... There are long airport lines, security checkpoint(s), boarding the plane, sitting in a confined, shaking, noisy space that can pressure little ears, and travel etiquette issues like not kicking the seats...

But when children understand what to expect and what is expected of them, they are always much better behaved.

If parents are prepared and prepare their children as well, travel with little ones can be an absolute joy!

Links to recommended articles - each emphasizing the need to involve children in preparation for the trip!

Packing and Pre-Trip Considerations.
Links to our
favorite checklists.

Tools (DVDs & Books) to Prepare Toddlers for Travel.

18 November 2008

Toddler Travel Humor

While we're adamant about preparing kiddos for what to expect before they get on the plane, we couldn't resist this gem a friend alerted us to (thanks, Andy!). * Not recommended for purchase, but absolutely recommended for reading!

The Play Security Checkpoint is dubiously useful at best, but the buyer comments are priceless. Enjoy!

16 September 2008

Traveling Parentpreneurs: Awesome Travel Products Made By and For Traveling Families

When it comes to flying, cruising or roadtripping with children, no one knows better what a traveling family needs than a parent. As one myself, I have a passion for and a great interest in ideas executed by 'traveling parent-preneurs'. In the first of an ongoing series, today's feature introduces the families behind the YakPack and the BearHug.

The best products are the ones created from a need, and rarely has there been a need so acute as that experienced by the Phillips family on a multi-state roadtrip that resulted in three children ill in the backseat. As Mrs. Phillips writes, "The worst part of the trip was in Kansas. We stopped at a rest area, stripped our three year old child in the bathroom and washed her in the sink. It was so horrible that I couldn't stop from gagging. That's when I realized in my rush to the bathroom, I had left her change of clothes in the car. I threw away what she was wearing and wrapped her in my coat.

"Because of this and other horrible experiences, my husband and I created the YakPack - the Ultimate Clean-Up Kit for Sickies. Had we only a few YakPacks on board the mini-van vessel, we could have prevented the aftermath. Now, we never leave home without them."

The YakPack fits under the seat in the car, in a diaper bag carry-on or even in a standard-size purse. But don't let the compact size of vinyl zipper case fool you. Each YakPack contains:

  • Motion sickness bag
  • Absorbent lap pad to protect surfaces
  • Latex free protective gloves
  • Vomit absorbent/odor neutralizer powder
  • Plastic scraper and scoop to pick up neutralized material
  • Antimicrobial wipes
  • Dry towel to remove residual
  • Biohazard bag for proper disposal
I gifted a YakPack to a family friend whose daughter gets car sick on any trip lasting longer than about an hour. They were leaving for a summer camping trip in the mountains, and I couldn't have offered a better road trip product for them. Highly recommended by both our families! There is also a great post over at the Blog about how best to use it in flight.

Also highly recommended: the Dioquino Family's BearHugs - the ultimate in multi-tasking travel comfort for children.

Taking into consideration the needs of warmth, allergies, germ protection, comfort, practicality and even the cute factor, BearHugs are part blanket, part wrap, part lovey that can also be used as a backpack or a pillow. Perfect for travel by land or air ... and just as perfect for a sleepover as a movie night at home.

Some wonderful features worth mentioning:
  • kids can carry it themselves (wrap turns into pillow/backpack)
  • room for toys or books inside (little pocket on the front for treasures)
  • kids bond with the bear on the front, which helps make them feel at home, even while they're away (the BearHug is a great transitional object for children who don't adapt to change or new situations well)
  • the BearHug wraps all around, so protects from dirty airline seats while providing full body warmth
  • kids can walk around while wrap stays on
  • hypoallergenic (allergies/asthma)
  • great for kids with sensory (touch) issues
  • comes in blue, green, pink and purple
To purchase either of these products, please visit their websites:

Here's to clear skies and (smooth) open roads!

If you too are a Traveling Parentpreneur and you'd like to submit a product for review, please email me at TravelingParentpreneur (at)

07 July 2008

Why Traveling With Toddlers is a Very Good Thing

One parent friend of mine told me once that she and her husband weren't planning to take a family airplane trip until their then-2-year-old son was 6 - she was just too worried about what she imagined in her active son's potential bad behavior, packing and carrying all the necessary accoutrements that go with little ones, all the added details (and delays) that seem to go with traveling with toddlers. But after she had her second son and realized that if their family stuck to their no-planes-til-the-boys-are-6 plan, all told it would result in nearly a decade without a family trip! ... and she was ready to find some solutions to her dilemma.

