Don’t plan on the GO!

We are approaching Thanksgiving holidays in a couple of weeks and unlike most years I have not planned our travels. In fact I haven’t made any plans for the new year holidays this year. As you know when we book late we pay more and go to destinations that might not be on our hot list of places to visit. So while we might not make it to our dream destinations this year – I am planning out the next few years.

When you have children travel planning becomes very easy for the following reasons:

1) Age: Age as a factor alone can define the type, duration and distance of your trips. You cant possibly take a 2 year old to Galapagos but you can make this trip when your tot is 6 – 7 years old. Also you might want to visit closer/domestic destinations when your child is very young and save the adventures for later when your tot and you can endure it
2) Temperatures: My son and I loves warm weather, but my hubby cannot endure very high temperatures. This helps me choose destinations based on historical average monthly temperatures
3) Holidays: A holiday calendar for your family can help define the duration and in return the nature of trip. If your tot is attending school or if you are working the holiday calendar is preset for the year. You want to minimize missing school days or days at work so you know the pockets of holidays you can leverage.
4) Ability: Age and abilities go hand in hand. You will enjoy a relaxing holiday when your tot is young and save the hikes for when your tot is older. I am going to postpone Yosemite till my tot is at least 5 years old and travel to the Caribbean while he is 3
5) Budget: Traveling with tots can be expensive – so you can plan out the year with a combination of low budget and higher budget holidays. Booking your hotel and flights (if you need to fly) in advance can lead to huge savings. Also some destinations get booked at least a year in advance and cancellations are possible at least a month prior to your travel dates (keep your cancellation dates on your alert list so you don’t miss it)
6) Who are you going to travel with?: Once you have kids – its great to travel with family, friends or other families. If you have your year planned in advance its easy to invite others to join you. Tots love to travel with other tots and it can be a huge relief for the adults as you are not entertaining your tots at all times. With other tots around your tot will be open to trying new things as well

Creating my holiday plan for the next couple of years has really helped me decide if I should spend a significant amount of money traveling to a non-hot list destination vs. saving that money for a dream trip I wish to make next spring.

Somethings are worth not doing on the go, plan ahead of time and enjoy your vacations as a family.


Traveling with a toddler – so much easier than before

Enjoy your vacationIn the past 5 months, we have been to India, Mexico and Miami. It has felt much easier traveling with my son after he turned 2.5 years vs. before. Of course it has helped that we started traveling with him when he was an infant and he is now used to the drill. So now that he is 3 years old, these are some of the things that make my trips successful:

  1. Vacation for 4-5 days at least – don’t cut it short
  2. This one still applies – take direct flights, avoid layovers if you can
  3. Rent with Hertz. They have always provided a clean car seat and is always installed when I pick up the car. I still confirm twice to make sure everything will be in order
  4. Read the hotel reviews. Spending on your hotel room is of great value now than before. Hotels with a kids club are of great value. Just make sure you have read all the reviews on the kids club. I have always called ahead of time to talk to the director of the kids club to get a feel for the club, it’s services and if it is appropriate for my child given his age and interests
  5. If not getting two separate rooms – request hotel to provide a spare bed. Take your own sheets if you child has sensitive skin. Take a small pillow or lovee that your child uses every night to fall asleep
  6. Pack as many clothes for the little one, keep your own bags light. Pack his/her favorite small toys and 3 most favorite all time reads. Paperbacks are great to travel with
  7. If traveling international, take a few snacks you are sure your child will eat e.g.: take his/her favorite peanut butter as you will always find bread, take Mac n Cheese – its easy to cook. Take and Toss is still my favorite. I have atleast carried straws and traveling spoon & fork set
  8. Take basic medicine, thermometer and weather-appropriate toiletries (lotions, sprays etc.)
  9. Research restaurants in and around your hotel. It’s great to have a few options on hand. Quickly research nearby grocery stores, pharmacy, mall etc.
  10. Always keep sanitizing wipes handy – use them on the plane, rental car, in your room just to keep it safe. Sanitize in route always

So there are a few things to think about, keep your child entertained and manage his/her usual schedule. But overall everyone should take a break and enjoy. Vacations are a great way for the whole family to connect – so put away the blackberries, the iPhones and get to know each other. Let your child break some rules, don’t forget he/she is on vacation too.

Quick tips for your upcoming road-trip

Kudos to all the parents taking a road trip with your tots this summer. We love parents that travel at TitterTot. We recently drove to Boston with Devam – our now 2 year old son. Devam is a particularly good travel buddy, we sang “Jingle Bells” – yes that is his favorite, I made up stories, we passed by a deer that got him terribly excited to see more animals along the way (which did not happen) and we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts as he was curious about donuts (thanks to all the billboards along the way). He surely didn’t like the donuts, did not want to have lunch, but was happy to just chow down his Goldfish and take an hour nap. Right about 45 minutes before we got to Boston my wonderful boy turned into a voracious, insatiable bazoo. Nemo (the movie) saved us and we made it to Boston in great spirits.

