Quick Tips for the First Time Flier

Quick Tips for the First Time Flier

Tips for First Time Flier

As a flight attendant mom I am often asked for tips for a first time flier. The whole purpose of this website, Cloud Surfing Kids, is to help parents feel prepared when flying with their kids, and I love sharing tips that work for me and that I see working for other families on the flights where I’m working. Here are a few ideas to get you started as you prepare for your first flight with kids:

Talk about the Flight before the Travel Day

CSK Airplane Sunset

Talking about what to expect when you fly can help reduce anxiety and fear of the unknown. You can even take a “practice flight” in your house. Walk through waiting in a couple of lines and the security checkpoint–where you’ll put all of your things (including favorite toys) through a small tunnel and meet them on the other side, walking to the plane, sitting in the seats and buckling seat belts. Talk about staying in your seat when the seat belt sign is on. A first time flier won’t be familiar with cabin pressure. Talk about the funny feeling you might get in your ears when the plane descends and how it can feel better when you yawn, chew food, or drink water. Mention that the funny feeling gets better as the plane gets closer to landing. (Don’t fear ear pain from air pressure. Although it is horrible, it really is not that common. As a flight attendant I only see about 5% of my passengers experiencing ear pain, if even that much. On most of my flights I don’t have anyone complaining of ear pain.)

If you have a sensitive child it might be helpful to let them know the airplane engines are loud. You can find a sample of the ambient airplane noise on many white noise machines, if you have one at home, or if not you can download a white noise app on your phone that usually includes an airplane engine sound. Some other ways to prepare for a flight with a sensitive child can be found here: Ways to Help Your Child be Calm on a Plane.

Pack Wisely

When I’m traveling with my young kids I find it much easier to check our large suitcase. Even if you have to pay extra, it really is worth the money to not have one more thing to carry on the plane with you. If your children are older (I would say more than ten years old), you might be comfortable bringing luggage on the plane. When packing, plan for as many scenarios as you can (medical needs, delays, food, etc.) but be as compact as you can. When I pack for myself and my kids, Ella, age 8, and John, age 3, I use one 26-inch rolling duffel bag for my checked bag. Then I pack a backpack for me to carry, a rolling backpack for Ella, and a  mini Backpack for John. Then I bring a small cooler for food (one that can fit under the airplane seat) and a small open tote bag where I shove anything extra that doesn’t fit into the bags mentioned (blanket, camera, sweater, etc.).  Always, always bring enough food, medicine, diapers, formula for at least twice the hours of your expected travel day. Read here for more explanation on why I say Always Pack Spare Clothes for EVERYONE traveling. If you have a child in a car seat, I highly recommend buying or borrowing my favorite tool, GoGoBabyz TravelMate Wheels, which snap onto your convertible car seat to create a stroller.

Be Prepared

As I said above, everyone’s biggest fear, ear pain, really doesn’t happen that frequently. That said, ear pain when flying is more common in children because they have shorter Eustachian tubes than adults so fluid is more likely to build up in their ears. If your child has a cold or stuffy nose from allergies, you want to do as many things as you can to prevent ear blockage. Here are my tips for flying with stuffy noses for children, and for adults, read my Flight Attendant Tips to Prevent Blocked Ears.

Combat Fear of Turbulence

Tips for First Time Flier

Some first time (and even experienced) fliers are very fearful during turbulence. There are two things that sometimes help my fearful passengers when we are experiencing turbulence:

  1. Imagine you are on a boat, rocking in the waves. Even when they are big waves, the boat (plane) is safe. You’re just rolling on the waves.
  2. If you are buckled in your seat, you are safe during even most extreme turbulence. Even if carts are thrown to the ceiling and slammed to the floor, in your seat buckled in you are safe. The plane is designed to withstand greater than hurricane force winds, which is a condition far beyond any you would be flying in.

Cloud Surfing Kids C.A.R.E.S. Harness

If you, as an adult, have a fear of turbulence, try not to show that to your kids. I was on a flight with Ella when she was just 3 years old. Shortly after takeoff, we encountered wake turbulence. Wake turbulence is turbulence that forms behind an airplane. It only affects your airplane if you are too close to the plane in front of you. Our plane dropped about 15 feet very suddenly. I reached over to grab Ella, who fortunately was buckled in her C.A.R.E.S. Harness. Even buckled up I watched her lift off the seat about an inch. Most of the cabin screamed, and I looked at Ella to gauge her reaction. She exclaimed, “Woo hoo! Let’s do that again!!!” For her it was a fun roller coaster ride. So even if you are fearful during turbulence, try to let your kids have fun with it (with seat belts safely buckled).

Take a Picture

Don’t forget to take at least one picture to preserve the memory of your first time flying! It’s great if you can stop by the cockpit during boarding to say hello and ask if you can get a quick picture in the cockpit, but if that isn’t possible, just be sure to take a few snapshots of your kids during the flight!

