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Everything you need to know about traveling with kids

If you’ve ever been stuck on a flight with a screaming baby in the row in front of you and thought to yourself, “why can’t those parents just shut that baby up”, I’ve got some bad news for you.  Karmatically, that thought all but guaranteed you would become the parent with the screaming baby on a plane.  Okay, that’s not entirely true, but if you have a young child and travel regularly, there’s a pretty high likelihood that said child will, at some point, cry on the airplane.  And inevitably, another passenger will have the same thought you had all those years ago.  And it will make you feel better to know they are messing with their future airplane baby karma.

My husband and I took Foodie Baby on his first plane ride when he was nine days old and by the time we celebrated his first birthday Foodie Baby had been to California (three times), Wyoming, Massachusetts, New York (twice), Costa Rica, and Wisconsin.  Traveling with an infant requires different tools than traveling with a toddler, but I think we’ve got both down to a science, which is good because Foodie Baby 2 will be here in a few months!

As with most things, fear of the unknown seems to cause the most anxiety for parents traveling with kids for the first time.  I am going to try to put your mind at ease by giving you some general information about what to expect at the airport and on the flight with your kid.  You can also review my infant and toddler travel essentials to get an idea of what to pack for travel with young children.  Most often, the questions I get from parents are about travel gear and airport security requirements, so I’ve tried to pay extra attention to those areas in my posts.

Here are my top infant and toddler travel tips as well as some general information about traveling with kids.  Please post additional tips in the comments!

Toddler Travel Essentials

Entertaining busy hands is the name of the game when traveling with a toddler!

  1. Snacks: try to choose snacks that take TIME to eat.  You can make single serving snack packs with cheerios, animal crackers, grapes, apple slices or cheese cubes.  You can also buy single serving packs at the grocery store.  Ask your kiddo to try to open the package themselves—it’s all part of the time killing strategy—and play a counting game as they get the snack out of the bag.  Don’t forget to pack extra snacks for your flight home (I usually put these in my checked bag or make a grocery store run the day before our flight home)!

  2. Milk: bring it with you because you will rarely find WHOLE milk at the airport.  We put milk in bike water bottles so that it doesn’t leak and pack it into FB’s lunch box with ice packs.

  3. Toys: go to the dollar section at Target or the dollar store.  Buy a bunch of junk that won’t make a huge mess then hide them until you get on the plane.  If you’re an overachieving parent, you can wrap the toys.  If you’re like me, you can just put them in brown lunch bags or just throw them in the luggage.  Anytime your kiddo starts to get antsy, bring out a new toy.  Favorites in our family are army men, rubber lizards, crayons, Mickey Mouse figurines, trains, toy cars, and stickers.  Beware of puzzles, play doh, and anything with small parts that fall under the seat!  Parents magazine posted a great article on entertaining kids on airplanes.

  4. Kid luggage: We got FB this small, rolling suitcase and he LOVES it.  He is so proud when he rolls it down the airport terminal to our gate.  I try to divide our bags up so that we have toys/games in FB’s puppy luggage, food/milk in my backpack and medicine in my husband’s bag.

  5. iPad: Download some new toddler apps and a few TV shows.  My favorites are listed here (new post with favorite apps)

  6. Headphones/Speaker: There are great kid headphones on the market like these.  Although they don’t make headphones for toddlers, most kid headphones work—just make sure they aren’t too heavy!  I recommend “practicing” with the headphones in your car before your trip.  Inevitably, your toddler will want to remove said headphones and play with the cord, eat the earpiece, adjust the height, etc.  That’s fine.  It’s another way to kill time on the plane.  However, if your kid is like FB, he will reject headphones outright after a few nibbles and you will need another solution.  The regular sound of the ipad isn’t loud enough to hear over the airplane engine so I recommend getting a small external speaker like this one.  I like this one because it’s rechargeable and you can twist the speaker down to make it even quieter and smaller.  Technically, these are not allowed during your flight.  However, I’ve found most flight attendants and passengers turn a blind eye if your kid isn’t crying.

  7. Stickers: stickers provide toddlers with endless entertainment AND they are great for developing fine motor skills.  Foam stickers are great for younger toddlers because they’re easier to peel the backs off themselves, but all stickers are winners!  Use a copy of sky mall as your sticker pad and you don’t have to bring separate paper!

