10 Unique Travel Toys for Ages 3-6

Planning a flight with a child between ages 3-6?

Here are 10 unique travel toys for your busy bag for your next flight.

A friend of mine just sent a message asking if I had any ideas for birthday presents for her friend’s 4 and 5 year old boys. They will be flying soon from New York to the West Coast and then on to Australia, so she was trying to come up with gifts that would be great for the upcoming flights. In my list below I try to suggest unique travel toys unlike the standard suggestions for travel activity bags. Some of these are educational, some help develop fine motor skills, and some incorporate proprioceptive input, which helps calm your nervous system. Some include all of the above and some are just plain fun. (Click here for ideas for other ways to incorporate proprioceptive input aka “heavy work” in order to help your child be calm when flying.) I tried to also keep the suggestions lightweight so that the carry on bags are not too heavy.

Unique Travel Toys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With two kids close in age, I recommend packing just one busy bag with activities that will interest both children. The unique travel toys below would work for that purpose. I’ve got to say, even though these are all appropriate for ages 3-6, my 8 year old would like them all too. And even I would enjoy at least half of them. What’s your favorite? Comment below; I love to hear what readers think of my suggestions.

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1. Peg Board Set-Kids Corner Lacing Colors & Shapes ($22.95)

unique travel toys
For travel I love toys that have multiple uses. This peg board set is great for sorting, stacking, lacing; matching, following patterns; adding & subtracting. I love that it has a foam board, which is very light and durable. The kit includes a small carrying bag and weighs only 12 ounces.

2. Balancing Bird Toy ($6.71 for 12)

unique travel toys
This fun toy sneaks in a lesson about the center of gravity. Watch your kids be mesmerized as they balance this bird on their fingertip, nose, forehead, elbow(?). This toy is really fun and like some others here, it’s great for kids of all ages.

3. TOOB Toy Figurines ($11.99)

unique travel toys
My 3 year old son loves playing with his Marvel Superheroes, and can entertain himself for hours with them, but on the plane I had to stop him from being too loud playing with them because they were fighting. Instead of Superheroes, try animal figures. These baby animal figures are great for creative play and small enough to travel with yet big enough to keep track of. You might have to separate the predators and prey, though. LOL!

4. Wikki Stix Travel Fun ($5.25 plus free shipping on orders over $25)

unique travel toys
I used to always recommend a small Play-Doh Activity set (like this Disney Frozen Olaf play set) for flights, but having to keep the Play-Doh in a separate bag with your liquids and gels (for TSA Security Checkpoints) can be a hassle. Wikki Stix are wax sticks that can be twisted and molded into shapes. Great for all ages, this kit comes with an 8-page booklet of travel related activities. You can color on this booklet with dry erase markers) as well.

5. Poly-Gonzo Geo Twister Fidget Toy ($6.12)

unique travel toys
This is one of my favorite things for a busy bag. It is really light (only 0.8 ounces) so it doesn’t weigh down your bag. The kids love twisting and turning it to create new shapes and it provides a soothing effect.

6. Mini Buddha Board ($13.90)

unique travel toys
On this board you draw only with water! When the water dries, the drawing disappears and you have a clean slate for more art. Tip #1: I like to use a contact case for a water dish. It’s much less likely to spill than a plastic cup and since it doesn’t hole much water it’s not such a big deal if it does spill. Tip #2: if your child gets frustrated at the disappearing image, offer to take a picture of their masterpiece before it dries so their artwork can live on forever.

7. Peaceable Kingdom Wipe and Write Games to Go ($9.99)
unique travel toys

I always travel with a few dry-erase markers, which can be used to draw on car or airplane windows or compact mirrors in a pinch. I love this activity book by Peaceable Kingdom that includes a dry-erase marker. This one is geared for ages 3-6.

8. Oobi Finger Puppets ($6.09 for 12)

unique travel toys
When I pack a busy bag, I like to pack a lot of variety in a small space. These Oobi finger puppets are fun for everyone, allowing kids to use their imaginations. As a flight attendant, I give these out to my child passengers sometimes. I like how easy they are to carry around, you can even through a few into your purse for “emergency” entertainment for the kids. These would make good party favors too!

9. B. Beauty Pops Jr. ($11.99)

unique travel toys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I saw these at Target recently and snapped a picture to remember them because I think they make a really great travel toy. These pop beads have lots of different shapes to capture your child’s attention and they help build your child’s fine motor skills. Self contained in a small tube, these are easy to pack and clean up.

10. Travel Spirograph ($7.99, on sale from $9.99)

unique travel toys
Here’s a unique travel toy! This travel Spirograph includes 6 precision wheels, 2 pens, and 24 pieces of paper. There is a drawer that contains all the pieces for easy transport. 3×3 Post-It Notes will work for a paper refill too!

Bonus Tip: Places to look for good travel gifts:

Anytime I’m shopping, I keep a look out for good travel toys. I usually find my favorites at Michael’s and Target. At Michael’s I find the best travel items in their summer camp activities and their Christmas stocking stuffer activities. I always am sure to check toward the end of the season for good sales (50% to 80% off) on this seasonal merchandise. At Target there is almost always something to be found in the Target Dollar Spot that is good for travel. One of my all time favorites I found there was a small booklet of Dr. Seuss Dry-Erase coloring sheets. The booklet fell apart which was actually nice, because now I just carry two or three of the sheets and a couple of dry erase markers with me and it’s light and easy.

Do you travel with unique busy bag items? Maybe something you don’t often hear suggested? I love hearing reader’s ideas! Tell me about it in the comments below!