It has been argued that traveling with children under three is a waste of time. I've heard all the excuses: that biggest of which is that babies and toddlers are too young to remember what it is they are seeing and experiencing. My response to that is the same as any child development specialist's with regards to a child's exposure to being read to: exposure is a VERY good thing. My daughter doesn't remember asking me to read Big, Runaway Bunny or Where The Wild Things Are every night two and three times when she was two. But she still loves for me to read to her, and is now a great reader herself.

I wanted my daughter Shae to want to travel. As she grows up, it is crucial that she understand that there are different ways of living, looking, building, believing, learning, contributing - and I want her to internalize this knowledge and act on it as a result of seeing it, not just reading about it. I am convinced that having a broader exposure to the world, domestically and internationally, results in better citizenship and commitment to one's community. What better way to appreciate what one has than by witnessing firsthand what others don't? What better way to understand that others do not think/problem solve/create in the same way as ourselves than by learning - even just a few words of - another language and realizing just in the sentence structure alone how differently the same idea can be expressed or considered?

Having this belief in broad exposure as a benefit, coupled with my own selfish desire as a world traveller not to give up exploring just because I was now a mother, I set out in not-so-subtle and less obvious ways to raise her as a Good Little Traveler. From map sheets in the crib and a biplane rocking chair to a wall papered with old saved National Geographic maps and multiple bookshelves overflowing with stories about exploring, adventuring, discovering, journeying. I also took her on the road almost from the time she was born. But one needn't be as interested as I am in travelling as a rule, just open to the idea.

I love this quote by Teresa Plowright at, where she writes: "Travel is in many ways different from vacation: travel, for example, might be sightseeing in Paris, or exploring hill towns in Italy, or a road trip with plenty of stops and exploration along the way." She goes on to write: "Travel with a baby or toddler entails logistics, no question. But gear is so great, these days ... And travel with a baby can be extremely rewarding, especially in countries where people tend to dote on babies."

There are so, so many great reasons to take your infant / toddler / preschooler / kindergartner out into the world!

26 June 2008

Flight Delayed? What To Do With Toddlers At the Airport

Airlines are feeling the squeeze just as we are and flights are being cancelled, delayed and re-routed at an unprecedented rate. When you are a parent flying with a toddler, the prospect of an extra hour (or three) at the airport can be daunting. But fear not! Tried and true plans of action await you below...

First, and most importantly, if possible, keep moving!!!

Exhausting as it may be for the parent, ideally it will be for your kiddos, too, so that when they do finally board the plane, they’ll be ready to nap or snack (ie, sit still). If a family sits, sits, sits during the delay, parents shouldn't be surprised when their children are ready to consider the airplane seat their own personal jungle gym! As one parent writes, "As a professional speaker, I spend many hours in airports. It amazes me how many parents insist that their toddler or preschooler sit in a stroller or a chair waiting for the flight. Since everyone will be constricted on the plane, it’s better to keep active in the airport."

What is a travelling parent to do?

  • Explore. Most airports have displays on loan from local museum collections. Many airports have kid play areas.
  • Count baggage. Identify colors of shoes walking by. Make a scavenger list together (let your child help think of silly things to look for and then set off to see if any of the items can be found)
  • Play "One Sip" - I am quoting directly from a great Travel Tips page over at Silvana from Nashville writes about this fabulous game: "My daughter and I like to play the “one sip” game. We walk through the airport from drinking fountain to drinking fountain, taking only one sip at each. The idea is to walk as far as possible with your child."
  • Hit the loo. If your plane is delayed for a long time, find a bathroom in a different terminal – ideally arrived at by a tram, train or long people mover, all of which are always entertaining for little ones. For that matter, up and down the escalator you go!

More great ideas from more traveling families:

08 June 2008

How To Fly Successfully With Small Children

Come June, most schools are out and many family vacations underway - and thus begins the season of negative family travel articles ... and (finally!) one very positive one.

