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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Car Time

Like most families, we spend a LOT of time in the car. On a daily basis, we average 1-1.5 of driving time. A trip to the park (20 minutes both ways), grocery store (10 minutes), church (20 minutes) or the great-grandparents (25 minutes) means we have to drive everywhere we go. Nothing is within walking distance in our Pittsburgh neighborhood.

Like most moms, the HDYDI mom’s are always looking for new ways to keep the peace in the car. Personally, I am a bit of a pushover in the car. I simply can not drive well or concentrate when there is a lot of screaming going on directly behind my head. That said, I was eager to poll the other moms and pass along our suggestions to the army of mini-van-driving MoMs!

"Keep the snacks coming, and all our eardrums will be okay!"

"Keep the snacks coming, and all our eardrums will be okay!"

LauraC has a little storage bin that fits between her car seats that houses various toys for her boys to play with. What she does not recommend in cars: Stickers, markers, two recorders that you
stupidly bought for an extended car trip and the boys now think should ALWAYS be played in the car!

For music, they really enjoy the Backyardigans CDs. Also, XM Radio plays an assortment of all kinds of kids’ songs. For long trips, all bets are off-whatever keeps them entertained.

"I may look happy now, but just wait 'til I drop my cup!!!"

"I may look happy now, but just wait 'til I drop my cup!!!"

Goddess in Progresshas the Curious George/Jack Johnson CD in her van, along with the Bare Naked Ladies kid cd and the Music Together CD. Also, she uses the auxiliary jack that plugs into her iPod as she has a kiddo playlist on there, too. And while she does have a DVD player in her van, she says “I have yet to use it. I refuse to, unless we find ourselves on a trip longer than an hour or two. Because I know, in the minds of young toddlers, if I do it once…. they’ll want Elmo or whatever on every trip to the grocery store. And I just want to avoid that battle for as long as possible. I also find that sometimes the only way to keep them awake in the car before nap time is to take “requests” for songs (usually Wheels on the Bus), or try to engage them in looking for cars/trucks/buses/dogs/colors, etc.

The magna doodle is a big hit with my kids right now, but I don’t use it in the car much, because mostly they just like me to draw animals for them. And clearly, I don’t want to struggle with drawing an ugly dog while driving. :-)”

Synchronized Sleeping.

Synchronized Sleeping.

My own CD player houses our Bare Naked Ladies “Snacktime” CD, which I think I like better than the kids. Maybe once they learn to count they will understand the humor of “7 8 9.” We also really like Junior’s Bedtime Songs by Veggie Tales. Unlike most Veggie Tales music, which can be rather jarring, this one is very soothing. Our other current favorites are the audio books by Eric Drachman. I think I have listened to “A Frog Thing,” and “Leo the Lightning Bug” 800 times. Yet they are so successful at entertaining our kids, that my husband ordered the other three book (they come with an audio cd read by the author) this week! We are anxiously awaiting their arrival.

On long car rides, we hand out comfort objects like they are candy!

On long car rides, we hand out comfort objects like they are candy!

If anyone has any car-entertainment suggestions or stories, please leave them in the comments section. And for heaven’s sake, if anyone know of a snack cup that would keep millions of bits of cereal from being spilled all over my van, please let me know!

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Flying With Twin Infants

Shortly after you get comfortable going pee with twins, you will decide that you need to get out of the house with the twins. Maybe to a restaurant. Where regular people eat. At regular people hours. And I’m telling you right now after a few successes, you’ll feel bold enough to get out of town with the twins.

For road trips, The Meyers Family wrote an informative post about must-have’s for the car with children. And Shawn wrote some car travel secrets for toddlers.

Snickollet and Goddess In Progress, two REALLY BRAVE moms, have written about flying solo with twin toddlers here and here.

What with all this and more great information on traveling, what could I possibly bring to the table? Well, maybe not much, but at least it’s one more experience to peruse as you plan your trip, specifically, one where you are flying with infant twins. That’s one of the things I’ve learned so far: listen to people’s stories, modify for your own situation.

I’ve linked to the posts originally published on my personal blog, RaJenCreation. And if you have questions or additional tips to offer, by all means, comment!

Part I: Planning and Packing

Part II: The Airport Experience

Part III: Your Final Destination

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Making Memories

While there are plenty of nice things about living here in Massachusetts, one negative for me is that we are at least 1,000 miles away from nearly all family members (save for my beloved sister-in-law).  Not only do we lack the extra helping hands on a regular basis, but it is distressing that my kids don’t really know their grandparents very well.  Even harder is, the few times a year that we do manage to see them, there’s always that element of the kids having to warm back up to these relative strangers.

At the ocean

Well, in preparation for our most recent trip to Florida, I decided my kids would benefit if I took a page from LauraC and did what I could to familiarize them with people and things ahead of time.  I printed out some photos of grandparents and other folks we’d see, as well as some pictures of the pool and the ocean. I put them in an inexpensive photo book and we “read” it every night for the week before we left.  Between that, and stepping up the frequency of Skype sessions, there was much less adjustment and stranger anxiety with my 18-month-olds and a whole pack of eager relatives.