Cloud Surfing Kids Cockpit


Flying can be stressful, and flying with kids just adds to the potential for stressful situations. But it can be so much fun to! Try to give yourself as much time as you can to get through the airport and to the plane so that you’re able to relax and let your kids enjoy and explore the new environment. When things don’t go exactly as planned, imagine yourself a palm tree, flexible and swaying with the wind, never breaking. Both in the airport and on the plane things will go more smoothly the more you engage with your kids. Even for toddlers it helps if you describe the things you’re doing and give them an idea of what is coming next.

What questions do you have about preparing for your first time flier? You can ask me in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I’d love to hear from you! If you’re already an expert at flying with kids, I’d love to hear a few of your top tips! If I get some contributions I’ll create a post including your tips!

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Busy Bag For Preschool and Elementary Age Kids to Share

Busy Bag For Preschool and Elementary Age Kids to Share

My kids are five years apart, ages 8 and 3, so of course they have different interests and abilities. But I have discovered that I can pack a travel busy bag that captures the interest of both my elementary age daughter, Ella and preschool age son, John. These ten busy bag items are lightweight, fit easily in a quart sized Ziploc bag, and cost under $50 (only $45.54 at Amazon when this post was published) to purchase all of it new. (You likely have several of these items around the house, so you might not need to buy the entire list.) I’m sharing this list with you as I realized today that I don’t need to pack completely different bags to entertain my preschool and elementary age kids. These items appeal to both of them, and will likely appeal to most kids aged 3-12.

Busy Bag Preschool Elementary

(For your convenience I have links to these items on Amazon. When you make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission, which goes directly to the operating costs of this website. Thank you so much for your support!)

Disclaimer: Amazon prices change often, both up and down. Double check the price at checkout.

Lauri Toys Primer Pack $11.97
busy bag preschool elementary

This is one of my favorite recent finds. It’s definitely the most bang for your buck. This pack includes 6 foam items: Alphabet puzzle, 4 shape puzzles, shapes for stringing (from the puzzles), 4 Lacing Shapes with shoelaces, and 25 piece “locktagon” construction pieces. I bought this with my three-year old, John, in mind, and actually my eight year old, Ella plays with these items the most. The “locktagon” construction pieces are Ella’s favorite. They are still a little difficult for John to work with. He likes the shape puzzles the best. Both kids enjoy the lacing cards and stringing the shapes. I don’t travel with the alphabet puzzle since there are so many small pieces to keep in place. So this little pack gives me 4 activities with which to occupy the kids. Love it!

Busy Bag Loctagon Construction

Melissa & Doug Scratch Art Notes $7.90
busy bag preschool elementary

My kids, especially sensory-seeking Ella, love doing scratch art. I love the Scratch Art books, but they are hard cover books and the weight of them adds up fast in a travel bag. I found these 4×4 scratch art note cards and just bought some myself. You can just add 10 or so to your busy bag and they are great for drawing, notes, or even just scribbling! There are no rules for how you use scratch art. Ella actually enjoys scratching off the entire sheet to reveal the rainbow of colors beneath the black area. This activity provides a deep-pressure sensation, which really helps calm the nervous system. For more activities that provide this “heavy work” (aka “proprioceptive input) when traveling, see this post: Ways to Help Your Child Be Calm on a Plane.


Crayola Pip Squeaks Markers $3.92

busy bag preschoolers elementary kids










I don’t need to explain how to use markers of course. Haha!  But I love these Crayola Pip Squeaks Markers for their small size. These are the “fat” markers, which are easier for the preschool age kids to grip. This pack is a great deal at only $3.92.

Post-It Notes $4.95
busy bag preschool elementary

I like these particular Post-It Notes because the entire surface is sticky. These are great for many uses:

  • Draw on with markers.
  • Cover auto-flush sensor on toilets (as described here).
  • Tear into pieces to create mosaic art
  • Use to play tic-tac-toe
  • Cover the reading light that is inoperative and shining in your eyes on the plane. Smile
  • Make cue cards to let your child know what to expect throughout the day.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Let me know in the comments the creative ways you have used Post-It Notes when traveling!

Wikki Stix $5.94

busy bag preschooler elementary kids










The opportunities are endless with Wikki Stix, which are thin, moldable sticks of wax. You can make all kinds of designs with them, practice forming letters and shapes, roll them in balls…all kinds of things! If you pack more than about 24 then they do get pretty heavy. I recommend this rainbow pack of 24 sticks. At only $5.94 it’s a great item to add to any busy bag.

Dry Erase Self-Adhesive Sheets $6.36

busy bag preschool elementary
I like dry erase boards since you can erase and redesign anything and you’re not wasting paper. Kids of all ages enjoy drawing on dry erase boards. Since the markers glide more easily than on paper, it just provides a different experience than coloring on paper. You could definitely opt for either markers and paper or dry erase markers and dry erase boards, but I find it’s useful to have both, just for variety. If your kids are extra proud of their artwork and want to save it, just take a picture!