It is a shame that flying families receive press only in cases of scandal or dread, especially when so many families do it right. This week about a dozen people emailed me from the (alas, not-so-surprising) article headlined "Surviving a flight with your baby or toddler". Despite the great advice, I object on the grounds of semantics! Given that the article, like all the others, is essentially a checklist of what to consider and prepare for, it should instead be called Preparing for a flight with your baby or toddler.

Of course, back on the soapbox that started it all, missing from the equation as per usual is the part about preparing the kiddos for the flight. With babies, it's about parents knowing their child's propensity for motion sickness, sleep and eat schedule, etc. In situations with traveling infants, parents really only have themselves to prepare. But with toddlers, preschoolers, kindergartners - this is not the case. Small children are very capable of grasping new concepts and understanding boundaries. It is of paramount importance that in planning for the trip, the kiddos are included in the process:

  • Go to the airport before your trip with your 3-year-old son who has never been on a plane. Watch the planes take off, notice people queuing up for security - tell him why these things are happening and how soon it will be his turn to stand in the line and board the plane, and take off into the sky. Let him get excited! and then ...

  • Let your child help pack: if you're headed to the beach, ask your 2-year-old what she might want to wear at the ocean. She will answer bathing suit, and she can help you put it in the suitcase.

  • Let children pull their own carry-on bag. It gives you a separate space to pack your child's extra pull-ups, change of clothes, etc. (that doesn't constitute an extra bag since your youngster has his or her own seat) and gives your kiddo a responsibility during the pre-flight process. For most children, having a "job" is a treat and a privilege (just ask a preschool or kindergarten teacher). A toddler who knows he has to get his bag to the airplane will be a little more focused than one whose only responsibility is to follow meekly along behind his parents (boring!).

  • (You knew this was coming, if you know me at all) Buy the Shae by Air DVD Toolkit™ or one of the few books/media available that SHOW children what goes on at the airport. Give kids something to relate to. The security checkpoint alone was a source of major fear for my daughter when she was almost 2. The lound metal doorway with beeping lights and the expectation by serious people in uniforms that she walk through said doorway alone was enough on one trip to reduce her to tears. Couple that with wanding or the air puff room ... if a child doesn't know this is coming, and hasn't been prepared for it such that she isn't scared, parents are setting themselves up for trouble.

    Also, it is worth noting that my little one had been flying since infancy, but as children grow and change, things that were once unnoticed can suddenly become very important. So even if your child is flying for the 30th time, it is always worth a mention before and at the airport and on the plane what he or she can expect. That goes for the literal (long lines) and the behavioral: ie, those seatback tray tables (only a parent should open and close them), and the feet (not on the seat in front) as well. (All of these are reasons why the I'm A Good Little Traveler! Series was created, in particular the Shae by Air DVD Toolkit.)

  • Dress for Success. I cannot stress this enough, despite the fact that it seems like an innocuous piece of advice. Keep reading, please.

I was so excited, given my recent post and published tip, that David Elliott's article entitled "What Not to Wear on the Plane" was recently published on's Travel Section front page. Despite the negative title (what not vs. what to), the entire article was positive - and about respect: for fellow passengers, for airline and airport staff, and for the journey itself. One major point was that airline staff judge passengers and treat them according to that judgement. But passengers judge one another as well.

It follows, then, that if a family arrives on board respectably attired that the usual dread of the potential seatmates can be mitigated or even avoided. If I take care in preparing for the flight so far as to include how my daughter and I dress for it, fellow passengers' first impression of me (and we all know how important first impressions can be) is that I respect them, and the journey, and that I and my family are not taking the experience lightly.

People are far more apt to be patient and less likely to presume that my kiddo will be a detriment to their flight if the we appear respectable. More importantly, my daughter understands, not only because she is told, but also because it is evident in the extra care taken in getting dressed, that traveling by air is something special. When she is not dressed as if it's just another day at daycare or preschool, and I am not dressed like the family is making a quick run to the supermarket, it sets a positive, exciting tone. And children who are excited to be doing something are far more apt to listen and behave in order to continue doing it. This is an airplane trip! Whether it's the first or the 500th it is still thrilling. My daughter has been on countless planes now, and every time it's exciting - for both of us - and we dress for the journey.

