him how to order in that country’s language so he will get to communicate with people.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

When I ask Rhubarb what her plans are for the trip she says, “Go on rides.” Hopefully the airplane ride and train rides count. She is the child I have concerns about. She has a very stubborn side and if she is tired you better make sure you have some wine in the house. She is not as adventurous an eater as her brother. I don’t expect that she will like everything that we order for her in restaurants. However I hope that she will try what is ordered for her and not throw a fit if she does not like something. As long as she tries her meal I am more than happy to pick up some bread for her to munch on after the meal. Also, as I mentioned earlier – if she gets tired you better watch out! So while we hope to see a lot we also have to remember to keep things interesting for a four year old. As much as I would love to spend a day at the Louvre, my daughter would reply this is “Boring, boring, boring.” Hopefully she will surprise me on the trip and have perfect behavior.

Categories: About, Kids | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Paris lodging

We are planning on spending three days in the Paris area. We will arrive in Paris around 11 AM on a Thursday and we leave Paris around 5:30 PM on a Saturday. Anyone who has ever visited Paris before knows how expensive it is to stay in a hotel there. When my husband and I were there for our honeymoon we stayed at a five star hotel using points I had accumulated from my days traveling to a client site. The room we had overlooked the Paris Opera house and regularly went for over 500€ a night. We paid $0.

When I started researching Paris hotel rooms I found I could get a room for two people for about $160 a night. But that was only for two people. A room for four people was going to cost us at least $300 a night. Do I book two rooms in a Paris hotel or do I book a quad room somewhere?

Another question I needed to figure out was should we stay in Paris or should we stay close to our friend who lives near the Meaux train station? While we are planning on sightseeing in Paris at least two days, at the end of the day we want to be visiting with our friend. So I decided to look for lodging close to her. Additionally lodging is much cheaper outside of Paris.

Meaux is approximately a 25 minute train ride from the Paris East train station. I figure we will be in Paris on Thursday and Saturday. So we will only need to commute to Meaux once on Thursday and we will commute to Paris from Meaux once on Saturday. We are still undecided on what we will do on Friday in France (the kids are hoping to go to Disneyland Paris, but that’s a whole other blog post).

I began searching Meaux hotels. I found one that had a room for four at a reasonable rate, but the hotel does not have the best reviews and it is not within walking distance to the train station. I then found a house that is a five minute walk from the train station. The owners rent a large bedroom on the first floor, secluded from the rest of the house with a private entrance. The cost for this room is €88 a night which is very reasonable seeing as we would be paying triple that if we were staying in Paris. The rate also includes breakfast. Right now that is the rate for two of us – I am hoping the kids will want to stay with our friend but if they don’t the owner has told me the room can accommodate up to four people, but they charge additional euros for more than two people.

One thing though that concerned me was that this was just one room in one house. What if the owners decided they wanted to stop renting the room out? What if there were negative reviews of the room? As a result I decided to make another reservation at the hotel that had quad rooms. That is cancelable up to 6 PM the night of the reservation. I am planning on holding onto that reservation and will cancel it closer to our trip when I am confident that we will have no problems with the bedroom rental in the house.

Paris lodging solved, and at a rate I am pretty excited about!

Categories: Lodging | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Berlin lodging

Our trip starts with us arriving in Berlin around 10 AM. I remember the jet lag I felt on my honeymoon to France and I am not looking forward to it in Berlin. I want to make sure that after we land we can go to sleep immediately, especially since the kids will be with us. However we also have another problem – we need a place that will sleep four people. Unfortunately quad rooms in Europe are not as common as they are in the US. So if I book a quad room then chances are the room will not be ready for an early check in since it will have most likely been booked the night before too. I don’t want to arrive in Berlin and then be unable to nap until 3 or 4 PM. Another problem is that a few nights later we are catching the night train from Berlin to Munich. That will mean we need to be out of our hotel room by noon or earlier and we will be homeless until 8 PM. We would be able to store our bags with the hotel but we would still have no where to take a mid day break if we wanted.

Previous VRBO rental - Sedona, Arizona

Previous VRBO rental – Sedona, Arizona

So I started looking for an apartment to rent on VRBO.com. We have used this site several times to book rentals and have always been pleased. We save money by not renting a hotel room and we can also cook if we want to. Everyone has more room to spread out as well and my husband and I don’t need to go to bed the minute the kids do.

I managed to find an apartment in Berlin. It is not as nice as places we typically stay at but the price is very reasonable. It is right next to a metro station as well. Since the price is so reasonable I am actually paying for the rental starting on Saturday even though we won’t be checking in until Sunday. This way the minute we land we have a place we can go to and crash. Additionally the owner is also giving us a late checkout so we can stay until we need to go catch our train. This way everyone can shower before we head to the train station since we won’t be able to do that on our train. Berlin problem solved. Hopefully everything works out once we arrive.

Categories: Berlin, Lodging | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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