Saturday, August 21, 2010
With advances on the technological front making traveling easier and easier, one thing seems to always remain the same. Traveling with children is a pain, plain and simple. Almost every trip can degrade into a cacophony of "I have to pee!" and "Are we there yet?". Thankfully, there are steps to be taken that will ease the harsh reality of toddler travel, and while it will never equate to a day at the spa, at least you won't be bald by the time you reach your destination.
Keep the little bees busy
To a young child, a half an hour seems like a lifetime. So one can only imagine how an extended car ride can wear on a little one's patience. While toddler minds can readily jump to the conclusion that the trip is never ending, if entertainment is readily available the long, tiresome hours can slide by a little smoother. Some cars and planes now come with built in DVD players. If this is the case, make sure to bring along brand new movies for the waking hours and a few old favorites for sleep time. If no DVD player is available, most laptops can play DVD's as well. If your mode of transportation is technologically lacking, there is always the classic alternative consisting of a bag of new playthings. A good tactic is to load up on small, cheap toys and keep them handy for travel time. Don't be tempted to raid the toy box from home, because the little one will not be amused by his day to day toys. New, inexpensive trinkets will hold the child's attention for good amounts of time, and once one bauble becomes boring, low and behold, another appears to entertain tiny hands and tiny minds. Try not to hand over the whole stash at once, instead go one at a time to prolong the use of your bag of goodies.
Make eating simple and fun
Every parent of a small child can understand the horror and frustration of crushed Cheerios and old french fries littering the car floor. Even if you opt to eat inside, what if a booster seat is not available? Or your little one could be a picky eater, and demand chicken nuggets when all the restaurant offers is chicken tenders. These are the woes of every parent, but precautions can be taken to minimize food tantrums. For snack time in the car, there are cups available in most supermarkets that have a rubber lid with cut out slits, so your babies hands can reach into the cup and pull out snacks without dumping them everywhere. These no spill cups are a serious upholstery saver. Try to avoid crumbly, high maintenance snacks, and stick to the basics. Granola bars, fruit snacks, and dried fruit can all take care of a sweet tooth without overloading your baby on sugar, and all three come prepackaged and ready to go. For the picky restaurant eater try to plan ahead, and if the menu looks sparse once you're seated, ask your server if your child's favorite food can be made. Oftentimes it is no problem to turn chicken tempura tenders into bite sized nuggets, all it takes is a few knife cuts. If all else fails, you can always pack a cooler with Junior's favorites inside, since most larger gas stations offer microwaves.
They're not going to want to walk, so be prepared.
Parent and child both love amusements parks, who doesn't? Yet after the first ride or two your little one's feet are going to ache and his patience is going to run out fast. It may seem like a unnecessary pain, but always bring a stroller. Amusement parks know that little feet will need a break and often provide strollers, but the prices can be outrageous and the seats in the strollers can be hard and uncomfortable. If your baby is still in an infant seat, go for the travel system combo. The car seat will fit into the stroller without a problem and can save you the time of finding a stroller that will fit your car seat. Plus, who doesn't love to match? If your baby is older, opt for the smaller, slimmer strollers that can fold up to fit almost anywhere. These lightweight canvas strollers are perfect if baby needs a break and won't take up lots of precious baggage space in the back of the car.
Nobody likes poop.
No set of big blue eyes or gummy smile is going to make up for a big, stinky diaper on a car or plane ride. So when you smell that smell, be prepared! Pack a small carry on diaper bag for plane rides. Include a travel size wipe dispenser, a few diapers, rash cream and a simple change of clothes. Don't ever reassure yourself that baby won't deliver during the two hour flight, because he most certainly will. It is just the way of things, confined spaces equal poop pants. Plane bathrooms are tiny, and the changing tables even tinier, so go ahead and ask the flight attendant to prepare the table for you before you head to the bathroom. Trust me, they'd rather prep a table than clean up the disaster that could occur should you try to prepare the table one handed. Car rides are a little easier, repeat the previous step about the travel diaper bag and you should be fine. Make sure for both planes and cars that you bring your own changing pads, just in case of emergency.
Don't go crazy
I know, I know, you must be thinking I must never have experienced child travel to even suggest this step, but it is essential. Keep calm, keep motivated, and most importantly, keep sane. If you are traveling with your husband or wife, split up for a little bit during vacation. Let Hubby go golfing while Mom takes the kids to a museum, or let Mom have some spa time while Daddy takes the babies to the pool. Don't try your hardest to shove every activity you can into every minute of the day. Take some down time, relax. During the traveling itself don't worry if you get a little tense or snappy, it is natural. Stop at a rest stop and stretch your legs, buy your kids some candy and enjoy a moment of peace. If on a flight, let your child watch as much in-flight television as they please, be happy for the respite. The trick is to not try and make things perfect, just try your best and make them easy.
These are just a few tips to simplify travel time. Every child will be different, every vacation or trip a different experience. The most important thing is to prepare for each and every aspect of the trip. It may seem like a pain at the time, but the one thing you forget to prepare for is the one thing that is sure to happen. Make sure nothing can possibly go wrong, so when it does, you can handle it with authority and grace.
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Friday, August 6, 2010
National Geographic called Packing Pro one of the best travel apps for iPhone. Apple showcased the app in their App Store Travel Guide and AppShouter called it "the ultimate tool for regular travelers." Examiner.com gives the app a five out of five stars rating and says, "Basically, everything you ever need for your trip is in here, and if it's not, you can add it!" Now, American Express' Travel+Leisure magazine has named Packing Pro the "Top Travel App of 2010." Let's take a look at this little app and see what all the fuss is about.
According to Packing Pro's website, the app provides you with a number of features:
- An expert list assistant which creates lists based on the number of people traveling with you, their ages, how many days you'll be traveling, the temperature and destination, and preferences such as how you will wash clothes or prepare food.
- Eight sample packing lists for different groups such as families, couples, campers, and business people.
- Customizable fonts, layouts, and colors.
- Easy navigation.
- A catalog of over 800 extra items for babies, kids, pets, sports, activities, cooking, religion, and more.
- Smart Search.
So how does the app work? Basically, you create your packing list and customize it by adding, deleting, renaming, or reordering categories and types of items or by using one of the sample lists provided. While doing this, the app will suggest ideas for your trip, such as "typical male/female" suggestions or suggestions based on whether you plan to travel lightly or not. You can use the app to check off items once they've been packed and keep a tally of how many items in each category you've already packed. You can even email completed lists to family and friends.
Essentially, the app helps you stay organized when preparing for a trip. It also seems like a great way to make sure you return from your trip with everything you came with. (Who hasn't gotten halfway home and realized they left that shirt in the drawer or that book on the nightstand?) Regardless of what type of traveler you are, this app seems like it could be used by anyone.
The app runs on iPhone OS 3.0 or greater, iPod Touch, or iPad OS 4.1 or greater. You can purchase the app at the Apple App store for $2.99.
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