Currently browsing travel with kids posts

Healthy Road-Trip-Friendly Snacks for Kids

Editors Note: Summer sun and holidays mean family road trips….and lots of challenges finding good-tasting but healthy snacks for your children. Check out these options which can be ordered online or obtained in most locations.

Funley’s Wholly Granolly ClustersRoad trip snacks

Kids will go crazy for the Peanut Butter Pretzel and Double Chocolate flavors, which come in mini clusters — perfect for tiny hands. You’ll love them for what they don’t have: preservatives, trans fat and high fructose corn syrup. (For a savory and healthier alternative, their Cheddar n’ Stuff Super Crackers have broccoli hidden inside.)

Funleys.com, $4.59

Buddy Fruits Pure Blended Fruit to Go

Fruit cups and applesauce tins aren’t really made for road trips. Enter these all-natural, pure fruit purees in convenient drinkable packages, which make kids eager to eat their produce. Best of all, they don’t need to be refrigerated.

Amazon.com, $18.98 (pack of 18)

Sensible Foods Crunch Dried Snacks, Tropical Blend

When your kids want something crunchy and sweet, reach for these intensely flavored dried fruit snacks. Filled with a mix of dehydrated apples, pineapples, mangos, and bananas – and nothing else — each .75-ounce pouch offers the equivalent of half a cup of fresh fruit.

Agapebabies.com, $7.55

EnviroKidz Organic Lemur Peanut Choco Drizzle Crispy Rice Barenvirokids-lemur

Moms, if you’re on the hunt for tasty organic, gluten-free treats that your kids will actually eat, look no farther than EnviroKids Crispy Rice Bars. Think of them as a healthier alternative to candy bars. If you’re going to be in a hot car for awhile, you might want to opt for the melt-free flavors, like berry or peanut butter.

HHMatters.com, $6.86

Frigo Cheese Heads String Cheese

If you’re the type of mom who packs a cooler on road trips, toss in a handful of Frigo Cheese Heads. Kid-friendly and fun, without being too messy, string cheese fills kids up with protein and calcium while on the go.

Walmart (in stores only, price varies)

8 Rules to Travel with Kids – Safely and Sanely

?????????????????????????????????????????????????Winter’s winding down and many are counting down the days to spring break and a trip someplace warm, or maybe just a day trip to a water park or the local indoor pool. You can probably see yourself there now – lounging around while the kids splash happily – family bonding, smiles all around, the stress of the many months of school, holidays and routine behind you – you hope.

As a single mom who has traveled solo across multiple continents with two kids since they were babies, I’ve learned a few things about traveling with kids that also keep me sane. Here are my basic and very realistic rules:

Rule #1: STICK TOGETHER!!! We have one rule that supersedes all others – stick together! Back it up with ‘if you can’t see me, I can’t see you’. This applies to museums, airports, parks, shopping centers and always, always around water. For infants and toddlers in the water this means staying within arm’s reach, meaning if you reach out your arm, you can grab them before they go under or get into trouble. As they get older, within 10 feet in a pool but closer if open or unfamiliar water. If your child is a competent swimmer (I define this by ability to do full 25 meter laps in deep water using a proper stroke) AND is in familiar water, you can lengthen the distance – but always within eye-sight and a distance you can easily navigate. And always swim near a lifeguard when possible. For some other great open water safety tips, click here. Once they are old enough to let them out of sight occasionally, have regular check-ins – and not minutes, use ‘every two songs’ or ‘every two times down the water slide’. Oh yes, I’m really mean, they don’t check in, we leave. Period. Better a mean mom than a dead kid.

Rule #2: Set expectations. Be brutally honest when you get ‘how much longer?’ The correct answer is ‘the whole day, as long as you are awake’ or ‘six episodes of Scooby-Doo’ or ‘the length of time it takes to get to Grandma’s house’. Don’t be afraid to say ‘longer than you can imagine, so don’t bother asking again.’

Rule #3: Toys. Forget that bag of perfectly entertaining toys that you so carefully chose to enrich their formative minds that you will bring out every half hour to divert them while you all bond happily. Let them choose one toy at the airport or before you leave on your car trip, make sure they know that batteries aren’t allowed to be used in the car/plane, and don’t cringe when they choose something vile, cheap and not even remotely educational. The fact that they chose the toy will mean it will probably occupy them the entire trip. Trust me – I saw a remote control plane and battery-operated kitten occupy my then 2 and 4 year-olds for an entire 9-hour flight – with the batteries removed.

