Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Travel-Tot Tip: Cheers and Sneers!

A giant SNEER this week to United Airlines for their recent decision to end coach-class pre-boarding for families travelling with young children.  Classy move, United... and just in time for summer! 

The good news?  The following carriers still believe that all families (not just those who can afford to fly "elite class") deserve the chance to settle in a few minutes early: JetBlue, Virgin, American, and Delta - big CHEERS to these family-friendly carriers! 

You have a choice this summer parents: make your voice heard!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Museums: The World Through Your Child's Eyes!

Museums can be a great opportunity for children to experience people, places, art, music, history, science, and other aspects of the world that they may not otherwise have had the chance to be exposed to; but discovering all these things in a way that will leave them excited, engaged, and eager to learn more requires some planning and expectation-management!  So if you love museums, but are apprehensive about exploring them with your kids, these few quick tips can help you keep your tour on track!

image of the Louvre courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. Have realistic expectations:  Your children will explore a museum differently than you; don't expect to spend a great amount of time at each exhibit, rather let your children gravitate toward the exhibits which best capture their fancy!

2. Plan and prepare:  Be sure children are well-rested for the adventure and plan your visit around mealtimes (though a quick snack in the museum eatery can be a fun way to break up the exploring if your budget allows!). Before you get to the museum, discuss basic museum etiquette (no touching, no running, no yelling, etc.) and share information with your children about what they will be seeing (i.e. art, music, science, history, etc.).  When you enter the museum, be sure to take a map or make a note of where the restrooms, sitting areas, and eateries are located in case you need a break!

3. Go with the flow: When you enter an exhibit, allow your child to lead the exploring and share with you what they most enjoy.  Ask them simple, age-appropriate questions about what they are seeing (i.e. What do you like best?  What do you think the artist was thinking when he/she created this?  How does it make you feel?  What do you think this was used for?  How do you think this sounds?).  Share with them what you think about the exhibits (i.e. your favorites, why, and what they say to you)!

4. Check into special features for children:  Some museums have special children's programs, hands-on exhibits, areas where kids can sit and explore, child-geared audio tours, etc. that are designed to enhance the experience for families (but don't be afraid to trust your own judgement to decide whether the resource being offered is something you think would be helpful, or just something that would distract them and detract from the experience of interacting with the exhibits, which is why you are there after all!).

Happy and safe exploring!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Travel-Tot Tip!

Looking to get away but trying to make your dollars go the distance?  Consider "vacation rentals by owner" (VRBO)!  Not only do private rental properties generally cost less than a hotel room, but most properties can accomodate a larger number of guests than a standard room and most feature a full kitchen, which allows you to save on dining costs as well!  Other advantages of renting over hotel stays include: more privacy, greater diversity of accomodation styles and amenities (waterfront, mountain, pool, beach front, etc.), and greater flexibility with respect to accomodating pets.  Our favorite resource for VRBO, with almost 200,000 properties spanning the globe, is Vacation Rentals By Owner; check it out before you book your next getaway!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Vacation Safely: Expert Advice from Calm Baby RN!

Alisa Underwood
This week, Travel-Tot is thrilled to feature a guest blog by Alisa Underwood, RN, BSN, IBCLC! Alisa is the mother of 4 beautiful young children and is the owner and founder of Calm Baby RN, LLC, northern NJ's New Jersey’s Premier New Baby Support Company.  Alisa brings to her clientele  a vast array of expertise gained from working as a Neonatal ICU (NICU RN), OB/GYN Nurse Specialist, clinical educator, and consultant with various companies developing breastfeeding and newborn products.  We are very excited to present Alisa's expert advice on vacationing safely!


The memories you make on vacation with your family will last a lifetime, taking a few simple steps to keep everyone safe will help ensure those memories are of happy times and not of accidents and injury or worse.

Car Seats

If going on a car trip, take an extra few minutes to have your car seats checked out by your local police department to ensure they are properly installed. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that “3 out of 4 car seats are not used correctly” ~ a scary thought! Most towns offer a free service from NHTSA trained police officers for car seat inspection, installation and teaching.

Check out this link to NHTSA’s website to find an inspection station near you.  Familiarize yourself with the following NHTSA car seat recommendations:

    Birth - 12 months
  • Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat.
  • There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.
    1 - 3 years
  • Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.
    4 - 7 years
  • Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.
    8 - 12 years
  • Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.
Safety Tips

1. Feverishly Preparing - The unexpected fever, cold, ear ache can turn a fun trip upside-down. Not all over-the-counter medicines have dosages for babies and small children. Using a 3x5 card jot down common meds, ie: Children's Advil, Benadryl, Tylenol. Make sure to note which preparation it is such as “Infant Drops” Children’s Liquid”. Common medicines and their dosages can be easily found online, when in doubt verify the dose with your pediatrician. A good place to check online is Ask Dr. Sears. On the same card write down your pediatrician’s phone number to make a quick call if needed. Pack the card in your carry-on bag.