One additional note about "dressing up" - one mom I know (thanks, Lexi!) took that advice literally when her son was a toddler. He was prone to taking off in the crowd, and she was used to having to chase him. Two things happened to make that tendency easier on the both of them: she dressed him up in costume, and he felt like a superhero. Superheroes don't run away, they stay and protect their mom! And if superheroes forget that they are superheroes, and get curious about something over there ... all his mom had to do was ask, "Have you seen Mr. Incredible?" Easily found, and easily persuaded to return to his mother's side.

08 May 2008

Snacks for In the Air and On the Go

... or How to Feed Toddlers Something They'll Enjoy That Won't Pump Them Full of Sugar and Make Them Impossible To Control ...

It is an unfortunate truth that individual-sized processed snacks are easiest to find, and generally well-packaged for travel, but they are almost always full of sugar and excess salt - and rarely a good idea. Rather than processed fruit snacks or lollipops, pack carrots, goldfish, raisins, peanut butter crackers, pretzels, seedless orange wedges. (Side note: Some parents swear by lollipops or hard candies, since they take so long to suck, and are therefore good time occupiers as well as useful rewards for good behavior ... the downsides of course being that their child is now fueled with sugar and very likely a fidgety, sticky mess. If you choose this option, pack extra wipes!!)

Our favorite? Grapes are easy to pack, fun to eat, come in a couple of colors - and will rehydrate as well as satisfy snack urges. Before our last trip, the night before we put together veggie snack bags of carrots, snap peas and crunchy cucumber slices and fruit bags with grapes, chilling them overnight. In the morning we put the bags in a lunch bag-sized soft cooler pack. Even midday after two layovers, the snacks were refreshing and hydrating. Luckily we'd more than we needed because we were asked and able to share with other kiddos on the flights!

... and for those that say, your toddler eats snap peas? or in the spring months, sliced green or red peppers?! Well, yes. I should qualify that with the little white lie I use to make that possible. Snap peas have always been referred to as "sugar peas" and sweet peppers as "apple peppers" (because Shae's favorite fruit is apple). We've always eaten pretty healthy, and since my girl is incredibly sensitive to sugar (insert sugar = instant hyperactivity), we've been fairly careful about limiting it on the regular. In small, confined spaces like the car or the airplane, we go so far as to exclude it almost entirely, with the exception of 'reward' or 'treat' organic treats like Clif Kid snacks, which are family (and her microsoccer team's) favorites.

More Healthy Snack Ideas for the Plane, the Car, after school, on the weekend ... en route to anywhere:

08 April 2008

The Best Airplane Travel Toys for Toddlers & Preschoolers

We find when we fly that parents have to do most of the entertaining, but there are some great travel toys for the toddler and preschooler set that are just as much fun for parents to play too ... and may even give a parent a well-deserved break!

Experience has taught us to bring only items that:

  1. have few (or no) extra pieces that aren't securely attached to the game (or you will spend the majority of your time fishing things off the dirty airplane floor);

  2. pack easily and don't take much room and

  3. will hold attention and be reusable (at least for the flight home!).

We are big fans of DK Series Sticker Books and Mudpuppy Press Play Scenes, quality Magnetic Travel Games (like those made by eeBoo), low-tech creative fun like children's chopsticks (let toddlers 'fish' for their goldfish or raisins), crayons and drawing pads and Lacing Cards. See below for some of our other favorites.

Where to find more recommended travel toys?
  • Our selection of high quality, family-tested, recommended products can be found at Links to reputable vendors with even wider selections of travel toys and games can be found in the margin at left on that page as well.

  • Also from,Travel Books for Children, equally appropriate for before you go and on the plane, are listed separately.

  • - Plane Entertainment & Toys

Have a wonderful trip!

08 March 2008

Dress for Success on the Plane

When I made the first appointment with my daughter's new dentist, we received a lovely packet that included a checklist to prepare my daughter for what to expect and what was expected of her at the dentist's office. As I am a firm believer in just that type of preparation (it is never too early to teach children to be responsible for themselves insofar as they are capable), you can imagine how pleased I was ... especially in one of the more obscure line items: "Please have your child dress up for their first visit."

Having been in the business of preparing toddlers to travel for a few years now, that line item is near and dear to my heart. As small a consideration as it may seem, attire can actually play a big role in the whole flying adventure. Honor the journey, weight it with preparation, anticipation - and then dress for the occasion. That's not to say be fancy, but is to say: Match. Layer. Wear clean clothes that aren't ugly t-shirts. It's unconventional common sense advice, though not commonly found on family travel websites (which often focus on the comfort of the clothing). But comfort and decent attire are not mutually exclusive.

