A Flight Attendant’s Tips to Prevent Blocked Ears

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I suffer from chronic sinusitis, and have had blocked ears three times in my 16 years of flying as a flight attendant. The times I got blocked ears I actually didn’t know I had an upper sinus infection, otherwise I would likely have been able to prevent blocked ears with these tips that have saved me on other occasions. I am not a doctor: the advice I give here is from my own experience. As always, you should consult your physician before taking any new medications. These tips are for adults. To view my tips for children flying with congestion, read here.

How to Prevent Blocked Ears When Flying

A friend, of mine recently emailed me asking: “Any advice on flying with a sinus infection? I’m having some ear discomfort also.” (Side note: She had already been to the doctor and was cleared to fly, but was concerned about ear pain or blockage in flight.)

Here was my response (edited):

“Go now and buy Mucinex Extra Strength (1200mg—in the blue box). Take that tonight and in the morning (every 12 hours). Also buy Nasocort and take as directed. Buy EarPlanes, which are ear plugs that you put in about an hour before landing, when your ears are still clear. They will help prevent pressure build up as you descend. Drink lots of water. If you normally take allergy medicine, be sure to continue that as well. Other people recommend things like Sudafed or Afrin, but I don’t recommend these because of the side effects. In my experience, the Mucinex and Nasocort are just as effective without the adverse side effects. Drink lots of water.

“Those four things should get you through one flight at least without blocked ears. When you do have ear pressure building up, clear your ears as early and as often as possible. It’s harder to do when congested. Sometimes in order to clear my ears I open my mouth wide and look up to the ceiling, trying to yawn. Once I can relax enough to yawn, my ears will clear.”

My friend followed my advice and after the flight emailed me the result:

“I did okay yesterday. As we started to descend I had a lot of ear pressure, but I was able to pop my ears and I was fine. I cannot imagine the pain I would have had if I hadn’t taken the Mucinex and Nasocort. Thank you so much for your help!”

These items I recommend are available at all drug stores, but for your convenience I have also provided links within this post where you can purchase them on Amazon if you desire. These are affiliate links, and if you make a purchase through them I may receive a small commission which will go toward running this blog. I appreciate any support you are able to give me!

1) Take Mucinex

 

(*Right now Amazon has a coupon for 30% off Mucinex. I just clipped the coupon and added the 42 count to my Subscribe and Save order. Final cost was only $12.70, or $0.30 per tablet! Prices on Amazon change often. Check your cart for final cost before purchase.)

I am very sensitive to medications. Before Mucinex (Guaifenison) was over-the-counter, my endocrinologist told me to not take Sudafed, as it makes my heart race. I argued that I had to take Sudafed, as I was getting sinus infections regularly but had to continue flying. He prescribed Guaifenison. It is an expectorant, so I argued again that I don’t get chest congestion, which it is meant to treat. The doctor told me, trust me, it works. I started taking it when I was congested, and the doctor was right! I really does work wonders for both chest and nasal congestion! I recommend sticking with the Mucinex Maximum Strength, and not the Mucinex DM unless you actually NEED the cough suppressant in the Mucinex DM. When the Guaifenison starts working, it usually also helps to reduce coughing. It’s always wise to avoid medications that are unnecessary.

2) Use Nasocort

Nasocort is a steroid that helps treat allergies and open nasal passages.

3) Use EarPlanes

EarPlanes are special ear plugs that are designed to help keep your ears clear by regulating the air pressure. They have saved me on several occasions from getting blocked ears. It’s important that you clear your ears before putting them in. Put them in according to the directions about an hour before landing, before the plane starts to descend. You can use them for takeoff too, but I have very rarely seen anyone have trouble with their ears on takeoff.

4) Take Antihistamine (if you need it for allergies)

If you have allergies for which you usually take an antihistamine, be sure to continue taking that. You don’t want added sinus pressure from the sniffles that seasonal allergies bring.

5) Stay Hydrated

This is the most commonly overlooked “treatment” for sinus congestion. Staying hydrated helps loosen congestion and prevents dehydration (source: MayoClinic.org). Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can make dehydration worse.

6) Use Saline Spray

I forgot to recommend this to my friend in the above exchange, but saline spray is  great for combating stuffiness.

 

Do you have any remedies to add that work for you in preventing blocked ears? We’d love to hear your suggestions! Comment below or on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts.

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5 Things to Do on a Day Trip to NYC with Kids

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Our Day trip to NYC with Kids

Visiting New York City for just a quick trip? How do you decide what to do when there are enough fun activities and sights to spend a week or more? Here are 5 things we did on a day trip to NYC with our kids, ages 7.5 and 2.5 at the time:

1. Train Ride

Coming from Long Island, we love going to the city by taking the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). It’s so much easier than driving in and dealing with traffic and parking and it adds to the fun adventure of the day. When we took the LIRR to the city this past summer, we had a great experience when the conductor taking tickets gave the kids a souvenir ticket! Although we have been on the LIRR many times, this was the first time we got souvenir tickets. The kids were really excited about it!

LIRR with kidsTrain Ride LIRRLooking out Train Window LIRRLIRR Souvenier TicketsCozy Kids on Train LIRR

Diesel Trains can be stinky!