Rule #4: Pack snacks. When it was just me I’d have my bottles of water and mist-bottle to stay hydrated and fresh, an assortment of current reading material, make-up to freshen up and heavens knows what other ‘essentials’ in my carry-on bag. Now I have snacks. Pre-packaged is best. Annie’s Fruity Bunnies, Twisted Fruit, and Z-bars are firm favorites. And this would be a good time to go natural, they are hyper enough with the travel, ditch the chemicals. Plus the fruit/fiber helps in other areas. In terms of quantity, a good rule of thumb is ‘one snack every hour of travel’, and at least that for drinking juice or water. Even picky eaters seem to get the munchies when they travel. Follow this routine up with forcing everyone to use every clean public bathroom whenever you find one, whether they need it or not.

Rule #5: Have a ‘travel bag’ for each kid. Mine started with a small duffel bag I could carry and graduated to Land’s End rolling backpacks – 7 years of hard travel and still rolling well. Make them personal and special – our bags are only for travel. I’d advise not to have the child’s name embroidered on the bag, it means strangers can call to your child by name, but my kids choose an embroidered soccer ball and cat to personalize their bags. Let your kids pack what animals/toys they think they need (not what you think they should take) and remind them to leave room for souvenirs. If they can’t carry it, they can’t take it – whether we are traveling across town or across countries.

Rule #6: Home is familiar, no place else is familiar. This means that in some cases you need to be more vigilant regarding safety. If you have a sleep-walker, make sure the doors are locked and/or barricaded, especially if there is a balcony. Going someplace with a pool or beach and you have a non-swimmer? Think about investing in one of the wrist bands that emits a loud noise if it is immersed in water, like Safety Turtle. Do not buy those inflatable arm bands. They are dangerous, not even toys in my view. Stick with a Coast Guard approved life jacket or, for reasonable swimmers, a SwimFin. Remember, your child is not around a pool or beach every day, they don’t understand the dangers.

Rule #7: Leave some rules at home. Whatever it takes. I’m a stickler for good manners in public places, but I also know I ask a lot of my kids with the traveling we do, so we leave some rules at home. Electronic devices are my BFF on long trips. On one especially brutal flight I told my then 7-year old son, ‘look, there’s Terminator #75 on channel 3! Watch that!‘ (kidding, but I was really close) We have a tradition now that on one night we order room service. It’s not a luxury, it’s a sanity-saver. The kids revel in sitting on the floor eating nuggets and fries while watching a movie. I have adult food, a glass of wine, and a good book. And we all RELAX!

Rule #8: RELAX! The stories that get re-told until they become family lore are frequently the ‘do you remember when….’, when things didn’t go exactly as planned, and especially when you messed up big time – those times will be the highlight of their childhood memories. The highlight of one recent trip (for my kids) was when I earnestly asked the guide ‘why is it called a brown snake eagle?’ (doing that ‘educate the kids thing’) Um, because it’s brown, it’s an eagle and it hunts snakes. Duh. It all goes into the family lore, what makes you a family, and it is some of the most treasured memories your children, and you, will have.

Travel is an education and an adventure in and of itself, so chill out and pack your bags!

Help Stop Your Child’s Ear Pain on Planes

My family and I flew to Orlando last month to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios — my 9-year-old is obsessed with the book series. The long weekend was spectacular on all fronts except one: My husband, who had a cold, came down with severe ear pain about halfway through the flight. By the time we landed, he could barely hear anything, and it took almost 12 hours for his full hearing to return!

The whole experience freaked me out, so when we got back, I called Gordan J. Siegel, M.D., an otolaryngologist in Chicago, to ask him if what happened to my hubby was normal — or whether I should drag him into the doctor’s office. “It’s common for people who have a cold or allergies to experience ear pain during a flight because the Eustachian Tubes (which help equalize pressure changes) are inflamed,” he told me. “Even when well, children under 6 are also particularly vulnerable because their Eustachian Tubes may have not fully developed yet.”

Indeed, I remember seeing some babies and toddlers start to cry during the end of the flight.

“Is there anything a person with a cold or allergies could do to avoid the pain?” I followed up. “You may be able to ward off the problem — or at least reduce the severity — by taking a decongestant before the flight,” said Siegel. “But I only recommend this for people who don’t have high blood pressure.”

Siegel also pointed out another option: special travel ear plugs (one brand is EarPlanes) that help protect your hearing from changes in air pressure. Children and adults can pop them in their ears before takeoff, remove them when the plane reaches maximum altitude, and then put back in an hour before landing. Siegel also noted, of course, that if a cold is severe you just might want to postpone your trip.