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More Mistakes to Avoid When Flying With Infant

more mistakes to avoid

10 More Mistakes to Avoid When Flying With Infant

Last week I shared 13 Mistakes to Avoid When Flying With Infant. If you missed it, you can read it here.  There are more mistakes to avoid! But don’t let this lists of “dont’s” make you worry more, just see them as travel tips and use them to help you enjoy your flight. If your first flights with your baby turn out to be horrible, realize that each flight in the next several years is going to be different and your baby’s behavior in flight will be changing at each age and stage. Just like when you are at home or visiting the playground or store, do what you can to prepare but don’t stress about the twists and turns along the way. Every day with your infant is something new. Enjoy it!

If you are preparing for your first flight with your baby, welcome to the exciting world of cloud surfing! Flying with babies can be stressful, but enjoy the journey. Take the time to notice the little things that excite your baby, accept help when it’s offered, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Even though your baby won’t remember these travels, you are still creating in him/her a love for exploring.

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more mistakes to avoid

1. Putting Soiled Diaper in Seat Pocket

Putting a soiled diaper in the seat pocket, even if it’s in a bag, is highly unsanitary. The proper thing is to place it in a bag and then in the lavatory trash can. If you are unable to do that, please take it with you in your bags to dispose of after the flight. Cabin cleaners might not see the diaper you placed in the seat pocket and it will be quite a disgusting surprise for the passenger on the next flight. Yuck!

*Travel Tip: You can make your own travel-size diaper bags by simply cutting sections from a diaper pail refill.

2.  Handing Soiled Diaper to Flight Attendant

As parents we get so used to used diapers that they are no big deal. But if you think about it, it’s pretty gross to hand a soiled diaper to someone and expect them to touch it. When the flight attendants come through the aisle to collect garbage, they are not looking for waste products. Don’t be offended if your flight attendant makes a face when you offer her a wet or soiled diaper. Imagine what your reaction would be if someone handed you their used Depends or bedpan!

3. Changing Baby’s Diaper at Your Seat

I understand that sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. I have changed my baby’s diaper on my own lap before. But changing your baby in the seats where other people will be sitting is not considerate. Even if you are using a changing pad, accidents can happen. If it is a dirty diaper you should also be considering the smells you are releasing into the aircraft cabin. Many airplane lavatories have changing tables. There are a few planes that do not, however. It is a challenge, but the best way to change a baby if there is no changing table is either by placing your changing pad on top of the toilet lid, or just holding your child in the lavatory and doing a stand-up diaper change. The first time I accomplished the stand-up diaper change I felt like Wonder Woman. If I can do that, then I can do anything!

4. Not Bringing a Change of Clothes for Everyone

You just never know when that first diaper blow out or projectile vomiting will occur. On one of my flights a child (who had shown no signs of illness before the flight) vomited all over his mother right after takeoff. It was a six hour flight and she had no change of clothes with her! I actually loaned her the only spare shirt I had, which was several sizes too small for her, but at least she could escape sitting in vomit for 6+ hours!

5. Forgetting Diapers/Bottles/Wipes

I flew so much with my daughter, Ella, when she was a baby, she earned elite status at 10 months old. As experienced as I was, I still once made the mistake of leaving her bottles at home. Luckily we lived very close to the airport and a neighbor brought them to us before the flight.  Another time we were flying two trips back to back with just two days home in between and I forgot to replenish the diaper supply. I got on the plane realizing I had no diapers at all. The airlines do not typically carry diapers, wipes, or formula, so you really need to triple check that you have packed these. Always pack at least twice as much as you think you’ll need for your travel day in case of delays or diversions. Airport sundries shops do usually sell a small pack of diapers and wipes, but all I have seen is a pack of two size 3 diapers and about 10 wipes.   I have never seen formula sold in U.S. airports.

6. Improperly Installing Car Seat

There are so many different styles of car seats, so installation can be different for each one, but some basic things you need to know about installing your car seat on a plane:

  • All car seats must be in a window seat or not between a passenger and the aisle. This is a FAA mandatory rule.
  • Infant carrier car seats should be rear facing.
  • Convertible car seats can be either rear or forward facing but you need to follow the car seat guidelines on height and weight when considering the safest method. Infants should always be rear facing.
  • Infant carrier bases are just for convenience in snapping the seat in and out of the car. They are not important for safety and you don’t need them on the plane. If you don’t expect to be driving very much on your vacation, I advise leaving the base at home. It’s one less thing to worry about. Just be sure to read your owner’s manual for instruction on proper car seat installation without the base so you know you are doing it the right way.

7. Worrying About Breastfeeding in Public

There are so many stories out there about people shunning mothers who breastfeed in public. But you should know that most of the time, I would even go so far as to say 95% of the time, no one takes issue to you breastfeeding your child. Do whatever you need to do to keep your baby happy. Some tips for discreetly breastfeeding while not hiding your baby can be found here: Tips for Breastfeeding on a Plane.

8. Expecting the Airline to Provide Blankets

Be sure to bring a small blanket for your infant. The muslin cloth blankets are great because they are light and thin and can be used in many ways. Most U.S. Domestic Airlines no longer provide blankets in the economy cabin except on the longer transcontinental flights.

9. Bouncing Baby During Turbulence

On more than one occasion I have seen parents bouncing their baby up in the air during turbulence. My best guess is they are trying to make the turbulence fun, but you need to realize this is a very dangerous thing to do. If there is even a medium “bump”, the baby could easily crash right into the ceiling. The safest place for a baby during turbulence is buckled in the car seat.

10. Pushing Your Baby Onto Others Who Haven’t Shown Interest

This one is hard for me to add, because I really love babies. When my first born was only a week old I was in the parking lot at Babies R Us. Even though I had my own precious baby, I had to look at every other baby I saw in the parking lot. But the truth is, not everyone adores babies. I figure it’s probably the way I look at cats. I see a cute cat picture and start to say, “awww!” and then it turns into an “ewww, cat!” before I can stop myself (no offense to cat lovers).   Even if your baby is the cutest baby on earth, some people are just not “baby people”.  So share your baby with people who show interest, but don’t be offended if there are some people who just look the other way.