If you’re like me, you already have a lot of dry erase boards that are small enough for travel. I like to make sure these are small enough to fit in the Quart-sized Ziploc bag I use for my busy bag. I often find small dry erase board at the Target Dollar Spot. If you don’t have any, you can get some of these dry erase self-adhesive sheets and cut them to the size you want. I would make them about 6”x 5” if you want them to fit in a Quart sized bag. You can attach them to a thin piece of cardboard to make them sturdy, or just leave the backing on them.

Low-Odor Dry Erase Mini Marker Set $4.50

busy bag preschool elementary

Four things I really like about this dry erase marker set:

  1. Low Odor: A must for the airplane and for kids’ use.
  2. Mini: I love that these are small, better for fitting in my small busy bag.
  3. Eraser in cap: Keeps hands clean. My kids will use their hands to erase if the eraser isn’t nearby.
  4. Magnetic: IF you have a magnetic board, this is quite useful. I didn’t list a magnetic dry erase board here as I was trying to suggest items at a lower cost. But we have several small magnetic dry-erase boards at home, and maybe you do too.

If you leave out the alphabet puzzle, all of these items will fit in a quart sized Ziploc bag. They also are all items that appeal to both preschoolers and elementary age children. The total cost if you purchase all of them is only $45.54, and you will find free shipping with Amazon Prime on most of the items I’ve listed. You’ll also have extras of everything, for re-supplying your busy bag after the trip.

What ages are your kids? Do you think they would enjoy these items when traveling? What other items would you add? Comment below to let us know!

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What to Pack in a Travel Emergency Kit

As a flight attendant, I stay in a lot of hotels. Every time I hear about an earthquake or another natural disaster, I think about what I would need in a travel emergency kit if I was away from home when disaster hit. The majority of my overnight trips are to California, where there is a 97 percent chance of a magnitude 7 or larger occurring over the next 30 years, according to USGS (United States Geology Survey).  I like to be prepared, so here is what I pack in my travel emergency kit. (I have not always packed all of these items, but plan from now on to bring everything listed except the MRE’s (meals ready to eat), which are very heavy. I will start adding a few more energy bars to my travel bag, however.)

I’m sure you are like me and most of the population in thinking a major disaster is unlikely to happen to you. But even though these incidents don’t happen regularly, it never hurts to be prepared. I posted  the idea of packing an earthquake kit on my Instagram page, and fellow travel blogger Leah from Kid Bucket List said, “Wow! I’ve never done this or even thought of doing it. Should I?” Maybe you’re wondering the same thing. My response: If you’re in a disaster you’ll wish you had packed it, and if not, the most you’ll regret is the weight of your bags.” Actually, with the exception of spare batteries, water, and food, all of these items can be extremely lightweight.

A friend of mine, Molly Randles (photographer at Molly Randles Photography), was in Haiti on a mission trip on January 12, 2010,  when the 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 160,000 people. I asked her for her input on what she recommends packing in case of catastrophic event like this. I showed her this picture of my emergency kit and asked what she would recommend adding. She responded that I had covered all the items she would recommend and stated, “My headlamp saved my life!! That became most valuable item. I will pack at least two next time I go. I had two with me during the earthquake, and was able to give one to a doctor. My only regret was I didn’t have more!”

Travel Emergency Kit Headlamp

Photo Courtesy of Molly Randles- Molly Randles Photography

When I asked Molly what she would say to those who believed such a catastrophic event could never happen to them, she replied, “I had never been in a natural disaster in my life, and will never again believe it could never happen to me! I will always travel with an emergency kit from now on.”

So what should you pack? Here are the items I recommend:


Travel Emergency Kit Contents

For your convenience I have added links to the products mentioned. If you make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. The earnings will go toward the operation of this website. I appreciate your support!

Aid and Protection

These items are all really lightweight and don’t take up much space at all in your luggage. I am now going to have them in my luggage every time I travel.


travel emergency kit

  • Spare Batteries
  • Water Purification Tablets
  • Printed list of emergency and family contacts-not pictured
  • Whistle
  • Utility Knife-not pictured (This is something I don’t pack as a flight attendant, but if you are checking your bags you could bring one—knives are not allowed by TSA in carry on luggage. If you are staying for a week or so in any area, it may be worth buying one at your location.)

Comfort Items

  • Tissues
  • Baby Wipes
  • Chewing Gum
  • Bubbles -Even when I’m not traveling with my kids I always have a small tube of bubbles with me. Imagine how this could come in handy to cheer a frightened child in an emergency situation. Or even help an adult who might be hyperventilating or just need a distraction.
  • Backpack—My flight attendant uniform code doesn’t include a backpack, so when I’m traveling for work I pack a small backpack in my luggage for creating a grab-and-go emergency pack. I just switch the items into the backpack once I check into my hotel room. When traveling with the kids, I always use a backpack. So once in the hotel or lodging I just swap out the travel items for the emergency items so they are always ready. It is very useful to have a chest strap on the backpack to help evenly distribute the weight.