Since my conversation with Siegel, I picked up the EarPlanes at my local drugstore; they were only $10 for a three-pack. I tucked them into my luggage carry-on, where I stash my trip essentials like travel-size toothpaste and instant stain remover (because my daughter always spills when we’re days away from doing laundry). Now we’re one step closer to being ready for our next vacation!

On the Road Rx for Healthy and Safe Travel with Your Kids

When it comes to family vacations, you can plan for the good stuff — cool campsites, great restaurants, awesome attractions — in advance. A bad turn of events, however, can strike without warning, especially when you’re traveling with kids. When you’re away from your daily routine and focused on having fun, you’re not thinking that your child may fall and break a leg, come down with a nasty virus or get lost in a museum. But accidents and mishaps can occur anytime, anywhere. Keep your family as healthy and safe as possible while on vacation by taking these simple precautions.

Smart Health Moves

  • Bring medical supplies For starters, bring enough of any prescription medication to last through your entire vacation — you can’t count on being able to get refills — plus one more day’s worth, in case your flight gets cancelled. Also tote along remedies for any chronic conditions such as allergies, asthma, migraines and upset stomach. Add basic first-aid supplies like pain relievers, fever reducers, bandages and antibiotic ointment. Carry antibacterial wipes or lotion for when washing hands isn’t an option.
  • Know your insurance Find out from your health insurance company how to go about getting urgent or emergency care while you’re away. Following your health care plan’s protocol for out-of-area coverage can get you the medical attention you need faster — and save you a bundle.
  • Get your shots Fend off illness in advance by ensuring that you’re up to date on your vaccinations. Ask your doctor which shots you and your kids may need, or check with the travelers’ health Web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Find your closest embassy If you’re going abroad, learn about travel warnings and any health issues affecting the area you are going to. Visit the Department of State’s Web listing of U.S. embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions worldwide and jot down contact information of the U.S. embassy nearest to your destination. The embassy staff can help you find good medical care and notify your family in case of an emergency.

Smart Safety Moves

  • Stay in contact Bring cell phones if possible — or even walkie-talkies — to find one another in crowds or outside the hotel. Since reception isn’t guaranteed and calls get missed, always designate a spot — say, the fountain in the hotel lobby or the lifeguard chair at the beach — where family members should go if they get lost.
  • ID your kids Unless you’re investing in a family GPS system, arm your children with identification. Write down your child’s name, your name, your or your spouse’s cell phone number, and the phone number of your hotel on a piece of paper. (Even older kids don’t always remember where they’re staying.) Slip it into a shoe tag, luggage tag or even your child’s pocket. Always keep a current photograph of your child on hand in case you have to show it to the authorities.
  • Discuss safety measures with your kids Advise them not to talk to strangers or go anywhere with a stranger — even a mom or another kid. Stress the importance of staying within sight at all times (a theme park is not a good place to run ahead of the group), and though it may be fun for the kids to explore a hotel, they shouldn’t do it alone. Your main message: Vacations are the most fun and relaxing when families stay together, and kids have an important role to play in making that happen.

How To Travel Safely For The Holidays With Pets AND Kids

As I have said previously in numerous previous posts, I love that our dogs have become so much a ‘member of the family’ that many would not give it a second thought to bring them along on their holiday travels, or include them in their holiday plans. But there are several things you can do to ensure that you, your pets, your kids, and others around you also have an enjoyable holiday as well.

For starters; if you are driving

  • Make sure you have seat-belts for each dog. A dog being allowed to roam free in the car is a safety hazard for everyone in the car. If you have to slam on the brakes, they can go through the windshield just as easily as any other unrestrained passenger in the car would. Another serious issue that could arise if you should have to suddenly hit the brakes is they could accidentally slam into your kids, causing a serious injury. I have personally gotten some painful ‘fat lips’ just from going to kiss my dog on the top of his head at the same moment he brought his head up quickly…. So you can just imagine the injuries that could occur in a fast moving vehicle that suddenly stops! On top of that, dogs will instinctively use their front paws to brace themselves, and their nails can really hurt your children if they are on their laps. Lastly, if they hit the back of your seat when you are driving, it can put everyone in the car in serious jeopardy.
  • Make sure the seat belt is attached to a harness. Never attach a seat belt to your dog’s regular collar. This can cause some serious injuries to your dog’s neck if you have to stop short or are in an accident.
  • Make sure they are in the back seat. Even if they are appropriately restrained (a booster car seat for small dogs, or a harness for larger dogs) a deployed air bag can be deadly for our furry friends.