Are you guilty of any of these mistakes when flying with infants? Can you think of any others to add? We’d love to hear your stories! Share with us in the comments below. Maybe a new parent will learn something from your experience!

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Mistakes to Avoid When Flying With Infant

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13 Mistakes to Avoid When Flying With Infant

Travel like a pro when you know what mistakes to avoid when flying with infants. As a flight attendant mom I have either made these mistakes or observed them on my flights. This post is the first of a two-part series. Every Tuesday I publish tips for flying. Be sure to check back next week for 13 more mistakes to avoid when flying with infants. Once you know these mistakes to avoid, you will feel confident and prepared when flying with infants.

mistakes to avoid

1. Not Packing Enough

When you’re flying with infants you need a lot of stuff. That doesn’t mean you have to weigh yourself down with tons of extras, but you need to be prepared for all the many ways your travel day could change from what is expected. Always have a change of clothes for you, at least two sets of clothes for the baby, three times as many diapers as you think you will need, several bottles (if your baby is bottle fed), extra formula, and at least a liter of water (especially if you are nursing: hydration is so important). You never know when your two hour flight could become an unplanned overnight stay because of mechanical problems, severe weather, or flight diversions. Airport shops do not typically carry more than one size diaper (I usually see size 3) and baby formula is a very rare find. Click here for ideas on how to pack for infants on the plane.

2. Packing Too Much

While you want to be prepared for the many scenarios that may take place in your travel day, be reasonable with the items you pack. The best way to decide what you need or don’t need to pack is to lay everything out that you think you want to bring and then strike half of it. Especially clothes and shoes.

3. Walking the Aisles

Many people, including experienced family travel bloggers, will advise that you regularly walk the aircraft aisles with your baby. As a flight attendant mom I have the opposite advice. If you need to walk with your infant to help soothe him/her, that’s fine, but there are three major reasons you want to keep this to a minimum:

  • Turbulence—As the airlines always emphasize, “turbulence can occur unexpectedly”. When the Captain turns off the seatbelt sign, it’s because there are not reports of turbulence from other aircraft ahead of yours. But that can, and does change regularly as the weather. Turbulence can be unpredictable. Even mild turbulence can be dangerous when you’re standing and holding your baby, since you don’t have free hands to grab onto anything for balance.
  • Interference With Crew—The flight crew are typically busy in the aisles for much of the flight: serving beverages and meals, performing safety checks, picking up trash. It is difficult for them when there are a lot of people in the aisles. We flight attendants don’t mind people being out of their seats when necessary, and we will accommodate passengers, including moving the beverage and meal carts as needed, but the carts are heavy and difficult to maneuver. Also on shorter flights the crew may be rushing to get all passengers served, and having to move around passengers in the aisle can really throw off the service.
  • Starting Expectations—Flight Attendant Heather Poole (author of Cruising Attitude) says that from day one of flying with her child she kept him in the car seat for the entire flight except for diaper changes. This made him a really great traveler when he was in those more difficult toddler years because he was accustomed to staying seated for most of the flight.

4. Loudly “Shushing” and “Clicking”

mistakes to avoid

I don’t know if it’s just me, but sometimes the parent saying, “SHHH!!!” to calm down their baby is more irritating than the baby fussing. To me the “SHHH” just carries over any ambient noise of the aircraft and becomes an irritating noise I can’t ignore. If your infant needs a little extra soothing, I have found that using a soft “ch-ch-ch” instead seems to be less irritating to other passengers around you.

5. Over Stimulating Baby

Parents with a newborn tend to worry a lot about how the baby will behave on the plane. Sometimes the baby is fussing because he/she just wants to be left alone. Remember that there are so many new sights, smells, and sounds your baby is experiencing. It can be a lot to take in! Sometimes the best way to calm a fussy baby is to just be silent and still. Bouncing, talking, shushing, feeding, etc. might be overwhelming your infant’s senses. Remember that at home you have lots of times with an infant that are just rest and observe times. Your baby needs some breaks from sensory input in order to be able to relax. If nothing you are trying is helping your baby calm down, just try doing nothing but holding them and giving them a calm, quiet space.

mistakes to avoid

6. Worrying About Ear Pressure

Ear pain from cabin pressure is probably the number one thing parents worry about for their children when flying. You will be happy to know that, as a flight attendant, I estimate I only see about 3% of children having difficulty with ear pressure in flight. Newborns and infants actually have less of a chance of experiencing ear pain than toddlers and older children because they don’t usually have congestion or inflammation in their ears. As children begin teething or experiencing frequent colds, they might experience more trouble clearing their ears in flight, but infants very rarely have issues with cabin pressure.

7.Waiting to Feed Baby

Many people advise timing the feeding of your baby with the plane’s ascent and descent in order to help the baby’s ears clear. As I just pointed out, the pressure is not usually an issue for most infants, and it is more important to keep your baby content by feeding him/her as needed. If you hold off, then your baby might get fussy before you even get started with the flight. Then your infant will be less able to handle other irritants, like ear pressure, should they experience them.

8. Waking Baby to Feed

Along the same lines as worrying about ear pressure, some people will tell you to wake up your baby an hour before landing in order to feed them so that their ears won’t hurt. Make it easier on yourself, your baby, and those around you. When your baby is hungry, feed him/her. When the baby is tired, let them sleep. If your baby is feeling discomfort due to air pressure then they will let you know by moving their jaw, making sucking motions, twisting and turning. Then you can offer milk or a pacifier, but waking a baby from a deep sleep is bound to make him/her fussy. You’ll hold tight to this rule in the coming months/years: Never wake a sleeping baby!