  • Starbucks VIA (Okay, this is obviously not a necessity and if you’re in a situation where water is scarce you really won’t be thinking about coffee. But I figured it weighs next to nothing and if there was some reason I had to rush from the hotel (like because of a fire) but still had access to water, etc., I would be really happy to some good coffee. So I added a few packets of Starbucks VIA instant coffee to my earthquake kit. Better safe than sorry. 😉

Additional Items

  • Purse
  • Passport (at least if outside of your home country)
  • Room Key
  • Light Sweater
  • Lightweight Shirt and Pants
  • Spare Contacts/Contact Case and Solution
  • Glasses
  • Sunglasses

The above items I would pack in my emergency travel kit when staying by myself in a hotel.  If I was traveling with my kids, there would be additional things to pack:

For the Kids

I would actually pack a second backpack in order to be prepared for them. Hat, clothes, water, emergency blankets, ponchos, and food bars would be important to pack for each child. Also I would want to add a backup of any comfort item for your child. For my daughter Ella (at age 8) I would pack a small plush toy, and for my son John (at age 3) I would pack his monkey blanket lovey and a pacifier. I would be sure to add children’s pain reliever, noise canceling ear muffs for Ella, who can be sensitive to loud noises, and at least 8 diapers if my child was still in diapers. With my kids I would also throw in this emergency tube tent. I should probably add that for my own emergency kit as well.

I really like the idea of ID bracelets, like this RoadID (not an affiliate link).  When Ella was four years old we got her one. We got the plastic band type and printed her name plus each parent’s name and phone number. When riding his bicycle husband uses the interactive one.  You register your information and then emergency personnel can access the information in case you are incapacitated. I think it’s a great idea for kids so that emergency information is accessible if they are separated from you.

I’m writing this post in April, which is Autism Awareness Month, so it got me thinking about tips for emergency preparedness when traveling with a child who has autism. I asked Margalit Francus, from Austic Globetrotting, what she does to prepare for emergencies in the hotel when traveling with her autistic son. She gave some great tips which actually are good to follow each and every time you are in a hotel with your children, whether or not they have special needs:

“After putting my bags down I take my son and show him the nearest exit and then we count how many doors to the left or right the exit is so that in case of a fire with all the smoke we can figure out where the exit is. I always put a business card of the hotel in my son’s pocket so he can tell people where he is staying if he gets lost.” –Margalit Francus, Autistic Globetrotting


What to do in an Earthquake

Fifty percent of the United States’ population is said to be at moderate risk of a damaging earthquake, according to this article. It’s good to familiarize yourself with the hotel’s recommendations on what to do in case of an earthquake. I don’t know why, but until a few years ago, when I finally read the information on the back of a hotel room door, I thought that in an earthquake you should get out of the hotel. Not so! It is recommended that you stay in your room, under a door frame if possible, until the quake ends. Be prepared for aftershocks and don’t leave the room unless there is a hotel announcement telling you to do so. Of course avoid the elevators, which may lose power in an earthquake. Only take the stairs but again, don’t leave the room unless directed by hotel management.


So now that you’ve read my recommendations, and the reason I think it’s important to have a Travel Emergency Kit, what do you think? Do you pack a travel kit like this for emergencies? Would you add any additional items? Do you think I’ve gone overboard? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below or on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages. Maybe I’ll add your recommendation to this post!

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Anytime Fun with Marshmallows

fun with marshmallows

If you’re looking for a fun activity whether on the plane or at home trying to avoid the summer heat, grab a bag of mini-marshmallows! You can have so much fun with marshmallows.  If you lick one end then it sticks! Ella had fun sticking them on her nose. Of course this can get a little gooey, but I think if you stick to the tiny marshmallows it can still be easily cleaned up with diaper wipes. Another thing you can do with the older kids is build with marshmallows using toothpicks. Keep in mind the temperament of your child. Ella would get quite upset if her marshmallow building fell over during turbulence, so I probably wouldn’t do marshmallow building on the plane with her. Other kids might not mind as much and it can be a great way for your child to pass time on the plane while using creative and mathematical skills. Win-win!


(This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. When you make a purchase using these links I may receive a small commission from the purchase at no additional cost to you. I appreciate your support!)

Bring a few small containers of assorted snacks, such as mini-marshmallows, chocolate chips, mini pretzels,etc. Encourage your child to mix them, sort them, or create patterns. Who says you shouldn’t play with your food? If you’re grossed out by the idea of them putting their food on the tray table, bring along some disposable table liners, such as these:

I love these Baby Einstein Stick on Placemats because they can be an activity in themselves. You can color on them with dry erase markers (or crayons). they provide a good surface for Play-Doh, and you can read them and talk about the colors and shapes.

What do you think of these ideas for fun with marshmallows? Are there any that you think would be great (or terrible) for your child? Leave a comment below to let us know!


This post was part of Photo Friday at DeliciousBaby.com in 2012 and updated with content added in 2016. Check out the Delicious Baby link for some great photos and travel tips/stories from other great travel bloggers.


