26 November 2008

Family Lines at Airport Security

As of the 20th of November (LAST WEEK!), airports around the U.S. are supposed to offer 'family' lines for Airport Security. The thought is that the business traveler (or many other travelers in a hurry) will not sigh at the sight of the family ahead of them. Instead, families will line up at their own area, and hopefully avoid the stares and frustrations of those who may not understand the 'family travel' process (or have forgotten!).

Personally, we have not experienced this convenience, but are curious to know what others who have, think about it.
Seems like a great thing.

When we traveled to Hawaii last April, it was chaotic - shoes, clothes, belts, kids, and carry-ons everywhere. I remember apologizing to a man whose laptop we had inadvertantly buried within our stuff (which, honestly, really wasn't that much 'stuff', it just seemed to 'explode and multiply' at the security check!)....

A few things that have made navigating airports with our kids a bit smoother
  • make sure they are fed, and have gone to the bathroom (or diaper!) before embarking upon any airport 'line' activity
  • have a few simple toys, or games as a distraction for long lines (we've bought a lot of time with a slide puzzle, NAMiTs Cards, or tell me a story activities)
  • put kids (and yourself!) in shoes that are easy to slip on and off, better yet, something an older child can do on his/her own
  • try to avoid belts, this will just save that extra step of taking it off and putting it back on
  • if you have several children, varying in age, put an older one in charge of a younger one, to help with the adult's responsibilities
  • make sure the adult carry-on is the only one carrying electronics that need to be removed
  • make sure water bottles are empty before heading through security
  • explain to children old enough to understand what is going on. We found that our now 5 year old is a sponge for information, and was content just chatting about the happenings around us - while we wait for our ticket, our turn at security, or in line to actually board the plane (no additional props necessary!)
  • if you are traveling with young ones, we found it most helpful to make sure each child could be carried (not in just 'arms') or pushed in some shape or from . This allows for the adults to have one or two hands free - try a soft backpack, a simple umbrella stroller, or a Trunki (ride-on-top luggage!) they will save you many headaches, and increase your family's overall travel speed through an airport!
Check out these articles if you are heading out for travel this Holiday Season for more information on the family security check lines.

I'd be curious to hear what people have to say about it! Safe Travels, and may your kids travel happy!

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19 November 2008

I Spy Bags by Those Greathouse Women

Today I received my shipment from Those Greathouse Women, the makers of the innovative, adorable, soft, irresistible I Spy Bags.

I must say, I loved them when I saw them online, but when I saw them first-hand, I couldn't believe they were even CUTER in person!

What is the I Spy Bag? Basically, the I Spy Bag is a fleece bean bag with a clear window. Instead of beans, there are BPA/DEHP free polypropylene pellets. Various trinkets are hidden among the pellets for children to “discover.” All items are printed on a fabric label securely sewn to the back.

It is a great children’s toy that cannot be opened, and keeps most children quietly occupied during long waits (doctor, travel, grocery). Parents of special needs children find this game to be beneficial for coordination and tactile development. Adults also enjoy playing with this simple game.

The products are completely handmade in Those Greathouse Women's studio in Michigan. Attention to detail and safety is of utmost importance. All seams are double stitched and glued for added security. They take every precaution to ensure that each bag will stay sealed under normal conditions.

We think you won't be able to resist either! Please visit our site to see the range of price offerings of I Spy Bags in a variety of styles. A child will thank you for it! They make great travel activities, as well as the perfect item for a child's holiday gift swap at school. Adults will have fun with them TOO!

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13 November 2008

Second-hand Stores Provide Great Spare Travel Clothes

We love to shop consignment or second-hand stores prior to travel to outfit our kids. We don't sell clothing on our site www.kidstravelhappy.com, mainly because we focus on travel activities, books, games and toys, but we do think that easily accessible spare clothing should never be overlooked. There are 'cute' (and often pricey) spare travel clothing options (for kids and adults), but we find that travel tends to test even the toughest stain-proof items!

As a result, we have found that second-hand stores (garage/yard sales, exchanges etc.) are great ways to acquire clothes to pack for kids. Children tend to get less upset about clothes that are NOT their 'favorite" when encountered by a snack stain, or other activity disaster remnant that permanently adheres to them.

We've also used a layering technique (obviously NOT great for warm weather travel). Have your child wear a t-shirt with a long-sleeved shirt over it, and maybe even a fleece vest (or similar). If something spills, there is still a layer or two to call to duty!

