We are vacationing in St. Thomas this week with our kids, Ella, age 7 (nearly 8), and John, age 3. I thought I’d write a series on what to with kids in St. Thomas. This is our travel day to St. Thomas:
We left our house in New York at 4am to drive to the airport for a 7am flight. There was snow in the forecast and we hoped and prayed it wouldn’t affect our travel. Luckily, although it did start to snow right when we left the house, it was only light flurries and didn’t affect the roads. There was no delay on the flight, just a few minutes extra at the gate for de-icing fluid. I had no sleep the night before, as I was up until 1am packing and just couldn’t sleep once I laid down. In spite of the fact that I’m very experienced with packing, it always takes me a minimum of three hours to pack and organize, since I’m usually doing laundry and decluttering as I go. I could have packed a few days earlier, but I never seem to have time, so I would have been up until 1am whenever I chose to do it.
As we started loading the car, I realized that the pin holding my GoGoBabyz TravelMate wheels (which attach to John’s car seat to make it a stroller) was broken! , Bad timing! If I had realized it before, then I could have called Go-Go-Babyz for a replacement pin. In the past when I have needed parts they have been great about getting them to me in time for travel. I’m lucky that I noticed, however, since we had time to grab the umbrella stroller. We usually use the car seat attached to the GoGoBabyz wheels to get through the airport, either with John sitting in it as a stroller, or with our bags loaded on it. Then we gate check the car seat since John is big enough now to sit in the airplane seat safely with the C.A.R.E.S. Harness. This time we just checked the car seat with our checked bags (there is no charge to check car seats or strollers), and gate checked the umbrella stroller.
TRAVEL TIP: SAVE TIME AT THE AIRPORT:
- When flying with young children, check bags curbside. We usually do this when we are checking more than two bags. It’s just so much less hassle than struggling to get the bags to the ticket counter. Especially if you have a car seat without the wheels to transport it! When the kids are older we should be able to manage better with their help, but while they are young, curbside check is so useful! Be sure to tip the skycap.
- TSA PreCheck is great for an easier time getting through TSA security checkpoints! My husband, Wally, and I both got our Global Entry Cards recently. With Global Entry you automatically get TSA precheck as do your children under 12 who are traveling with you. However when actually using the Global Entry Card in Customs, children must apply for and purchase their own Global Entry Card in order to go through the Global Entry line with you. You can find more details and apply at TSA.gov.
Here is Ella, going down the jetbridge to the plane. She carries her own rolling backpack with a change of clothes, her busy bag, an a blanket and pillow. The advertising on the walls is very distracting to her; she wants to stop and read it all! I had to remind her to keep walking.
In flight kids were great. I can’t believe they could be so good when we woke them up at 4am. Ella took a little twenty minute snooze just before takeoff. Mid-flight John was coloring and asked me to help him. I started coloring as he watched, and he fell asleep watching me color! We did have one little episode where Ella got angry at a game she was playing on her Nintendo DS. She has difficulty managing her emotions, especially when she’s tired, and she hit the Nintendo DS and it broke. Oops! Luckily the outburst was short lived. I took the Nintendo DS so it wouldn’t be in front of her to remind her of the incident, distracted her with food, and helped her move on to another activity. We saved the discussion about self-control for later, when she was calm and not trapped in an airplane full of strangers.
TRAVEL TIP: Activities for Preschooler
A few of the items I packed for John (age 3) for this trip that were a hit:
- Emptied spice bottle with toothpicks. We dumped out the toothpicks and he picked them up and stuck them through the holes on the lid. Great for working on fine-motor skills!
- Activity pack: I found this Laurie Toys Primer Pack on Amazon for only $9. (Check pricing, at time of this post the current price is $11.31. Still a bargain.) It contained 3 foam shape puzzles, 3 lacing cards, a locking structure building set, and an alphabet puzzle. What a deal! Ella actually enjoyed playing with these things (except the puzzles) also. I left the Alphabet puzzle at home so we wouldn’t lose any of those pieces, and put all the rest in a Quart-sized Ziploc bag for storage.