Having a chat with Auntie and Nana

When we got home, I started thinking… I wanted to reinforce these relationships they’d built up, and reinforce memories of the fun we’d had (and, um, mostly forget about the fact that they were both sick the entire time).  Plus, despite the fact that I’ve taken many thousands of photos since they were born, I have almost none printed to hold in my hands.

From now on, I’ve decided, I will print a photo book after every major event/vacation.  I simply use iPhoto, and can even write up the “story” beneath all of the pictures.  Another book to read with the kids, some photos saved for posterity, and the added bonus of trying to reinforce the earliest beginnings of memories.  Sounds like a win to me.

Does it work?  Well, my mother-in-law came to visit this weekend, arriving late Friday night.  She went in to get the kids when they woke up Saturday morning, and my sometimes-wary toddlers were absolutely thrilled to see her. Bonus!

Last bits of snow

What about you?  Do you have far-flung family and friends?  How do you encourage young ones to remember the people and places that you don’t see as often?

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My husband Jon travels for work and I have longed for the day that our boys and I can tag along for a trip. Last week, I got my wish as we took a four day trip to Dallas. The only glitch was that I would have to fly back by myself with the boys as Jon stayed on for his business trip. My boys are 2.75, which is a fairly good age for traveling.  I wasn’t that nervous until the day before the trip when I went into a complete panic, imagining all the things that could go wrong. Despite all my worries, the trip was a smashing success.

When I first booked the trip, I consulted the write-ups on solo travel by Snickollet and Sadia. For the most part, I followed their advice. I thought I would write about what I did differently than they did, and also emphasize some Very Important Tips.

1. iFrogz + video ipods.If you’re going to keep two toddlers entertained on a long flight, this is a good product to have in your arsenal. I limited myself to one carry-on yet was easily able to fit two of these. Not only did the boys watch tv, they also listened to music and looked through pictures I loaded onto them. I wrote a full review of this product here. I spent quite a bit of time reading on the plane while the boys watched Dora.

tadpole

2. GoGo Kidz Travelmate. We’ve used these for every flight we’ve ever taken with the boys. The only downside was the number of times I got stopped in the airport to discuss them when I was clearly very busy with two toddlers! Again, I wrote a full review here. Unlike Sadia and Snickollet, I planeside checked the car seats and let the boys sit in the airplane seats.

3. Burning off toddler energy.I had planned to let the boys run around and blow off  steam before getting on the plane. As soon as I let Alex out of the Travelmate, he took off running through the very crowded Dallas airport without looking back. Did I mention that kid is fast?! As I ran through the airport dragging two GoGo Kidz, Nate, and my carry-on, I decided the boys lost walking privileges. If you’ve got a darter, consider this one before experimenting in a crowded place.

4. Keep a positive attitude. Our gate got moved twice. The first time, it got moved six gates away. The second time, it got moved 14 gates away. I decided to take the jetway to save some time and energy. They were incredibly excited to get to ride a car rental shuttle bus, a jetway train AND a plane in one day. As we moved gates the second time, I saw a lot of adults traveling alone with very grumpy faces while the three of us had fun. From the jetway bridge, the boys were able to watch the entire Dallas tarmac with hoards of planes. That ended up being their favorite part of the day.

5. Stay respectful of your fellow travelers.When we got to our seats, I told the boys The Rules. No kicking the seats in front of them. You must stay in your seat. You must wear your seat belt. They happily obliged.  When they started playing with the seat back trays, I told them I would take away their apple juice if they did not stop. When we landed, I knew our flight was a success when the woman in front of us turned around to tell the boys they were very good on the plane.

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… with a couple of little kids on a rainy day, boy oh boy do I have the place for you.

This morning, my mom and I took the kids to the Skokie Park District’s Exploritorium.  To call it an “indoor playground” does not begin to do it justice.  There was an arts and crafts area, a big plastic climbing structure with two slides, a bunch of push-toys, several computers, a train table, a stage with lots of dress-up clothes, books, puzzles, a water area, and a two-story tube and tunnel climbing course.  Heck, there was even an exersaucer and a couple of little play tables for the less-mobile ones.  It was, in a word, awesome.  And cheap!  $4 for adults, $6 for kids, and toddlers and babies two and under were free.  A bargain at twice the price, I swear.

The only down side is that, bold as I usually am, it’s not really do-able with two toddlers and only one adult.  It was tricky enough with one-and-a-half adults (I’m still hobbling along on my post-op foot), definitely not something I’d do on my own with my two 16-month-olds.  But if you’re in the area and have a 1:1 child-to-adult ratio, it’s well worth the outing. There’s no stated age range, but I think anywhere from toddlers to young elementary school kids would have parts they would enjoy. My kids had a blast. I suspect we’ll be going back before this trip is over…

rebecca water table with ducks

daniel water feature

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Maddie, Riley, and I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my in-laws in the Detroit suburbs. While the kids and I have taken a number of flights together, this was actually the first time I’d ever flown alone with them. In the past, I’ve been lucky enough to have a grandparent (Thanks, Ba!) available to help us on on the plane, and, while I could imagine how I could manage on my own, I’ve dreaded the day that I had to make a solo journey.