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Welcome to Travel Tuesday Quick Tip, a weekly series where I share a quick tip for flying with kids. Most of these tips apply whether or not you have kids. This week my tip is to pack spare clothes. What do I mean? Of course when you’re flying you’re packing spare clothes! What I’m talking about is if you check your luggage. Be sure to pack in your carry on bag a spare change of clothes, down to the underwear, for everyone traveling with you. As parents, we usually do pack at least one spare outfit for a baby, but often as the child gets older this might seem less necessary. I also see many adults travel without a change of clothes in their carry on. You might think it’s not that important, especially on a shorter flight, but let me tell you, although you might not often need spare clothes, when you need them, you REALLY need them. There are four major reasons you might need a spare change of clothes in flight:


Diaper blowouts can affect more than just the baby’s outfit. Remember these blowouts very rarely happen at a convenient time. That means your chances for it occurring at the very beginning of your flight are high. It’s great that you brought a spare change of clothes for the baby, but if you didn’t pack any for yourself then you and your seatmates get to sit there, smelling the lovely odor for the entire flight. Not fun. Good thing these babies are so cute!

Pack Spare Clothes

(This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase through these links I may receive a small commission. This will go toward the cost of operating this website. I appreciate your support!)

One product that we have tried is Melzy Baby’s Blowout Blocker. This is a fleece wrap that extends from the diaper up the baby’s back to catch blowouts and prevent clothes from being soiled. It works! It saved us on at least three occasions.



Those tiny little airsickness bags provided in the seat pocket aren’t very good at containing projectile vomiting. I’ve seen it happen more than once. Usually without any warning.

Pack Spare Clothes

On one flight I was working, a child got sick right after takeoff. He vomited all over his mom, completely drenching her, poor woman! She had checked all her spare clothes and it was only the first hour of a six hour flight. I felt so bad for her that I offered her my clothes. The only thing I had was a spare uniform shirt. She was more well endowed than I, so she could barely button the shirt, but at least it wasn’t vomit-soaked! The really bad thing is if it isn’t even your child who is vomiting. It could be the stranger sitting next to you! Thankfully this is a rare occurrence, but really, it’s so worth being prepared.


While it’s not the end of the world if a can of tomato or orange juice spills on you, it really can be uncomfortable. One time I was flying as a passenger to work the next flight. I was wearing my uniform and accepted a cup of orange juice for a pre-departure drink. I forgot it was there and knocked it over into my lap, soaking my pants (and underpants!) with orange juice. I still had nine hours on duty that day! Although I didn’t have another pair of uniform pants, I did have underwear and jeans. I went into the lavatory and changed, washed my uniform pants as best I could in the lavatory sink, and hung them up to dry as much as possible before I went on duty on the next flight. Even if you’re not doing anything important after the flight, do you really want to sit in orange juice soaked pants for the duration of the flight? I didn’t think so. Remember, it could be another passenger or flight attendant who accidentally spills on you. (Ask me about the time I spilled tomato juice on a passenger headed to a presentation.)


Again, it thankfully doesn’t happen often, but you never know when your two hour flight might become some kind of crazy twenty hour travel day (and night!). If you experience a diversion or a delay which requires you to wait overnight for your flight, you might sometimes be able to retrieve your checked luggage, but sometimes the circumstances do not allow for that. Always pack your carry on bag with this in mind and bring a change of clothes, toothbrushes, medicines, contacts and glasses, and any other things that are important to you for an overnight stay somewhere unexpected. If you want some ideas of what to pack, check out this post on what’s in my backpack when flying with an infant.

Bottom line: it’s always better to be safe than sorry. It’s important and useful to lightly pack, but just as important is to be prepared. A spare change of clothes can help redeem a bad travel day.

Do you have a story to share of a time when you were glad you packed spare clothes in your carry on bag? Or a time when you wished you had? I’d love to hear it! Tell me in the comments below. If I get several good stories I’ll feature them in another post. (Be sure to tell enter your website if you have a blog of your own and I’ll credit you if featuring your story.)

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In almost every airport restroom there is one thing which strikes fear in the souls of most small children: the auto-flush toilet. The noise of it is bad enough, but if you are a tiny child, already afraid of falling into the huge toilet, to have that toilet flush while you are sitting on it is absolutely terrifying. I’m going to share with you the simplest trick I learned along the way for surviving the auto-flush toilet.

It’s really very, very simple:

Use Sticky Notes or stickers

When you enter the restroom stall, simply place a Post-It Note (or large sticker) over the auto-flush sensor. Then you can prep the toilet with a toilet seat cover without fear of it getting sucked down before your child has a chance to sit. Once you have the seat cover on, your child can use the toilet and you won’t have to battle the shock that comes with the toilet flushing while your child is seated.

You can also use these sticky-notes for something for your child to draw on or for making a mosaic when bored on the plane. What other uses can you think of for using them when traveling? Tell us in the comments below. Maybe we’ll feature your tip in an upcoming post!

That’s it! I really thought everyone knew this trick, and I know a lot of you do, but I keep sharing this idea in various parenting forums I am in, and it is a new idea to many. So if you already use this, great! Share with your friends so that everyone else can know this easy trick for surviving the auto-flush toilet.


