With a baby and toddler, traveling can be daunting, especially when kid-friendly doesn't turn out to be baby and toddler friendly.

We've realized what a difference that is, so we are here in hopes to share and learn about the best places to go with our babes and tots in tow.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tricks for Traveling with Toddlers

Flying with two kiddos is so different than flying with just one. Add the toddler factor and it makes it much more difficult. Add flying solo with kiddos and just say hello to insanity!

We've traveled to Seattle, Honolulu, San Diego and Jacksonville, and the longer flight wasn't necessarily the most challenging. My flight to Jacksonville was the shortest and the most humiliating. Why you ask? The terrible threes! But when you get to your destination, you very quickly forget about the in-flight craziness and are able to enjoy the new venue. Or perhaps you want to live in la-la land for a while, and pretend that you never have to get back on the plane to make that return flight. Either way, you make the most of the trip and you chalk the flight up to another accomplishment.

I have a bag of goodies, a bag I add to with every plane trip I take. I got many ideas from the web including the below. I buy everything from Amazon.com because I have prime membership and I can get everything mailed to me in two days and Diapers.com, also fast shipping!



Let's start from the beginning though-getting through security and on that plane. If you have an infant, then I highly recommend bringing a carrier like the Bjorn or Ergo Carrier.

If traveling with just an infant, you can check the stroller and just use the carrier, or gate check the stroller and use it to lug your carry-ons through the airport. The smaller the stroller, the better, but then you give up a lot of the luxuries of your nice stroller. I always feared that my Bugaboo would get damaged in the flight and the airlines have all kinds of disclaimers that state that they are not responsible...blah, blah, blah. I do miss the ease of my nice stroller once I get to the destination, but never enough to reconsider my choice.

If you are flying with two, I borrowed my friend's Peg Pergo Aria. You can either hook the infant car seat into it and gate check both, or baggage check the car seat--most airlines do not charge you for that. Make sure you ask them for a large bag to put the seat into, to minimize any damage. As for the toddler's car seat--what a pain! Sometimes we use the Go Go Kidz Travelmate and convert that car seat into a stroller and use that seat to lock the kiddo into the seat of the plane. It kinda gives my little guy the sense of having to stay seated, just like in the car. If the car seat is narrow enough, you can just wheel that seat down the aisle of the plane, and the Go Go Travelmate folds up in seconds and can be stored in the overhead compartment. You will need the extension belt to add to the seat belt to hook the car seat into the seat on the plane, so ask an attendant as you go aboard. If you are traveling alone, you could check the stroller and then use the car seat/travelmate as a stroller, with the little one in the carrier. It all really comes down to comfort level. One disclaimer, make sure you buy one of the newer Go Go Travelmates that disassemble faster. The original has you screwing and unscrewing the seat and from what I hear is a nightmare. All of the above depends on if you have a layover, especially in a large airport, where you might have to run from one terminal to another to catch your connector with kiddos in tow. That is when the stroller comes in handy, with little else. You can just pop those kids in the stroller and infant carrier--load the other bags into the other side of the stroller and run. But if there is no connecting and it is a long flight, I always check the stroller and bring that car seat on to strap my little guy in for the long haul. Of course, you can always leave the car seats home too and rent them when you rent your car. They are not the nicest, but get the job done, and it is one less thing to get through security.

I always laugh when they announce at the gate that they are pre-boarding families with young children. Why on earth would you want to be trapped on that plane with your munchkins for any longer than need be???? To each their own though. I try to let my little one run around a bit before getting on the plane. They are going to have to stay seated for a long time, so no sense in rushing to get them seated. So wait a little bit, or send your spouse on first to secure the overhead storage, then come on a little later with the kiddos. Once on the plane, you'll want to have your bags of goodies very organized and easily accessible. I pack two carry-ons--one with diaper supplies and toys and the other with food/snacks and the dvd player. Keep in mind that not all planes have a changing table in their lavatories. I was surprised, but it's happened several times, including on my flight to Hawaii--that's right! So make sure to pack a changing pad and also disposable changing pads . Even if you do find a changing station, sometimes they are just too gross to put your changing pad down. After all, you are just folding it up and putting the exposed side that touched that nasty table into your bag to touch everything else. Disclaimer, I am sometimes a germaphobe. Also bring a change of clothes for the kiddos AND YOU! I have a friend whose child got a terrible case of the runs upon takeoff. Needless to say, they too were flying to Hawaii from the East Coast and had to stay in their stinky clothes the entire flight. I have another friend who didn't know their kiddo had motion sickness issues until his stomach contents erupted all over the two of them (and their neighbor), again with no extra clothes. Another friend's luggage was delayed--a nice way of saying LOST, so she relied on her extra outfits for the next day before her luggage was delivered. Honestly, I've never had to use the extra set of clothes I've packed, but I am fairly certain that the time I don't pack that extra set will be the time I need them. I have good luck like that--the best of luck most of the time, but the worst of luck, especially if I am already down. Story of my life, but that's for another posting or for when I find a therapist.