  8. Lollipops: I’m not usually an advocate of candy for kids, but lollipops come in handy on flights in two ways—1) they help with pressure on kids’ ears during take off and landing and 2) they occupy kids for awhile during the flight—I HAVE used candy as a bribe during a flight.  I’m not proud of it, but desperate times call for desperate measures!

  9. Car seat: We do not usually take our car seat with us on airplane trips because for a small fee you can add a car seat to your rental car.  Every car and driver I have booked to take us from the airport to our hotel has also had an option to add a car seat.  I’ve seen parents who strap their kids into a car seat on the airplane and I know it’s free to check a car seat.  It’s probably a good idea and definitely safer.  I just don’t have it in me to carry anything in addition to the gear I’m already schlepping.

  10. Umbrella Stroller in a Gate Check Bag:  We have the MacLaren Volo I like it because it weighs only 8.8 pounds and folds easily.  It does not have some of the perks our other stroller has (reclining seat, storage, play tray) but it’s small enough to fit in the trunk of any car and it’s really easy to fit in the xray machine when you go through security.  I always bring a gate check bag as well.  These bags protect your stroller, but they also allow you to shove extra stuff in them if you need to.  I’ve been known to shove jackets, life jackets, larger toys and even xmas gifts in the gate check bag before we board the plane.

  11. Change of clothes:  If we had limitless space in our carryon, I would honestly recommend you bring a change of clothes for everyone flying with you.  These days, it’s usually my husband or I that end up with play doh smooshed into our pants or (the worst) sticky medicine on our shirt.  But I always pack an extra change of clothes for FB.  I consider it a kind of insurance—as long as I bring extra pants, he won’t have an accident.

  12. First Aid/Meds: My medical travel essentials include: Tylenol, Advil/Motrin, Benadryl, a thermometer (learned that one the hard way), TONS of hand sanitizer.  FB has really bad allergies so I like to have the Benadryl on hand in case he has problems.  And yes, I’ve given it to him before on the plane to help him nap.  I’ve read it has the opposite affect on some children, making them wired and jumpy but it makes our little guy extra sleepy.

  13. Diapers/Wipes: Duh.  Bring 2 more diapers than you think you need and plenty of wipes.  You never know.  I also like the disposable changing pads.  The airport bathrooms are germ cesspools.

General Information for kid travel

Identification:  If you have a child under 18, they do NOT need to have photo identification unless they are leaving the country.  http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/acceptable-ids

Liquids: According to the TSA, breast milk and formula qualify as “medically required liquids” and can be carried through security in excess of 3.5 ounces.  You simply need to alert a TSA employee that you have medically required liquids and they will test them.  Some airports have new machines that do not require the liquid containers to be opened in order to test.  Others insert a small paper strip into the liquid and test the liquid that way.  As I’ve mentioned, I have never had a problem carrying whole milk through security either.  http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/food-and-beverages

Airport Security:  Airlines are incredibly tolerant of traveling with baby gear but you must put all gear including food, strollers, car seats, blankets (give your kiddo a warning about this ahead of time!) and bags through the x-ray machine.  Children under 12 do not need to remove their shoes.  If something will not fit through the x-ray detector, do not fear! TSA has other ways to search it.

Individual Screening: Rest assured, TSA will not do anything that REQUIRES you to be separated from your child.  There are two types of devices that screen people—the walk through x-ray machine and Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT).  If a child is able, TSA will ask that the child to walk through the x-ray machine on their own.  When our entire family travels together, we usually go through one at a time with Foodie Baby in the middle.  I’ll be honest with you: he doesn’t love it.  The airport security line is just kind of scary, but it helps if one of us walks through first and then beckons FB to come through.  If your child absolutely will NOT walk through on his own, that’s ok.  The only real drawback is that if you carry the child through and you set off the security alert, you are both subject to “additional screening”.  Anyone can go through AIT, but you cannot carry a child through.  http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/traveling-children

Family Boarding:  When Foodie Baby was born (way back in 2011), airlines allowed families travelling with small children to “pre-board” immediately after the priority/elite travelers.  Although it meant extra time in the confined space of the plane, it allowed us extra time to situate all the gear (link to travel essentials) we had to lug on board.  Unfortunately, in addition to charging for checked bags, most airlines have discontinued family boarding in the past few years.  One stalwart remains that allows family boarding AND doesn’t charge for checked bags—my FAVORITE airline, Southwest!  If you aren’t flying Southwest, you will not have the benefit of family boarding.  However, this blog post gives some tips for boarding earlier which primarily consists of buying credit cards associated with various airlines that give you priority boarding status as a perk.  You can also purchase early boarding on most airlines.  http://boardingarea.com/mommypoints/2012/06/08/yes-boarding-early-matters-to-me-how-to-get-it/#sthash.Pm6jZiiK.dpbs

Seat Sharing: Children under 2 years old do not need their own seat.  They are allowed to ride on their parents’ lap.  Here are a few things to know about seat sharing:

  1. You need to bring a copy of your child’s birth certificate.  The airline might ask you to prove that your child is under two years old.