Stinky Diesel LIRR

2. John’s Pizzeria of Times Square

We met friends with their ten and twelve year old sons at John’s Pizzeria for lunch. This is a great spot! Pizzas are made to order in their coal-fired brick oven. The building is a 19th century Cathedral church and is so beautiful! The restaurant can seat 500, with former balcony seating, beautiful spiraling stairs, a gigantic wall mural, and gorgeous stained glass windows. We arrived at around 11am, and that was the perfect time! No crowd then, but by the time we left, the place was buzzing and there was a 20 minute wait for tables.

John's Pizzeria Times SquareKids at John's PizzeriaGreat pizza NYC John's PizzeriaJohn's Pizzeria Hand MadeBrick Oven John's PizzeriaStained GlassBalcony at John's PizzeriaFriends at John's Pizzeria

 

3. Toys R Us Times Square

This is one of those places you just have to see. Sadly, Toys R Us just announced they are not renewing their ridiculously overpriced lease and will be closing this location at the end of January 2016. They have said they will find another location in the area, so hopefully it will still remain a fun attraction to recommend. But for now, if you are visiting before the end of January, be sure to see the incredible four-story store, with a Ferris Wheel in the middle of the store, and sections for each type of toy imaginable. LEGOS, dinosaurs, robots, superheroes, games, dolls, candy,…it seems to go on and on. After riding the Ferris wheel, we didn’t do much more than walk through each area, taking it all in, but if you wanted to, you could do activities like cookie decorating, building a robot, and more. You can find all of the activities they offer here.

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The views from the ferris wheel:

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Exploring and playing with all the toys was really fun, and I was surprised that my kids did not beg for toys. We told them when we went in that they could choose one thing, and John chose superheroes (I got two because they were on sale), and Ella actually chose candy! The dinosaurs and fluffy puppies were tempting, but they both decided they wanted to chose something else.

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With a little guidance, John chose two superheroes.

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Ella passed on the toys, favoring candy instead. Yum!

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4. Grand Central Terminal

If the weather is nice, a walk down to Grand Central Terminal is pleasant.  If it’s too cold or rainy, you can take the subway, but you should know that it still involves quite a bit of walking, just underground. If walking will be too much for those in your party, you might just want to splurge on a cab. If we hadn’t brought a stroller for John (age 2.5), we would never have arrived. Even Ella (age 7.5) had to take multiple breaks, and with the sights, sounds, and smells bombarding her senses, she was close to having a meltdown. A quick stop at Starbucks for a smoothie brought her back around, and she was able to keep up and enjoy things once we got to the Grand Central Terminal.

City Smells NYC

Grand Central Terminal is an absolutely amazing place to see. Be sure to brush up on the history of the Grand Central Terminal before going there, especially if your children are older than 6 and can really appreciate the history and fun facts. Be sure to visit the lower level where more tracks and the cafeteria are located. When I entered the “cafeteria”, which is really a giant food court hosting many tasty looking restaurants, I felt like I was whisked back in time to the 1950’s. The architecture and design is so beautiful.

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The whispering wall:

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After the above activities, we still had a two-hour train ride back home, so in order to miss rush hour we got back to the LIRR train station and just made it onto our train. If the kids were a little older we probably would have stayed into the evening to catch a Broadway show or perhaps we would have joined our friends who took a tour of the Freedom Tower after we parted ways at Grand Central Station.

5. Subway Art and Music

One of the greatest things that happened on our day trip to NYC was when we heard the West Village Quartet playing in the subway halls. When the kids heard the music, they ran over and started dancing. John was so excited to hear a song he recognized from watching Little Einsteins. The Quartet played the next song just for him: Twinkle Little Star. It made him very happy. When you’re traveling with kids, the best thing is seeing the sights through their eyes. The “little” things, like the tiles that make up the Madison Square Garden signs, are bits of art that kids see when we tend to overlook them. When you’re in New York City, you have to rush around a bit, but try to slow down when you can. Let your child take the lead, and see things through their perspective. You’ll learn something new, I promise.

 

Subway MusiciansMadison Square Garden Subway

Travel Tip: When visiting New York City, especially the first time, don’t try to squeeze everything in or you’ll pay for it.  Rushing the kids around to try to take it all in will make you lose the fun of exploration. You will end up with tired and cranky kids, while you become irritable yourself. NYC is exhausting. Exhilarating, exciting, amazing, yes, but also exhausting. Keep the fun in your visit by taking time to relax. Enjoy the little things, like art on the subway walls, subway musicians, vents in the sidewalks, birds on the street. If you rush past it all, you might miss the best experience that was supposed to be unique to you and your family.

 

Have you visited NYC with young kids? What activities were your favorites? Tell us about it in the comments below!

 

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4 Ways to Track Santa TODAY!

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It’s Christmas Eve! Tomorrow is Christmas! It’s practically here! My day is filled with fun chaos as I try to prioritize the 7 days worth of things I need to accomplish today. One thing trumping the cleaning and wrapping I should be doing is using these 4 ways to track Santa! The kids are so exited. We’ve always done the Norad Santa Tracker, but I just now heard about three other ways to track Santa. Have you done these?

1. Phone Call

Norad Santa tracker has volunteer elves answering this number on Christmas Eve only. They will tell you Santa’s current position. It was really exciting when we called and heard that Santa was in Australia already!

 

Santatrackerphone

2. Norad Santa Tracker

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Visit www.noradsanta.org to view a map of the world and the exact location of where Santa is RIGHT NOW! Lovely Christmas music plays in the background and it shows how many gifts have been delivered. One thing I love on this site is that they share pictures from the many locations Santa has visited. Exploring the world through these images great way to inspire the love of travel in your children!

