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Top 10 Tips for Flying with Kids – Because, yes, you can!

Top Ten Tips for Flying with Kids

Imagine this: your child screaming his or her lungs out (kicking, punching and a deluge of tears) in the middle of a quiet overnight flight. Your only relief? The dark cabin—at least you can’t see everyone’s dagger eyes (but you can hear it in their frustrated “tsk tsks”).

Right. Because I want my son to have a complete and utter toddler meltdown because he doesn’t want to sleep. Right. Because if I could I would sell my right kidney for an “off” switch.

Ahhh. Air travel with toddlers. The world is our oyster but because air travel is such a daunting (exhausting, frustrating, frightening) journey, many parents shy away from amazing vacation adventures. I know because I was one of them. My husband and I planned on going to Thailand for our annual getaway with our toddler but because the flight is so long, we ended up passing up the opportunity. Next year? Perhaps. We’ll see if we have the guts to attempt 24 hours of travel time (more than half of which is spent in a plane).

But there is light at the end of the proverbal tunnel. We have flown with our son (albeit Hawaii and not Thailand) and it is completely doable. Here are a few tips:

1. Don’t stress. I know. This is like me asking you not to think of a pink elephant and all you can think of is a pink elephant in a blue tutu. How about this: try not to stress. You’ve made the decision to fly with your kids and you certainly aren’t going to back out last minute so make the most of the journey. I’m willing to wager that the typical adage “the destination isn’t important; it’s the journey there” does not apply here but still, enjoy your time—you are on vacation, after all.

2. Bring toys. And I don’t mean toys for you. Forget about the in-flight entertainment for adults. Don’t even think about opening that Kindle/Kobo. It’s just not going to happen. As long as you realize that from the beginning, you’ll be better off. Now, on to the real toys. Bring toys that your kids haven’t seen before but that you know they’ll like. Even if you are the “no tv” kind of parent, I highly recommend forgoing this rule and bringing your kid’s favorite program or introducing a new one.

3. Pack light. How is that even possible with all the junk you are carrying to entertain your child in the cabin? This is a good rule for packing in general. Unless you are trekking in Antarctica, you can be pretty sure that you’ll find diapers and clothing for your child at your destination (maybe even cheaper). Is it worth the hassle of lugging around a gigantic suitcase just to be sure? Keep your carry-on bag light and manageable. You are already juggling baby/bags/passports/tickets/insanity. The “just in case” syndrome is a vacationer’s worst enemy. Pack the stuff that really matters—leave the rest at home.

4. Be on time! In fact, because you are travelling with babies, leave extra early. Don’t do as we did: late for our flight, we were rushing like idiots through security and I had a panic attack when the slow as molasses security guard decided to test every bottle of formula, lotion and doodad I had stupidly packed. We BARELY made the flight. Do yourself a favor and leave on time (or early).

5. Pack something warm & bring food/snacks. I know this is contrary the 3rd tip but airplane cabins can get really chilly and nowadays, there’s barely any food options, especially for kids! Don’t rely on the airline’s supply of blankets; they often run out of them. Bring something that can double as sweater (even if you go to a tropical destination, you are likely to encounter a chilly night) or fleecy sleeper. Bring plenty of snacks. Even if you don’t finish them inflight, you will certainly eat them up along the way. Keeping your child comfortable eliminates one source of the tantrums.

6. Apologize in advance. Make friends not enemies. I once read a story online about a couple who apologized to the passengers by writing an apology note along with a goodie bag. Obviously this is not feasible for most people (and I’m sure, if the story is true, the plane must’ve been tiny) but I found that a good way of calming the nerves is to walk my son up and down the aisles to show people that the source of the screaming is a cute, innocent child (and not a demon). Once people see your darling angel they might not be as easily agitated by the eardrum shattering screeches. Well, maybe not but it’s worth a try.

7. Make friends with the staff. Ok, you know how you don’t make friends with salad? (Sorry, I had to insert a Simpsons joke…) I highly recommend being overly nice to the flight attendants. If your child just can’t get enough OJ or you need a million napkins to wipe up the spilled OJ, you really want them on your side. Some airlines have perks for kids like little snacks, air plane activity kits and who knows…maybe your child could actually meet the pilot in the cockpit (if that’s even still done).