  2. When you book airline tickets online, you do not need to include your lap child.  Instead, you need to get a “Boarding Verification Document” (BVD) at the ticket counter when you check in for your flight at the ticket counter.

  3. If you decide you WANT a seat for your child (really a good idea and a safer option), most airlines offer REDUCED fares for infant travel.  However, you have to CALL the airline to receive the reduced fare because they aren’t available online.

International Travel: Anyone traveling abroad by air, land or sea MUST have a passport, including infants and children.  We applied for FB’s passport when he was 6 weeks old.  The Walgreens photographer looked at my like I was a crazy person.  Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Take a passport photo (full front view, 2×2 size).  Make sure to bring a white blanket (or in my case a dish towel) to lay the baby upon for the photo.  This will act as the background.  You can also lay a white sheet over the child’s car seat and take the photo that way.  You cannot be in the photo with the child and they need to be looking at the camera…I know…good luck.  http://travel.state.gov/passport/pptphotoreq/pptphotoreq_5333.html

  2. Obtain evidence of your child’s US citizenship (make a copy of child’s birth certificate)

  3. Obtain evidence that your child belongs to you, his parents (make a copy and bring original of child’s birth certificate and your identification)

  4. Complete this form but DO NOT SIGN IT! (http://eforms.state.gov/forms//docs/ds0011.pdf?)

  5. Visit travel.state.gov for a list of current passport fees and write appropriate checks

  6. Make a copy of both parents’ identification document (passport or driver’s license) and bring the orginal with you.

  7. Take your child, along with his other parent to the “Passport Acceptance Facility” http://iafdb.travel.state.gov or passport agency http://travel.state.gov/passport/npic/schedule/schedule_852.html At the passport acceptance facility the agent will look compare the photo of your child to him to make sure they resemble each other and check your documentation.

  8. If only one parent appears at the passport agency, the other parent must complete and notarize this document http://travel.state.gov/passport/forms/ds3053/ds3053_846.html

  9. Wait…Average passport application waiting time is 4-6 weeks though travel.state.gov recommends applying at least 10 weeks before scheduled travel.  There is an expedited passport application process that takes 2-3 weeks.  If you go to a passport agency, you can get your passport much more quickly.

  10. Check the status of your passport application here 5-7 days after applying.  http://travel.state.gov/passport/status/status_2567.html

The Original Ole’ Mood Pumpkin Bread

Last week marked the official start to Autumn, but someone needs to tell whoever sets the dates for seasonal transition (congress? The UN? Al Roker?) that Autumn really began way back on September 3. No, it wasn’t the reds and oranges of fall foliage that marked the transition and it wasn’t the cool night breeze or the first football game of the season. It was actually almost 100 degrees in good ole’ Tulsa, OK, but I knew Autumn had arrived when I walked into a work meeting at my neighborhood Starbucks coffee shop only to be greeted by a line that snaked through the shop, out the door and half way down the block.

“Did the iphone 5 change its release date and open a pop up shop at Startbucks?” I wondered to myself—and since I’m typically oblivious to any pop culture or technological happening in my vicinity (I literally sat next to Bono IN HIS TRADEMARK SUNGLASSES last time I was in New York and didn’t know it was him until someone told me)—I decided I’d just have to endure the look of shame and disappointment from the Gen-Y hipster in front of me and ask why it was going to take so long to get my Americano. As I anticipated, Gen-Y Hipster looked appalled that I failed to recognize the importance of this day (well, I am appalled you aren’t living up to your beanie wearing stereotype and buying coffee locally so take that) but not visibly shaken like the college girl in the shortest jean shorts I’d ever seen and Ugg boots (did I mention it was almost 100 degrees) in front of him. She jumped in before Gen-Y hipster could answer me:

Sorority Girl (in glass shattering shriek): “WHAT??? YOU DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS PSL DAY AT STARBS?”
Me (silently): Huh?
Sorority Girl: “PSL DAY IS LIKE MY FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR AND IT’S LIKE THE 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY!”
Me (looking to my former nemesis and now maybe friend Gen-Y Hipster for reassurance that this girl is bat shit crazy): “I have a meeting. I was just trying to get a coffee. Is this the line for Starbucks?”