Thanks for checking in today for Travel Tuesday Quick Tips! If you find this useful, I’d love it if you would share with your friends!

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Quick Tip: Pack Battery Backup

For today’s Travel Tip, I’m sharing with you as usual my tips from the viewpoint of both a flight attendant and a mom. My goal in this blog is to help parents enjoy flying with their kids, as they feel confident and empowered when they are fully prepared. This tip about battery backup is for EVERYONE who flies, not just parents. It’s simple, but you never want to leave home without this:

Battery Backup

Most major airlines’ planes now have power ports (outlets) in many or most seats. Of course it is smart to look up the type of aircraft you are flying to see if there will be access to power on your flight. You’ll also want to check out what type of plug you will need in order to use these outlets (DC, AC, or USB). HOWEVER, I have both worked on and flown as a passenger on many flights where the power, for one reason or another, was not working. You may think, “Oh well, the flight is only two hours long, I won’t need to charge my phone/the kid’s iPad/the DVD player, etc.” Well, let me remind you that there can be all kinds of reasons why you might need battery backup. Mechanical and weather delays, diversions…you really never know for sure how long your travel day will be. I like to be prepared “just in case”.

So what battery backup is best? I’ve bought at least 8 different ones, and these two brands have been the best I’ve used, both for their price and their ability to charge:

(The links provided here are for your shopping convenience. If you make a purchase through these links I may receive a tiny commission which will go toward the operation of this blog. I appreciate your support!)

 Duracell Instant USB Charger

This small charger is great for items like the iPod touch and can bring it back up to about 60% battery from 5% or keep it going for an extra hour to two hours if my kids are watching videos on the iPod touch. It will keep my iPhone 5s going for another hour to three hours, even while I’m using it. It’s not enough power to charge a tablet, but it can extend it’s running time. It’s really small (5.1 x 1.5 x 5.9 inches and lightweight (4 ounces)—about the size of a pack of gum.  Also right now you can get it on Amazon for only $6.00 (originally $30)! *Amazon prices may change at any time, check the price at checkout to verify.*  I actually have 4 of these in the house, always carrying at least one of them in my travel bag.

Jackery Giant+ Dual USB Portable Battery Charger

I bought this for my husband a couple of years ago so he could have a back-up charger for his Kindle. It wasn’t long before I started using it myself when flying and I soon claimed it as my own. Although this battery back up is large (4.3 inches x 3.1 inches x 0.8 inches) and heavy (1 pound), it really is great for times when you can’t get power otherwise. I was able to fully recharge 6 iphones, while in use, on this battery and still had more than 25% battery power left. It has dual USB ports, so you can charge two devices at the same time, and also has a flashlight. I love this for it’s value in case of emergencies. If there is some reason you are in a hotel or even at home and without power for an extended time, this charger would be great to have. The price right now is just $23.99 (retail $129.95).

Jackery Bar External Battery Charger

Since I loved the Jackery Giant Battery Charger so much, I decided to purchase their smaller version for something more lightweight. This charger is perfect for tossing in your purse or backpack to have when you’re walking around town and just want to be sure you’ll have battery backup in case you need it. It will charge my iPhone 5s two to three times from 5% to 100%. It is about half the size of the Jackery Giant, at 0.9 inches x 3.8 inches x 1.8 inches and weighing 0.71 pounds. At this time it’s on sale for only $14.99 (retail $89.95).

There are lots of options for battery backup out there, and I’m sure most do the job. When choosing a battery charger, I would be sure to look for something that claims it can charge a tablet. Ideally you want a charger that can recharge your smart phone a few times, not just keep it going for an extra hour.

Do you usually travel with extra battery power?  Do you carry the charger with you on the plane, or just depend on the power outlets? Do you think about having a charger with you in case of power outages in hotels, etc.?  If you have a favorite, we’d love to hear about it. Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter pages.

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Reduce Anxiety for Your Sensitive Child

If you have a child who is sensitive to his/her environment, the airport can be overwhelming. The lights can be harsh and the crowds and noise can be scary to a sensitive child. One way to help reduce the sensory overload is to let your child wear a floppy hat. This will help decrease some of the visual stimulation that is too much for them. Kind of like blinders on a horse, a floppy hat allows your child to focus on what’s before them instead of being distracted by everything else surrounding them.

sensitive child hat

Floppy Hat

For more tips about helping your sensitive child when traveling, read my tips on helping your child stay calm on a plane.

Does your child get overwhelmed by visual stimuli? What other tips do you have to add? Ella actually loves all the lights and activity in the airport and doesn’t get overwhelmed by it, yet she does love wearing her floppy hat. I think it helps her choose what things she wants to focus on. If you have a sensitive child, what are the things that make it most difficult for you when you travel? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below, or you can share with us on our Facebook or Twitter page.

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Choosing Shannon Airport for Your Ireland Flight

Best Ireland Airport

Have you ever felt like an airport was a highlight of your trip? I have! Twice. And both times it was Shannon Airport on the west coast of Ireland.