8. Bring drugs. I know, I’m going to get in trouble for this one but hear me out: I’m an adult and I get terrible motion sickness. I know I feel much more comfortable with some motion sickness drugs in me so if your kid suffers from motion sickness, I don’t think it’s a big problem to give them some drugs to settle their stomach. Of course, it’s also a huge side bonus that these motion sickness drugs (and antihistamines) make your kid drowsy. Look, if your child is totally uncomfortable, stressing you out and screaming his/her lungs out, I really don’t think slipping them a little sleepy-aid (ONCE a year!) is going to harm them.

9. Tire them out. But make sure you get enough sleep! Do not, I repeat, do not stay up all night packing or stressing about whether you’ve packed everything (been there, done that) and go-to-bed. If your child is physically tired, you are more likely to get a restful flight. I can only hope that my son is tired enough to sleep a few hours on the plane. Also, make lists. Lists are a mother’s best friend.

10. Stroller it. I’ve had a few friends ask me about the stroller situation. If I were you, I’d bring the stroller all the way to the gate. Airlines allow it and it’s SO much easier to get around in the airport. Also, since you are lugging all the other travel gear (read: crap), it’s nice to have your child buckled in with nowhere to run!

Bonus: Bulkhead if you can. This one is a bonus because honestly, if you get the bulkhead seat, you really are in for a bonus. I’ve sat in the bulkhead seat ONCE and I was visibly pregnant and begged with puppydog eyes when I checked in. So most likely, you won’t be getting the bulkhead seats. If you do, you are in super luck: they have (on international flights) bassinets, super leg room, no one in front to worry about and up close and personal screens.

Good luck!

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Omega Park – The Bear Necessities (From Your Car!)

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My personal favorite at Omega Park: the stinky snorting wild boars!

Last year around this time, my family had the great opportunity to visit Omega Park. My son wasn’t able to verbally express his excitement but his face clearly showed his joy. I highly recommend Omega Park for families looking for a weekend day trip only 1.5 hours outside of Montreal.

Omega Park is situated in the gorgeous region/municipality of Montebello. Known for the largest log structure ever built, Le Chateau Montebello is stunning and deserving of its own blog post. Beautiful through all the seasons, my personal favorites are spring and fall; the colors of the new and/or dying foliage is spectacular. The air is crisp in the fall and moist and alive in the spring–definitely worth at least a drive through the area!

Omega is a wildlife park that is unique amongst the “safari park” genre in that its animals are all native to the Canadian forests. The park is open year-round and animals can be seen roaming through 1,800 acres of their natural habitat. Filled with trees, rivers, lakes, swamps and rolling hills, the area itself is a fun drive and it’s nice to see the animals in their (simulated) native environment.

I would recommend making this a full-day adventure. The area around Omega Park has tons of places to explore and the park itself can take anywhere from 3-4 hours (longer if all the animals approach the car windows). Also, make sure you bring bags of carrots, apples, celery and other hard veggies. Trust me, the animals will love you and you’ll get plenty of photo opportunities. Make sure to leave the dog at home; they have a strict no pets policy (for good reason!).

3 warnings before your trip: 1. If you are worried that your car might get damaged–it should be fine but you never know–don’t bring your spotless car. Our family van is, well, a family van, so we were never worried about any damage and luckily everything was fine. The animals know their boundaries and they are all slow and meandering–these are wild animals that are very used to human contact. 2. If the thought of a large drooling beast sticking its head into your driver/passenger window scares you–don’t open the window. Start out small: try feeding the deer first. They are…let’s say…a little less daunting than a buffalo head the size of your child. 3. Allergies! If anyone in your family suffers from allergies, I would recommend taking a preventative anti-histamine.

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Feeding the animals at Omega Park

Most animals, with the exception of the bears and wolves, are free-roaming. They are all used to cars and humans and they know the drill: wave the carrot out the window and they will approach. Please make sure to supervise your children while they feed the animals. I know the animals don’t mean to bite but sometimes a tiny hand holding a carrot can’t be seen.

Omega Park also has a bird of prey section that performs live shows in the summer. If you walk along the designated foot-paths, you will reach the mini-farm area. Your kids can pet the goats, sheep, pigs, etc and they offer pony/horse rides for a fee.

