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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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Family friendly art studios in Montreal – Future Jackson Pollock?

Top Art Studios Montreal

It looks like it’s going to be another rainy weekend in Montreal. Yet another.

To make the most of the lousy weather, I’ve compiled a list of fun indoor art activities. Why not cultivate your child’s inner artist by visiting one of the following child-friendly art studios in Montreal:

4 Cats Art Studios

This is a chain (franchise) of studios around Montreal (and North America) and I’ve heard great things about their kid programs. They have tax deductible classes for children aged 2-10+. Adult participation is welcomed (sometimes mandatory depending on the age) and they have cool after-school programs, too. My son is still too young for our family to test this out but I welcome comments from other families!

Locations: 5026 Parc Plateau/Outremont, Montreal, QC H2V 4E8, (514) 508-3889

And 2748 Blvd. St-Charles, Kirkland, QC H9H 3B6, (514) 505-3727

Website: http://www.4cats.com/

 Café Ceramic

Another cool little franchise in Montreal is the Café Ceramic. I’m sure you’ve heard of the concept: paint a pre-formed pottery piece while you enjoy some coffee/food. I always liked the concept and I plan on introducing my son as soon as the paint is more inviting on the ceramic than on his face! I’ve been to some of these ceramic cafes in different parts of North America and I’ve really enjoyed the time spent relaxing while painting and chatting with friends. If your kids are old enough to understand the concept, I highly recommend these chains!

Locations: 4338, St-Denis, Montréal (Qc) H2J 2K8, 514 848-1119

565, Boulevard Saint-Martin Ouest (Qc) H7M 1Y8, 450 669-9399

3240, boul. Taschereau (Qc) J4V 2H3, 450 443-8582

Website: http://www.leccs.com/

Any other recommendations for great child/family-friendly art studios in Montreal area? Let me know!

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Montreal’s Best Ice Cream

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Not only has Spring sprung but Summer has strummed her lovely tune! May Day was gorgeous in Montreal! We celebrated the warm evening by treating ourselves to some tasty ice cream. It doesn’t quite feel like summer until we’ve enjoyed our first Montreal cone.

Here are some of the best spots for enjoying ice cream in Montreal (in no particular order):

 

  • Yeh!: Yes, the name says it all. They put a neat spin on fro-yo (frozen yogurt); the flavors and toppings are self-serve and you pay by weight once you’ve created your masterpiece. Locations: http://www.yehyogourt.com/emplacement.php
  • Bilboquet: Wowzers! They really put the “art” in artisan ice cream (sorry, cheesy). But honestly, their fresh, homemade ice cream is simply divine! My personal favorite is the coconut sorbet. Locations: http://www.bilboquet.ca/adresses.html
  • Ben & Jerry’s: An obvious one! I wish they had more locations in Montreal because the line-ups on warm nights are absurd. For example, in my crazy youth, I once waited almost two hours for a cone (Crescent St. store). Locations: http://www.benandjerrys.ca/scoop-shops;jsessionid=B83C2A183C6AEBFAF328CAD3E87D40D9.bnj1_worker
  • La Cremiere: Their soft-serve ice cream is second to none. Known for their spiral cone (swirls of caramel, chocolate, or strawberry intertwined with the ice cream), they have many, many locations and most malls have at least one booth to serve you their delicious dessert. Locations: http://www.lacremiere.com/en/boutiques.php
  • Dairy Queen: Anther common choice but for good reason: they serve the blizzard! Named the blizzard because it’s a tornado of ice cream and your choice of topping, it’s their signature ice cream and one of my favs. Mmmm. Locations: http://www.dairyqueen.com/ca-en/Locator/?
  • La Dolce Vita: If you are in the West Island, I highly recommend this gelato shop. They make some of the finest gelato I’ve had since…Italy! They also have great combo suggestions–trust their choices. Location: 3776 St Charles, Kirkland, H9H 3C6.
  • Orange Julep: Ok, fine. Off-topic. But they do serve ice cream! Go ahead and order the ice cream if you have room after their delicious, greasy food and awesome orange drink. It’s a landmark. You have to try it at least once! Location: 7700 Boulevard Decarie, Montreal, H4P 2H4.
  • Twist et Creme: A childhood favorite had to be included. My father and I used to bike to this run-down shack of an ice cream stand and I loved every minute of it. I relived that with my son tonight–it was great! Yes, the decor is shabby and the “stand” is in the middle of a parking lot but it’s a West Island landmark as much as the Orange Julep is in TMR (Town of Mont Royal). They make greaaaat brownie sundaes. Location: 11898 Gouin O, Montreal, H1C 1B8.
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Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience (Montreal’s Corona Theatre) April 27-28, 2013

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Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience (Montreal’s Corona Theatre) April 27-28, 2013

Calling all Harry Potter fans! Currently on tour through North America, Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience will be at the Corona Theatre this weekend only: Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm and Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm. Managing to squeeze the Harry Potter series (7 books) into an unbelievable 70 minutes, the duo (Gay and Delme) has been receiving great reviews and most of their showings are sold out. If you have any Harry Potter fans in the house, this presentation is great for kids 6+.

