Archive for the ‘Family Travel’ Category

Organized Travel

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

Vacations. The very word bring tears to my eyes. All of the packing, getting to our destination, kids not sleeping in their beds, getting lost, having trouble finding a hotel to stay in- let’s face it, vacations can evoke nightmares for mothers.

I remember our first “vacation” as one of the most horrific times in our lives. We were traveling to Indiana from Massachusetts around the holidays. Getting to the airport is never an easy task, but with thick fog in sight and no planes taking off we waited for ten hours with a ten month old little baby at the airport waiting for a flight to leave. Our luggage, however, made it to our destination and we headed home without our belongings to take a morning flight the next day. The next day arrived and we came with a back-up set of luggage to attempt to make our trip again. Our flight left, and much to our delight, our back-up luggage did not arrive. Upon finding this out, I burst into tears.

How could these people lose a back-up set of luggage as well as our first set of luggage? Luckily, our first set of luggage arrived and we headed to our parent’s house for the holidays with luggage in tow. This was, of course, the perfect time for our son to have the stomach flu and this persisted throughout our entire trip. Let me tell you, taking a child on a plane who has the runs is definitely one of the worst experiences of my life. When we finally arrived back to our airport at home, we discovered that they had lost our luggage again along with our car seat to bring our son home in. We set my son in their death-trap of a seat that they offered and headed home- weary from travel and the pure irony of our vacation. The airport did finally deliver our luggage, but delivered it to the neighbor’s house where it was sent back to the airport and arrived on our doorstep a couple of weeks later. After that trip I looked at my husband and told him that we would no longer be traveling home for the holidays. Our family would have to come and see us or they would just have to imagine us there for the holidays because I was never doing that again.

That was a particularly horrible vacation, but vacations do not have to be a time of stress or something that you dread doing with your family. The actual definition of vacation is “a period of time devoted to pleasure, rest, or relaxation, especially one with pay granted to an employee.” Pleasure? Rest? Relaxation? That sounds like something that one might enjoy. Vacations can actually be an enjoyable experience for the whole family with the proper organization and activities for the children. Here are a few of Mom Advice’s ideas for how to successfully pull off an organized and enjoyable vacation.

Proper Planning

The key to organizing a good vacation is to take the time to plan. First, I would highly recommend contacting the local Visitor’s Bureau for a packet of information on what they offer. Usually these packets of information include coupons for local restaurants, hotels, and area attractions and will include things to do in their state. These packets can save you a bundle of money if you are planning to attend any of the places within the packet and often will include an area map and information on what makes their particular state famous. We got a packet like this for our recent trip to Ohio and it was filled with wonderful coupons and ideas for places that were particularly kid-friendly. Make sure to pack this information with you when making your trip.

Try to check out books from your local library on where you are going so that you can get lots of inside information on the great places to visit. Then make a list of things that are important to your family for you to do so that you can make the very most of your vacation.

Many places offer discounts on area attractions through online sites as well, if you purchase your tickets in advance. Check to see if you can get any discounts on your tickets before you go so you aren’t shelling out hundreds of dollars on admission tickets.

Don’t forget to make arrangements ahead of time with the post office and your local newspaper if you will be out of town for any length of time and are in need of stopping your mail. Also make any arrangements necessary for your pets if you will not be bringing them with you. Boarding your animal will require you to have all shots current so keep this in mind if you need to have this done before you go.

Proper Packing

One of the best ways to stay organized on your trip is to organize your car before leaving for your destination especially if you will be spending hours of time in the car. I remember our trips to Florida as kids and my sister and I referring to the minivan as the “blue prison” because we hated being in the car so long. Our mom would let us pack the things that we wanted to take on our trips and let’s face it- when you are a child you have no idea what to pack or what activities will keep you occupied for hours. Our parents could only play so many games of I Spy before going insane.

The first thing to do is to do a through cleaning out of your car before embarking on your trip. Sweep the interior of the car and wipe down all of the surfaces. Once the car is clean you can begin filling it with everything you need in order to make your trip enjoyable. A really great purchase for your car is a backseat organizer. I have my backseat organizer filled with everything we might need on our trip. I keep our Entertainment Book and visitor’s bureau packet in there as well as diapers, wipes (for faces and bottoms), snacks, a spare sippy cup, a pen (for jotting down directions), tissues, and small toys for my son to play with. We also keep a plastic bag organizer tied to the back of our seat filled with plastic grocery bags. These bags come in handy for soiled diapers, holding trash, quick clean-up from picnic lunches, or (when not traveling) trips to the grocery store.