A friendly goat at Omega Park's mini farm

A friendly goat at Omega Park’s mini farm

Omega offers two radio stations (English and French) that provide information on the animals in the park. They also have a picnic area or a fast food cafeteria–brown bag it for a healthier (and cheaper) lunch. Make sure to check the weather forecast; even though you are in your car on a rainy day, the animals might not be as inclined to come out of the forested areas. Enjoy!

Location: Highway 323 North, Montebello, Québec JOV 1LO

Website: http://www.parc-omega.com/en/

Coupons! http://www.parc-omega.com/coupon1-en.cfm

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To pee or not to pee – Top 10 Road Tripping Tips

Road trippin' toddler style

Road trippin’ toddler style

Ah, the road trip. The summer months are not complete without at least one road trip out of the city. People either relish or dread the idea of spending hours in the car with their children–let’s call them backseat whiners–while navigating the roads and insane border lines.

And speaking of insane: we tested our infant on his first road trip (Burlington, VT) at only 6 weeks old and then decided that we were tough enough to road trip our way down to Washington, DC with our then 2-month old for the Christmas holidays. True story.

Montreal is well-located for some great road trips that can be as long as 6-7 hours (Toronto or New York) or as short as 2-3 hours (Ottawa or Mt. Tremblant). Under 2 hours and we consider it a day-trip.

I often think about the pollution we create with our many car trips; while off-setting those emissions with environmentally friendly alternatives won’t eliminate the toxic fumes at least we’ve made our green contribution.

Here are a few ways we cut our carbon footprint (or offset the car mileage): 1. we own a Flexible Fuel Vehicle 2. my husband bikes to work whenever possible 3. we are committed to continually upgrading our home to increase energy efficiency 4. when available, we buy locally grown food and support local-made businesses 5. once we arrive at our destination, we walk everywhere possible.

Parents often avoid road trips until their kids can be sufficiently entertained by a movie or some other device but I highly recommend starting your kids early and enjoying–rather than shrinking from–the time you have with them.

The following is a list of tips I’ve found are helpful while road tripping:

  1. Make frequent stops. These are not just for small bladders but also for eager minds. Depending on the age of your child, give them goals at every rest stop (how many out-of-state/province plates can they find? can they find their location on the map? etc) or just give them time to stretch their legs.
  2. Give them rest-stop countdowns and divide time into 30 minute chunks. “Are we there yet?” can be significantly reduced by giving them a a target hour/minute range.
  3. Talk. Talk. Talk. Yes, this is what I love most about roadtrips. My husband is forced to shut-down the mobile device and I have his undivided attention. Take advantage of the opportunity to discuss school, friends, and activities with your children. Talk about where you’re going and the things you’ll do once there.
  4. For younger children (not at the talking stage), bring plenty of books and activities to amuse them while on the road. Also, bring their favorite toy/blanket/book/teddy, etc. It’s safe to say that you don’t want to be miles on the road when kiddo asks for his special binky. Diapers are highly recommended for toddlers who are potty-training–just don’t risk it.
  5. Play verbal car games. Count blue cars, play I/Eye-Spy, name countries from A-Z, or ask your kids to invent an imaginary world. Though silly, these games foster communication, critical thinking and ultimately affection.
  6. Catch up on some much-needed sleep! While one parent drives, you can doze off to the lull of the highway. Setting aside a time for quiet relaxation or sleep is essential for your kids, too.
  7. If you don’t suffer from motion sickness, use the time to read. This is something everyone can enjoy and it can be incorporated into quiet time.
  8. Bring plenty of snacks and refreshments. Yes, drinking leads to peeing but it’s important to keep well-hydrated on car trips as the A/C (or heating) can have a very parching effect on the body.
  9. Don’t be shy to turn on the portable DVD player, Ipad, Iphone, etc when your child has turned into a fuss monster or when your kids start squabbling over absolutely nothing and start the pinching-rapidly-escalating-to-punches game. As much as I’m an advocate of roadtrip time being family-togetherness time, I also have a low-tolerance for eardrum-shattering screams from the backseat whiners.
  10. Breathe and smile. You are on vacation! And don’t shoot me for repeating this obvious line: “Enjoy every moment–your kids grow so quickly!”

Sit back and enjoy the ride. In a car, you get to experience the view from a totally different perspective and sometimes the evergreens whizzing by can be a nice time to relax your brain. My secret? I drive so my husband deals with our backseat whiner. 🙂