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The Trip Planner
Practical travel advice
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Lani Teshima, editor

Companion Guide to Traveling with Children

This month's column goes hand-in-hand with the last two Parenting in the Park columns, guest written by Mary Kraemer.

Direct vs. Nonstop

In the October 18 column, Mary tells you about the importance of using direct flights to get to your destination. You would think that a "direct" flight got you there in a straight line, right? Not necessarily! In airline- speak, a direct flight means you are traveling under one flight number, but it does not guarantee that your plane will not stop along the way. In fact, a "direct" flight can make refueling stops, pick up extra passengers at other airports, and even change aircraft! As long as the flight number stays the same, it's a "direct" flight!

When making your reservations, ask for a "direct, nonstop" flight. This ensures that your plane takes off in city A and lands in city B, with no planned stops in between.

Adults who dislike child travelers

Mary is quite right when she talks about adult travelers who do not like children on the airplanes. For the most part, these adults are not child-haters, but have had bad experiences with uncontrolled, undisciplined, or screaming children in the past. The flip side of this, is that these adults have low expectations... so if your children behave well, you might even get some compliments!

- Red-eye flights: If you are traveling cross-country, why not try a red-eye flight in the middle of the night? You have a better chance of getting them sleep during the flight if it coincides with bed time. The cabin lights are usually dimmed (although you can turn on your reading lamp if you wish), and it may be easier for your children to relax. Since many travelers try to catch some sleep (wearing ear plugs or eye masks), they might not mind your children walking through the aisles, either.

- Pressure in ears (Dimetapp, fruit roll-ups): Have you ever been on a flight where the young ones are screaming and crying during take-off and landing? Unlike adults, children and babies cannot equalize the pressure in their ears as the cabin pressure adjusts to change in elevation. This can cause severe pain (the kind you get with an ear infection)... and crying. How to prevent this? Sucking and chewing motions will naturally help relieve the pressure. This means feeding bottles to baby, fruit roll-ups to toddlers, and jerky or chewing gum for older children. You might talk to your pediatrician about providing your child a small dose of a sinus decongestant such as Dimetapp as well.

- Children's Meals: Reading Mary's column, I know you're already planning out an activity kit for the airplane. Depending on the airline and the length of your flight, you can augment your activity kit with fun kids' meals. United offers McDonald's Friendly Skies meals, which substitute French fries with apple sauce, and which comes with a Happy Meal- type of toy as well as a mini- activity set. Request special meals when you make your flight reservations, as the airlines require lots of advance notice.

Ready for takeoff
Ready for takeoff

E-Ticket? E-No Thank You

These days you can plan out your entire travel itinerary on your computer without even making a single phone call. When you buy your airline tickets though, make sure to ask to have your tickets mailed to you. Do not opt for the paperless e-ticket. While you do get your confirmation number in the mail, this is worthless if you need to change airlines at the last minute. Yes, you will probably eventually get to your destination (or get home), but with a hard ticket in hand, it is far easier to go to counters of other airlines when your own flight gets cancelled (or gets overbooked).

While we're talking about tickets, make sure you photocopy everybody's tickets (especially the last sheet, which serves as your receipt) and put this in your carry-on bag.

Take a Seat

Adrienne covered the difference between booster seats and car seats in a previous column; make sure to read that if you haven't, then decide whether you want to bring your own seat. If you plan to rent a car at your destination, a car seat may be worth bringing with you.

Where IS that bag?
Where IS that bag?


If you have ever been to my Travelite FAQ Web site, you know that I advocate traveling without any check-in luggage at all. Even if you can't fathom doing this yet, there are many tips you can incorporate, that will help lighten your family's load, and decrease the chances of lost luggage causing your vacation to turn into a nightmare.

Mary and Adrienne are both strong advocates of Zip-loc bags, as am I. It's a great way to separate clean from dirty clothes, as well as set aside outfits for everyone. Mary's idea of taking a backpack into the park with everybody's outfits in Zip-loc baggies is a great idea you can use when flying, too! This way if your luggage gets lost, everyone can still change into clean clothes. Don't forget to pack a mini toiletry kit for everyone in the carry-on... and depending on the age of your young ones, they can help carry their own bags on board, with things like socks, underwear, favorite toy and hairbrush in their own bags.