Just as Shae's dentist knows from experience, I can assure you that dressing yourself and your children in matching, comfortable, nice clothes (and by nice, I just mean lacking stains or holes) has at least two positive results:

1. Your fellow passengers' first impression of you (and we all know how important first impressions can be) is that you respect them, and the journey, and that you and your family are not taking the experience lightly. People are far more apt to be patient and less likely to presume that your kiddos will be a detriment to their flight if the parents and their kiddos appear respectable; and

2. Your children will understand, not only because they are told, but also because it is evident in the extra care taken in getting dressed, that traveling by air is something special. When they are not dressed as if it's just another day at daycare or preschool, and you are not dressed like the family is making a quick run to the supermarket, it sets a positive, exciting tone. And children who are excited to be doing something are far more apt to listen and behave in order to continue doing it. This is an airplane trip! Whether it's the first or the 500th it is still thrilling. My daughter has been on countless planes now, and every time it's exciting - for both of us - and we dress for the journey.

Update (12 June 2008): A recent article entitled "What Not To Wear On the Plane" by Christopher Elliott and featured on further expounds on this subject.

08 January 2008

Prepare Toddlers & Preschoolers to Fly with the Shae by Air DVD Toolkit

Children - even toddlers! - have the capacity to understand what to expect and what is expected of them, and with that the ability to be respectful, Good Little Travelers.

Most TSA agents, flight attendants and airport personnel recognize that traveling children are often ill-prepared for the journey and for the most part are mindful of that fact and quite helpful. But traveling families have a responsibility to prepare themselves and their children for likely delays, long lines, the need to be flexible.

There is more to flying with toddlers than keeping them entertained and hoping for good behavior on the plane: there are long lines at busy airports, security checkpoint(s), boarding the plane, sitting in confined space that shakes and makes noise, not to mention puts sometimes incredible pressure on little ones' ears, and travel etiquette issues like not kicking the seats in front... all things that don't get addressed in the usual checklists.

Children learn best when they can use a variety of senses. The Shae by Air DVD Toolkit™ includes a DVD movie: something visual children could recognize and emulate, shot at their height - to see a good example set, to hear the process explained in words that encourage, not frighten or bore them. The Picture Packing List allows children to do something - to be a part of the trip. Helping pack makes it the children's trip too, not just something they are dragged along on. What is a DVD Toolkit? It's more than just a movie! It's everything your child needs to prepare to travel.

Endorsed in Northwest Airlines' inflight magazine, NWA World Traveler, as well as USC Childcare Programs, TripConnect, Inside Motherhood, and more, Shae by Air was filmed from a child's perspective and everything is shot from their height and eye level.

The Shae by Air DVD Toolkit contains:

  • Entertaining Live Action Movie introducing air travel to young children
  • Fun Airplane Music Video
  • Video Message to Parents for use of the video as a preparatory tool
  • Shae by Air Picture Packing List for toddlers
  • Two I'm a Good Little Traveler! Luggage Tags

By watching
Shae by Air, and using the tools included with the movie, children will:
  • Be comfortable and aware of boundaries and expectations before and during a trip
  • Become familiar with travel environments, such as airport security and the airplane cabin
  • Learn travel and social etiquette through peer role modeling
  • Feel empowered with a sense of responsibility for themselves while traveling
  • Look forward to their next big travel adventure!

The Parent & Toddler Flight Kit

Parent & Toddler Flight Kit
Prepare now for a great flight! Our complete package has everything your family needs to make the journey as much fun as the destination, with items for both parents and children. Parents will learn what to avoid and what to prepare for with the expert guidebook Jet With Kids:Taking the Fear Out of Flying...WITH YOUR KIDS! Toddlers and child fliers will love the Shae By Air DVD Toolkit™, which demonstrates for kiddos what to expect and what is expected of them with a fun DVD movie about flying, plus a picture packing list and luggage tags. Available for purchase from our affiliate (and trusted favorite) site

Favorite Toddler Travel Toys

More Great Family Travel Links & Info

Jet With Kids Blog