3. Google Santa Tracker

Google Santa tracker

This is a fun one too! It not only shows you where Santa is and how many presents have been delivered, it also shows how far Santa is from your current location! Visit https://santatracker.google.com.

 

4. Santa Tracker App

Super Kiddo Studio has a free Santa Tracker App. Another great way to follow Santa on his journey!

 

superkiddostudio santa tracker

 

Have you been tracking Santa today? Which tracking method are you using? Snap a picture of your kids using one of these 4 ways to track Santa and share with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

Santa is watching

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How to Find the Best Airport Restroom

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Airport Restrooms – Why Can’t Stalls Be Larger?

Do you want to know how to find the best airport restroom?  Guest Author Kiera Reilly* shares the best airport restrooms she has found along with some tips on how to best scope them out for yourself:

Traveling through airports is often a hassle and sometimes downright unpleasant. But with many airports being renovated with new food and retail vendors, sometimes the down-time waiting for a flight, in between layovers or unexpected flight delays can be more pleasurable than in the past. Except for the bathrooms. I can not speak to the men’s restroom situation, but it seems that whoever designs airport restrooms these days has not considered how most of us travel in modern times – with a rolling carry-on bag. These small rolling luggage bags are wonderful – if you pack smartly and efficiently, you do not need to check luggage. If you check luggage but still bring valuables and other items on the plane, these wheeled bags are much easier for traveling through the airport, eliminating the need to carry heavy items on our shoulders or arms.

Yet, if you need to use the restroom and are traveling alone (and thus need to bring said carry on bag into the bathroom stall with you), one must be a contortionist. The bathroom stalls in most restrooms are simply not deep enough to accommodate both you and your wheeled bag while closing the door. I often wheel the bag in, slide it next to the side of the toilet, close the door, then wheel the bag against the door while I use the toilet. To exit the stall, I repeat, or I climb over my bag. I often say a quick prayer that I am able bodied enough to contort my limbs to fit into the stall and climb over my bag, and I wonder how others who are not as flexible manage. Sure, many people wait to use the stalls intended for those with disabilities, since they are larger, but there are usually only one or two of those stalls, and if there is a line and you are short on time before your flight, you may not have time to wait. Not to mention that those stalls should be kept open for those who truly do need the extra accommodation.

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What amazes me now as I travel to new, modern airports is that many have large restroom areas, with several feet of space between the sinks and the stalls. Yet the stalls are not deep enough for a person to walk inside and close the door, much less walk inside and close the door with a bag in tow. I did not even mention the self-flushing toilets that seem to be quite popular. With all the contorting I do to situate myself in the stall, the self-flushing toilet flushes at least three times before I even use it!

(Editor’s Travel Tip: carry mini Post-It Notes in your bag to cover the sensor on the auto-flushing toilet. This will keep it from flushing until you remove the Post-It Note. Especially good when traveling with children who might be frightened by the toilet suddenly flushing when they are still on it!)

I take pictures in airport restrooms (if the room is relatively empty because I do not want people in my pictures) because I am always delighted by the stalls with enough space to walk in with my bag and close the door. Bonus points for stalls that have a shelf for your purse or bag. The small hooks on the backs of most stall doors are not strong or large enough to hold a coat and large bag. I am also astounded at all of the “space” in the bathrooms that could be utilized for deeper stalls, so I sometimes document that too.

Some of the best airport restrooms I have encountered in my travels:

PHL  Philadelphia – Terminal D

While this terminal was a bit run-down as it is not for the main PHL carrier (US Airways, pre-merger with American,) but for United, Southwest and Delta, it has some nice bathroom stalls. They are not new or always necessarily the cleanest, but the stall doors open outwards into the restroom and not inwards into the stall! I have never had an issue bumping into other travelers, and it is so easy to enter the stall with a wheeled bag. At the beginning of the terminal, what used to be right after going through security, but is now near the terminal exit, are some wonderful bathrooms with super-large stalls – so big that an individual sink is in each stall. The sinks never seem to be in working order, but I love that the stalls are big and I am not bumping into every wall while trying to secure myself and my belongings so I can use the facilities. There are only a handful of these super-large stalls, but whenever I visit that restroom, there is never a line and only one or two other people using them.

SAN  San Diego

I had not visited this airport for several years and was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful open floor plan and the bathrooms – deep stalls! Automatic water and soap dispensers!

Airports SAN hallAirports SAN terminal

 

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SJC  San Jose

The newer terminal building bathrooms are a delight – big restrooms, large stalls, automatic faucets and Dyson hand dryers.

CLT  Charlotte 

I visited this airport in July en route to London. The terminal was bright and airy, and so were the restrooms. A opaque window in the restroom allowed natural light to enter, and the stalls were deep.

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Airport restroom

IAD  Washington Dulles

I traveled through Dulles on a late Saturday afternoon and the airport was very empty. These stalls were a nice size, and the automatic faucets for the sinks worked well.

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Airports with restrooms that could use improvement

IAH  Houston

I was amazed at the space between the stalls and the sinks – I don’t know if someone expects a line of 10 people waiting outside each stall but the stalls themselves are so narrow it makes no sense! Either make the stalls deeper or have the stall doors open out. Otherwise, you need to be a contortionist to fit in the stall with your bags.

SFO  San Francisco

Re: the restrooms in the United terminal by the 70s gates:  A bit older, there is plenty of open space in the restroom itself, but the stalls remain small. Bonus points for Dyson hand dryers.