Ideas for toys and in-flight entertainment for the wee-little ones... The list is endless and SOOOOOOO necessary. I didn't let my first kiddo, my now three-year old son, watch TV/DVDs until he was 15 months and on our way across country to Seattle. We did a bunch of Baby Einstein--the Wordsmith series, like Baby Einstein: Baby Wordsworth - First Words: Around the House, Baby Einstein - Baby's Favorite Places - First Words Around Town, Baby Einstein - On the Go - Riding, Sailing and Soaring, Baby Einstein - Neighborhood Animals, or Baby Einstein - Baby MacDonald - A Day on the Farm. You don't get to sue Disney and Baby Einstein for your kids not becoming geniuses-that's already been done, but at least they are learning words and some sign language--so getting some educational value instead of watching some yellow sponge moan and groan about living under the sea. Other DVDs we love are Mickey Mouse Club House, Backyardigans--love the music, Leap Frog's ABC Letter Factory and Curious George. Though, sometimes I wonder about George--does he actually give my son ideas on how to act like a monkey and cause mischief??? Hmmmm, the verdict is still out, but George has really enhanced my son's role playing and summarizing story skills. I'll overlook the jumping off the couch, while making monkey noises on this one, but maybe not if he were leaping from seat to seat on the plane. Here are some comfy kid earphones that are safe for kids-Maxell 190338 Kids Safe Headphone.

Other ideas for the plane if you are not into letting your kid zone out with the DVD...finger puppets, play-doh, etch-a-sketch, flap books (open flaps ahead of time to eliminate any frustration), small plastic animals, hot wheel cars, magnet toys, latch puzzles, nesting cups, aqua-doodles, and even painter's tape. I personally love and Lauri Toys Toddler Tote and
Moody Bear Travel Bag. I also peruse the bargain aisles at Borders and Barnes and Noble a week before a trip and get some great deals and some fun, new books/toys that are always a hit.

I have more specific toys below and link from amazon for travel toys.

A small picture album with pics of your family in it so you can have him identify the different people
Finger puppets
Magnetic Joey Dress-Up Doll
Magnetic alphabet maze--inside plastic cover so alphabet pieces can't fall out
http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/seo/ca%7CproductSubCat~~p%7CLL676~~f%7C/Assortments/Lakeshore/ShopByCategory/blockplaymanipulatives/finemotordevelopment.jsp Magnetic color maze
Other toys that may work
Maybe velcro toys--so he can put it on and take it off over and over again?

Some people wrap each toy so it gives the kiddos one more activity and some kids love unwrapping toys. Whatever you choose, dole them out one at a time and make the most of each one.

Make sure to pack lots of snacks that your kids love and some drinks. Again, as long as you have the kids, you can get through security with all of this, it just takes a few more minutes for them to go through your bags. I would hold off on too much sugar and if you want to pack milk, Horizons has individual sizes that don't need to be refrigerated. There are these new NurturMe Dried Baby Food . Just add water and little baby has yummy baby food! There are also little pouches of Plum Organics Baby Second Blends and GoGo Squeez appleapple, Applesauce on the Go--just squeeze and serve.

Anyone have any other suggestions? We'd love to hear about it!

Happy travels-may your journey be stress-free, tantrum-free, and full of adventure-the good kind of adventure! Oh, and have someone ready with a drink on the other side--you'll need it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa-San Diego, CA

At the park at the community center overlooking the bay.
Hotel Del Coronado
San Diego Zoo
Snuggle session in our room at Loews

My daughter was about two months old when my husband had a last minute business trip to San Diego. I had to think about it a split second, as I would never have traveled with my first child so early, but we threw caution to the wind and headed out west! It was a little off season, late April/early May, it was chilly, but the weather was much warmer than the East Coast and the trip was perfect for us and the kiddos. This is the trip that started my wheels turning on finding babes and tot friendly places.

I found Loews Coronado Bay Resort from my sister, who had seen it on Parents.com. It was ranked in the top ten places in Best Family-Friendly Resorts in the U.S. and the Caribbean. I wasn't sure if this meant toddler friendly, but it ended up being terrific! As I mentioned, we went off season and there weren't many children activities planned, but we found plenty to do. Upon check-in, my son was given a Fisher-Price toy of his choice and the front desk staff not only was friendly, but so welcoming of little ones. What a huge difference, where other places seem to want you to hide your kiddo away and make sure they are seen and not heard at all. Not the feel here at Loews. The hotel itself was gorgeous, and the rooms where incredible with a huge bathtub that my son LOVED! I killed a lot of time at bathtime since I was still getting used to putting two little ones to bed at that time. They also had the most adorable crib set up for us, with cute bedding, bumper, blanket and all. We opted for the two queen beds and it worked perfectly with the kiddos.

Along with 24-hour room service for those nights when the kids are just too tired to go out, or you are not in a betting mood to see whether or not the kids blow up at the table, the restaurants let the kids eat free. There is also a little cafe for sandwiches, snacks and coffee, which we frequented often. There were tons of places a few miles down the road that were good for carry out as well. Here is a link to some other fun family dining places in the area.