2. Sun Fun - Time FLIES when you’re having fun. Often time kids are adequately lathered in sunscreen at the beginning of the day yet as the fun begins and time starts to fly the Re-application gets forgotten.
  • A minimum of SPF 30 and waterproof if swimming
  • Sunscreen is for all children 6 months and older REGARDLESS of skin tone. Even darker skin can still burn
  • Initial application should be 15-30 minutes before setting out
  • Set a reminder on your phone and reapply as often as every 2 hours
  • Take shade breaks. Take advantage of lunch and snack breaks to also get a break from the sun. Use umbrellas, go indoors, find a tree and give your skin a sun break while you recharge with some food.
  • The sun is the most powerful between 10am-4pm
  • Don’t be fooled by cloudy or overcast days, clouds do not filter UV rays and burns happen quickly when you least expect it
3. Heat Exhaustion and Dehydration -  Heat stroke and heat exhaustion occurs when an individual gets extremely hot quickly. Babies and young children are particularly at risk for this dangerous condition. If outside temps are severe it is always best to keep small children indoors.  Follow these important guidelines in hot weather:
  • DO NOT OVER DRESS BABIES - if outside on a hot day or going for a long car ride be sure to dress your baby in cool layers.
  • PREVENT DEHYDRATION - offer fluids more frequently. Water, ice pops and Gatorade are good choices to replace fluid lost in the heat.
  • Initial signs of heat exhaustion are extreme thirst, fatigue, and believe it or not COOL moist skin. Move child immediately to a cool air conditioned area, give a cool bath, encourage lots of cool fluids. If any of the following occur CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY:
    • A temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius) or higher — but no sweating
    • Hot, red, dry skin
    • Rapid pulse
    • Restlessness
    • Confusion
    • Dizziness
    • Headache (which may make him irritable)
    • Vomiting
    • Rapid, shallow breathing
    • Lethargy (Your baby might not respond as strongly as usual when you call his name or tickle his skin, for example.)
    • Unconsciousness
image courtesy of Calm Baby RN

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Travel-Tot Tip!

Looking for some great educational apps for your little ones?  Check out these gems that combine learning with fun! 

Rocket Math - Make math fun!  This app covers not only numbers and counting, but more complex tasks such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, time, U.S. currency and more!

Stack the Countries - Watch as your kids become more worldly before your very eyes!  This app features flashcards for 193 countries including capitals, landmarks, major cities, continents, border countries, country shapes, flags, and languages!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Making Summer Safer

We all know that summer is a great time to get out and have some fun!  What you may not be aware of, however, is that summer is marked by a dramatic increase in accidental injuries and deaths among young children (aged 14 and under).  Data collected by Safe Kids Worldwide demonstrates that during summer months there is a marked increase in unintentional injury-related deaths attributed to drowning, biking, falls, and motor vehicle occupant activities among young children. 

The following guidelines and tips can help prevent such tragedies by reducing the likelihood of serious or fatal injury:

Water Safety

General: Always actively supervise children near water.  Begin teaching children to swim at age 4.  Teach children never to swim alone and never to dive into water less than 9-feet deep.  Obey all posted safety precautions at beaches and pools.

Pools: All pools should have a locking, gated, 4-sided isolation fence (preferably one that affords visual access, i.e. fine wire- or poly-mesh, wrought iron, etc.)  Door alarms, pool alarms, anti-entrapment devices and pool covers can also provide an additional layer of protection when used properly.

Open Water and Boats: Be sure children are equipped with appropriately sized life jackets approved by the U.S. Coast Guard when on boats, near open bodies of water, or when participating in water sports. 

Bicycle/Scooter/Skateboard Safety

General:  Make sure children wear snug, properly-fitting helmets at all times when biking or riding scooters or skateboards.  Be sure children are using properly sized equipment (i.e. on a bicycle, your child's feet should touch the ground when they are sitting on the seat).  Teach children the rules of the road and be sure they obey all traffic laws.  Be a good example; when riding be sure you always wear a helmet and demonstrate proper etiquette and obey the law and all posted regulations.

Fall Prevention

Windows: Keep chairs, cribs, changing tables and other furniture away from windows. Install window guards on all windows above the first floor.  Don’t allow children to play on balconies, roofs, or near open windows.

Playgrounds: Actively supervise children at playgrounds.  Make sure they use only age-appropriate equipment.  Be sure playgrounds have soft-surface coverings (i.e. rubber, hardwood fiber mulch or fine sand) at least 12 inches deep, extending a minimum of six feet in all directions around the equipment.

Sports: Make sure kids wear appropriate protective gear, properly fitted when practicing and playing sports.

Motor Vehicle Safety

Car Seat Safety: Properly restrain all children ages 12 and under in a back seat on every ride.  Secure infants in rear-facing car seats as long as possible, and at least until they are 12 months old and weigh 20 pounds.  Secure children who weigh between 20 and 40 pounds in forward-facing car seats.  Secure children over 40 pounds in belt-positioning booster seats until an adult seat belt fits properly (at least 4' 9" tall and 80 to 100 pounds, for most children that's between ages 8 and 12).

Driveway/Garage Safety: Walk all the way around a parked vehicle to check for children before entering a car and starting the motor.  Toys should not be kept near parked cars as they can lure a child into a driver’s blind spot.