LAX – United Terminal (7/8)

I fly United the most so am most familiar with terminals 7 and 8. While I know that there are new stores and food offerings, the restrooms are in serious need of an overhaul. But the stalls are older so I can’t fault them for not being deep.

I took photos of the bathroom in the new Star Alliance Lounge at Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). While featuring wood doors and a modern design, even in the lounge the bathroom stalls are not very wide or deep for accommodating a wheeled bag.

Airport restroomAirport restroom

Notable Feature:

This is not restroom related, but I like the new trend of providing stations for refilling water bottles in the airport terminal. Using these stations will hopefully decrease the need for purchasing bottled water past security, which is often expensive.

Water Filling Station

I have spotted stations in SFO (San Francisco), SEA (Seattle-Tacoma) and ORD (Chicago O’Hare).

 

Tips for using airport restrooms:

  1. If traveling with another person, take turns visiting the restrooms and watching each others bags. Bring only your purse and/or whatever toiletries you might need – the less you bring in to the restroom, the easier it will be to navigate the tight stall spaces.
  2. If traveling alone, allow extra time and wait for an available disabled stall – these are larger and easier to use if you have a wheeled bag with you.
  3. Explore the terminals – ask a flight attendant or gate agent for recommendations – like the Philadelphia airport example above, there might be hidden restrooms with more room than others.

*Note to Airport designers:  Consider how travelers utilize all of your facilities – not only the gate areas (where extra electrical outlets are always welcomed and needed), and the food and shopping options, but also the restrooms! Allow for more space, maybe add a shelf in the stall, perhaps even a shelf over the sink to place a bag while washing hands. Doors that open outward help a lot!

 

What about you? Do you have a favorite airport restroom? We would love to add to our list of airport restrooms that better accommodate  the modern traveler. Email us or comment on our Facebook, twitter, or Instagram page. Send photos using the hashtag #bestairportstall. We will add a “best of” post as we get additional airport stalls that are noteworthy.

Airport Restroom

 

Guest Blogger*Guest Author Kiera Reilly is a group travel planner and alumni relations professional. Between travels for work and vacation, she has visitied six continents, forty-five countries, and countless airport restrooms. She is a passionate fan of Formula 1 racing , the Olympics, and Penn Basketball. When traveling, she enjoys searching for the perfect macchiato or cappuccino and interesting whiskey and gin. More on her travel adventures can be found on her blog: KieraReilly.com.

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My Interview with BreakThru Radio

BTR radio interview of Beth Henry, Cloud Surfing Kids.

Twenty Something Traveler BTR Radio Interview

Here is a link to my recent radio interview on Twenty Something Traveler, the travel podcast on BreakThru Radio. In it I talk with the host, Jess Goulart, about how and why I became a flight attendant, how I manage my work schedule with my family schedule, and a few tips for flying with kids. I hope you’ll check it out!

click here: Interview with Beth Henry of Cloud Surfing Kids

Do the topics addressed bring up any questions you have for me? Ask away! I’ll answer what I can. You can ask in the comments below, or on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page. We’d love to have you follow us on one of those social platforms as well! Take a moment today to follow us so you can keep up with our latest travel tips and stories.

 

Happy Cloud Surfing!

Radio Interview

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Best Gifts to Buy a Flight Attendant Mom

What this flight attendant mom wants for Christmas.

It’s that time of year…the time when relatives are asking for your Christmas wish list. As I’m completing mine, I am thinking of a lot of travel items that I depend on that I have worn out and need to replace after a good 10-15 years of using them. Ever wonder what a flight attendant mom wants for Christmas? Here are, at least in my opinion, the best gifts to buy a flight attendant mom like me:

(For your convenience I have linked to where you can purchase these products. Some of these are affiliate links, and if you make a purchase through them I may receive a small commission. The funds will go toward running this website. Thank you for using my links, I really appreciate your support!)

 TempurPedic Travel Pillow– $129.95

neck pillow

For the past 16 years I have used this pillow. It functions as a lumbar pillow if I’m flying as a passenger and a regular pillow when I’m staying in hotels. I have the full size TempurPedic Pillow at home, but I actually like this small one better and I use it both at home and while traveling. There’s nothing like the comfort of your pillow from home to help you sleep well in an unfamiliar environment. This pillow comes with a case and can easily roll up to fit in the cylindrical case. It also compresses easily, yet maintains support, so it fits into even a full suitcase fairly easily when left flat. I actually bring a locking D-ring and use it to clip the pillow (in it’s case) to the outside of my carry on bag when I fly as a passenger. That way I have it on the plane for lumbar support but I’m not taking up precious space in my carry on.  I need a new one now because after 4 years of nightly use, mine has flattened a bit. So I can tell you that it lasts a long time. 1400+ nights sleeping on a pillow is really good longevity!

 

 

TempurPedic Eye Mask-$37.99

eye mask

I love this eye mask because it gives complete blackout. There is a little cushion under your eyes in this mask. This seals out any light and also pulls the mask away from your eyes, so you can actually open your eyes under the mask and it’s not pressing on them. I’ve become so comfortable using this eye mask that I actually find it harder to sleep without it. It’s part of my comfort routine. That is why, after having this for 8 years, I am needing a new one. If you are using an eye mask only when you travel, this could probably last a good 10 years.