For daytime activities on the grounds, there is a playground right to the left of the entrance gates (if you are walking from the hotel) and we used that a lot. There are also several pools, including a big kiddie pool, whirl pool, kibanas to keep the kiddos in the shade, outdoor chess and checker games, outdoor ping pong, and three tennis courts. Across the highway and via a private pedestrian underpass was direct access to Silver Strand State Beach. There you can ride bikes, rollerblade, waverun, go sailing or even rent paddle boats. And there is an on-site surf and paddle board school. I was told you can rent all of the above, and a pay for a gondola ride and more, but we never made it down to the beach as it was just a bit too chilly/windy for us with an two month old that week. For indoor activities, there is an award-winning Kids’ Club designed by Pottery Barn Kids and Teen Lounge and Teen Spa Room designed by Pottery Barn’s PBteen. We took many excursions around the area, so didn't use these rooms, but they looked fantastic.

For a date night on the grounds, there was a great fine dining restaurant, Mistral, which used all the herbs that came from the hotel's 3,800-square-foot organic Herb Garden. And for a spa experience, Sea Spa featuring 15 treatment areas for massages, facial and body services; spa manicures and pedicures; steam, sauna, relaxation lounge; and complete fitness center and aerobic studio with group and private classes.
Loews Coronado Bay
4000 Coronado Bay Road
San Diego, California, 92118
Phone: (619) 424-4000
Fax: (619) 424-4400

Loews Coronado Bay Hotel is set a little off the beaten path. It is three miles down the road from downtown Coronado, but walkable if you are into putting the kids in the stroller for a long stroll. The NAVAL SEAL training facility is along the walk to downtown Coronado, and you can peak through the fence and sometimes see them training on the beach. Of course, if you are not into such a long walk, you can drive and we found parking easy enough on the street.

Downtown Coronado was a fun play to walk around. We found parking on the street and walked around checking out the shops. We walked around the ground of the Hotel Del Coronado and the beaches. If you plan your trip right, you can hang out at the Babcock & Story Bar and watch the sun set with a glass of wine or an amazing bloody mary--one of the best I've ever had and I've been here several times now. There is an ice cream shop called Moo Time Creamery too that the kids will love and an extraordinary brunch at the famous Crown Room, which is continuously voted San Diego’s best. Brunch is available every Sunday from 9:30am to 1pm.

Hotel Del Coronado
1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, 619/435-6611

We frequented many parks and play areas along the way. There is a great park at the The Coronado Community Center, overlooking Glorietta Bay at 1845 Strand Way. There it a tot lot adjacent to the bay and on your way back to the Loews hotel, on the right hand side. You can BBQ there too!

We left the hotel and the Coronado area to visit with friends and family often and took in many of the sites and attractions nearby. Again, we are a military family, so we were able to take advantage of the discounts at a few of the San Diego attractions.

We loved the San Diego Zoo. A one day pass was $37 for ages 12 and up, and $27 for ages 3-11. If you are active duty military, you receive free admission with a military ID. Having small children, we were able to enjoy the zoo for $27 for the whole family--the price of just my ticket. What a bargain for such an amazing zoo. Beware, the new polar bear exhibit is so fun and exciting, so your kids beeline it for the maze, but there are multiple openings, so be ready to man each exit. It is a small enough maze, but when it is crowded, it could be very easy for a little wee one to sneak on through and get lost in the crowd. Also, make sure you wear some good walking shoes and not the adorable sandals I had on...I know, I know, I should know better. But this zoo is hilly and pushing that stroller up some of the hills was quite a workout even for those in shape. I am referring to the hubby as the in shape one, not me.

San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Drive in Balboa Park

There is also the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which used to be the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park. The name changed to better reflect the experience, that is per the Web site. Same pricing as the zoo, and there are packages that give you a discount to do both. We opted not to do that with our little ones, but would have split it up between two days had we had more time. My sister lived out in San Diego and said it was fantastic. Anyone been and want to tell us more, we'd love to hear!

Sea World was also a hit and with the military discount we got in for free--the entire family, thanks to the Here's to the Heroes program, which allows active duty military to enter the park for free with three dependents. For some reason, my son couldn't focus on the aquariums, and was more into the lights, vents, fans and escalators, so I was thankful that we didn't spend a fortune getting in, but we did have a good time and my son got to run around and release all that energy he harnesses. We did loose a croc (shoe) in the flamingo pond...Don't try taking a picture too close to the fence, but it was a teachable moment for us. Find someone to tell because we don't want the flamingos to get sick... And watching the staff fish the shoe out of the water was fun for the kiddos too. The staff was so friendly and didn't blink an eye. Apparently, it happens all the time. Slippery little shoes!

Sea World San Diego
500 Sea World Dr.
San Diego, CA 92109
Our trip was short, but there were so many things we wanted to do. I know Lego Land is in nearby Carlsbad too, but we thought our two year old was just too little to make it worth while. Just driving around and taking in the sites was just amazing. Be sure to drive by La Jolla--La Jolla Cove is breath-taking and La Jolla Shores is the most family-friendly beach. Really, there isn't anything you can do in San Diego that you can't make babe and toddler friendly. I often wished we lived there...now back to reality!