Hotel ‘Etiquette’

  • Make sure hotels are pet friendly in advance! If you are traveling with your pet, the days of ‘We’ll just find a hotel from the road” are a thing of the past. Unless your dog is a service dog, make sure the hotel is pet friendly. You must map out your trip in advance, and most importantly, you must inform the hotel that you will be traveling with a pet. Many hotels have specific rooms used for pets, not unlike ‘smoking rooms’ for smokers. So I recommend you call them and make sure they can accommodate you and your pet. Here is a link that allows you to search for pet-friendly hotels in whichever state you are traveling to. If you are getting a separate room for the kids, I recommend the pet stay in YOUR room. As I always stress, children should never be with pets unsupervised.
  • Remember that the dog should be on a leash outdoors at all times. This is especially important as many hotels are located on busy roads…. Not a great idea for the kids to be the ones to walk them, even if it is their job to do it at home. For safer nighttime walks, bring a flashlight with you. Many hotel guests arrive at night, and they may have been on the road for a long time, and are tired too. This will ensure they will see you and your dog when they are pulling in. It will also help you to see Fido’s poops so you can responsibly clean up after him. You might want to ask the hotel staff if there is a designated ‘Pet Relief Area’ that you should bring him to. Make sure you have a leash that is no longer then six feet, and free of any fraying, rips or tears. Also, do not use retractable leads while out and about. You need to have control of him at all times, and if your friendly outgoing dog runs up to another child that is fearful of dogs, you can be putting someone else’s child in danger.
  • Since you’ll probably want to go out as a family:
    • Bring a crate with you. Do not forget that this is not your dog’s regular environment… and you are ultimately responsible for any damage your dog does. You do not want to risk your dog panicking and tearing up pillows or blankets or chewing on furniture while you are out. Also, leave a note for housekeeping on the door informing them that there is a dog inside. Just because it is not your home does not mean your dog will not be protective of its environment, and a person that your dog does not know who unexpectedly enters into ‘his space’ can be a recipe for disaster.
    • Bring a blanket or bed for your dog, and plenty of bones or toys. Make sure you have brought sufficient items to keep your dog occupied while you are out.
    • Make sure you leave at least one cell phone number at the front desk if you have to go out. I have seen some of the best trained dogs still panic when left alone in an unknown place, causing them to bark and whine. Be considerate and make sure you leave a reliable number for the hotel staff to contact you if your dog is freaking out while you are out.
  • Be aware of ‘No Pets Allowed’ spaces, and respect their policies. Pools and spas are there for the humans to enjoy, not the dogs. If the hotel has a restaurant or serves a Continental breakfast in the morning, dogs should not be in those areas unless they are service dogs.

Flying with your dog

  • Always check the Airline’s policy. Each airline has its own policy with regards to flying with your pet. puppy in a travel bagMost small dogs are permitted to fly in a carry case under the seat, but each airline’s seat dimensions are different. Make sure you have the appropriate sized travel bag for your dog that will fit under your seat. Keeping a constant eye on your children in a busy airport is imperative, so the last thing you want is to spend any time being distracted because your dog’s flight bag is not fitting.
  • Find out security’s protocols in advance. Having to go through security is stressful enough… add corralling kids through there, it can be very difficult. Now you are adding a dog to this as well! Find out exactly what you need to do in advance. Do you need their leash and collar off? Do you walk through first and then send the dog through…. Knowing exactly what to expect allows you to have them ready in advance so that you can safely and effectively help the kids through.
  • Make sure you know where the Pet Relief Areas are. Call up the airline in advance and make sure you know where these are, and take them for one last potty break before boarding. Last thing you want is Fido relieving himself in flight!
  • Leave the dog in his bag! The kids may feel badly that their pup is cooped up in a tiny bag and wedged under a seat the entire time, and may beg you to take him out. This is not a safe idea for anyone! Think about how loud it is to us, and multiply it ten-fold with their sharp hearing! I absolutely hate take offs and landings, but I calm down once we are in the air. Just because I have calmed down, does not mean my dog has!! So for the safety of everyone around, leave your pup where he is until you have safely landed and are off of the plane. Some bags have a leash inside so you can open a flap and pet your dog…. I suggest leaving the flap closed! If he is scared, the second that flap is opened, he will try to get out, and getting the ‘genie back into the bottle’ will be no easy feat!! Especially in a small cramped area!
  • Pack a chew stick for him in his bag for takeoff and landing. I do not honestly know if their ears ‘pop’ the way ours do, but if it does, the chewing motion will help.

Going to friends or relatives houses

  • Always ask in advance if it is okay to bring your pet. Just because you view your dog as a family member, does not necessarily mean your host will too. Be courteous and ask beforehand. Hosting a ton of people in their home can be difficult enough without a dog running around! Also, you never know if another guest, especially a child, is allergic to dogs, or if someone else DID ask in advance and is bringing their dog!
  • Keep a constant watch over your dog. As we discussed in an earlier article (Kids, Pets & Your Holiday Party: Read this List (check it twice!) your dog may react differently to “everyday situations” than they would in their home or typical environment. A child that your dog does not know, doing nothing other than reaching over to calmly pet your dog, can get a serious bite if your dog is in a nervous heightened condition.
  • Be aware of your dog’s body language at all times! Holidays can be stressful for people – imagine what it might be like for your dog. Be alert to what their body language is telling you! Dogs only have two options when they are in a heightened state… fight or flight. Hopefully, they will always resort to the latter one, but they can resort to the former one in an instant! So let’s avoid this by being constantly aware of them, and if you see signs that they are getting stressed out, remove them from the situation! If you need some assistance on what your dog’s body is saying to you, read my article (Recognize a Dog’s Body Language Before Your Child Gets Bitten) to help you out!
  • Again, bring a crate with you. If your dog is getting stressed, the last thing you want is to have no options of where to put him! Do you want to be on ‘doggy patrol’ all night? Having a crate gives you a place to put him so he and everyone else around you are safe!

Grooming

The last thing I want to touch on is grooming your dog prior to taking him on vacation with you! Regardless of whether you are driving or flying, staying at a hotel or going to a friends, make sure they are well groomed. Give them a bath, make sure their ears are clean and do not smell. If they have a long coat, even if you brought them to the groomer, make sure you brush them out thoroughly to get rid of any dead hair and excess dander (helps with allergies in close quarters) and make sure nails are trimmed back so no one gets scratched accidentally.

So to wrap this up, the most important things to remember before traveling with your beloved pet is to do your research and always be courteous to others around you! Much of what I have written is common sense, but the fact is, in a stressful time, even the incredibly obvious can escape each and every one of us!!! So follow some of these guidelines laid out for you, make your to-do lists, check them twice, and you, your family, and everyone around you can have a fun, wonderful and safe holiday!!

Happy Holidays everyone!!!

What You Need to Know About Car Seat Safety? Ask a Fireman

Being a firefighter, I come across a lot of situations that make me shake my head in wonder. The one that my fellow firemen and I continually come across is installing and checking car seats and the many interesting and creative ways people have managed to improperly install a car seat. Whether you are the SUV with a few seats that have been installed for a while, or the new dad sweating on the way to the hospital stopping at the fire station asking the nice firemen to install your brand new seat, there are a few things that need to be taken into account when choosing your car seat and then installing your car seat.

What choice could matter more than that of the one your child is going to be sitting in as you motor around town? Choosing the correct car seat for your new baby or young child requires some homework and label reading.

First there is price. Car seats come in all price ranges, from free at some local fire stations and community organizations to very expensive with extra padding, lights and toys. Just because a seat costs more does not make it a better seat than the one next to it. Check online at places like www.consumerreports.com or www.safekids.org to find out how these seats compare to one another will give you better insight as to the correct choice for you and may even surprise you.

Next is the correct size seat for your child. This is the part about label reading that I mentioned before. Car seats are designed with a specific weight and height in mind for each seat and making sure the seat is the correct size for your specific child maximizes the safety of the seat for your child. Seats that are too big may allow for too much room for movement and seats that are too small may make your child uncomfortable and ultimately unsafe. Car seats should be securely snug but not a tourniquet.

Installation. Having your brand new car seat is wonderful and having it installed correctly is the most important factor of all. Where can I go to have my new car seat installed? There are many places that will correctly install your new car seat by using certified installation experts that have been trained on many different types of vehicles and the important points of each type of vehicle. You may want to call your local fire department or hospital for information on places to go for installation and you can also consult websites like www.safekids.org or the national highway traffic safety administration website http://www.nhtsa.gov to find installation centers in your area and may even find info on installation events going on in your area right now.

If you have any questions about a soon to be purchase of a car seat or the one that is in your car right now, please feel free to stop in at any fire station and ask for a check. We may shake our head but we love knowing your kids are safe.

God Bless!

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