 

Jackery Giant Portable Battery Charger– $129.95, current price $29.99*

Jackery Battery Charger

This little battery charger is great! I bought this last year for my husband so he could have a portable charger for his tablet. I have kind of stolen it for myself to take on work trips. I need one for myself so he can have it back.  I have several other small external batteries, but if you have an iPhone, you know the battery really drains fast! Most of my portable chargers just give my iPhone a little more time, but don’t actually recharge it. The Jackery Giant Portable Battery Charger not only keeps my phone running, it will bring the battery levels up even while using the phone. Recently I was spending time in Vegas with my sisters, and this little charger recharged the batteries of 5 iPhones and Galaxies, and still had juice for charging more. Although it’s quite heavy, at 2 lbs., it is worth having on hand when traveling, even if only for emergencies.

*Travel Tip: For safety, don’t pack battery packs in your checked luggage. If you travel with this, bring it in your carry on bag.

Dead Sea Mineral Hand Cream-$29.99, current price $21.90*

hand cream

Flying really dries out your skin. Working in the galley, frequent hand washing, and drying soap on the plane all contribute to this. In the winter my hands actually crack and bleed if I am not using a rich lotion regularly. I haven’t actually tried this particular hand cream, but it is on my list because of it’s richness and natural minerals. The TSA-friendly travel size of 3.17 oz. is great, so you can bring it on the airplane and reapply as needed.

Essential Oil Diffuser (Travel Size)- $98.99, currently only $26.99!!!

oil diffuser

Use of essential oils have gained popularity in recent years. I confess I was very hesitant to try them, simply because it was popular! Well, I’ve finally tried them out and have found them very useful. Just last week, my daughter Ella (age 7) was having a really tough time falling asleep. She tried for two hours and still couldn’t sleep. I finally put some calming oils in a diffuser in her room, and she was asleep in just five minutes! I haven’t tried this particular diffuser yet, but it gets great reviews and at 4×5.4×4 inches and less than one pound, it’s definitely the right size for travel.

 

Apple MacBook Pro

In my dream world, Santa brings me a MacBook Pro for Christmas…In my dreams. I suppose I should start entering contests to try to win one.

 

Moving on from the bigger items now to a few stocking stuffers:

Banana Saver-$4.58

banana saver

You may laugh, but this banana saver is a really great product! I have it already, but lost it somewhere in our move last year. I love bananas, but of course traveling with them makes them absolutely gross, bruised and squishy at best, ruptured and sliming your bag at worst. This little plastic case completely protects the banana. I have even put them in my checked bag and the banana arrived as fresh and unbruised as when I packed it. Needless to say, this is also a great product when flying with kids.

Ear Plugs– $20.55 (15 pair)

ear plugs

Self-explanatory. Sleeping in hotels can be challenging. Noisy neighbors, loud talkers in the hall, ice machines, elevators, airplanes, car alarms…..Ear plugs can save the night and give you restful sleep. That’s so important for a flight attendant. Another thing I always travel with is a sound machine. I have a fairly new one, so this doesn’t make my wish list, but if you want a good night’s sleep when traveling, add this to your packing list.

 Totes Mini Auto Umbrella-$22.00 (currently $14.49)*

 

Umbrella Totes

Just because it’s always good to have an umbrella with you, and this is small, lightweight, and pretty.

Extra Long Charging Cord for Apple iPhone $29.99 (currently $11.99!)*

iphone charger

Hotels never seem to have enough outlets, and the ones they have are hidden behind beds and nightstands. I would love to have a longer charging cord to plug my phone in overnight.

Airborne-$8.99

Airborne Grapefruit

I really feel like I stay healthier when I take Airborne regularly. Also it helps a lot to ward off dehydration. Grapefruit flavor might sound weird, but this is my favorite flavor of Airborne. It is very mild and less acidic than the orange version. I haven’t been able to find Grapefruit flavor in stores lately, so I was happy to discover that it’s still available on Amazon. Great price in the Subscribe & Save option, too: currently just $0.49 per tablet when you select Subscribe & Save!

 

Nutraluxe Lash MD– $59.99

Nutraluxe Lash MD

It has nothing to do with travel, but I have really short eyelashes, and this stuff works! I’ve tried it before with success but I stopped when I ran out, so my lashes are back to short and straight. Haha. Someone buy me this, okay?

 

What do you think of my list? Do you use any of these items when you travel? Comment below with your favorite travel items.

Don’t forget to follow Cloud Surfing Kids on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! I share most of my travel tips on Facebook and Twitter, and most of my pictures from the sky on Instagram.

 

*Listed prices are subject to change, both higher and lower. Amazon frequently runs sales and they change often.

 

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A Peek at the Gaylord Texan Lone Star Christmas

Last week I stayed at the Gaylord Texan for a work conference. I was excited to see that the day of my arrival was the start date of the Lone Star Christmas Display!  I have twice visited The Gaylord Texan in years past for the purpose of visiting Santa with Ella and her cousins, who live in Texas. It is always an elaborate and beautiful display and the children love it! There are many events in which you can participate, and prices can really stack up fast, so I thought I would give you a quick glimpse of what types of things you can see there, even if you don’t want to spend money on the events.

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This star it at the top of the main atrium in the Gaylord Texan. It is truly amazing to gaze up at it!

Visiting the main atrium is free.  Just walking through the Gaylord Texan is a beautiful and entertaining sight. They do charge for parking: $15 for 0-2 hours,  $17 for 2-4 hours, and $19 for 4+ hours.