Tools to ensure a fun ride

It is such a challenge to take long road trips with kids, but here are some ideas that could make it fun for all and keep the fuss out:

1)    Keeping your tot entertained:

  • Take music that your tot enjoys, you can sing-along
  • Take books that your tot can read/flip & books that others can read to the tot
  • Take favorite toys. Travel accessories made by companies like Ben-Bat are great to keep your tot entertained.
  • Take media players like a DVD player (when patience runs extremely thin) or an iPad. You can find a case for the iPad that attaches to the back of the front passenger seat, so your tot can watch movies on it.
  • Pre-select good spots to stop at E.g.: Playgrounds with jungle gyms where you can take a break during your trip, farms, rest-stops etc.
  • In regards to snacks, take low calorie and high protein snacks that will not fill her/him up and keep her/him light and happy
  • Install a baby car mirror so you can keep an eye on your tot while driving. Safety 1st makes a good car mirror

2)    Keeping your tot comfortable: No matter what age they are, they need to be comfortable for a long ride. If your tot is still riding in his car-seat make sure that he is comfortable in terms of the seats recline position, make sure his harness is snug and loose and that he can look outside the window. If you are traveling during summer, cover the seat with a cotton sheet to make sure your tot is not hot. Keep the sun out – use a window shade. Keep it cool in the car. Make sure your tot has his favorite nap-time lovee with him to keep company, be it a blanket, Elmo or big bird.

3)    Nursing:  If you are still nursing, you will need to make frequent stops unless you have a substitute driver on the trip. If you do have a substitute driver you might be able to pump and feed. Getting your tot on a predictable nursing schedule will help you on your car trip.

4)    Eating out + Celiac disease: I will suggest carrying pre-packaged baby foods based on your tot’s eating stage and foods that usually suit her/him. It might be best to not take a chance with foods prepared in random restaurants along the way especially if your tot suffers from Celiac disease. You can also pre-select restaurants along the way that work best for everyones appetite, we don’t want upset stomachs (be it your tot or yourself) on a long car ride.

5)    Keeping it clean: Between kids, pets, friends and family traveling in your car, keeping it clean is a challenge. Carry spill free drinking and snack containers (snack traps are a great option). Make sure you are traveling with garbage bags and wipes. Take a break for meals to keep the crumbs and the smell out. And let your tots carry their own back-packs so all their toys can be stored in there. We will write a more detailed blog on this shortly.

I often travel to Boston, which is a 4-5 hour trip with my 2-year-old son, I take off around his bed-time (6:30PM) and am able to get to Boston while he is still napping. If you are going to be traveling for longer hours you should not drive late nights for your and your tot’s safety, but you could travel a part of the way while your tot is napping, take a break at a hotel along the way and travel the rest early in the morning. It always helps to avoid traveling during your tot’s lunch or dinner hours.

I hope that all you parents traveling with your tots you have a fabulous time and wishing you a safe journey.

Let us know if this was helpful, leave us a comment below.

Staying in a hotel, B&B or renting a house this summer? You must read this.

With spring setting in and as we get ready for summer, we all are (I hope all my fellow moms are) either traveling or getting ready to travel with our tots. You have packed all the necessities and gathered all your gear. You have made sure that you are carrying all the necessary medicines and prescriptions so your tot (and you) can combat any sickness on the trip. Despite of this, the last thing we want is us or our tot/s getting sick from viral infection that lasts more than a week. If you are planning to stay in a hotel, a B&B or renting a house this summer with your tot/s you must be aware of hidden germs in rooms. The 2006 ABC News video discusses how 90% of travelers are surprised by cleanliness in rooms .

As the video suggests we could take simple precautions by doing a quick housekeeping service of our own before you settle in your hotel room. Trust me this took me less than 10 minutes to do:

  • Carry antibacterial wipes, before your tot/s enter the room, wipe down all the accessible table tops (side tables, coffee tables, desks, TV stands, shelves, bathroom counter-tops). If you see dust on your wipes on the first surface you clean, you want to be a little more detailed in your clean-up process
  • Wipe down the remotes and video game console gear (if your tot is a video game junkie like me)
  • Wipe down the handles on the room, the bathroom, the doors/drawers
  • Wipe down the toilet seat
  • Do your own turndown service, take off the heavy bedspread, store it away in the closet where your tot cannot access it. Put away all the decorative pillows, they have probably been gathering dust for a while
  • Make sure you and your tot/s are not walking barefoot in the hotel room, keep socks or slippers on at all times
  • Carry hand sanitizer and make sure your tot/s are sanitize their hands before enjoying a gluttonous meal
  • Rinse the drinking glasses, or bring your own disposable drinking glasses
  • If you are traveling with very young tots, please bring your own sheets and a light blanket

With this basic housekeeping you can keep ensure that all members of the family are safe and healthy during your stay.

Also review the list of Top 10 dirtiest hotels in America for the current year and make sure that you are not staying at one of them. This list is culled from reviews written by real travelers. The news report from ABC News includes the 2011 list of the dirtiest hotels and a short helpful video on personal housekeeping.

Happy travels and do share your experiences with us on TitterTot.