I then pack a small plastic crate with toys that my son can play with on his trip. You can fill this crate up with favorite toys or begin to keep a stash of toys that you are saving for just this special occasion. You don’t have to go out and spend a bunch of money on these though- check your local dollar store, garage sales, or save all of those silly kid’s meal toys that you get when you go out to eat. Some of the things that we keep in our son’s crate are puzzles, construction paper for drawing on, crayons and coloring books, a few “new” library books, and a few small toy cars and figurines that are his favorites. The idea is to really space the toys out as much as you can so that they have something to do the entire trip.

When we run out of activities in his box to do that is when we move onto the kiddy music. Try to find music that is at least bearable for the entire family so that you don’t need to pop aspirin in order to bear the music. We usually check out a load of music at the library before going on our trip so that there is something good to listen to on the way there. Don’t forget to pack some new music for yourself as well so that you too have something to look forward to.

Keep a small cooler in your car for the trip and fill this with lots of healthy goodies for the whole family so that you don’t end up blowing a bunch of money at the rest stops on your way there. Try to have lots of snacks on hand, lunch meat, bread, drinks, and breakfast foods/ cereal. This food particularly comes in handy if you are going to be gone for awhile and would like to save money on eating out.

The most important thing to remember is directions to your destination. The source I use the most for printing my directions is Map Quest, though Google Maps is also excellent. Not only do I print out directions TO my destination, but I also print out directions RETURNING from my destination. Yes, some people just reverse the order, but I find it much quicker to have a set in front of me that has already been reversed, especially when I am tired and coming near the end of my vacation. On these directions, include any phone numbers you need (number for the hotel or places you are staying at) and any notes on things you need to remember (confirmation numbers, room numbers, etc.). Staple to these directions any coupons you need for your destination (coupons on car rental, hotels, or restaurants) so that you have everything in one central location.

When packing your suitcases remember to check the weather for an accurate portrayal of the weather in the area you are visiting. Nothing is more uncomfortable then not having the proper attire for your vacation. Bringing layers of clothing insures that you will be comfortable whatever the weather. Keep an umbrella handy in your car as well for any unexpected rain.

Fill zippered plastic bags with your shampoos, lotions, and anything else that might leak or spill in your suitcase. The last thing you want to do is to have to do laundry when you are on your trip- this should ensure that you will not have spilled products to take care of.

Don’t forget the little things that can add up to big money spent if you forget them on your trip. Things that are frequently forgotten: cameras, digital cameras, chargers for cameras, film, extra batteries, sunglasses, cell phones, cell phone chargers, calling cards, swimsuits, and maps. Keep a list of all the things you want to remember the day of your trip and check that list twice. A great place to keep the list is next to your bedside table because usually the night before your trip your mind is racing with all the things you need to remember. Jot them down and then get the rest you need and deserve.

Pleasure, Rest, and Relaxation

Review the meaning of vacation and enjoy the time away from home. Make it a time that your whole family can remember with great fondness and remember to record these moments in your journal so that you can look back on them on those hectic days where no vacation is in site. If you are a family that is always on a schedule, then use this time to not be on a schedule. If you enjoy having a planned itinerary then by all means, plan the days the way that makes you and your family happy. The important thing is to enjoy pleasure, rest, and relaxation.

Enjoy your hiatus and happy vacationing!

Diaper Bag Essentials

Monday, May 16th, 2005

There was a time in my life when I could hop in the car, carrying only a purse, and head out the door with absolutely no planning. Ah, those were the days! Upon having our son though, I realized that any trip out the door had to be a well-executed one and it often took hours just to get ready for our destination. As he has gotten older, I can now stash the essential items he needs conveniently in my gigantic mommy purse, but those days of enormous diaper bags are definitely not far from my memory. Here is a list of my own essential diaper bag items.