Guest Author Jody Halstead, of Ireland Family Vacations, shares with us her insight on the Shannon Airport: 


Arriving in Ireland as the sun begins to peek over the horizon is a shock to the system. Which is not helped by long lines at Customs and car rental counters. So you can imagine our surprise when, after making a quick stop at the restroom after deplaning, our family walked directly up to a Customs agent, had our passports stamped, and were through in 2 minutes! Though the car rental took a bit longer, we were out of the Shannon airport and beginning our Ireland vacation within 30 minutes of landing!

Why Choose Shannon Airport for Your Ireland Flight?

The first step to planning your Ireland family vacation is booking your flights. And while that may seem like a no-brainer it’s one of my own toughest decisions. Because, though Dublin Airport is larger and often has lower rates, Shannon is the easier airport and, to my mind, worth the extra cash.

Across the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge, County Antrim

What makes Shannon Airport my choice?

1) Location

Cliffs of Moher Cliffs Walk Collage (1)

Shannon is centrally located on Ireland’s west coast. From here you can be to the Cliffs of Moher in an hour, Galway in 90 minutes, Limerick in 30 minutes, or Killarney in 2 hours.

Ross Castle Killarney NP


Jaunting Cart Killarney NP

Fabulous Dromoland Castle Hotel is a mere 20 minutes away, as is Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. In fact, your entire vacation could be spent within 3 hours of Shannon Airport and you would leave with attractions unseen and activities undone.


2) Ease of use

As a smaller international airport, Shannon is just easy. Fewer flights use this airport so crowds are smaller, wait times are shorter, and, as such, everyone – from airport staff to passengers- are just more relaxed.

3) Shopping

This may seem odd since most airports are like shopping malls now, but shopping at Shannon Airport is a bit special as the world’s first Duty Free shop was established here in 1947. Enjoy a bit of nostalgia while grabbing those last minute souvenirs and biscuits to nibble during your flight home.

4) Guest comfort

If you do find yourself waiting for your flight consider a pass to the Executive Lounge. It’s open to everyone, no matter your flight or ticket class, for only $25. Amenities include complimentary refreshments, comfortable seating, and a flight departure monitor. Wifi is free throughout the terminal.

*Editor’s Note: According to this unofficial airport guide, Shannon Airport has a children’s play area located on the Departures floor next to gate 7.  Surprisingly, there are no diaper changing facilities inside security, although there are two outside security: one is  located on the far side wall of the arrivals area, next to the exit to Coach Park 1. The other is in the center,  between the Londis Shop and WHSmith bookstore.

5) Caéd míle fáilte

Ireland’s legendary ‘hundred thousand welcomes’ are evident whether you are arriving or departing. Staff aren’t too busy for a kind word, or to inquire about your trip.

Live Music in Clifden 2012 (1)


6) Leaving is easier from Shannon.

Sheep at Sheep's Head Peninsula County Cork

OK, it’s never really easy to leave Ireland. But if, like me, you mix up your actual departure time with the time you think you need to be at the airport, you may still actually catch your flight. My family made it through- check in, security, VAT, US security & Preclearance – in 27 minutes. I certainly don’t recommend it, but it can be done. (Had that happened in Dublin we would have been in Ireland an additional day!)

When it’s time to plan your Ireland vacation be sure to consider Shannon Airport. It may be the best decision you make! To discover everything you can do near the Shannon airport, explore counties Clare, Galway, Limerick and Kerry from the interactive map on Ireland Family Vacations.

When in Dublin... with Molly Malone


Jody Halsted has been traveling across Ireland for over a decade with her own children, discovering the most family friendly sites and activities on the tourist trail and off. Dedicated to Ireland family travel, her website Ireland Family Vacations, provides exceptional advice for a magical Ireland vacation. For families looking for a perfectly tailored Ireland vacation, Jody offers Ireland vacation coaching, working with your family to help you choose the perfect lodging, destinations, and activities to fit your budget, interests, and expectations.

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St. Thomas With Kids: Day Two—Charlotte Amalie


Charlotte Amalie:

If you’re vacationing in St. Thomas or looking for activities close to port when on a cruise, here are some ways to spend the day in St. Thomas in Charlotte Amalie, where the cruise ships dock.

Day Two St. Thomas With Kids

IMG_3253 (1)

St. Thomas with Kids on Day Two: On our second day in St. Thomas, USVI, we drove down to Charlotte Amalie. This post is part three of my series on what to do in St. Thomas with kids, in which I share what our family with Ella, age 7, and John, age 3, did in St. Thomas. You can read here about our Travel Day  and our first day, Beach Day.

Sky Ride to Paradise Point

Charlotte Amalie Skyride Kids Enjoy

The SkyRide to Paradise Point may very well be the most popular attraction in St. Thomas. It’s a tram ride that takes you to the top of Paradise Point, where you have a spectacular view of the ocean and island. It’s really a very simple attraction. Once you take the tram to the top, you step out and explore. There are some gift shops, a restaurant, and on some days, a bird show. For the kids, the tram ride and bird show are the most exciting parts. For the adults, the amazing view is the reason to go here.