9. Buckling Infant in Your Own Seatbelt

I often see passengers who buckle their seatbelt around both their baby and themselves. This is very dangerous! If the aircraft hits severe turbulence in the air, or comes to a sudden stop on the runway,  your body weight could crush the baby! The safest way to travel with an infant is with them in a car seat, but if you are holding them as a lap child, then hold them in your arms without strapping them to anything.  I have heard that European Airlines have a seatbelt to attach to yours. It wraps around the baby and then has a loop to attach to the adult’s seatbelt. This is a very clever idea and I’m all for it! However in the United States it is not approved for use on the aircraft so even if you brought your own, you are not permitted to use it in flight. The flight attendants are required to enforce this FAA rule.

Did you know? In the United States, the FAA does not allow the baby to be in a chest carrier during takeoff and landing or when the seatbelt sign is off. Although you may get away with it on some flights if the flight attendants don’t notice, please comply if a flight attendant asks you to take the baby out of the carrier. The flight attendants are not trying to be mean, they are actually required to enforce this rule. If there is an FAA inspector on board and the flight attendant does not enforce the FAA rules and regulations, the flight attendant could face a personal fine!

10. Not Accepting Help When It’s Offered

mistakes to avoid

One of the reasons I started my website, Cloud Surfing Kids, was to empower parents to feel confident in traveling with their children even when they are traveling on their own. I often fly by myself with my kids, and I take pride in being self sufficient and not needing to ask for help. I think it’s good to be capable of handling things on your own and it also gives you a great sense of accomplishment when you do. However, it is important to realize that you don’t have to do it all alone! If a kind passenger or flight attendant offers to hold your baby so you can go to the lavatory or get the car seat installed, or offers to carry a bag for you or something like that, accept their help! Everyone needs a break sometimes, and while you’re on the airplane your baby can’t be taken very far from you, so it’s not like handing your baby to a stranger in a public setting.  Sometimes just five minutes with the baby out of your arms can rejuvenate you enough to deal with whatever the rest of the day brings.

11. Bringing Noisy Toys

Those cute infant toys with rattles in them? Books that squeak?  Leave them at home or pack them in your checked luggage. There is plenty of stimulation on the airplane without them and all they will do is irritate other passengers.

mistakes to avoid

12. Playing Shows/Games/Books With Sound

This one goes along with number 11.  Most airlines actually have a rule: “When using anything with audio, use headphones or turn off the volume.” Even at a low volume, the sound of shows and games really spreads further through the cabin than you would expect. It is just inconsiderate to those around you to use these items without earphones. Of course your infant is unlikely to tolerate earphones. When my daughter was an infant, she quite enjoyed watching Baby Einstein videos even without volume. You could also try just showing your baby pictures on your phone. If that still doesn’t work for your baby then move on to other distractions.

13. Bringing Baby into Galley

Babies are unpredictable. Spit up happens. Spit up and food service don’t mix. You wouldn’t bring a baby into a restaurant kitchen, so don’t bring the baby into to galley. Flight attendants aren’t being mean if they ask you not to stand there with your baby or if they don’t allow you to change your baby’s diaper on the galley floor. It’s important to keep the food service area clean.

 

Do you agree with this list? What would you add? I have 13 more mistakes to avoid coming next Tuesday.  Stay tuned!

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Trouble Sleeping? 5 Sleep Solutions to Common Problems

Falling Asleep When Away From Home—

5 Sleep Solutions

Sleep Solutions

 

 

 

When traveling, you might find that it’s more difficult to fall asleep. As a flight attendant I’m often staying overnight in new places and have found these sleep solutions that often help me. Hotels can be relaxing, but there can also be a lot of things that interrupt quality sleep: bright lights, noisy neighbors,  uncomfortable beds, aching muscles, and jet lag can all contribute to difficulty sleeping. Here are 5 common problems and some sleep solutions that I’ve found can help.

1) The Problem: Too Bright

When sunlight is shining through the curtains, it can be tough to sleep.

Solution:

Two things I use: First I wear a Tempur-Pedic Eye Mask, which completely blocks out the light but doesn’t press against your eyes. Second, I close the gap in the curtains by using either wooden clothespins that I bring or the clips from a pants hanger from the closet.

(This post contains Amazon Affiliate links for your shopping convenience. When you make a purchase through these links I may receive a small commission which goes toward the operation of this website. I appreciate your support!)

2) The Problem: Too Noisy

There is so much potential for disturbing noises in a hotel. Airplanes taking off (if at an airport hotel), nearby traffic, loud people in hallways, doors slamming, family members snoring, the air conditioner turning off and on…

Solution:

I use a travel sound machine for white noise. Sometimes I forget to pack the sound machine, so I use the app “White Noise” (free download) and play that (be sure your phone is plugged in so you don’t run down the battery!). I found that the sound “Brown Noise” works better for met than “White Noise”. There are lots of sounds to choose from, so you can choose what works best for you.

If the sound machine isn’t for you, or if it’s still not enough, I recommend ear plugs. The one thing I advise is to set a wake up call in addition to your own alarm if you need to wake up by a certain time. While wearing earplugs I have slept through my alarm before.

3) The Problem: Uncomfortable Bed

Sometimes you get a bed that is just too uncomfortable to sleep. Sometimes I can feel every spring coil!

Solution:

When the mattress is that uncomfortable I lay out pillows beneath me so that I can sleep. DIY pillow top!

To bring consistency to my sleeping environment I travel with my own pillow. I use the Tempur-Pedic Travel Pillow. It is the size of a regular pillow cut in half and rolls into it’s case or smashes flat in your suitcase. For the kids I bring toddler pillows which don’t take up much space in the suitcase. I also bring a plush blanket for both of my kids so that they are comfortable even if the sheets and blankets are not a great texture. If you’re particularly sensitive to the feeling of sheets and blankets, this ultra-soft sleep sack is a great thing to pack.