- Magic Ink Coloring Book. John has really just started enjoying coloring. He actually colored two pages on this flight. It doesn’t sound like much, but he used to just do two scribbles and be done. This time he actually spent about 10-15 minutes with the coloring activity.
I almost forgot to mention how relieved I was that John didn’t have any issues with ear pressure on this flight! He had a bad cold last week and woke up the day prior to our flight with signs of an ear infection. I followed our doctor’s recommendations for congestion relief, and prayed he wouldn’t experience ear pain. He only showed signs of discomfort for one moment and I told him to yawn. He did, and never complained again about his ears. WHEW!
There’s nothing like a sleeping child on an airplane. After Ella only sleeping 3 of 100 flights after the age of ten months, it is a relief to me any time John falls asleep in flight. I admit, I get jealous when I see other kids sleeping easily in flight.
I had to hold his head up for descent. He slept until just before touchdown in Miami.
The view of Miami Beach before landing:
We took two flights: New York JFK to Miami, and then Miami to St. Thomas. In Miami we had a couple of hours before our St. Thomas flight. That was nice, because it gave us enough time to walk without rushing between gates, which were about a mile apart. We stopped by gift shops, rode the sky train, and had a snack. John got a little wild as we waited for our flight, and was running around in circles and climbing chairs. It was exhausting trying to keep him corralled. At least he wasn’t running away. Ella was occupied with a smoothie and people watching.
Fun Alligator shelf holder in a gift shop.
Riding the sky train.
Miami Airport has some really fun art incorporated in the airport design. There are fossil shapes in the flooring and several large pieces of art, such as fish sculptures, on the walls. I didn’t take pictures of the art there on this visit, but I have some of it on my Instagram page, and will post more next time I go through Miami. When Ella was 3 and 4 years old, it took forever to get around the Miami Airport because she just had to stop and look at all the cool designs. She’s better now at moving along.
View on the ground in Miami.
Our second flight was pretty easy. We were all so excited to almost be there. I caught a little catnap as John watched some videos on the iPod touch. My husband, Wally, and Ella were sitting in the window/middle seats on one side of the aircraft and John and I were middle/window on the other side, so each adult was managing one child. Ella spent most of the second flight watching the clouds and ocean out the window. I didn’t get any pictures of her since I was on the other side of the plane.
When we finally got to St. Thomas, the kids’ grandparents were waiting for us at the airport. We immediately changed into warm weather clothes and then retrieved our checked bags. Then headed to the rental car for the 45 minute drive (in traffic) to the condo. I’m really glad I packed Hyland’s Homeopathic Motion Sickness tablets. The windy roads always make Ella car sick. I have to remember to give them to her before we start the drive next time! Luckily her motion sickness was not severe, and the tablets worked. When we got in I immediately unpacked our things so I’d be able to find everything. Empty bags went under the bed, medicines were all collected in one area, and blackout shades were pinned with clothespins to the existing curtains.
Fourteen hours after waking up, we donned our swimsuits and headed to the beach! Well, Wally and Ella did. Actually John walked on the beach with Grandma while I continued to unpack. Wally and Ella took a quick and cold swim, we all had dinner, then called it a day. Wally laid down and fell asleep at 8:30 with shoes on and a headlamp flashlight over his head! He woke up a couple of hours later to properly get ready for bed. I am surprised that even though I didn’t sleep at all the night before, I didn’t feel any more tired than I usually do when traveling with the kids. I guess this might be because it’s always exhausting! But still, it’s so much fun in spite of that. And this week we’re enjoying 85 degrees Fahrenheit and sunshine while back home it’s snowing and 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Definitely worth the long travel day!
I’m going to attempt to write more this year on the blog, starting with a series on our week here in St. Thomas. Follow our adventures here and on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. As I work on reorganizing this website and dedicating more time to writing, I’d love to hear what kinds of things you’d like to see more of on the blog. Comment below or on social media to let me know if you’d like to see more tips, more stories, more photos, or something else. I appreciate your feedback and input!!