Entrapment/Heat Stroke/Suffocation: Never leave a child unattended in a car, even if the windows are open. Always keep your car locked.  Keep automobile keys out of children's reach and sight.  Make sure vehicle trunks are locked at all times. Keep rear fold-down seats closed so kids won't crawl into the trunk.  Have your car retrofitted with a release mechanism inside the trunk.

Wishing you and your family a safe and happy summer! 
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Travel-Tot Tip!

One of the items in my travel bag-of-tricks is a small assortment of "glow" bracelets, necklaces, sticks, and building kits (i.e. eyeglass frames, balls, hats, etc.).  I try to pick them up whenever I see them on sale at Target or 5 Below because we have found them infinitely useful and entertaining when we travel.  We often use them as nightlights and for playing games at night (in the hotel, camping, on the beach, in the car, etc.); for many years they have been one of my daughter's favorite parts of our family getaways!  They are also fantastic to have in case of emergencies (i.e. blackouts, breakdowns where visibility is important, etc.)!  Warning: Glow sticks are not designed for use by children under age 5.  Glow sticks contain toxic chemicals and should only be used in accordance with packaging directions (consult manufacturer's directions for instructions and warnings).

Friday, May 4, 2012

Operation Vacation Recovery!

Imagine you've planned your first family vacation with your young child! The big day arrives, your bags are packed, and you're all eagerly checking-in at the airport.  Now imagine that you are told that you cannot board your flight.  What would you do?  Just ask Kevin Sturtz and his family; this is their real-life story of how they were able to make the best of a bad situation (and learn a little something along the way)!

Kevin, his wife Meredith, and their almost-two-year-old son Eli, were looking forward to their first family vacation together; a fantastic trip to Turks & Caicos!  Kevin had made all of the flight and lodging arrangements through Travelocity, and he and Meredith had prepared Eli for an exciting adventure abroad!  The evening before their departure, Kevin completed the advance airline check-in on-line.  United's website prompted him for passport information for him and Meredith and asked whether they had a passport for Eli or "other identity paperwork"; because Eli did not have a passport, Kevin checked the "other" option and their check-in was confirmed.

The next morning, they arrived at the airport and went to the United ticketing desk where he was asked to produce passports for everyone; he presented Meredith's passport and his own and then handed over a birth certificate and Social Security Card for Eli.  The airline staff explained that Eli's paperwork was insufficient and that he needed a passport.  After Kevin explained that the United website indicated no such requirement, the airline's personnel acknowledged that the couple could take Eli on-board the flight, but that once in Turks & Caicos, there would likely be problems leaving the country with a child who did not have a passport. 

Kevin and Meredith sprang into action - implementing what Kevin calls "Operation Vacation Recovery!" They jumped on-line in the airport and researched ways to get a same-day passport; however, because it was a Saturday, all offices that offered such services were closed.  Not wanting to forfeit any of their vacation time, Kevin called Travelocity to cancel his lodging and flight and to get a credit for the airline so they could choose a new destination and still fly out that morning. 

Kevin returned to the United Airlines desk to explain what had happened and the United desk staff found the credit and assured Kevin it could be applied immediately.  So Kevin and Meredith checked the "Departures" board and selected a flight to Miami that fit their criteria (left in that same morning, bound for a warm and sunny destination, only a 3-hour flight).  While they were waiting to board, Kevin was able to book a rental car and a room in the Westin Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, FL through Hotels.com

image courtesy of the Sturtz family
The flight went well and when they arrived at the hotel and shared their harrowing story, Westin upgraded their room to one with a balcony and even  included a few special perks for Eli!  After settling in, they truly enjoyed their vacation; savoring Eli's first dip in the ocean and first time walking on the sandy beach!  They explored the Miami Zoo, where Eli got to feed a giraffe and ride a camel, and spent many fun-filled hours at the pool where Eli charmed the staff with his quick grasp of the greeting "ciao!"  They also enjoyed several fantastic restaurants recommended by the staff of the Westin Resort.  "All in all," Kevin says, "it was a great family vacation!" 

image courtesy of the Sturtz family
Despite a few small snags on the return flight, Kevin and Meredith agree that this will be remembered as a fun-filled trip, and a great story!  While their story has a happy ending, Kevin was eager to share his experience both  to make sure other parents don't repeat his mistake (take-away lesson here: get your child a passport if you plan to leave the country!!!), and to demonstrate how quick thinking and flexibility can help if you ever need to save your vacation from the throes of disaster! 

We at Travel-Tot wish to thank Kevin and his family for sharing their story; a tale that brings embracing the idea of "the journey as part of the adventure" to a whole new level!

Safe and happy travels - wherever you end up!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Travel-Tot Tip!

Sunshine Kids Travel Pal Organizer is a road-trip tested winner; plenty of pockets to keep all the gadgets and toys at arms reach and the insulated drink holders worked great! From New Jersey to Maine it kept the road trip backseat chaos to a minimum. The Travel-Tot team agrees, it's a road-trip must-have!