4) The Problem: Aching Muscles

After a long travel day, you may just be achy all over. I’m not sure about you, but when my muscles ache I cannot sleep. I doze off and find myself waking up a few minutes later because I’m so uncomfortable.

Solution:

Three things that help me:

  • Stretch before bed. Walking On Travels shares these great yoga stretches for a good place to start.
  • Take Hyland’s Homeopathic Arnica Montana. You should always consult your physician before taking any medications or treatments, but I have found this formula is very effective for helping to relax my muscles. Since it doesn’t have many side effects, I prefer taking this to other medications.
  • Take ibuprofen. Again, consult your physician and don’t overuse anti-inflammatory medicines. But ibuprofen can be effective as a last resort if your body just cannot relax.

Another thing you can try is a warm bath or shower. You can add Mineral Bath Salts like these to your bath for further relaxation. Magnesium oil can also help.

5) The Problem: Restlessness/Jet Lag

Sometimes you just can’t sleep and the harder you try, the less likely it is for sleep to come. If this seems to be happening to you or you kids, it might be worth it to give up on sleep for a bit and try this:

Solution:

My eight year old, Ella, often has a rough time settling down for sleep. Sometimes we just have to throw that bedtime out the window, so to speak, and go out for a nighttime walk.  If you’re in a place that’s safe for walking at night, give this a try. Or go walk on the treadmill for a little bit. Giving your brain a break from the pressure to fall asleep just works. A little bit of activity and maybe a light snack can help your body relax and prepare for sleeping. Also for kids, having a pillow or tickle fight can, surprisingly, help to calm them. The reason is that it gives deep pressure sensation, which, like a massage, can be relaxing. Just give up the idea of “I must sleep NOW” and take a little break before trying to sleep again.

Another thing that is natural and effective for restlessness is Hyland’s Homeopathic Calms Forte. They make both an adult and a children’s formula. Since there are no side effects, I prefer using this to using medicated sleep aids. When I’m part of the flight crew I can’t afford to be groggy from sleep aids!

 Share Your Tips:

Do you have sleep solutions for when you’re away from home? Do you struggle with any of these problems I mentioned? Comment below. Your tips might be helpful to other readers!

Be sure to check back here every Tuesday for a new post with travel tips. Do you have any travel questions? Comment below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and I’ll do my best to help answer your questions! If I don’t have an answer I’ll find someone who does.

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Help! My Child Hates the Beach!

hates the beach

What to do When Your Child Hates the Beach

hates the beach

Everyone loves the beach, right? No? What if your child hates the beach? You don’t have to avoid beach vacations forever. Here are some reasons why your child hates the beach and some ideas of ways to overcome them. This post was inspired by Cloud Surfing Kids reader, Jason Redd, who commented on Facebook that his daughter used to hate the texture of sand. Although she is now older and has learned to enjoy the beach, I’m sure there are others like her who could use some advice. Your beach vacation doesn’t have to be a disaster, even if your child isn’t enjoying it at first. Read on to learn some steps to take to help your child overcome hating the beach.

Facebook Question:

“Any tips for children who do NOT like the texture of the sand? At 18mo our daughter would tuck her feet up if we tried to sit her in the sand. She eventually ventured off our blanket but it took a while.”

 

Hates the beach

To address the “beach sheets” question: I haven’t tried them! Have any of you reading tried the large “beach sheets” that brag the sand is easy to shake off? Tell us in the comments below what you think of them compared to a regular beach towel.

I have learned a lot about sensory perception from the book Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals, by Angie Voss, OTR. This book lists common sensory issues that sensitive children may have, gives the reason the issue occurs, and lists ways to help. I consider this book a valuable resource for every parent or teacher, even if your child isn’t particularly sensitive. Several of the ideas here come from the recommendations in this book.

The Problem: Hates the Texture of Sand

The feet are very sensitive and children can easily become overwhelmed by the new sensory input. New textures can be painful to a child, especially if they over-register tactile input. Sand or grass can literally cause pain, even if it feels like nothing to you. It can also throw kids off when the texture suddenly changes, like if they step on a rock or shell. The experience can be terrifying to them.

Ways to Help

    • Provide sand socks, water shoes, sandals, or even regular socks if that’s all you have.
    • Massage feet with deep pressure.
    • Use a blanket or towel to offer a “safe place” from the sand.
    • Work up to standing in sand by allowing child to feel sand first with hands, then maybe feel it with feet without standing, then standing for a moment, then following your footsteps to walk in it.
    • Don’t force your child to get in the sand until he/she feels comfortable.

The Problem: Hates the Wind

Fear of the wind can be very real. Wind is unpredictable and can be disturbing as it blows into a sensitive child’s ears.

Ways to Help

Provide earplugs, ear muffs, a hooded shirt, or towel to cover your child’s head. Bring a pop up tent to the beach.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links for your shopping convenience. When you make a purchase through these links I may receive a small commission which goes toward the operation of this website. I appreciate your support!  

The Problem: Blowing Sand Hurts Skin

If you’re on the beach on a very windy day, the wind might blow the sand onto you, causing a painful sensation.

Ways to Help

Hates the Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Provide a rash guard shirt and long pants. As a bonus you’ll be adding extra sun protection! Use a hat with a flap covering the neck. A beach tent can help here too.

The Problem: Scared of the Water/Waves

The ocean waves that are relaxing to you may be terrifying to your child. Like wind, the waves are unpredictable so the uncertainty might be scary for your child. Accept that it might take time to warm up to the ocean waves, and let your child come to the water on their terms. I once watched a father insist that his toddler get into the ocean when the toddler was terrified. The dad ignored his child’s pleas to stay out of the water and carried him into the waves. As he swirled the boy through the water, the child screamed in terror. Next the father let go of the boy, letting him go under the waves. He quickly took him out of the water, but as I and the other people on the beach stared at him in horror, he looked at us and said, “Well, they’ve got to learn to swim sometime, right?” We were all too shocked to reprimand him for being so mean to his child.

My son John was afraid to get in the ocean until he was three. He would test the water if we held him, but for the most part he was content to play in the sand. I didn’t mind because I didn’t have to run after him as much I usually have to.

Ways to Help

hates the beach

There may be some truth in the idea that your child needs to get used to the water, but there is no point in creating a traumatic incident for them. If your child is afraid of the ocean, try digging a small hole in the sand and filling it with water. They can splash in this little “pool” and get used to the idea of getting wet from ocean water. Take your child for a walk along the shoreline, staying clear of the water unless they want to get closer. Once they are okay with going near the water, play “chase the waves” with them: as the waves go out, sneak down the shoreline a little. When you see a wave coming, run back up the beach and try to not get “caught” by the wave. For a very small child you might want to grab them and lift them up as the wave approaches, at least until you know they’re alright with getting splashed by the waves.

 

The bottom line is, if your child is scared at the beach, do what you can to provide a retreat but still allow them to be on the beach and explore on their terms. It may take some time for them to warm up to the new environment, but most children do grow to enjoy their time at the beach. If your child struggled at first on the beach and you have other tips to share, I would love to hear them in the comments below! Are there any other things that make your child hate the beach?

Hates the Beach

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AeroBed for Kids: A Review

Best Air Mattress

The Best Air Mattress for Kids

We have used and enjoyed AeroBed for Kids for six years, so I figured it was time I gave it a review. If you are looking for a travel bed for your toddler, preschooler, or young child, I highly recommend the AeroBed for Kids.

The AeroBed Mattress for Kids is designed similarly to the regular AeroBed mattress: it is compact when deflated and it fills with air simply and in seconds. It comes with a washable fleece mattress cover and has a 4-inch bumper to keep children from rolling out of bed. Our AeroBed for Kids Mattress lasted us 6 years with regular use before it got an irreparable hole in it.  This week I’m visiting my parents with my 3 1/2 year old son, John and the question of where he would sleep came up. Until he was three years old, we used the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib for him, but he’s really too tall for it now. The guest beds at my parents’ house are very high off the ground, and John is not used to sleeping in a regular bed, so we ended up using a regular twin-sized AeroBed (without the raised sides).  It’s worked well, but when I checked on John throughout the night he was often on the floor. Once he had his body wrapped around the bookcase, snuggled in tight to keep warm. Last night I found him like this:

Aerobed for Kids

I think we will go ahead and buy a replacement AeroBed for Kids for him. We used our first one for our daughter Ella until she was 8, so we should have a good 3-4 years still where John can use it. Ella was very sensitive to her sleep environment, so it helped to always have the same mattress for her when we traveled. This mattress is even comfortable enough for an adult, as we know from experience after the many times we fell asleep while laying down to keep Ella in bed. Here are the details on the mattress:

Specifications:

  • Inflatable bed made specially for kids; sleep surface measures 50 by 25 inches
  • Constructed of heavy-duty PVC with electronically welded seams
  • 4-inch-high surround safety cushion helps kids stay on the bed
  • Included AC pump inflates bed in under a minute; deflates in under 15 seconds
  • Comes with thick, washable, fitted mattress pad with star and moon design
  • Comes with carrying bag
  • Weighs 11 lbs.

Pros

  • Most comfortable air mattress we’ve tried.
  • Quick set up and take down.
  • Transportable.
  • Raised sides keep kids from rolling out.
  • Comes with fitted sheet.

Cons

  • A/C power outlet required for inflation (might be tricky when camping).
  • Too big/heavy to pack with regular luggage.

When we traveled by air with this air mattress, we added the kids blankets and pillows to the carrying case and then we checked the entire bag. The bag is just a duffel bag with a drawstring. We tied it in a knot and ours was never ripped or damaged. The downside is if you have to pay for checked bags, you might want to consider whether this is worth the extra bag fee. If you have a very sensitive sleeper, it is probably worth the extra cost.

Tip

If you are using the mattress on hard flooring instead of carpet, it is a good idea to put a blanket under the mattress. This helps prevent punctures and also keeps the mattress from squeaking on the floor and waking everyone up.

 

I have personally tried several brands of air mattresses, but I have never found a comfortable one until I slept on an AeroBed. I recommend this brand with confidence after using it for many years.

*Disclaimer: I am reviewing this product by my own choice. AeroBed is not sponsoring this post and I am not receiving compensation for it. Regardless of whether or not I am compensated for posts, I promise to always give my honest opinion on any products I discuss on this website. This post does contain Amazon links for your shopping convenience. When you make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission, which will go toward the operation of this website. Thank you for your support!

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Food on the Plane: What Can I Bring?

Food on the Plane

Guidelines For Food On The Plane

This week we are talking about food on the plane. This question from Reader Kris A. prompted me to write about what food items are permitted on the plane.

“I was just trying to figure out how to keep yogurt cold. We can’t bring those ice packs on the plane anymore, right? Can I even bring yogurt?”

Answer:

They consider yogurt a liquid, so it’s not allowed. Two ways you could bring yogurt: in a 3.4 oz or less container within your quart-sized liquids bag. (You could get those refillable squeeze pouches.) Or you could freeze yogurt sticks (like Go-Gurt) and bring them frozen. Ice packs are usually allowed as long as their frozen. You could also freeze grapes and use those as an ice pack and a later cool treat.

TIP: If you pack frozen liquids, like yogurt and ice packs, they must be completely frozen when you pass through TSA security checkpoints. If they are slushy or in liquid form they must comply with the 3-1-1 rule for liquids in carry-on bags. Details about how to pack frozen foods can be found here.

Things to Know About Food on the Plane

  • Liquid or gel foods are not permitted through TSA checkpoints (examples: yogurt, pudding, peanut butter in a squishy pack, fruit squeezers, applesauce) unless they are in containers 3.4 oz or less and fit inside your permitted quart-sized bag. Separate this liquids bag at security for separate viewing in the x-ray machine.
  • Exceptions to the above rule: a reasonable amount of baby food when traveling with baby or toddler, formula, breast milk. See this for guidelines on food and milk for babies.
  • Once you pass through security, you may buy liquids or gels and bring them on the plane. Water, yogurt, etc. is allowed on the plane, just not allowed to be brought from home.
  • If you are traveling to an international destination, be sure to look up the restrictions for that country. Often fresh fruit, meat, and open containers of food are not permitted.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links for your shopping convenience. I may receive a small commission when purchases are made through these links. Your support is appreciated! 

Ideas for Food to Pack

These are some of the things I usually pack for our flights.

  • Sunbutter and Jelly sandwiches
  • String Cheese or Babybel Cheese
  • Granola bars
  • Goldfish Crackers
  • Lollipops
  • Apple
  • Grapes
  • Green pepper
  • Hard boiled egg (even though it’s stinky)
  • Dry cereal
  • Chocolate (for us a Hershey’s Kiss is a great meltdown diversion)
  • Raisins
  • Yogurt covered pretzels
  • Cheese Sandwich Crackers
  • Banana (keep it free from bruises using this Banana Saver)
  • Power Bars

I always bring a water bottle for each child. I love the Camelback sports bottles because they don’t leak and the straw closes to keep it from touching germy surfaces. The Camelback straw also provides resistive sucking, which gives sensory input that calms our nervous system. Read here to find out other items that will help keep your child calm on a plane.

 

What are your favorite foods to pack for the flight? Have you ever had to give food up at security checkpoints?

Food on the Plane

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Milk Options: Flying with Toddler

milk options flying

What milk options do I have flying with my toddler?

I came across this photo today and was reminded of that brief period of time, after nursing/formula, when my son John was still very dependent on milk. I was about to take a flight with him, and was trying to figure out the best milk options for flying. I searched online for tips but didn’t find any. I reached out to another family travel blogger, Keryn Means of Walking On Travels, because her two boys are just a little older than John. She hadn’t written anything yet on this topic of the best milk options for flying, so I offered to research more and write a post for her blog.

Formula, milk boxes, reusable containers, airport vendors, airline…Click here to read about my choice of milk options when flying with toddlers.

Milk options flying

This picture was taken on Mother’s Day and I was supposed to be working as a flight attendant but after a reassignment that had me working into Mother’s Day morning, I was able to be home in time for brunch. Sometimes reassignments work out for the best. Not usually, but sometimes! Winking smile

 

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Flying with a Sensory Sensitive Child

Tips for Flying With Your Sensory Sensitive Child

Does your child cry or cover their ears at loud noises? Meltdown when too much is going on around them? Shy away from crowds? If you have a sensory sensitive child you may be nervous about flying with him/her, but with careful planning you can have a successful flight! Here are the things I have found to be helpful for flying with a sensory sensitive child:

sensory sensitive child

photography by Sugar Maple Portraits

Practice

Start by helping your child know what to expect when flying. Check out books at the library on airports and flying; watch you tube videos of airports and airplanes; play “airplane” by setting up a few chairs and taking a “practice” flight, including going through TSA security checkpoints. Talk about the noise of the agents over the P.A. system, waiting in line, the noise of the airplane engines, the roller coaster feeling of takeoff and landing. Talk about turbulence and how it is like a boat on the waves. Don’t let these ideas overwhelm your child. Talk about them in a matter-of-fact way and back off if they start to get worried—return to talk about it another day.

Prepare

The way you prepare for your travel day will be the key to a successful trip with your sensory sensitive child. Minor setbacks like a spill on clothing or a scrape on the hand can ruin the day.  You may find that you need to have a little more on hand than parents of more flexible children. I take pride in packing for nearly every situation yet packing concisely. Here is an example of what I pack for my kids to make sure I have everything we need. A few of the items I’m always sure to have: a full change of clothes, Band-Aids, snacks, water bottles, blanket, toddler pillow (if child is very young), bubbles, tweezers. (The tweezers may sound random, but I’ve dealt with both ticks and splinters when traveling. Trust me, you want to have a small pair of tweezers with you always.)

Pack Sensory Activities

Whether your child craves sensory input or shies from it, incorporating a variety on sensory activities will your child remain calm. Here is a post I wrote on ways to incorporate proprioceptive activities throughout the travel day. I couldn’t believe it when a friend told me she packed just two items per child for inflight entertainment for their 8 hour flight!  That is awesome if your child is content with that, but most children need more. I find that a sensitive child does well with lots of different sensory input. I try to pack a variety of sensory activities for travel.

These are the busy bags I packed for my kids when they were 7 and 2:

Busy bag for a 5-8 year old

Busy bag for a Toddler

Provide Area of Retreat

DSC_5734 (2)

There are several things you can do to provide an area of retreat for your sensory sensitive child. A floppy hat, music with over-the-ear-headphones, noise-reducing ear muffs, a blanket tent, or a stroller canopy are just a few of the things you can provide to create an area of retreat for when your child feels overwhelmed. Family Travel Blog Walking on Travels shows a great way to create a Sleeping Tent on the airplane which could also provide a great place for a sensory break. You can find that post here.

These are just a few ideas for ways to help your sensory sensitive child enjoy their travel day. What other things help you and your child when you’re away from home? Do you have any tricks for averting a meltdown in public? I’d love to hear what works for you. Comment below or on our social media pages. Thanks for reading this post!

