Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Straight from the Travel Trenches

If you're visiting for WFMW - I know summer travel has pretty much ended, so I hope you will bookmark this for fall break or holiday travel!

Well, maybe not straight from the travel trenches, but I haven't been off the plane long!

We recently returned from vacation. For folks who normally drive just a few hours to any destination, the though of a non-stop flight across country was nerve-wracking. I need not have worried so much - everything turned out just fine. In the process, I learned a few tips to make our next flight even more enjoyable.

Lesson #1 - Only pack as much 'entertainment' as your child(ren) can carry. That includes my 3 year old (whose backpack ended up hitching a ride on the stroller handles, but that's not really the point). I packed enough stuff to keep the and entire plane full of folks entertained. It was more than we needed, and more than we needed to carry. My kids were both thrilled with the idea of playing Leapster nonstop for a few hours. A coloring book and crayons and a small magnetic game were the only other things they even bothered with. Add their blankets and loveys to the backpack (oh, and their 3-1-1 bags), and their backpacks would have been comfortably full without being too heavy.

Lesson #2 - Only pack as many clothes as will fit into a carry-on suitcase. Mister J could carry his (admittedly too heavy) backpack and pull his own small suitcase. He had more than enough clothes. We also had access to a washing machine and dryer. My need to wear a different shirt each day (so the scrapbook pictures would all look different) should not have outweighed the logic (and savings) of packing light. Our checked bag, paid in advance, cost us $15 each way. I wouldn't have minded having an extra $30 in my pocket, but we don't travel by air all that much - this was certainly a learning experience for me!

Lesson #3 - Bandanas make great handkerchiefs. I packed them because they are a great (lightweight) imaginative toy. They doubled as easy-to-locate hankies, since ours were brightly-colored. I tied the corner of one on the stroller seatbelt so Miss M could reach, but couldn't drop the one we gave her for her runny nose. It was easier than dealing with a travel pack of tissues, easier on her nose, and environmentally-friendly. (Remember, though, I had access to a washer and dryer).

Lesson #4 - I was so glad I made a point of saving some kid-sized plastic cups and lids from a local restaurant we visit regularly. I packed them, along with several straws, in my carry-on bag. They took up a good bit of space, but were much more kid-friendly than the open plastic cups that the airlines use for their beverage service. Just be sure to ask for the whole can of juice so you can share it between the kids!

Lesson #5 - If you are taking a long vacation or typically purchase a lot of gifts/souvenirs, plan time to drop by a pack and ship store before you head home. This felt a little excessive to me at first, but it is cheaper than checking an extra bag and is one less thing to haul/worry about. Our box just arrived yesterday, and the timing was perfect (we've had time to unpack, do laundry, and get back to our normal routine). Now we will unpack the couple of special things the kids picked out, I'll set aside the postcards and brochures I picked up along the way until it's time to put them in a scrapbook, and the box is ready to be recycled.

Lesson #6 - Be sure to keep a full change of clothes, wipes, and zipper bags handy in case of a potty accident, vomit, or any other incident that could leave clothes wet, smelly, or otherwise unwearable. Speaking from experience here - Miss M soaked everything but her socks when she ... Well, let me just say that in about 10 minutes, we had her clothes changed, soiled clothes bagged up, cleaned and packed her booster into its travel bag, and were on our way to check in for our flight. (Yes, I cleaned her up on the spot. Well, out of the way of the rental car drop-off line, in a relatively low-traffic area. Big J was mortified. I was praying that she wouldn't get sick again and that we could find something relatively mild among the meal options in the airport food court. And then I opened up one of the suitcases and found one more clean outfit to pack into her carry-on bag, just in case.)

I'm sure you have a few travel tips of your own - feel free to share them in the comments! And for more Works for Me Wednesday ideas, head on over to

My previous WFMW posts

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