Apparently Gen-Y Hipster decided he was going to save me from this shriek fest before he put his giant headphones back on his head so he said, “Today is the day Starbucks officially releases the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Everyone gets really excited about it.”

Let me give you some advice, friends, if you’re ever in this Starbucks line on PSL release day. Do NOT say “Why are they releasing it so early? It’s 100 degrees outside and fall is at least a month away” unless you want to risk being overtaken by a mob of Starbucks lovers hopped up on espresso, whipped cream and pumpkin syrup.

Luckily I escaped in time, but I had to endure my early morning meeting without coffee. I thought I might be afraid of all things pumpkin for life, but now that the weather is a little cooler and Halloween (and Thanksgiving!?) decorations are popping up in Target and beyond I find myself mysteriously craving that spunky orange veggie that inspired the latte that has become more of a harbringer of fall than the first signs of foliage.

Our friends “The Ole’ Moods” brought us an amazing loaf of pumpkin bread that my family demolished in about 2 hours and I begged for the recipe immediately after (partly to make sure it didn’t have some kind of crack in it because it was so addictive…just kidding). The Ole’ Moods make extra loaves of this bread and freeze it in case of pumpkin bread emergencies and I almost had to break into their house to get some because the Ole’ Moods were out of town when I asked for the recipe and we needed more bread badly.

I make this bread every fall, but this year I decided to try to make it healthier. The original recipe calls for 1 cup of oil and since I give it to Foodie Baby for breakfast (I put it in a muffin tin and call it a cupcake) I wanted to see if I could add some whole grains and fruit to it. Yes, I realize the recipe still has a full 3 cups of sugar, but it makes two full loaves so it’s not too bad!

I substituted ½ cup of banana and ½ cup of unsweetened apple sauce for the oil and I added flax seed to the top of the loaf instead of “pecan nut dust”. I also subbed walnuts for pecans…mostly because I didn’t have any pecans. Both recipes are below. Enjoy!

The Original Ole’ Mood Pumpkin Bread
Ingredients
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs lightly beaten
16 oz canned, unsweetened pumpkin
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup pumpkin spice syrup

Preparation

Grease and flour two loaf pans
Stir in sugar and oil
Stir in eggs and pumpkin
Sift dry ingredients in separate bowl, adding pecans
Add dry ingredients to wet, alternating with water/syrup mixture
Divide batter into two pans
Top with raw sugar and pecan nut dust

Bake in oven at 300 degrees for an hour (generally it takes almost an hour and half – recipe said one hour – I just stick a toothpick in it when it comes out clean it is done)

Lightened Up Pumpkin Bread
Ingredients
3 cups sugar
½ cup mashed banana
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
4 eggs lightly beaten
16 oz canned, unsweetened pumpkin
3 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup pumpkin spice syrup

Preparation
1. Grease and flour one loaf pan and one muffin tin (or use muffin liners)
2. Stir in sugar and oil
3. Stir in eggs and pumpkin
4. Sift dry ingredients in separate bowl, adding pecans
5. Add dry ingredients to wet, alternating with water/syrup mixture
6. Divide batter into two pans
7. Top with raw sugar and ground flax seed
8. Bake in oven at 300 degrees for an hour (generally it takes almost an hour and half – recipe says one hour – I just stick a toothpick in it when it comes out clean it is done)

 

Super simple pesto

Made with basil fresh from the farmer’s market!

Super Simple Pesto
Ingredients
2 cups Basil
3 cloves garlic
½ Cup Grated Parmesean Cheese
2 Tablespoon pine nuts
Salt and Pepper to taste
7 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Preparation

1.  Combine the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and pulse.
2.  When ingredients are combined, add olive oil in a slow drizzle while pulsing.  If you need an extra hand, recruit a kid!  They love to pulse.
3.  Refrigerate in an airtight container and use atop chicken, seafood, pasta, caprese salad…pretty much anything!