The Gaylord Texas Lone Star Christmas has 1.5 million holiday lights, 12,000 ornaments, a 52-foot rotating Christmas tree, miniature train sets, and a life-size gingerbread house (made of real gingerbread). There are also stilt walkers, singing cowboys, Santa and Mrs. Claus, balloon artists, and festive music. You can roam the facility and enjoy viewing all of this for free.

Pictures with Santa. Packages from $21.99 to $49.99 (See price list here.)

Gaylord Texan Santa pics3

Above are pictures of my daughter Ella at the Gaylord Texan Lone Star Christmas. She was 20 months old in the bottom picture, (that’s when she earned elite status on our airline!), 2.5 years old in the picture on the left, and 4 years old in the top right picture. I wish we could make visits to the Gaylord Texan Christmas a yearly tradition, but 3 out of 7 is not too bad. Ella loved visiting every time but we did not participate in any activities except photos with Santa and exploring the decorations, train sets, etc.

You can make reservations for your photos with Santa to avoid the long lines. Visit Main Street Santa to reserve your time.

These are the other paid activities available:

  • Ice! Two MILLION pounds of hand-carved ice featuring the theme: Christmas Around the World.
  • Snow Tubing (this looks like fun to me, but I would skip it if you actually have snow where you live)
  • Milk & Cookies with Mrs. Claus
  • The Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt
  • Gingerbread Decorating Corner sponsored by Peeps
  • Santa’s Snowball Throwing Workshop
  • Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Breakfast
  • Friends of Rudolph Meet & Greet

Details and prices of these events can be found here. There are discounts available for Marriott Reward Members and for AAA members. You can see details of those discounts here

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All of these activities are really great, but if you are trying to not spend money, you really can enjoy the festivities without all the paid activities. When we visited with the kids in years past thtey were perfectly content to have a picture with Santa and walk around viewing the beautiful decorations. There was no begging to do more. If you want to partake in the paid activities, my top three choices would be ICE! (although at freezing temperatures, you might want to skip bringing very young children/babies), The Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt, and Snow Tubing (if you don’t usually have snow where you live).

I really liked the local art they had displayed to keep you busy as you wait in line for the ICE! Exhibit. The theme was Thankfulness. I really loved the child’s drawing who said they were most thankful for travel!

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Here are the photos I took in my walk through the Gaylord Texan. I did not get the chance to see the Ice! Exhibit, as my meetings took up all of my time there. Since my visit was on a weekday and the display had just begun, there were no crowds. Keep in mind the crowds will be heavy, especially at night and weekends. There are lots of displays that offer a good photo opportunity, you could stand in front of the giant Santa boots, the “see no evil, hear no evil, smell no evil” snowmen, and of course, the giant Christmas tree. Or do what I did, and take a selfie with a reindeer or a Nutcracker!

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Things to Know

  • The Gaylord Texan Lone Star Christmas is running November 12, 2015 to January 3, 2016.
  • The Ice Exhibit is COLD! They will provide parkas with pockets. You might not want to bring your smallest children to the exhibit.
  • The events get very crowded! Be prepared for long lines and weaving around crowds. We found the atmosphere enjoyable in spite of the crowds in years past. Observing things like the toy train and giant gingerbread house you don’t really feel the crowd around you since there is large open space in front of you.
  • Be sure to walk through the side atrium and hallways for even more decorations. If it’s a nice day out, the riverwalk trail in the back outside is gorgeous.

 

Have you ever visited The Gaylord Texan Holiday events? What did you think of it? Would you go again? Share your experience in the comments below or on our Facebook page. We’d love to see your pictures too!

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You can find Cloud Surfing Kids on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Stop by and say hello!

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DFW Airport for the Holidays

Are you flying through DFW Airport for the holidays? We will be! I was excited to learn of some new things the airport has to offer to help make your trip more pleasant:

DFW App

DFW app

DFW has returned with a new and improved app – the perfect addition for your holiday travels. With the latest app, you’ll have everything you need to discover DFW and what’s next.

Features in Version 3.0:

  • View your flight information on the enhanced flight dashboard
  • Stay informed with live flight information updates
  • View the latest weather forecast for DFW and your desired destination
  • Overview map of DFW’s Parking products with detailed information on rates and availability
  • Browse through over 200 shops, dining options, services and explore what’s within 5 minutes from your gate
  • Navigate DFW through our interactive map with turn-by-turn, detailed directions
  • Within the map, view information, menus, and photos on points of interests

The feature I like best for flying with families is the “Services” page. You can search services to find children’s play areas (Gate A13, B12, C14) and Nursing Rooms (I’m disappointed to see there is only one, at A18). I learned there is a yoga studio at D40 as well as a new one in Terminal E! And Power Charging stations throughout each terminal. The app can tell you where the nearest charging station is.

What I’d like to see in the app is up-to-date wait times for TSA security checkpoints. The way DFW is spread out, you could walk to the next TSA security checkpoint if the one you are at is backed up. But you wouldn’t want to lose your spot in line if the next checkpoint has just as long of a wait.

#DFWfindJOY

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If you are traveling through DFW Airport and enjoying the holiday displays, take a photo! Share on social media using the hashtag #DFWfindJOY. Word on the street is there might be an elf in the terminal giving treats when people use the #DFWfindJOY hashtag. I’m curious to know! We’d love to see your holiday travel pictures too! Use hashtag #CloudSurfingKidsholiday  if you’re flying through DFW with your kids (or any airport) and posting photos of the holiday decorations.