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sensory sensitive

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Unaccompanied Minors

Unaccompanied Minors

What to consider before sending your children alone (as an unaccompanied minors) on a flight:

Are you thinking about letting your child to fly alone, as an Unaccompanied Minor, this summer for the first time? Maybe your child is still to young to fly alone, but you’ve wondered at what age he will be old enough? Every airline has different rules about the minimum age at which a child can travel alone, but even if it’s permitted, your child might not be ready.

 

(This post was first published on June 22, 2012 and updated on June 23, 2016.)

When I asked my friends and fellow airline co-workers when they would feel comfortable sending their child to fly on their own, I got mixed responses. In general people felt comfortable letting a mature 10 year old fly alone. Some parents felt that although their child was mature enough at 7, they wouldn’t let even their 13 year old travel alone because they don’t trust the other people on the plane and in the airport.

I’m not sure when I’ll allow my daughter Ella to fly alone. She is now eight, and I would not feel comfortable sending her on a flight as an unaccompanied minor.  A lot depends on your child. Not just their maturity, but how they respond to different circumstances.  I will say that as a flight attendant, I personally feel that under age 7 is definitely too young. Think about off-schedule operations like a medical emergency causing the need to land in another city. Would your child be able to handle the stress and uncertainty of a situation like this? Of course airline personnel will be responsible for and care for your child, but will the unexpected change in plans greatly upset your child? If so, he/she is too young to fly alone.

Unaccompanied Minors

What you need to know before sending your children as unaccompanied minors:

There is no babysitter on board.

Although you pay an extra fee for your child to fly alone, this is not a babysitting service and all that is promised is that the agent will hand the child off to the flight attendants and upon arrival the flight attendants hand the child off to the agent or party picking them up. They check the ID of the person picking the child up before releasing them. In flight there is not a designated flight attendant to care for or entertain your child. The flight attendants check on your child as they are able, but on most flights there is only enough time to get your child settled in their seat, brief them on emergency procedures, and inflight to offer a drink and snack. On a full flight there is rarely time sit and chat or play with your child.

Stay at the gate until the plane departs.

You are responsible to stay with your child until they board the plane and it is important that you stay at the gate until the plane pushes back. I recommend that you stay an extra 30 minutes or so to make sure the plane takes off and doesn’t return to the gate with mechanical problems. (I once had a 5 year old unaccompanied minor whose aunt dropped her off and didn’t stay. We ended up with a 3 hour delay waiting for a new aircraft. The poor girl just had to sit with me while we waited. Luckily I’m a person who loves kids and I did my best to entertain her.)

Tell your child to report anything odd.

You should tell your child that if anyone makes him/her feel uncomfortable, he should let an agent or flight attendant know. Give him permission to report this no matter what the other circumstances are (seatbelt sign on, etc.) so that if some creep is sitting by him they will not feel ashamed to tell someone. I hope that by giving your child permission to report something he/she is unsure about, this will help give them confidence an can stop a terrible incident like this one. As a flight attendant, I always try to tell kids this, but we are not trained to. Agents don’t always know who the person is sitting next to your child. They will try to sit unaccompanied kids together if possible, but now flights are more full and it is difficult to rearrange seating.

Don’t let a potential runaway fly alone.

If you have a teenager who really thinks they are above the rules and they don’t need the U.M. services, you shouldn’t send them alone. Flight attendants remind the child to stay seated until everyone is off the aircraft, but they cannot always tell if someone tries to get off the plane alone. The flight attendant at the door sometimes has other distractions or responsibilities during deplaning and can’t always see every person that exits the plane.

I once had a 14 year old on my flight who thought he was too cool to be escorted to his dad. I realized before every passenger got off the plane that he had escaped, but with minimum crew I wasn’t allowed (per FAA) to leave the aircraft until all passengers had deplaned. I finally was able to run out to find him and luckily found him in baggage claim with his dad. His dad thought nothing of it, so you see where the teen got his attitude that rules don’t matter. But this could have been a runaway opportunity if that is what the kid planned to do. Know your child. If they are not trustworthy, don’t send them alone.

Pack toys and snacks for your child.

Send a small bag on board with your kid with things to keep them entertained. Make sure it’s small enough to keep under his seat. Label EVERYTHING with their name and phone number. Make sure that the person helping them pack for the return flight also sends them with something to do in flight. On one of my flights a young child had NOTHING to do for the 3 hour flight. No book or toy, not anything. When I told the mother picking her up she said that she sent a bag full of books, toys and a Nintendo DS on the outbound flight. The child said they were packed in her checked bags. On most airlines there are not toys or entertainment systems on the flight for the U.M.s!

Emphasize proper etiquette for flying.

Hopefully your child has flown with you many times and you have already taught them basic airline etiquette. If not, make sure you do before they go. The flight attendant call buttons are not a toy and are not to be pushed every 5 minutes. Basically they are for emergencies or for if the seatbelt sign is on but you need something that can’t wait for the next time the flight attendant walks by. (Creepy person making you uncomfortable is a good reason to use the call light.)  See my post 5 Things to Teach Your Kids When Flying and review them with your child.

If siblings are traveling alone together, remind them to keep their voices at an acceptable “indoor voice” level. Remind them that arguing/fighting is NOT acceptable behavior. If you can’t trust them to behave without intervention, they shouldn’t be flying without an adult.

There have been only a couple of kids on my flights who I thought should not be flying alone. The majority of Unaccompanied Minors I have had on my flights have been competent and adorable. So don’t let these reminders scare you out of letting your child fly. Just be sure that he/she really is ready and can be responsible. If you have any questions about kids flying alone, feel free to ask them in the comments below, via email, or post a message to me on Facebook. I’ll help wherever I can.

Have you ever let your child fly as an unaccompanied minor? Do you have any words of advice to add? Comment below and I’ll update the post with your suggestions!

unaccompaniedMinors

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