And, don't think the kids are the only ones who need the spares. That spilled drink (on a plane especially), or that soaked through diaper (if you haven't purchased that under 2-year old a seat!) could end up on the ADULT's lap (bummer!). Despite the decreasing allotments for traveling on a plane, we've always felt even just a pair of shorts as spares (no matter the destination) can be a life saver.

Other quick tips/links

- dress kids in the 'second-hand' clothes, and put the 'first-hand' clothes on at the destination
- remember a recloseable bag or some other waterproof container for those soiled items. It is NO fun putting all of the nasty things into the ADULT's bag of dry things!
- check out this link
http://www.resaleshopping.com/ - "where the Internet meets local resale shop owners" for shops near you or near your destination (for US and Canada)
- another fun site for all those thrifters
- you can also try outfitting the family in 'synthetic' clothes (NOT cotton). Synthetic fabrics make for easy cleaning and wearing, as they tend to dry quickly. We often rely on this type of clothing for the 'big people'
- if you are traveling by vehicle, have a small 'spare clothes bag' (with at least one thing per traveler) that is easily accessible. This is much easier to find than to pull out each individual's luggage bag (as it's bound to be the one most deeply packed that you'll need first!)
- if you are local to the Bethel, Maine area, please visit Little Bits Consignment, located at 85 Main Street 207-824-4008

d kids we have realized that packing to go anywhere is NO easy task, but we've also realized that cutting corners in the wrong places can bring disaster.
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03 November 2008

Should you buy your under 2-year old a seat on a plane?

(photo above is NOT a great example of child restraint!)

A friend of mine is travelling with her nearly 2 year old girl next week and we were having a discussion about flying without a reserved seat for an under (barely) 2-year old. They had already made the decision NOT to buy her a ticket, but I thought I'd first touch base on this topic before moving on to her other questions that prompted more investigation.

First of all, we have had this debate in my household, as we have flown many times with our boys, who are now 2.5 and 5. Most recently, we have travelled from Maine to Oahu, Hawaii and our youngest son, Izaac, turned 2 on the trip. We debated changing the trip to save the over $800 for his ticket, and come home before he turned 2. After about an hour into our first flight, we were SO thankful that we'd spent the money. First of all, it gave us room for him and his travel activities, and it also gave the adults their room. It made Izaac feel like a 'big boy' and it made it easier to get him to settle into the seat belt, for meals etc. By half-way through the flight, we would have paid thousands of dollars for his own seat if we didn't already have one.

My opinion is that once a child is mobile (crawling, standing, walking) it's worth every penny to get that seat for them, but infants and pre-crawlers are mostly going to be held anyway (and they are smaller!), so the seat isn't as essential. Also, if the plane is NOT full, I have been given an extra empty seat (unpaid) for my traveling lap child, but obviously, this is not a fool-proof strategy, as more and more flights are filling up these days!

Another thing to think about however, is that some airlines discount a seat for a child under 2. This was the case when our boys were under 2, but not sure with all of the changes in travel regulations these days. The ticket price (even at full fare) may be worth the extra luggage allowance your small travelling companion now has - we always made good use of it, checking car seats (although, usually these are NOT counted as part of the allowance), kid carrying backpacks or other things we would not PAY to take along.

Our investigation shows that some airlines require any child (even under 2) have a seat for international or similarly long flights.

A link on the FAA you may find useful (in reference to child restraint safety)

SO, now it brings us to the question of what can one bring for the UNticketed passenger?

As far as we can tell, a lap child is considered part of an adult's ticket, and thus is NOT allowed any luggage. Note that airlines will usually check a stroller at the gate, and a diaper bag is usually NOT counted as one of your carry-on bags. It is best, however, to check with your specific airlines. Airline's websites usually have this information in a not-so-hard-to-find place.

One other last tidbit worth mentioning when flying with an 'under 2' child. The bathrooms are equipped with a changing table, but if you've never used one, successful use of one is based on practice, and preparation. The space is tiny, and if you have unexpected turbulence (YIKES) it's a bit scary. Board the plane with your own self contained system you may be able to use on the floor (discretely), and all will be happier!

Make sure you pack proper activities to keep the young traveler busy. One cool activity is a set of hand puppets from Manhattan toy, where one is sized for a 'big' hand, and one for a 'small'.

Or, get a set of finger puppets and entertain with storytelling!

Enjoy your trip!

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