Charlotte Amalie Skyride Lookout

5 Things to know:

  1. There are very steep stairs to climb to get to the tram and to get to the shops/restaurant. There are no elevators. Don’t bring a stroller to this attraction. If anyone in your group has difficulty with stairs, you might want to consider skipping this attraction.
  2. The bird show no longer follows the schedule you find posted online and in brochures. Shawna, who does the bird shows, is now performing at the Casino of Dreams Sugar Bay in addition to her shows at Paradise Point. The schedule is intermittent, so it’s best to not tell the kids about it until you get there to confirm there will be birds and a show that day. We have visited Paradise Point every year for at least the last five years, and every time we go, Shawna, the “bird show lady”, says she’s not likely to be at Paradise Point for much longer. So just be aware that the bird show may or may not be there when you arrive. The day we visited she was there with the birds, but canceled the show since we were the only tourists there. She still let us pay for photos with the birds, though ($20 for an 8×10 print plus she will take many photos with your phone or camera for you to keep). This was the highlight of Ella’s day!
  3. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and bug repellent for this excursion. There are lots of shaded areas but you will still be in the bright sun a lot, and this attraction is outdoors.
  4. Bring your camera. The view is spectacular!
  5. Bring drinks or buy some at the restaurant to stay hydrated.

Very steep stairs, no elevator:

Charlotte Amalie Skyride Steep Steps

Charlotte Amalie SkyRide Stairs

Ella just adored the birds!

Charlotte Amalie Skyride Bird Show Fun

Family Portrait with some birds. A yearly tradition for us.

Charlotte Amalie Skyride Birds

The amazing view from the bar/restaurant area.

Charlotte Amalie Skyride Island View

John got a little grouchy being so hot and tired.

Charlotte Amalie Skyride Tired Preschooler

Senor Frogs

Charlotte Amalie Senor Frogs Grandparents

There are a number of restaurants where you can eat for lunch, but we drove over to Senor Frogs. This was a fun restaurant. When we went it was practically empty, so it was a nice relaxed meal for us. But it is obviously set up as a party restaurant, with a huge bar (with room to dance or hula hoop on it!), a swimming pool, loud music, and balloons. I’m not sure it would be our style of restaurant in a crowd, but we enjoyed it when it was quiet. We tried the Chicken Nachos, Chicken Burrito, Chicken Salad, and Cheese Quesadillas and Fries.  Any of you who are from Texas, like me, will be as alarmed as I was to find Swiss cheese in the burrito! In my mind Swiss cheese has no place in Mexican Food.  The portions were very large, and it was overall an “okay” meal. I wouldn’t say it was impressive, but with the exception of the Swiss cheese in the burrito, it wasn’t disappointing. The kids really enjoyed the balloons that the hostess made for them, and when John’s balloon sword popped and he was devastated, they quickly made another for him. The main reason we chose Senor Frogs for lunch is that it is right across the parking lot from the Butterfly Garden, our next stop.

Balloon Hats gave fun entertainment while we waited for food.

Charlotte Amalie Senor Frogs Fun

Charlotte Amalie Senor Frogs Funny Balloon Hat

Charlotte Amalie Senor Frogs Tall Balloon Hat

Butterfly Garden

Charlotte Amalie Butterfly Garden Photo

The Butterfly Garden was a nice spot to relax with the kids…theoretically…Keeping John up through his nap time made him a crazy-hyper little guy, so he required full attention from one adult the whole time to keep him from running (and potentially squashing a butterfly) and climbing through the landscaping. Ella had a fabulous time walking around and observing the butterflies. We were there at around 2pm. The butterflies are more active in the morning, when it is cooler. I didn’t feel there were that many butterflies in the exhibit, but this can change week to week, depending on when they emerge from their cocoons. Before entering the exhibit, the employees gave a nice introductory talk with some interesting facts about butterflies. I observed many butterflies in this exhibit with damaged wings, which was very sad. Be sure to keep an eye on your children and make sure no one is touching the butterflies’ wings.

Charlotte Amalie Butterfly Garden photography

Charlotte Amalie Butterfly Garden Butterfly and Lizard

Charlotte Amalie Butterfly Garden Happiness

Charlotte Amalie Butterfly Garden Butterfly

Charlotte Amalie Butterfly Garden Butterfly in Tree

Ella enjoyed walking around for nearly an hour, observing butterflies, lizards, and foliage.

Charlotte Amalie Butterfly Garden Walking

After these three activities we were ready to go back to the condo to relax. My husband Wally and Ella went to the beach for a quick (and cold!) swim,  and John was so exhausted that I put him to bed at 5:30pm. I wasn’t sure if this would be a late nap or early bedtime. When he stayed soundly asleep, I decided to let him sleep through, risking a middle of the night awakening. I was amazed that he slept until 7:30am!

That was our day two in St. Thomas. Does this sound like a fun day to you? Would your kids enjoy the SkyRide or the Butterfly Garden more?

Charlotte Amalie Butterfly Garden Photo Op

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