Diapers

Obviously, if we are packing a “diaper” bag, we will need diapers. But how many diapers do you need? This will depend on the length of the trip and the age of your child. When they are infants, they are being changed every hour so a diaper per hour would suffice. This amount of diapers would only get you by, however, if you have no explosive emergencies. It was my rule of thumb to carry what I needed and to add two just to be safe. I would rather carry a heavier diaper bag then be stuck with a nasty emergency without the necessary tools I would need to resolve it.

Diaper Cream

Sore bottoms can happen at any time and it is good to always have some diaper cream on hand when a rash strikes.

Wipes

Wipes are handy, not only for wiping little bottoms, but also for wiping messy faces. I usually carry a big sack of them with me because I use them to wipe bottoms, faces, and runny noses. Store these wipes in an airtight container to retain the moisture in them. You can also make your own wipes with this wonderful recipe:

Homemade Baby wipes

Ingredients

  • Strong paper towels work the best (for example, Brawny).
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup of baby oil
  • 1/2 cup baby magic baby bath

Directions

  1. Cut one roll of paper towels in half.
  2. Take out the core so wipes pull out of the center.
  3. Place 1/2 roll of paper towels in container.
  4. Pour solution over towels.
  5. Store in container. Makes 2 1/2 rolls.

Changing Pad

You never know where you will end up changing your baby and you also never can tell what the sanitary conditions will be like where you are. Keep a changing pad in your diaper bag and use a soft burp cloth for layering if the surface is too hard for your little one.

Antibacterial Gel & Wipes

Antibacterial gel really comes in handy after you have changed a dirty diaper. The wipes will also come in handy when you have to set your child in a germ-infested grocery cart, on playground equipment, or just to give your kids a good swiping after another child has sneezed on them. Trust me, you are a mother, and it is okay to be a little germaphobic especially when you are a new mommy.

Burp Cloths

These are wonderful not only for all of that spit-up, but they can also be essential in padding your changing table or cushioning a little head.

Zipper Bags

Zipper bags are one of those things that you just can’t live without especially in the early years. These bags are perfect for storing those soiled diapers, as well as soiled clothing. These items can really leave an odor in your bag, if you have nowhere to dispose of them, so tuck a couple of dryer sheets in for good measure to keep your bag smelling fresh.

Clothing

Store, at least, one extra outfit for any diaper emergency. Nothing is worse than having a soiled outfit and nothing for you to change your child into. Trust me on this one- I have been there!

Feeding Supplies

Feeding supplies can mean an array of things depending on what stage your child is at and what you are feeding them. If your child is formula-fed, bottles and extra formula will be needed. For children on solid foods, they may baby food, spoons, bowls, and a small snack for the road.

Pain Reliever

It may seem like this is not a diaper bag essential, but pain relievers are a necessary component to a diaper bag. Keep acetaminophen or ibuprofen in your bag to provide pain relief. This is good to have on hand for your doctor visits when your child receives shots or when a fever or illness comes on suddenly. A teething gel is also good to have on hand when your child’s gums are swollen and painful from cutting teeth.

Blanket

A blanket is great to keep your child warm when they are chilly, can be used to cover an area where they are sitting, and also can keep your child’s head propped up when they are unable to hold their head up by themselves. Blankets are also useful for your baby’s doctor check-ups because they can keep the child warm when they must be unclothed for their doctor visit.

Entertainment

Be sure to have a couple of toys or books on hand to provide entertainment for your child when you are out and about. The amount of entertainment you need can vary on the child’s age, but you never know how long you will have to wait for your appointments or when standing in line so be prepared.

Extra Goodies

A couple of other extra goodies that you might like to keep on hand are your cell phone, a water bottle, a snack for yourself, and nursing pads.

I know that the list is long, but as your child gets older your list will get shorter. We are now able to throw a couple of toys, a cup of juice, a snack, a couple of diapers, and a pack of wipes in our bag and walk out the door instead of all of the items listed above. Tailoring down our diaper bag essentials was something that our family looked forward to and it is nice to be able to leave the house with everything stored neatly in my purse.

Please be sure to visit our printable Diaper Bag Checklist for a quick list of what you need to get out the door. This checklist can be conveniently placed in the pocket of your diaper bag or tacked on your refrigerator to be checked off before heading out the door.

It is difficult to remember all you need when you are a new and tired mother so let us do the work for you! This tool can hopefully aid you in having a stress-free outing with your child and help you to be prepared for all of those little baby emergencies.