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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!

Beyond Basics: Trick or Treat Tips from our EMS Safety Expert

halloween-kidsBreak out the costumes and face paint because it’s almost that time of year again, Halloween. While Halloween may be the superbowl Sunday for candy hungry little monsters and superhero’s, it can be a time of worry and anxiety for parents. Aside from having to find the right costume and gear for the kids, the preparation for the activities is of the utmost importance. The following is just a small list of things to consider before Halloween to help everyone have fun and ease some worry.

Plan to go with your child or children. This may seem like a ”no brainer“ but it would surprise you how many people just send children out with a group.

If you are going to go in a group, try to make it a small but manageable group. Groups with large amounts of children can get confusing and problematic, so try to keep the group ratio at 3 to 4 children per adult if possible.

Having the children carry AND wear something lit such as a flashlight, glow bracelet or necklace, or flashing attire for visibility. Light-up shoes are also practical and ever-so-noticeable on a dark Halloween night. Remember, you want them to be seen by cars driving by and you. This goes for parents as well. Parents should be the guides to both kids and cars passing by and that is best accomplished by being easily seen.

Adults should try and plan a route in advance and check it during the daylight for such obstacles as broken sidewalks (or no sidewalks), construction or other obstacles that could trip up trick or treaters. Trick or treating in familiar neighborhoods or areas will make everyone more comfortable and in the event something does happen, it is always best to be in familiar surroundings.

Try to have the children wear well fitting, comfortable shoes, preferably sneakers. While adorable in the store as a costume accessory, kids planning to go trick or treat should wear sturdy shoes and not the princess high-heel, too-large boots, or other types of shoes often shown with costumes. Save those types of shoes for costume parties and not when a child is going to trick or treat. Their feet–and most likely you who may end up carrying either the shoes or the child and you – will both be thankful. Also avoiding costumes that drag on the ground can help as well. While cute initially, costumes that drag can trip up little feet, get caught on bushes, and create a tussle that sometimes results in the child wanting to remove the costume. Remember, kids who trick or treat want to be costumed AND comfortable.

The parent should always go with the child to the door to see what is being handed out (and who is doing the handing out). If what is being handed out looks old, suspicious, or just plain wrong, then move on to the next house or Immediately remove it from your child’s stash and get rid of it or keep it for reporting if necessary. But the most important part is that the child will not have it.

Allergies are on this list too. If your child has food allergies, then it is critical that you inspect everything they have received and do your best to weed out possible problems before your child ingests anything. Bringing along a child EPI-PEN can really do wonders here to give you a little more piece of mind.

Now the staples of Halloween safety will always apply to this list.

  • Only approach well lit houses,
  • Inspect ALL candy and items in your child’s bounty BEFORE they have a chance to eat it, separate it with friends or hide it somewhere.
  • Try and go at dusk before it becomes too dark and much harder to see children and
  • Try to walk and not run and
  • Always have a cell phone handy in case of emergency.

The list of tips for safety on Halloween can go on forever and when it comes to your children, you can never be too safe, but by using some pre planning and basic safety techniques, you and your monsters, superhero’s and princesses will have a great and safe Halloween.

Travel with Kids – Safely and Sanely

?????????????????????????????????????????????????It’s been a long winter 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 Angel Fish or 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!

Make Your Family Vacation Safe, Secure and Fun

Vacation - packed and readyVacation is a fun and exciting time. For a family with children who are finally old enough to travel, it could be the first vacation that the parents have had in years. Unfortunately, vacations have unique pitfalls that must be avoided to have a safe and fun holiday.

Follow these tips to keep your getaway from getting out of hand.

Hydrated and shaded

When going on vacation to a sunny beach or a scenic hiking trail, we often get caught up in the beauty of nature and forget the inherent hazards that it can pose to its admirers. Those dangers include sun damage and dehydration.

In warmer climates, dehydration becomes a serious threat, especially to small children. Get a water bottle for everyone in the family and make sure that everyone drinks their fill several times a day.

Not only can the heat dry us out, but sunburns can develop quickly, especially on a child’s delicate skin. When outdoors, wear sunscreen. Plan your outdoor excursions for the morning and the evenings, and try to spend the hottest hours of the day inside. If you can’t avoid being out in the sun, find wide-brimmed hats for you and your children.

A secure arrival

Vacations are a lot of fun when you arrive safely and on time. When on a long road trip, sometimes you can get lost. Not only does getting lost cut into your leisure time, but it can pose a hazard when you begin to travel in unfamiliar territory.

Always bring a map when travelling. If possible, bring a GPS unit or a smartphone that is capable of GPS tracking. Try to avoid letting your gas tank slip below half-full, just in case.

If you’re vacationing in a large city, bring along a copy of bus schedules and use them when possible. Not only does it cut your greenhouse gas emissions, but buses hardly ever get lost.

First aid within reach

Young children are particularly prone to bumps, bruises and all sorts of small injuries. Being on vacation doesn’t exempt them from that fact.

Always travel with a first aid kit in your car. If you’re flying, taking the train or going by boat, carry a small first aid kit with you. Before you leave for your destination, find the locations of nearby hospitals just in case something more serious occurs.

Crowd control

If you pick a vacation spot that is teeming with people, you should speak with your child about crowd safety to ensure that you don’t get separated. Preparation is the key to addressing this kind of serious travel mishap.

Teach them to hold your hand when in a crowd and stay close to you at all times. If possible, avoid the crowds all together by moving around them, or by visiting the attractions during off-peak hours. If avoiding the crowd isn’t possible, you can pick your child up and carry them if necessary.

Sometimes the worst happens even when you do all that you can to prevent it. Before you leave the hotel room in the morning, talk with your children about what to do if they get lost. Tell them to seek help from a responsible adult immediately. Make sure they carry contact information. It can be a card that you slip into their shoe, a wristband with your phone number on it, or even a phone number written in Sharpie on their inner arm. If possible, include a current photograph of the family so your child can quickly get assistance in finding you.

If your child is lost, get help quickly. Find someone in charge and give them a description of your child, including what they are wearing.

Prepare for enjoyment

By taking the time to prepare before going on vacation, you can prevent many of the potential security problems that you may face. Vacation is a time for fun and relaxation, and with proper preparation you can set your mind at ease.

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.

Sensiblefoods.com, $17.75 (pack of 12)

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.

Vitacost.com, $3.99

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)


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