Official site: http://www.pottedpotter.com/

Location: Corona Theatre, 2490 Notre-Dame ouest, Montreal, Le Sud-Ouest, H3J 1N5

Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm and Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm

For tickets: http://www.theatrecoronavirginmobile.com/

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Butterflies Go Free – Last Weekend (April 27-28, 2013)

This is the last weekend to see the beautiful butterflies of Montreal’s Botanical Gardens. See here for my previous post about this great exhibit–highly recommended!

The Botanical Gardens is located at 4101 Sherbrooke Street East, Montréal (H1X 2B2) and the complex is part of the Insectarium and the Biodome.

Rates are as follows: Adults $15; Seniors (65+) $14; Students (18+ with ID) $11.25; Kids (5 to 17) $7.50 and Family (2adults/2-3 kids) $42. Kids under 5 are free.

Blue Morph at Montreal Botanical Gardens

Blue Morph at Montreal Botanical Gardens

Link to the Montreal Botanical Gardens official site:

http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/botanical-garden

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Head à Tête – April 12-21 Centaur Theatre in Montreal

Directed by Alain Goulem, this futuristic play is suitable for audiences aged 4 and up. It has been showing since April 12 but it’s ending this weekend with April 21st being its final day. The production has received great reviews and I’ve heard that it really appeals to all age groups. The subject of language (French and English) is an apt one and the play’s simple but important message (mutual communication and understanding) is subtly suggestive.

Location: Centaur Theatre ~ 453 St Francois-Xavier

Website: http://geordie.ca/head-a-tete/

Montreal Gazette review: http://www.montrealgazette.com/entertainment/theatre/Theatre+review+Head+T%C3%AAte+fresh+ever/8241191/story.html

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Ikea Montreal & Boucherville — Shop till you drop? Drop off the kids & shop!

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Family-friendly Ikea (they even have family parking!)

I’m usually a huge promoter of outdoor activities but lately the weather has been so lousy  in Montreal. Whereas with the first signs of spring we are out hiking and hoping for our first camping trip, I sit here today watching snow falling in the middle of April. It’s not the mid-winter light and fluffy snow; it’s worse than rain–the heavy, penetrating snow that dampens your clothing and leaves you thoroughly cold and soggy.

Unless the weather brightens, we’ll be sticking to indoor entertainment this weekend. Ikea has indoor entertainment for children and their parents! Like my previous post on Chapters, Ikea offers free entertainment for kids while parents can dream about their Ikea house. (Fight Club has forever ruined that for me!)

Ikea is like Costco in that I’ve never successfully left the store without purchasing something. Judging by their billion-dollar profits, I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one who can’t leave without a purchase. So I don’t feel bad when my toddler spends an hour or more in the kids’ section playing “house” or running around all the toys that are open and on-display.

For the older children, there is the famous ballroom. The aptly named “Smaland” is just bursting with young and fun energy. Come on–admit it!–you still wish you could belly-flop into the pool of plastic balls. Unfortunately, my son doesn’t meet the requirements yet; he’s still not tall enough (37″-48″) and he isn’t yet potty-trained. Children are only allowed in with their socks.

Ikea's Smaland Ballroom

Ikea’s Smaland Ballroom

The food isn’t the greatest nor is it the healthiest but it’s hard to beat their prices and my son adores their fries. They have vegetarian options for those who would prefer to stay away from their meatballs (though I’m not sure if their “meat”balls have ever even seen meat…) and they do have healthier options like chicken salads and a smoked salmon plate.

Ultimately, Ikea really caters to kids: their bathrooms are fully equipped (I’m pretty sure they offer diapers), there is never a lack of highchairs, they offer free (decent) bibs and all kid meals come on plastic plates (luckily because my son enjoys the occasional plate-flinging session). Ikea has family parking spots (though good luck finding an empty one), stroller-friendly elevators, wide aisles and kids running around everywhere!

The Montreal (Cavendish) Ikea is currently undergoing renovations but when it’s complete it promises to be the largest in North America. While they still have the play area for younger kids, the ballroom isn’t available. The good news is they are improving and enlarging the Smaland play area! The parking size is also supposed to increase dramatically–good news since that lot is a total mess on weekends. Until their renos are finished (Summer 2013), I would recommend heading over to the Ikea in Boucherville.

Ikea website: http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/

Locations:

Montreal Store: 9191 Cavendish Blvd., Montreal, Qc, (H4T 1M8)

Boucherville Store: 586 De Touraine, Boucherville, Qc, (J4B 5E4)