DFW Tech

  • FREE WiFi throughout the aiport, provided by AT&T
  • FREE power outlet (check app for locations)
  • Enhanced cellular service for those not connecting to WiFi

Airport Tips

  • Give yourself extra time to combat lines, enjoy the decorations, and create a calm atmosphere for your family.
  • Don’t bring presents wrapped (in case TSA needs to see what’s inside).
  • Sign up for TSAPreCheck to save time in the lines.

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Are you flying through DFW? Send us your photos! We’re not planning to be there until the end of December, and I’d love to see what festive spots you find at DFW or any airport! Share with us in the comments below, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Don’t forget to tag #CloudSurfingKidsHoliday!

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Passports With Purpose—Help Give the Gift of Reading

passports-with-purpose

Give the Gift of Reading

WorldReader Kenya

 

My kids, Ella (age 7.5) and John (age 2.5) love books so much! Their collection doesn’t even fit in our bookshelves. It’s hard for me to imagine not having unlimited access to books. When I learned that Passports With Purpose was working with Worldreader this year to bring digital readers to five libraries in Kenya, I knew I wanted to participate in this project.  I can only imagine the joy and knowledge that these books will bring to so many lives in Kenya! For this reason,  I have teamed up with Go-Go Babyz, who generously donated two of their TravelMate Deluxe Bundles, so that not just one, but two lucky participants will win this great prize! (You must have an U.S. shipping address to receive this prize. There may be other prizes in the catalog without this restriction.)

This is my first year working with Passports With Purpose, which is an annual travel bloggers’ fundraiser. They started in 2008 and now over 200 travel bloggers from around the world team up to offer travel-related prizes. Each $10 donation gives you a chance to win one of these great prizes being offered. I think one of the best things about this fundraiser is the fact that 100% of the proceeds (excepting PayPal fees) goes to Worldreader. The e-readers will provide about 6,250 children, teachers, and parents with access to more than 50,000 books! More information about the project can be found here. The books will contain both English and Swahili fiction and non-fiction for all ages, as well as Kenyan textbooks.

About the Go-Go Babyz TravelMate Deluxe Bundle

TravelMate Cruizer Bundle

 

If you read my blog, you know that I am a huge fan of Go-Go Babyz, and especially their TravelMate products. I have been using their products for over seven years, and for hundreds of flights, and I recommend the TravelMate products to everyone who flies even just once a year with their child. The TravelMate Deluxe turns your car seat into a stroller. You simply snap or strap your own car seat onto the TravelMate, and you have an instant stroller, with telescoping handle, hands free foot brake, and swivel front wheels for easy steering. And I mean easy steering! You can easily steer with just one hand, which is so helpful when you’re going through the airport! You have that second hand free to make a phone call, carry another bag, or (most important to me, ha-ha) carry your coffee.

It is undeniable that flying with your baby or toddler in a car seat is the safest way to travel, and of course you will need a car seat at your destination. The Go-Go Babyz TravelMate Deluxe is my favorite solution for transporting a car seat through the airport  and does double duty as a stroller for your child as you travel. This is ideal, too, if you’re exploring a city and need to take a cab ride. You have the car seat with you for the safety of your child, and the TravelMate Deluxe quickly and easily folds up.

Included in this Bundle Package:

  • TravelMate Deluxe
  • TravelMate Handle Pouch and Storage Bag
  • 6″ rear wheels provide smooth ride on a variety of surfaces with hands free foot brake
  • Swivel wheels in the front for easy maneuverability
  • Unique folding system allows for compact storage, convenient transportation and one handed lock and carry
  • Universal toddler and infant car seat attaching straps included (safe lock infant seat specific adapters available separately)

We have used the TravelMate Original and the TravelMate Deluxe Cruizer, as well as the Handle Pouch, which is included with the TravelMate Deluxe in this prize package.  My reviews of the Cruizer and Handle Pouch are found here and here.  The handle pouch is very useful. It’s perfectly shaped so that you can find everything in it without things getting jumbled at the bottom of the bag.  In my review of the handle pouch, I show what items I pack inside. You will be amazed at how much the Handle Bag can store and keep organized! The TravelMate Deluxe Cruizer that I reviewed is similar to the Deluxe offered here, but this one has smaller wheels than the one I tested. This is nice, as it makes it more compact for storage and stowing in overhead bins or car trunks. I love that this bundle also includes a storage bag. I need to order one of those for myself!

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Donate And Earn a Chance to Win!

During this two week period, Sunday, November 8, 2015 11:59pm EST to Wednesday, November 18, 2015 11:59pm EST, you will be able to donate $10 on the catalog of prizes. For every $10 donated, you earn another chance at winning your selected item, and all proceeds go to Worldreader.  To make your donation and earn a chance at winning a TravelMate Deluxe Bundle, click here. To view the complete prize catalog and make your donation, click here.

A Book is a Dream

 

Will you join me in this effort to help bring e-readers and books to children, parents, and teachers in Kenya? Donate $10 and get an entry to win the Go-Go Babyz TravelMate Deluxe Bundle. Maybe your kids are out of car seats and you don’t need this item. Check out all the other fabulous travel related prizes that bloggers have contributed for this project. There are lots of great items! You can find the complete catalogue of items here. Remember, each $10 donation gets you another entry towards winning that item! You can find the complete catalog here.

Click this logo to donate and get a chance to win prizes:

 

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Thank You!