 

Dread no more: we did it, and it was so easy I’m embarrassed to write about it.

 

Here are a few things that I think made our trip go so well and some things to think about if you find yourself traveling by yourself with your kiddos.

 

1. Talk it up before you go. I told the kids we’d be getting on the airplane, that they’d have their carseats, that we’d eat a snack and take a nap. I told them who we’d see when we got off the plane. We talked about the trip a lot before we left, and all the talk got them really excited about it all.

2. Travel at off-peak times. We left at noon on Thanksgiving day. The airport was empty. When we went through security, it was us and about ten TSA agents. That’s it. Not feeling the stress of the busy holiday crush made me feel more relaxed and made all of the logistics that much easier.

3. Check in ahead of time online. I had our boarding passes all printed out and I’d even paid for our checked luggage online so we had fewer logistics to deal with at the airport.

4. Hitch a ride. If you can, get someone to drive you to the airport. I was lucky enough to have a friend drive us in our own car, so I was able to have the carseats ready to go and our luggage loaded in advance. Our friend just dropped us at curbside checkin and we were all set. A taxi would have worked fine, too, but it’s nicer when a friend can see you off.

5. Limit your carry-ons. (Please stop laughing. Really. Stop.) You can do it! You can keep your carry-on luggage to one backpack. In my backpack, I had: a change of clothes for each kid, two coloring books, a bag of markers/stickers/crayons, a bag of new board books, a bag of snacks, two empty water bottles, and my essentials (wallet, boarding passes, phone, etc.) I also packed the twins’ hats and jackets in our checked luggage so that I wasn’t dealing with those bulky items in addition to the two kids, carseats, and my backpack. I packed my own purse in our luggage to use once we arrived at our destination, although I could have just used the backpack the whole time. I was able to wear the backpack through the airport and thus have both hands free to manage the twins. 

6. Speaking of managing the twins, they rode in style in GoGo Kids Travelmates. I love these. They are amazing. I attached them to the carseats the night before, then strapped the seats into our car with the wheels on using the seatbelt instead of the LATCH system. Once at the airport, I lifted the seat—kid and all—out of the car and we literally hit the ground rolling. At security, we just popped off the quick-release wheels, and the carseat and handle went right through the scanner. On the airplane, I pushed on kid ahead of me down the aisle and pulled one behind me; when we got to our seats, I lifted the kids in their carseats one at a time into their airline seats and strapped them in. I have no idea how I would manage two kids and two carseats without our GoGos.

7. Let the kids run around a lot before you put them on the plane. This is pretty elementary, but always worth repeating. They are going to be stuck in those carseats for a long time and they will get fidgety. Run them around in the gate area before you board. You won’t regret it.

8. Travel during naptime. We took off at noon, when the twins usually start their nap. They slept from before the plane leveled out until it was parked at the gate in Detroit. Awesome. Of course, all those new toys and books I packed were for naught, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay. We’ll play with them eventually.

9. Be willing to bend the rules. I never let Maddie and Riley have their special frog and duck and their special blankies out of their cribs, but I did let them have those comfort items on the airplane. Even better, I packed them into little animal-shaped backpacks, so Maddie and Riley each had her and his own carry-on bag. They loved having the responsibility of caring for Duckie and Froggie as we went through the airport and really loved having them to snuggle on the plane. I also let them eat all manner of things that I would not normally let them eat, at least not all at once: fruit snacks, endless crackers, juice, cookies, and a lollipop each. It’s one day. It will be fine.

 

I’m sure you all have more tips, so feel free to share them in the comments. I have to say that travel, even solo, was much easier at 2.5 than it was a year ago at 18 months. I’m hoping the worst of the travel nightmares are behind us. Of course, ask me that again after I fly cross-country and back with the kids at Christmas . . .

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My husband and I just drove 1600 miles with our 2 1/2 year old twin boys for Thanksgiving. In the 28 hours we were in the car, the boys didn’t cry once. I am not making this up. This is a true story. I did an insanely long write-up on my personal blog about our experience, but that should really only be read by people who know me. For HDYDI, I’d like to write about two products that made this trip EASY.

Item 1: Travel Trays. After much research, I chose this particular brand of travel tray because it is soft (safe in impacts) and it straps around the child so the child can not throw it to the floor of the car. Before the trip, I thought it would be handy for eating meals and coloring with crayons. On the trip, we found it’s best use was preventing toys from falling to the floor. The boys kept the trays full of snacks, sippies, loveys, Hot Wheels, and playing cards. They could happily discard one item and have it available for future use.

Item #2: Dual-headrest DVD player with toddler headphones. We’ve used these headphones on many trips and I can not say enough good things about them. The boys could happily watch their shows and my husband and I could happily converse with each other and listen to NPR podcasts.

If anyone is planning a long road trip for the upcoming holidays, I would highly recommend both of these items.

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