In addition:

- Never put any valuables in your check-ins. Whittle down your credit cards so you only take what you need. Try not to use bank debit cards that look like credit cards (the ones that are drawn from your checking account). Most do not provide loss coverage, and even those that do, may be slow to move since it's YOUR money, not theirs. In the meantime, you might end up with an emptied account and no way to pay your hotel bill!

- Put luggage tags on all check-ins, both on the handle, as well as on the inside (in case the outside tag gets lost). Some folks even include hotel names, phone numbers and dates they are staying, inside their luggage tags.

- Luggage look so similar to each other. Find some way to mark yours to look unique. A ball of yarn, a big colorful luggage strap, writing your name with masking name... whatever it takes. Most US airports don't require an exit check to match check-in tags with your stubs, so you don't want others to mistake your luggage for theirs. The way I figure it, the uglier it is, the less likely it will be mistaken... or stolen.

While this may be difficult to do with lots of little ones, you might be surprised to learn that it can be done, and IS done by many families! One mom who has traveled extensively with her two children is Susan, who offers a couple of great tips:

On Clothing: Unless mismatched clothing doesn't bother you, make sure:

-You take separates for baby, not one-piece dresses or jumpsuits

-That every piece of clothing coordinates with each other

The normal spills, drool, spit up, etc. that a baby is prone to will quickly soil the cutest travel outfits, and it's less time-consuming to whisk off the offending garment and put on new shirt / shorts / pants than it is to redress the whole baby. You can take fewer clothes that way, and stretch the time between washings.

On diapers: Don't bring a whole box of diapers unless you are driving a large van. If you're flying, just bring enough to last through the first full day you're there. It's far easier to buy diapers once you reach your destination (and as Mary points out, Tiffany Town Car even stops at the supermarket for you!).

On blankies: Blankies don't weigh much, but for some kids those few ounces of cotton can make or break a whole trip. If at all possible, don't bring your child's blankie if s/he only has one. Lose it, and not only is your trip spoiled, but the child will be miserable for a while at home too. Try to get your child to accept another blankie (maybe toss the blankie into the wash at naptime and offer the child an easily duplicated substitute, like a cloth diaper, which are cheap, replaceable, and absorbent. If your child accepts the substitute or has two or more blankies, make "mini-blankies" out of them that would be more portable and harder to lose. Cut one in half, and then cut one of the halves in half again, and so forth, until you end up with 5 blankie clones that way:

- One 1/2
- One 1/4
- One 1/8
- Two 1/16s

Your little one shouldn't mind the change in size because the feel / color is still the same. Tuck them everywhere to minimize the dangers of losing them all: One in the diaper bag, one in the suitcase, one in your husband's, one in your purse, and one in our daypack.

Packing Lists

I've left the most important for last. Once you start planning your trip, keep everything in a folder so it's all in one place. Got various brochures and books? Use a shoe box to store everything. As you start getting close to your trip, sit down and write out a packing list. Do this while you still have some leisure time to decide what you need. There are a number of packing lists available online (and there's one at my site at the Travelite FAQ as well).

You can even set up a packing list on your computer. Use it in the beginning as a shopping list, then print it out and check off each item as you pack them. About a day or two before your trip, pack EVERYTHING in the packing list and try a dry run. You might discover that you need an extra check-in bag (horrors!), or that a bag is too heavy to tote.

A little extra prep will go a long way in keeping your family's dream vacation from turning into a nightmare.

Happy trip planning!!

Also of interest:

Well worth a read


Contact Lani Teshima if you have any travel tips or questions about trip planning.

A Hawaii ex-patriate, Lani is a technical writer for a San Francisco Bay Area software company.

When Lani is not managing the copy editing tasks here, you can usually find her at the gym, slogging away those slow miles on the treadmill as she trains for the WDW Marathon (held in January). She also maintains her internationally recognized Travelite FAQ.

In the occasional spare moment, Lani and her husband, Alex—our MousePlanet CEO and MouseAdventure event coordinator—attend baseball games, and drive down to Disneyland in their 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (which gets 50mpg).


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