Thank you for reading this post, and for considering a donation to help bring the gift of reading to others. I would love it if you would share this post with your friends and encourage them to participate as well!

A huge thank you to Go-Go Babyz, who generously donated the prizes of (2) TravelMate Deluxe Bundles. Give them some love by following on Facebook and Twitter.  And thanks to TBEX Travel Blogger Conferences, who also sponsor Passports with Purpose.

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Ways to Help Your Child Be Calm on a Plane

 

Airports are crowded, busy, and noisy. This constant bombarding of the senses can make your child anxious. Even if they are not visibly stressed, all of the stimulation does challenge their senses and can be tiring. If you have a child with autism or Sensory Processing Disorder, this is even more true. Here are some ideas for ways to incorporate proprioceptive input, aka “heavy work”, in your travel day.

Children with sensory processing disorder have difficulty managing sensory input. When traveling through an airport, their senses are bombarded by lights, noises, crowds, scents….the list goes on and on. It is likely that your child with Autism or SPD will be on high defense when traveling through the airport and on the airplane. Proprioceptive activities (also called “heavy work”) help “increase attention, decrease defensiveness, and modulate arousal.” (As described at SensoryProcessingDisorder.com., one of my favorite resources for SPD information.) I have found that even for children without Sensory Processing Disorder, adding some of these activities helps keep them calm on the plane.

My daughter, Ella (age 7), is a “sensory seeker”. So she craves extra sensory input and really enjoys the flying experience. Still, her senses are constantly triggered as she notices and takes in every detail of what she sees, hears, smells, etc., and it is easy for her to get overwhelmed. When that happens, a meltdown follows. These are some of the activities and tools we incorporate in our travel day to help her remain balanced and calm.

Activities-Waiting In Line

  • Have your child wear a rash guard, slightly tight, to give him/her that feeling of pressure on the skin. (Test this in advance to see if it’s something that your child likes or not.)
  • Have a (controlled) “arm wrestle” by just pushing against each other with clasped hands.
  • Thumb War. I am not positive that this helps a lot, but it seems to for my daughter, Ella. When one thumb is pinned, keep it pressed down for 5-10 seconds for deep pressure. Even if it’s your thumb that’s pinned, the pressure they are giving can help.
  • Give your child’s forehead pressure by putting one hand on their forehead and one behind their head. Push slightly for gentle pressure.
  • Jump up and down in place.
  • Squeeze each other’s hands or give hand massage.

Activities-In the Airport

Autism Sensory tools

  • Let your child use a ride-on suitcase. See our review of the SkootCase Rider here.
  • Have your child wear a backpack if he/she will. This is a classic way to provide “heavy work”. Keep this in mind for the school year as well.
  • If you are using a stroller or a rolling suitcase, let your child push or pull it.
  • Take a break from walking and do wall push-ups
  • Seek out children’s play areas so your child can climb, jump, and spin.

Heavy-Work-Backpack

Activities-On the Plane

  • Hand or Arm massage
  • Forehead pressure (as listed above under “waiting in line”)
  • After takeoff place the child’s backpack in their lap for weight.
  • Have your child squeeze their knees together while sitting in an upright posture. This will also help relax the muscles in the lower back.
  • Have your child push his/her own hands together in a “praying hands” position. Activities for the “Busy Bag”

Activites for the “Busy Bag”/Toys On the Plane

(For your convenience, I have created an Amazon store with the items I list below. You can find it at the bottom of this post. If you shop in my Amazon store I may receive a small percentage of the sell, which will help offset the cost of running this website. The cost of the product is the same to you. I appreciate your support!)

  • Scratch and Sketch Art Activity Book
  • PlayDoh (Don’t forget this needs to be under 3.4 ounces and in a Quart-sized Ziploc bag to get through security). Rolling pins and PlayDoh scissors add extra input.
  • Stress Ball
  • Mini Etch-A-Sketch
  • Erasers (The action of erasing with a rubber eraser gives deep pressure. Bonus if you get an eraser that can double as a fidget toy.)
  • Fidgets
  • Small dolls with comb or brush (I’m not positive that this counts as proprioceptive input, but it is definitely calming for Ella.)
  • Bubbles (I like to always have a mini bottle of bubbles in my Quart-Sized Ziploc bag of TSA-approved liquids. It comes in handy for extra-stressful moments like during a delay or when your child or another has just had enough. As a flight attendant I have stopped in the terminal to blow bubbles for a crying toddler.)
  • Sticker Mosaic (These tiny stickers require great focus and are a great chance to work on fine motor skills. You’ll have to keep an eye out for dropped stickers, but this is a nice activity, usually for ages 5-9, depending on ability.)

Foods-Anytime

Chewy foods and resistive sucking give proprioceptive input also.

  • Gum (Some kids love sour for extra sensory input. Stride Sour Patch Kids Orange is Ella’s favorite.)
  • Granola bars
  • Raisins
  • Gummy Candy (we love the kind from Trader Joe’s, which is naturally colored and real sugar instead of corn syrup)
  • Fruit leather
  • Sports Bars (Ella loves the original Power Bar)

Resistive sucking is also useful:

      • Lollipops
      • Water bottle with resistive straw, such as CamelBak
      • Chewable Necklace or Tubes
      • All of the items mentioned have been listed in this Amazon link for you to easily find. By clicking this link, I may receive a small commission on the products you buy. This will help offset the costs of running this website. Thank you for your support!


Categories: Autism, SPD, Special Needs, Travel Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments